Latin mottos and a pioneering astrophysicist

When I ventured up to the observatory at Mt. Stromlo, a veritable jewel in the crown of the Australian National University (where I’m currently a Visiting Researcher) little did I expect to find anything written about the University of Reading in the visitor’s display. The walnut desk of Pioneer Director of the Solar Observatory, Walter Geoffrey Duffield, however, encouraged closer inspection, especially as it reminded me of our mock-up of the desk of Professor Percy Ure, our Pioneer Professor of Classics at University of Reading, in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology. And amazingly, Professor Duffield was tempted to Canberra to take up that directorial role from none other than University College, Reading, as it was then called, where he had served from 1913-1923 as Professor of Physics. After the observatory tour, as I climbed higher up the mountain, I discovered the great man’s grave, where he is buried also with Doris, his wife, and Joan, his daughter, who survived ’til the ripe old age of 104, just a few years ago. The simple wooden cross, with its Latin inscription, Per ardua ad astra, ‘Through struggle to the stars’, however, clearly refers to him and his work. After all, he & his family are the only modern persons buried on that mountain: unlike his daughter he died at an early age, in 1929.

Later that evening, while seated in St. John’s (Anglican) Church, Reid, just around the corner from the Australian War Memorial, my eyes began to wander & set themselves upon a distinctive plaque also with a Latin motto. And amazingly it commemorates the same W.G. Duffield, yet with a different and yet more appropriate Latin motto, Arduus ad solem. I say ‘more appropriate’ because he was in fact a solar scientist and a solar observatory director, thus spent his short life ’striving towards the sun’. I discussed it with Canon Paul Black, now Rector of that church, who had indeed buried Joan Duffield on the mountain a few years back, although the plaque was placed in the church long before his time, in 1954.

A small amount of research later, however, it became clear to me how and why these mottoes were chosen to honour Duffield. Per ardua ad astra is the motto of the Royal and Commonwealth Air Forces, thus a reflection of his time in service in the Air Force. Arduus ad solem is the motto of none other than Victoria University of Manchester, formerly Owens College and now part of the University of Manchester, where Duffield earned his PhD. The sun is emblazoned on that University’s shield and Duffield certainly took its message into his heart.

Professor Amy C. Smith

Reading Ancient Schoolroom 2017

Photo: Alex Wickenden

This year’s edition of the Reading Ancient Schoolroom ran for two weeks and welcomed several hundred schoolchildren to campus. Led by a team of specially-trained volunteers, some of them Reading students and others coming from as far away as Edinburgh to participate, the children experienced first hand what life was like in a Roman school. This year there was a focus on Roman mathematics (pictured above: maths teacher Dom O’Reilly with children from Dolphin School), but children also practiced reading from papyri, writing on ostraca and tablets, using quill pens, memorizing poetry, and studying Latin and Greek the way ancient children would have studied them. They also had the opportunity to sample Roman food made by our magnificent Roman cook, Reading undergraduate Charlotte Edwards, and special object handling sessions in the Ure Museum. For more information (and lots more pictures) see https://readingancientschoolroom.com/2017-schoolroom/. Schoolroom director Professor Eleanor Dickey was interviewed about the event on UKEd chat; you can listen to the interview at https://ukedchat.com/2017/07/17/ukedpodcast-episode-12/.

Prof. Pollmann appointed Distinguished Visiting Fellow of Green College

Professor Karla Pollmann (Classics), Head of the School of Humanities has been appointed as Distinguished Visiting Fellow of Green College, University of British Columbia, Canada, in recognition of her outstanding record of intellectual accomplishments. Green College (https://www.greencollege.ubc.ca/) is a prestigious interdisciplinary Graduate College that fosters the principle of “ideas and friendship”.

Professor Pollmann has been linked for the last two decades to this College where she taught interdisciplinary master classes on Augustine’s Confessions and on Ancient and Modern Cultural Theories, and did research in fields as diverse as ancient and early Christian epic, patristics in the Americas, and innovative possibilities to design an interdisciplinary graduate programme. During her appointment as Distinguished Visiting Fellow she hopes to pursue this latter idea in more concrete detail, in order to give an innovative profile to the potential of the Humanities at the University of Reading.

