Classics was well represented yesterday at UoR’s annual Doctoral Research Conference, held on 19 June, in which Nathalie Choubineh (upper right) and Luca Ottonello (bottom left) competed. This annual event, open to all doctoral researchers and staff from across the University, showcases the diversity of doctoral research undertaken at the University of Reading. Nathalie, who has passed her viva, subject to minor corrections, in April of this year, presented her research poster on Kretike, an aspect of ancient Greek dance that featured in her PhD thesis, written under the supervision of Profs. Barbara Goff and Amy Smith. Luca, who is a part-time PhD candidate, competed in the research image competition, with his digital reconstruction of the Temple of Bel in the ancient city of Palmyra. Palmyra is a case study for his PhD thesis that he is writing under the supervision of Prof. Amy Smith and Dr. Ian Ewart (School of Construction Management and Engineering). As well as meeting new people who shared their interests, both of them found the conference a welcome opportunity to think about ways in which to communicate their research to broader audiences. The Classics Department is proud to now display Nathalie’s poster in its hallway in the Edith Morley building, while Luca’s photograph is displayed with some of his 3D prints of Palmyrene architecture in the Ure Museum.
(Posted on behalf of Dr Dimitra Tzanidaki-Kreps)
On Sunday 26 May in Greek Flocafe in Piccadilly Circus Dr Dimitra Tzanidaki-Kreps spearheaded the book launch of “In the madman’s mirror” by author Konstantinos Alsinos. The book is a well-written imaginative novel whose protagonist, a nameless young sailor, son of a Greek refugee, fresh from his latest journey, stops at the city’s local cafe and finds himself looking in a mirror opposite. There he will be approached by a partially cross-eyed madman who is holding a mirror in order not to look at himself but behind him at whoever follows him. It will be this fantastical encounter that will prompt three further equally surreal encounters with the Chronos, the Devil and the God, all personified by three old men who despite any external appearances they seem to be one and the same entity as if they are sides of one and the same coin. In a kind of a dancing kaleidoscopic philosophical meditation each of these encounters take place in varied topography ranging from a cathedral to a brothel, a railway station and an opera to the sea, a forest, a cave (with explicit reference to the platonic cave of shadows) and a whitewashed Greek chapel. Each of these encounters will bring the young man face to face with key questions regarding God, devil, man, soul, love, life, Eros, art, freedom. Even though the novel spans 281 pages, the actual narration time is just one day starting and ending at sunset. We are informed early on that the young man loves to look at the sunset and it is often at such times that these key existential questions tend to surface with the sea and his pen being his two sources of consolation. At the end of the novel the young man would be metamorphosed to a much wiser human being, a lot more in peace with himself transcending seeming contradictions, dichotomies and falsehoods to arrive at a more holistic organic sense of self and the cosmos in unison with the madman who in the first place became the catalyst for this transformative life journey.
(Photos: John Kolikis)
Why is ancient pottery important? What can it tell us?
What is it like to be a museum curator?
Who is the Painter of the Woolly Satyrs?
Find out the answers to these questions, and much more, by reading the interview with Professor Amy Smith, conducted by Sonya Nevin and Steve Simons of the Panoply Vase Animation project.
Panoply brings Greek vases to life by animating their figures and creating surrounding stories, informed by a deep knowledge of ancient mythology and life. Some of their first animations were of vase-paintings from the Ure Museum’s own collection. You can find out more about the project here.
(Posted on behalf of Dr Hana Navratilova, Research Associate at Reading Classics.)
Moviegoers and gamers have been used to stunning visualisations of an ancient Egyptian landscape already for some time. And some of these visualisations have been based on a surprising amount of archaeological and historical data, such as in the popular Assassin’s Creed Origins. However, even apart from impressive educational potential, there is much that digital humanities can offer. The meeting ‘Ancient Egypt and New Technology’ held at the Indiana University’s Bloomington campus and organised by Dr Steve Vinson, aimed at harnessing the possibilities of digital technology to help and enhance research work in the humanities, particularly in Egyptology, alongside an instructive and impactful outreach.
