Bring in the Artists

Discerning visitors to the Classics@Reading and the Ure Museum will have seen more and more art gracing our department’s home since the pioneering Head of Departmentship of Prof. Emma Aston, who persuaded the University Arts Collection to lend us some of the late Eric Stanford’s stone sculptures — Protesilaus and a Head of Helen of Troy — and excellent facsimiles of Minnie Hardman’s beautiful drawings of ancient sculptures.  At the same time a private donor lent us Stanford’s Memnon who also graces our department hallway in the Edith Morley building on the Whiteknights campus. Stanford’s Helen sparked our interest in Troy which led to the current British Museum Spotlight Loan.*

In 2022 we will welcome another internationally recognised artist to the Ure Museum. Through Meeting Point, an Arts&Heritage scheme funded by Arts Council England that brings artists to small museums to bring their collections to new audiences, we have now commissioned Chisato Minamimura, a Deaf performance artist originally from Japan, to create an artwork that responds to the Ure Museum’s collection. Chisato, who has taught, created, and performed internationally, including at Paralympic Opening Ceremonies, approaches choreography from her unique perspective as a Deaf artist, creating what she calls ‘visual sound/music’. Just before lockdown in 2020 the Ure Museum was chosen as one of six museums and heritage sites to work in partnership with artists as part of the Meeting Point programme. Chisato’s explorations with dance and sound chime perfectly with our recent research on music, dance, and sensory archaeology. We are very excited that this opportunity has brought us together with Chisato and we eagerly anticipate her exploration of our collections, to celebrate the Ure Museum’s 100th anniversary, coincidentally in the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence. 

You can read more about the commission on the university press release at https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR861332.aspx. There you can find the statement made by the Curator of the Ure Museum, Professor Amy Smith, along with a note from Chisato.

We look forward to this collaboration and its exciting outcomes! 

Follow Reading Classics on social media for the latest blogs and news:

Facebook: @UoRClassics

Twitter: @UniRdg_Classics

Instagram: @classicsuor

YouTube: UnivRdgClassics

*Troy: Beauty and Heroism will remain on display in the Ure Museum until 12 December so please rush in if you hadn’t had a chance already (even in tonight’s Being Human museum late ‘Live Forever: Welcome to the Underworld’.   duly will have noticed n international performance artist is set to work with the University of Reading’s Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology to design a piece of contemporary art inspired by the Museum’s unique collection.

Photo credit: photographer Mark Pickthall

Black History Month in Reading Classics

Author: Prof. Barbara Goff 

Date: 18 October 2021 

Reading Classics celebrate Black History Month with a visit from Shivaike Shah, co-creator and producer of the first global majority Medea produced by students at the University of Oxford, in 2018. This interactive event will be delivered online via MS Teams on 27th October at 2pm. Do join us in this talk to discuss the aims, challenges and successes of such an adaptation of one of the most famous Classical Greek tragedies. To register your interest to attend, please write to us at hod-classics@reading.ac.uk or visit our Facebook event page: https://fb.me/e/27eXLAIL2.

Please keep an eye on our social media and the event page as we shall circulate a joining link there closer to the date. You can also find more information about the event on our Facebook event page and social media. 

All welcome! 

In the run-up to this exciting event, here are some resources to get you thinking about some related issues.

  • Listen to our former colleague Professor Katherine Harloe on Detoxifying the Classics. Why are white nationalists and the far right so fond of Ancient Greece and Rome? Katherine looks at the ways in which the classical world is both used to lend respectability to the politics of hate, and distorted to give the false impression that it was an all-white space. Katherine was Professor of Classics at the University of Reading until the 1st October 2021, when she left to become Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in London. Go Katherine!
     
  • Listen to the many fascinating lockdown talks on the Everyday Orientalism site. This site, cofounded by our colleague Professor Rachel Mairs, seeks to offer a platform through which students, academics, and citizens can reflect on how history and power shape the way in which human societies define themselves through the “Other”.  Talks and other posts often focus on classical antiquity, ancient Egypt, and the ancient Near East, as well as looking at how those societies have been interpreted and reinterpreted by modern Western culture.
     
  • Check into the podcasts by Khameleon Classics, the team who will be talking about the all-BAME Medea later on this month. Podcast no.4 is by our colleague Professor Barbara Goff, talking about classics in the British colonies of West Africa.

In addition, on 25th October, Prof. Goff will be part of an interview with Femi Osofisan about his new production of Medaye, an adaptation of Medea.  The interview will also include Prof. Olakunbi Olasope of the Department of Classics at the University of Ibadan, who has visited Reading Classics a few times and given seminars on the reception of Greek and Roman theatre in West African drama. The interview will be available via the Archive for Performances of Greek and Roman Drama in November. Stay tuned for a link to listen to this exciting interview! 

Shivake Shah’s presentation, which will be delivered online on Wednesday 27th October at 2pm, comes as a culmination in the long devotion of Reading Classics in contributing to research approaches revolving around decolonisation, inclusivity, and diversity in Classics. To find out more about Medaye, its preparation, production, performance, and social engagement, you can read the following blog on Femi Osofisan’s Medaye in Ibadan by Olakunbi Olasope: https://classicalreception.org/african-blog-takeover-9/ .