Classics Research Seminars – Summer Term 2017

We are delighted to announce our research seminar programme for Summer Term 2017:

May 10: Double event on Greco-Roman Egypt:

  • Prof. Patricia Rosenmeyer (Wisconsin), ‘Coded Inscriptions on the Memnon Colossus in Egyptian Thebes’
  • Dr. Kyriakos Savvopoulos  (Oxford), ‘From Isis Lochias to St. Mark the Evangelist: Archaeological evidence from the submerged area of Akra Lochias (Great Harbour) in Alexandria’

May 17: Prof. Karen Bassi (UCSC), ‘Domesticating Death: Living in the House of Hades’

Both events will start at 4pm and take place in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology (Edith Morley Building [formerly HumSS] G38).

In addition to that, we will host our annual MA and PhD colloquia this term.

All welcome!

New Book: The Baptized Muse

Karla Pollmann, The Baptized Muse (Oxford University Press, 2017)

ISBN 978-0-19-872648-7

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-baptized-muse-9780198726487?cc=gb&lang=en&

This book focuses on early Christian poets, mainly from the 4th to the 6th centuries and writing in Latin, whose works have so far been too often dismissed as epigonal. The book chooses a fresh approach by highlighting the intertextual and exegetical means by which early Christian poets achieved a culturally competitive and highly influential standard in writing poetry directed specifically at an educated (would-be) Christian audience for their edification and education. This book will not only fill a considerable gap in our knowledge of the history of European literature, mentality and thought, but will also enable a better understanding of later literary artefacts in this tradition, from Beowulf to Milton’s Paradise Lost. Thus, in a general sense, this book contributes to the recently emerged interdisciplinary interest in looking at aspects of religion as cultural phenomena, and at the interrelationship of theology and literature.

With the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire increasing numbers of educated people converted to this new belief. As Christianity did not have its own educational institutions the issue of how to harmonize pagan education and Christian convictions became increasingly pressing. Especially classical poetry, the staple diet of pagan education, was considered to be morally corrupting (because of its deceitful mythological content) and damaging for the salvation of the soul (because of the false gods it advocated). But Christianity recoiled from an unqualified anti-intellectual attitude, while at the same time the experiment of creating an idiosyncratic form of genuinely Christian poetry failed (the sole exception being the poet Commodianus). This book argues that, instead, Christian poets made creative use of the classical literary tradition, and – in addition to blending it with Judaeo-Christian biblical exegesis – exploited poetry’s special ability of enhancing communicative effectiveness and impact through aesthetic means in order to disseminate the Christian faith. The book seeks to explore these strategies through a close analysis of a wide range of Christian, and for comparison partly also pagan, writers mainly from the fourth to sixth centuries. The book reveals that early Christianity was not a hermetically sealed uniform body, but displays a rich spectrum of possibilities in dealing with the past and a willingness to engage with and adapt the surrounding culture(s), thereby developing diverse and changing responses to historical challenges. By demonstrating throughout that authority is a key in understanding the long denigrated and misunderstood early Christian poets, this book reaches the ground-breaking conclusion that early Christian poetry is an art form that gains its justification by adding cultural authority to Christianity.

KARLA POLLMANN is currently Professor of Classics and Head of the School of Humanities at the University of Reading. She has also been appointed as Adjunct Professor of Theology at the University of Århus, Denmark, and Professor Extraordinary of Classics at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She is internationally recognized for her monographs on late antique poetry, on Augustine’s hermeneutics, and a commentary, with introduction and text, on Statius, Thebaid 12. She was Principal Investigator of a major international and interdisciplinary project on the reception of Augustine through the ages, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust, whose main result is the three-volume Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (OUP 2013). She is currently Co-Investigator of an Innovative Training Network sponsored by the EU, entitled “The History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilization” (itn-humanfreedom.eu). She is an internationally renowned speaker and her engagements include the deliveries of the 11th Augustine Lectures in Malta in 2007 under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Malta, the 4th Fliedner Lectures on Science and Faith in Madrid in 2013, and the 4th Dutch Annual Lecture in Patristics, at the Dutch Academy of Sciences in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 2014.

Prof. Pollmann re-appointed Extraordinary Professor at Stellenbosch

Prof. Karla Pollmann

Karla Pollmann, Head of the School of Humanities and Professor of Classics, has been re-appointed as Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

This appointment gives recognition of Professor Pollmann’s proven specialized expertise in Classics and Early Christian Studies, and her eminence in her profession and field of study.