The meeting constituted of two intense days of talks and discussions. We have revisited digital dictionaries as well as 3D and virtual reality reconstructions, which Reading readers will be familiar with from University of Reading’s very own Virtual Rome. Diverse models of digital research infrastructures were compared – from relational databases to large collections with potential use of the AI to support interactive resources search in large datasets – such as a planned complete list of Egyptian artefacts in the museums and collections across the world.
As in medical sciences, Egyptology too could benefit from digital technology bringing quantity of data to our fingertips – in a hope that this would promote a high quality research. As Mark Depauw of the Trismegistos project noted, Egyptology has been rather good at producing diverse ‘silos’ of knowledge. It will help to promote a richer knowledge-making, if we can connect these ‘silos’.
Immersive VR experiences attracted attention, but there was a good level of critical assessment of respective pros and cons of various approaches. The discussions were productive and touched upon issues of sustainability, long-term archiving, accessibility and linking of the various silos of data that Egyptology and other humanities are generating. A call for transparency was made, as well as for an ethical approach to acknowledging not only the origin of data but also the process of selection and interpretation, as noted by Willeke Wendrich. Generally, there was a balanced appreciation of new technologies as useful tools, but without naïve enchantment. Visualisations of the ancient world, repositioning of artefacts in their space and time, modelling of related artefacts spread across the world and integration of archival legacy with recent results will benefit scholarship, education and popularisation.
We have recently learned of wonderful publishing successes by one of our recent alumni, and by a current doctoral student.
Charles Stewart, who completed his BA in Ancient History in summer 2018, has had an article accepted by the Journal of Roman Studies. The article is based on part of his undergraduate dissertation, which won one of the Department’s prizes for the best dissertation in 2017-18. Entitled ‘Fractional arithmetic in the Tabula Alimentaria of Veleia’, the article posits a new way of understanding practical arithmetic was conducted in the Roman world of the second century AD, and in so doing resolves an apparent anomaly that has long plagued scholarly reconstructions of Trajanic alimentary schemes. It will come out in the next issue of JRS, published in the autumn. Charles is now a Research Associate of the Department, and is considering postgraduate study.
Rosie Mack is writing her PhD thesis on the depiction of horses on ancient Thessalian coins, under the supervision of Drs. Emma Aston and Rachel Mairs. Her article, ‘Numismatic evidence (or not) for the aphippodroma horse race at Larisa’, has been accepted for publication in the numismatics journal Koinon. Like Charles’, it takes on a long-standing misunderstanding of ancient material, in this case a series of Larisaian coins which have traditionally been taken as evidence for a certain equestrian contest at a Thessalian festival. Rosie shows that, in fact, the coins depict an aspect of horse-training and so shed light on practical horsemanship in northern Greece as well as on the numismatic strategies of the polis of Larisa.
We are delighted by these publishing successes of our students: many congratulations to both Charles and Rosie!
Charles Stewart (and Auguste Rodin!)
Rosie Mack at Delphi
On Friday 22nd March 2019 the Classics Department led the University of Reading’s participation in the European Festival of Latin and Greek. This global event encourages academic communities to introduce and seduce public audiences with passage readings of ancient literary works. This year’s choice was Homer’s Iliad, an ancient Greek tale spanning many books of legendary battles, bravery and beloveds. After much thought, it was decided that Book Six would be suitably enticing and informative. In this Book Homer describes the honour and bereavement of war, detailing the pride of the soldier Hector and the grief of his wife. Book 6 provides detailed scenes of war, brotherhood and an importantly detailed portrayal of the ancient custom of guest-friendship. Book 6 also provides dialogues between lower ranking soldiers, such as the friends Glaucus and Sarpedon. These Trojan allies give short conversational speeches to each other through which Homer highlights the complexities of military relationships, the compelling nature of heroism, and the grim reality of war. As the battle commences, low ranked soldiers are killed by higher ranking soldiers, who in turn are killed by the leading characters Hector and Achilles. The narrative provided by this wide range of characters, emotive circumstances and moral conflicts produces the epic battle, which is still remembered through Homer’s work in the present day.