A recent testament for our contribution to research and public engagement in plurality and diversity in Classics is the Inclusive Classics Initiative, led by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis (University of St Andrews). Over two days the workshop covered a range of subjects: barriers to inclusivity, current projects and approaches aimed at making Classics more inclusive, and priorities for future work. Bringing together multiple perspectives within the discipline, including Classics in higher education and secondary schools, the workshop provided space for discussion about marginalised groups, both during antiquity and as experienced in the subject today. Among other topics, the final panel of the workshop was a conversation among Professor Kunbi Olasope, Dr Idowu Alade, and Dr Monica Aneni from the University of Ibadan, whose discussion focussed on recent increase in Classics admissions in the university in Nigeria as well as on the significance of Classical education in pursuing a variety of careers. Read more about their latest online, international workshop ‘Towards a More Inclusive Classics II’ in our blog post about it at t.ly/8YLj.  

To find out more on the long-standing commitment of Reading Classics in promoting inclusivity, diversity, and decolonisation in Classics, visit https://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/

We look forward to seeing you all in this exciting BHM event on 27th October 2021.  

Follow Reading Classics on social media for the latest news on Reading Classics and our events: 

Twitter: @UniRdg_Classics

Facebook: @UoRClassics 

Instagram: @classicsuor

YouTube: UnivRdgClassics 

 

Reading Classics Autumn Term Research Seminars 2021

We are pleased to announce the launch of our regular Reading Classics Seminar Series for Autumn Term 2021, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

This series of lectures, starting on 29th September, run alongside the Ure Museum seminars ‘Troy in 21st Century’ in alternate weeks. In this accessible and inclusive environment—with some talks online and others in person—we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars, which will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies.  

For our first Reading Classics Seminar, we are delighted to welcome Professor Sheila Murnaghan from University of Pennsylvania, who will speak on ‘Her own troubles: women writers and the Iliad’. Tune in on Wednesday 29th 2021 at 4pm. The lecture will be delivered online in MS Teams. To register your interest in attending please email Professor Amy C Smith, at HoD-Classics@reading.ac.uk.

You can find a full list of titles below.  

29 September

Sheila Murnaghan (University of Pennsylvania) Her own troubles: Women writers and the Iliad 

13 October (in person)

Emma Aston (University of Reading) The Aggressive Thessaly Reconsidered 

17 November

Judith Mossman (Coventry University) Tragedy in Plutarch 

1 December

Çigdem Maner (Koç University) Adaptation, subsistence, and political geography in South-Easter Konya from 3rd to 1st millennium BC

We look forward to welcoming you at Reading Classics Research Seminars once again! 

 

MA Colloquim 2021: Current Research Including Identity, Irrigation and Infliction!

Author: Katherine Harloe. Edits: Bunny Waring
Date: 16th June 2021.

 

The Department of Classics welcomes all to the 2021 MA Colloquim, where current researching students give papers on their work in progress.

Join us for some fascinating seminars and discussions online via Microsoft Teams on

Tuesday 29 June 2021 between 10:00am – 5pm

 

ALL ARE WELCOME TO THIS FREE EVENT.

 

Please register by midday, 25 June at https://forms.office.com/r/a3vHf1wPTr
or by emailing execsupporthumanities@reading.ac.uk

 

PROGRAMME

10:00 am: Welcome (Katherine Harloe)
10:15 – 11:15: Session 1

Chairs: Rebecca Lightfoot, Aidan Richardson and Elliot Zadurian

Massimo Rossetti: To what extent did the Romans develop a state centralised water
policy in the late Republic and early Imperial eras?

Curtis Hill: The wealth of the Roman senatorial elite: a source of control or a catalyst for
conflict?
Klara Hegedus: The Catilinarian conspiracy of 63 BCE. The act of a degenerate individual,
or an almost inevitable by-product of the changing political order?

11:15 – 11:30: Break
11:30 – 12:30 pm: Session 2

Chairs: Sue Vincent, Dulcimer Thompson and Jess Wragg

Louis Hope: To what extent did a Panhellenic identity exist during the period from the
beginning of the Persian Wars to the invasion of Persia by Alexander the Great?

Aaron Cox: All roads lead to Rhodes? A brief look into the politics of the Hellenistic
Mediterranean.

Charles Stewart: Demos, aristocracy, and empire: power relations and political
institutions in the Greek cities of Asia Minor under Roman rule.

12:30 – 1:30pm: Lunch
1:30 – 2:30pm: Session 3

Chairs: Aaron Cox, Charles Stewart and Louis Hope

Dulcimer Thompson: Examining the presence and effect of internalised misogyny in the
female characters of Classical literature.

Jess Wragg: Breaking the boundaries: gender nonconformity in Ancient Greece.

Sue Vincent: Hecabe – from magnificent matriarch to murderous mother?

