Going to School in Ancient Rome

Members and friends of Reading Classics will know about Professor Eleanor Dickey’s Ancient Schoolroom project, the painstaking reconstruction of an ancient classroom which brings the past to life for children and their teachers in 21st-century England. Now you can hear Professor Dickey talking about ancient education in the latest podcast from the British Academy’s series, ‘From Our Fellows’, described as ‘a regular podcast in which Fellows of the British Academy offer brief reflections on what is currently interesting them’.

In her talk, Professor Dickey addresses the fundamental question of what it was like to go to school in the ancient world. She conjures up an environment radically different from our own modern school experience, and reveals how school students in antiquity actually received a remarkably tailored and individual education. Listen to her podcast to have your preconceptions about school, and about pedagogical approaches, challenged by the evidence of the ancient world.

The podcast may be found at: https://www.britac.ac.uk/audio/from-our-fellows-13-eleanor-dickey-school-ancient-rome

For more information on the Ancient Schoolroom project, see https://readingancientschoolroom.com/

A visit to central and northern Greece

Rosie Mack and Una Markham recently undertook a week long research trip to Greece. Here is their account of their travels!

***

We flew to Thessaloniki, collected a car, and made overnight stops in Vergina, Delphi, and Volos.

We began with a visit to the royal Macedonian tombs at Vergina which have been cleverly incorporated into the museum which also houses the artefacts from the tombs. Unfortunately, the ancient palace and theatre here are still not accessible. Nearby, the ancient capital of the Argeads at Pella, is a large and fascinating site (see photo: House of Dionysos). The layout of the Hellenistic public bath house, with drainage system and evidence of underfloor heating, was illuminating. From Macedonia we moved down the mainland to Boiotia, visiting the Museums of Thebes and Chaironeia. The Lion Monument at Chaironeia, the related battlefield, and the fourth century theatre carved into the hillside, were of great interest.

House of Dionysos, Pella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delphi is one of the most beautiful sites, but best appreciated early in the morning before the hordes arrive! Una was delighted to examine the Treasury of the Boiotians, and after some surreptitious ‘gardening’, was thrilled to discover the Treasury of the Thebans. After Delphi, we drove to Volos by way of the Boiotian town of Orchomenos. Here, the Mycenaean tholos tomb, referred to by Pausanias as the ‘Treasure of Minyas’, was certainly very impressive. The roof of a side chamber is decorated with spirals, rosettes and papyrus flowers which are very well preserved. The fourth century B.C. theatre is undergoing restoration, and it was very useful to be able to question the on-site architect.

From our base in Thessaly, we headed for Larisa. Dr Emma Aston had kindly alerted the Ephor of Larisa at the new Diachronic Museum to our visit. Both the Ephor, Dr Sdrolia, and her assistant Asimina Tsiaka were extremely helpful, giving up their valuable time to answer our questions, and we gratefully thank them. The Museum houses important artefacts, including a large number of coins relating to Rosie’s current research. A special exhibition concerned the ongoing excavations at Kastro Kallithea conducted by the Ephorate at Larisa and the University of Alberta, Canada. The model of this Hellenistic polis, with a selection of finds, was very informative. While in Larisa, we also visited the Hellenistic theatre, which has recently been opened to the public after restoration (see photo).

 

Larisa, Hellenistic theatre

 

 

 

 

 

On our last day we visited Volos Museum, followed by a drive up Mount Pelion, the legendary home of the centaurs. A typical narrow Greek mountain road, Una was slightly perturbed by the lack of a barrier between the road and the sheer drop down to the valley below! However, the view was worth it. After 7 days, covering 1600 km, we flew back to the UK inspired. The trip was invaluable, not only for the evidence we found in the various museums, but also for deepening our perspectives. Actually experiencing the relationship between a site and its surrounding landscape, provided insights that cannot be otherwise conveyed.

Professor Timothy Duff elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Reading Classics is delighted to announce that our Professor of Greek, Timothy Duff, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.  Professor Duff is one of the foremost scholars of ancient historiography, and is internationally renowned for his work on Plutarch.  His election as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society sees him join a diverse and distinguished group of academics  who have made “an original contribution to historical scholarship” (as the Society’s website states – https://royalhistsoc.org/membership/fellows/), including two other members of the Reading Classics Department, Professors Peter Kruschwitz and Annalisa Marzano, both elected in 2011.

The Classical in 20th-century British Sculpture

Observant visitors to our Classics Department hallway in the Edith Morley building may have noticed a certain upscaling of our appearance in 2018. Pursuant to our collaboration with University Arts Collections (UAC) on our exhibit, From Italy to Britain: Winckelmann and the spread of neoclassical taste in Autumn 2017, which included four academic drawings of Classical sculptures made by Minnie Jane Hardman during her time as a student at the Royal Academy, Dr Naomi Lebens, UAC Curator enabled us to display facsimiles of six of Hardman’s drawings in the Classics hallway since the beginning of 2018. We have now added to these drawings several sculptures that the celebrated sculptor Eric Stanford carved in 1990, when was working in UoR’s art studios at Bulmershe on a major commission for Reading, namely the Spanish Civil War Memorial, now in Reading’s Forbury Gardens.