At 1pm, with Book 6 in hand, professors, undergraduates, postgraduates, curators and volunteers from the University and the town marched into the open air quad and surrounded on three sides by the Edith Morley building, they gathered on the green stage of this temporary theatre. PhD Researcher James Lloyd opened the event with a musical rendition of an ancient Greek song, thought to have been used thousands of years ago to begin such recitals. Subsequently, Head of Department Dr Emma Aston read, in ancient Greek, lines 1-11 recalling a fierce battle the led against the Trojans by Ajax. Each passage was then narrated by attendees who described the torment of Hector, Andromache and Paris in English, Italian, Chinese and German. The event was uplifting for all those taking part, with many onlookers stopping to observe. James Lloyd of Classics said: “the event was well attended and enjoyed by all. It was particularly good to hear the variety of different languages spoken during the reading, which is testimony to the thriving international community present in the Department of Classics”.
The reading of Homer’s Iliad was a success and a credit to those who organised it. The event was short, precise and rekindled a passion for the storytellers of old whilst introducing the works to those unfamiliar with the tales. If you missed the event, fear not. The video of the recital is on YouTube and can be viewed here.
Photo credits: James Lloyd, Amy Smith & Bunny Waring.
Over the summer in 2018, two Reading students, George Stokes and Amy Hitchings, worked with Katherine Harloe of the Classics Department, in collaboration with the Berkshire Record Office and the County Archivist Mark Stevens, on a UROP project entitled ‘Offences against the person: tracing hidden LGB histories through the Berkshire County Archives’. This project continues to produce fascinating results, and readers of our blog may be interested in the attached issue of the Berkshire Echo devoted to a write-up of George’s and Amy’s work to date: Berkshire Echo January 2019.
Call for attendees and poster presenters
We are delighted to announce the programme and our call for attendees and poster presenters at the PG & ECR conference ‘Keeping it in the Family: Exploring familial tension and rupture in the ancient and early-medieval Mediterranean’ at the University of Reading on 24-5/4/19.
This event and the lack of registration fee is made possible by the generous support of the Past & Present Society and Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies in providing accommodation and travel bursaries to speakers, and the Department of Classics at the University of Reading.
We invite posters that respond to our central question, or to the themes that emerge from our papers as listed below. Those working on chronological periods or regions outside our initial remit are especially welcomed to invite comparative discussion, as are those who are unable to attend the entire event.
A limited number of places for attendees are available for postgraduates and early-career researchers working in all related disciplines.
Thanks to the generosity of the Classical Association, we have 7 travel bursaries of maximum £60 to support attendees or poster presenters.
Attendees or poster presenters who wish to apply for a travel bursary should write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org by 02/4/19 with a response to the following criteria:
- a) Their current funding status (i.e. funded/unfunded doctoral position, post-doc, sessional lecturer, teaching fellow etc.)
- b) Alternative sources of conference funding to which they have applied, or indication of why they are ineligible.
- c) If they have any extenuating circumstances that make conference attendance more expensive.
Decisions will be given by 4/04/19.
Poster presenters who do not wish to apply for a travel bursary can register by email on a first-come-first served basis until 19/4/19 listing their name, affiliation and potential title.
Attendees who do not wish to apply for a travel bursary can register by email on a first-come-first served basis until 22/04/2019 listing their name and affiliation.
Becca Grose, Doukissa Kamini & Rebecca Rusk (organising committee)
Keeping it in the Family? Exploring familial tension and rupture in the ancient & early-medieval Mediterranean (PG and ECR Conference)
24-25th April 2019, University of Reading – London Road Campus
Day 1 (Wednesday 24th April)
11.00-12.30: First session
Taboos within the Family Structure (chair: Andreas Gavrielatos)
Olive, Peter (Royal Holloway University of London): Re-centring debate about the Danaïds’ plea in Aeschylus’ Supplices.
Watson, Joe (Durham University): Inscribing Incest: Byblis’ Love Letter to Caunus and Ovid’s Fear of Taboo in Metamorphoses 9.
Kirsch, Stephanie (University of Bonn): Taboo to topic? – Small scale violence against children and disciplina in the Roman family from the 2nd century BCE till 2nd century CE.