It also implies Professor Pollmann to be involved in the academic programmes of the Stellenbosch Department of Ancient Studies.

Many congratulations!

Classics Research Seminars – Spring Term 2017

We are delighted to announce our research seminar programme for Spring Term 2017.

Please note that in weeks 3–5 our regular seminars will be replaced by the fantastic programme of the ‘Greek Tragedy on the Small Screen’ events (further information on which can be found here).

Week 2 – Jan 18: Lyndsay Coo (Bristol), ‘Greek tragedy and the theatre of sisterhood’
Week 3 – Jan 25: Iphigeneia in Aulis (7pm, Minghella Cinema)
Week 4 – Feb 1: Agamemnon (7pm, Minghella Cinema)
Week 5 – Feb  8: Electra (7pm, Minghella Cinema)

No seminar in Week 6

Week 7 – Feb  22: Tosca Lynch (Oxford), ‘The Symphony of Temperance in Republic 4: musical imagery and practical models’
Week 8 – Mar 1: Giulia Biffis (Reading), ‘A Sapphic inter text for Lycophron’s female voice’
Week 9 – Mar 8: Karen Ni-Mheallaigh (Exeter), ‘Eye of night: the Moon as a site of optical paradox in antiquity and beyond’ — CANCELLED
Week 10 – Mar 15: Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones (Cardiff), ‘Sexual Violence and a Re-Reading of the Eurymedon Vase’

ADDITIONAL SEMINAR:

Week 10 – Mar 15: Katerina Panagopoulou (University of Crete), ‘Saviour Monarchs in Context: (Ab)uses of the title ’Soter’ in the Hellenistic period’ (2pm, Ure Museum)

Venue and time (unless otherwise stated): HumSS G25, 4pm.

All welcome!

Watch: Naked From the Knees Up – Ancient Latin Textbooks Rediscovered (by Prof. Eleanor Dickey)

On 8 November 2016, Prof. Eleanor Dickey gave a talk to the Roman Society entitled ‘Naked From the Knees Up – Ancient Latin Textbooks Rediscovered’. You may watch her talk here, courtesy of the Roman Society:

The Sixth Annual Percy Ure Lecture

We are delighted to announce the sixth Annual Percy Ure Lecture:

Professor Christopher Smith (British School at Rome):

Commercial Tyrants:
A Model for Central Italy?

Friday, 25 November 2016

5pm

University of Reading
Whiteknights Campus
Henley Business School
Lecture Theatre G15

All welcome!

UreLecture

The lecture is free to attend, but booking is recommended, as space is limited: if you wish to attend, please register your interest with Prof. Peter Kruschwitz at p.kruschwitz@reading.ac.uk.

The Annual Percy Ure Lecture series was launched in 2011 to celebrate the centenary of Reading’s Classics Department:

http://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/about/urelecture.aspx

http://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/about/class-history.aspx

http://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/

New Books from Classics

It has been a busy summer for the department and the Classics research division as we prepared for the new academic year 2016-7. Now we are fully back into the swing of teaching, and we are delighted to share some recent, exciting news with you.

We would like to kick off our updates with a little celebration of our most recent book publications. Over the last few months, in addition to dozens of articles and other formats, a number of important, impactful new books, authored or edited by colleagues from Reading’s Classics department, have been published:

  • Dickey, E. (2016): An introduction to the composition and analysis of Greek prose. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Fournet , J.-L. and Papaconstantinou, A., eds. (2016): Mélanges Jean Gascou: textes et études papyrologiques (P. Gascou). Travaux et Mémoires, 20 (1). Centre d’histoire et civilisation de Byzance, Collège de France – CNRS, Paris.
  • Nicholls, M. ed. (2016): 30-Second Ancient Greece: The 50 Most Important Achievements of a Timeless Civilization, Each Explained in Half a Minute. Ivy Press, London.

In addition to this, Dr Matthew Nicholls has also worked as a consultant for a delightful children’s book based on his best-selling 30-seconds Ancient Rome volume of 2014:

  • Holland, S. and Hill, A. (2016): Ancient Rome in 30 Seconds: 30 fascinating topics for time travellers, explained in half a minute. Ivy Press, London.

Here is a short little film that was produced on occasion of the book launch of ’30-Second Ancient Greece’:

Would you like to find out more about the impressive volume and range of our published research? Check out our institutional repository, CentAUR, following this link.