A clear connection between the two sculptures from the University Art Collections—Torso of Protesilaos, made of Bath stone, and Helen of Troy, made of Clipsham stone—is that they represent protagonists from Homer’s Iliad, so the Department of Classics was delighted to discover and display them. The Torso of Protesilaos, opposite Edith Morley room G34, depicts the Greek hero amid swirling waves that evoke the Trojan shore from which Protesilaos marched, despite the oracular warning of his impending death. When we suggested to Stanford that the waves might also recall the fire into which his widow Laodameia chased a brazen figure of her deceased husband, he was charmed by the thought that had, however, never occurred to him.

We have placed the head of Helen of Troy in the entrance to the Ure Museum (http://www.reading.ac.uk/Ure/), where she is in conversation with our statue of Aphrodite from Cyrene, on loan from the British Museum since the Ure’s redesign in 2005. The distorted perspective and exaggerated forms of Stanford’s carving overturn traditional archetypes of female beauty associated with Helen of Troy’s ‘face that launch’d a thousand ships’ (according to Christopher Marlowe). Helen’s elopement with Paris of Troy, despite being married to the King of Sparta, gave cause to the Trojan War and thus influenced much European art and literature. Helen’s prominent brow, large nose and wide-set eyes are features more common to non-European artistic traditions, such as African sculpture. Stanford here combines those traditions with Classics, under the clear influence of cubism.

Clio Art Ltd. has lent us a third Clasically-themed Stanford statue, also made in 1990, of Portland stone, namely Memnon. This son of the dawn-goddess, Eos, stands in the rigid posture of some Archaic Greek statues, with one leg slightly advanced. Yet his form recalls ancient sculpture as it so often reaches us: fractured, incomplete, and part buried. Stanford has depicted him with legs firmly engulfed in the plinth below, arms absent, as if broken off, and missing the top half of his head. Enough remains for us to recognise the helmeted warrior, facing sideways, stylised with a prominent lock of hair.

To launch the display of these three sculptures, the Department of Classics hosted a workshop, entitled The Classical in 20th-century British Sculpture in the Ure Museum on 17 Aril 2018, with presentations from artists, art historians and Classicists, old and new friends of Eric Stanford (http://www.reading.ac.uk/Ure/info/Classicsin20thCentury.php). A particular highlight of the day was a conversation with the sculptor himself and his wife, Helen Stanford, via skype, from their home. We look forward to presenting these talks via YouTube in the near future.

 

Reading students launch new Classics-themed radio show

Undergraduate Penelope Faithfull describes how she and fellow-student George Upfield are using radio to bring the ancient world to a wider audience within the University.

Viva!
Salvete (Or shall we say chairete?)!
Over the Christmas Holidays, I thought it would be fun to do a Classics themed radio show on the University’s radio station, Junction11. The show, called Viva!, aims to help promote Classics (hence the title) – and to prove that, although the inhabitants of the ancient world are no longer around, they’re still just as fun and fascinating! Whilst trying to cater for a wide range of song and musical tastes, a diverse range of features and topics each week are included with a Classics theme. Special features include: songs with a Classics reference, recent Classics related news items for discussion and also a Classics ‘word of the week’ spot. I am really trying to encourage audience participation by discussing topics or questions from listeners. I would very much like to have a guest spot for lecturers to come on the show to talk about their research, to describe how they were introduced to Classics, to choose a song, and there may also be a surprise question for them each week…! So if any lecturers would be happy to come on the show, then please get in touch through the email below.
If anyone has any questions they want answered, or would like to hear more about the show, please don’t hesitate to get in contact at p.f.e.faithfull@student.reading.ac.uk.
Welcome to ‘Viva!’ hosted by Penelope Faithfull and co-host George Upfield. Tune in on Thursdays between 10-11 am on Junction11 to hear more; the link for the show is here: https://www.junction11radio.co.uk/listen-live/.
We hope you enjoy listening!
Penelope Faithfull.

Professor Amy Smith gives prestigious Trendall Lecture

C.W Götzloff, Antiquities by a Balcony Overlooking the Gulf of Naples, 1826

This term Professor Amy C. Smith is one of 18 international scholars (and 3 Classicists) selected as to be a Visiting Research Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre of the Australian National University (ANU), in that nation’s capital, Canberra.This week, however, she has been invited to Melbourne to deliver the prestigious Trendall Lecture, at the A.D. Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Latrobe University. She will deliver her lecture, entitled ‘1766 and All That! Winckelmann and the Study of Greek Vases’, in the State Library of Victoria at 6:30 pm on Thursday, 16 November.

The Trendall Centre is named for Professor A.D. (Dale) Trendall (1909-1995), around whose library, archives & collections it is built. A classical historian and archaeologist, with particular expertise in the Greek art of South Italy, Prof. Trendall amassed perhaps the finest library of Classical Archaeology in the Southern hemisphere. After a long and distinguished career as Professor of Greek and Chair of Archaeology at University of Sydney, then Master of University House at ANU, in 1960 he retired to Latrobe University (in Melbourne), where he worked as Resident Fellow for many years, continuing his groundbreaking work on the attribution of tens of thousands of vases made by Greeks in South Italy, and maintaining warm working relationships with international scholars including Annie Ure, Curator of Classics@Reading’s Ure Collection until her death in 1976. Professor Smith is the Ure Museum’s current Curator.

The Trendall Lecture is one of two annual lectures honouring and named for this influential scholar. The second, sponsored by the Australian Academy of the Humanities, of which Trendall was a Foundation Fellow, is delivered in conjunction with the conference of the Australasian Society of Classical Studies.