12.30-13.20: Lunch break
13.20-15.10: First keynote speech & response
Kate Cooper (RHUL): When Fathers Fail: Gender, cultural change and family dynamics in late antiquity
Response: Christa Gray (Reading)
(including 14.20-14.40 coffee & cake pause)
15.20-16.50: Second session
Interfamilial Conflict, Succession and Inheritance (chair: Rebecca Rusk)
Paprocki, Maciej (Universität München): Apollo, Kronos’ avenger? Divine intergenerational conflicts in light of ‘Kronos’ curse’.
Martorana, Simona (Durham University): Telemachus, Penelope’s puer: (de-) legitimation, precarious masculinity and familial liminality in Ovid’s Heroides 1.
Shields, Katharine (University College of London): “Do not kill anyone of [your] family, it is not good.” Succession, inheritance, and legal language in the Proclamation of Telipinu.
16.50-17.15: Coffee Break
17.15-19.05: Second keynote speech & response
Edith Hall (KCL): Are house slaves family? Seeking Illumination from Artemidorus’ Interpretation of Dreams
Response: Emma Aston (Reading)
(including 18.15-18.35 wine & nibbles pause)
19.05-20.00 Continued wine reception and poster session.
Day 2 (Thursday 25th April)
09.00-10.30: Third session
Family on the Edge: Perceptions and Pressure of Family Image (chair: tbd.)
Kostecka, Katarzyna (University of Warsaw): Dealing with family failure – unsuccessful kin in the Epinician Odes of Pindar.
Sandon, Tatjana (University of Edinburgh): Concubina mea amantissima. The role of concubinae in Roman family and society in light of the epigraphic evidence.
Morassi, Davide (University of Oxford): Tough love: fatherhood as a metaphor for political and military leadership.
10.30-11.00: Coffee Break
11.00-12.30: Fourth session
Wives and Mothers: Expectations and Challenges (chair: tbd.)
Golay, Charlotte (University of Lausanne): Reproductive expectations: Fear and tension around the production of children within the Hellenistic couple.
Thoma, Marianna (University of Athens): Women and intergenerational conflict in Greco-Roman family: “If she spends another month with me like this, I will throw myself into the sea.” 1 (P.Petaus 29,8-10).
Patzelt, Maik (University of Sheffield): The aftermath of familial rupture: constructing and contesting the widow’s identity in late antiquity.
12.30-13.30: Lunch Break
13.30-15.00: Fifth session (chair: tbd.)
Clarke, Anactoria (King’s College London): Mantic lineage: Constructing hereditary transmission of prophetic skills.
De Luca, Gaia (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris; Università Orientale, Naples): Conflicting citizenship within the family: a Rhodian example.
15.00-16.30: Roundtable Chair: Barbara Goff (Reading)
Kindly supported by the Past & Present Society, the Classical Association, the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and the University of Reading Classics Department
A very moving tribute to Titos Patrikios, one of the greatest living Greek poets, was organized by the Greek library of London, the Hellenic Hub and the Poetry Office at the Hellenic Centre in London on the occasion of his 90th birthday. A full house of well above two hundred people, Greek and British, enjoyed a great evening forworded by the emeritus Korais professor Roderick Beaton and his former colleague Professor David Ricks, both distinguished Hellenists from King’s College London. A very rare audiovisual show of Patrikios’ early years was also projected. There were of course readings of Patrikios’ poems from different periods of all his long prolific lifetime, beautifully enacted by former ambassador of Great Britain in Greece Jonn Kittmer, our own Dr Dimitra Tzanidaki-Kreps, Modern Greek fellow and actress, and Greek actor author Konstantinos Alsinos. All the readings were interspersed with beautiful original piano compositions by the Italian pianist Anthimo. Finally, the Poetry Office’s head and author, Mr Skiathas, conducted a lively interview of the poet himself followed by an extremely stimulating live audience interaction with the poet.
Dr Tzanidaki-Kreps performing the work of Titos Patrikios
Readers may be interested in the latest CUCD Bulletin, which contains a jointly prepared piece to which our own Barbara Goff contributed: you can find the piece here. The article considers the continued appropriation, and misappropriation, of Classical themes in political discourse, which is one of Barbara’s research specialisms.