3:30 – 3:45pm: Break
3:45 – 4:45pm: Session 4

Chairs:tbc.

Elliot Zadurian: Unjust deliveries of justice: the implications of the agon and law-court
scenes in ancient Greek Drama.

Rebecca Lightfoot: ‘The Bad Place.’ an exploration of punishment and the afterlife in
Egypt, Greece and the Near East.

Aidan Richardson: Is Plutarch’s claim to be writing “not Histories but Lives” true?
4:45pm: Wrap up/closing remarks

AMPAL 2020-2021 is COMING! Registration is still open! Don’t miss our Keynote speech!

Author: Dania Kamini. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 4th June 2021.

Only two weeks until AMPAL 2020-2021! The event will be held online on MS TEAMS from 17th -19th June 2021. This year’s theme is ‘Fear in Ancient Culture’. We are excited to invite you to this year’s keynote speech, which will be delivered by Professor Fiona McHardy of the University of Roehampton on 18th June at 5pm. 

Please note: Everyone is welcome to this free, online event, but you must register to receive access codes. To do so head to the AMPAL site here: https://ampal2020.wordpress.com/registration/

BEFORE 11th June 2021. 

Fear of Revenge in Euripidean Tragedy (abstract)

Young children in Greek literature are frequently shown as fearful, cowering in the arms of their mothers or nurses. Yet tiny infants such as these can strike fear into the hearts of even the most battle-weary and experienced warriors, and as yet unborn babies can make even mighty kings fearful. Within both political conflicts and wartime disputes, young children are perceived to pose a threat as the heirs of their fathers’ and grandfathers’ enmities. Though small and weak, young boys are the cause of such fear in grown men because of the expectation they will grow up to exact lethal revenge on the enemies of their families in the future. This expectation leaves the children vulnerable to murderous attacks in tragic plotlines. Consideration of extant and fragmentary plays reveals that this unsettling theme was one that Euripides returned to often suggesting that this concept of fear resonated with the fifth-century audience. Through exploration of contemporary ideas about young children and babies as avengers, underpinned by comparative anthropology and psychology, this lecture unravels the dynamics of fear associated with children within the plays of Euripides set within their literary and social context.

All welcome!  We look forward to welcoming you to AMPAL 2020-2021!

Registration for the AMPAL Conference is now open! (Until 10th June 2021)

Author: Doukissa Kamini. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 2nd June 2021.

 

You are warmly invited to register to attend the Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL) 2020-2021 to be held online at MS Teams from 17th to 19th June 2021! Registration will remain open until 10th June 2021.

The theme of AMPAL 2020-2021 is ‘Fear in Ancient Culture’, about which, Postgraduates from both the UK and abroad will provide a series of presentations on literary, interdisciplinary, and historical approaches. The event will be accompanied by a virtual tour of the Ure Museum, a presentation of a student-curated online exhibition entitled ‘Fear Beyond Words’, and a Keynote Speech by Professor Fiona McHardy (University of Roehampton) on fear of revenge in Euripidean tragedies. You can find a list of titles as well as more details on the Keynote Speech and other aspects of AMPAL on the official website, where a list of abstracts and a programme are available.

To register for this free, online event please click here.

Please contact us at lks19a@reading.ac.uk for any questions and/or special requirements.

Best wishes,

Dania Kamini

Follow AMPAL on Twitter and Facebook

Visit AMPAL website: https://ampal2020.wordpress.com/

What Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? – Education in the Making.

Interviewees: Prof. Peter Kruschwitz, Dr. María Limón & Prof Xavier Espluga. Interviewer: Bunny Waring

Date: 30th April 2021.

Today the Classics Department of Reading is delighted to announce the release of a special video called What Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? In this video Prof. Peter Kruschwitz (University of Vienna), Prof. Xavier Espluga (University of Barcelona) and Dr. María Limón (University of Seville) discuss the lettered world of ancient Rome and how ancient peoples interacted with the world around them. The video was filmed, directed and edited by James Rattee (https://vimeo.com/jamesrattee/videos) and includes digital footage from Prof. Matthew Nicholls’ Virtual Rome model.

Today we invited Peter, María and Xavier to discuss with us the motivations and methods of making this video and what is next for this interesting project on ancient inscriptions.

INTERVIEW

Bunny Waring (BW): Good Morning All. Thank you for joining us this morning to talk about your collaborative piece What Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? The Classics Department are very excited to share this work and we wondered if you could explain a little bit about your motivations for this project?

Thank you so much for this – it’s great for us to be back for a little while, albeit virtually. All three of us share the same passion: our enthusiasm for Roman inscriptions, especially inscriptions composed in verse. To us, those inscriptions are not just stones or pieces of metal that happen to have some poetry inscribed on them. They are carriers of art. They are visible, tangible manifestations of a universal artistic practice of Roman times, spanning the empire across time and space, with thousands of examples surviving to the present day.

This art was produced by individuals from all runs of life, and it was produced in the city of Rome just as much as it can be found at Hadrian’s Wall, the shores of the Black Sea, or in the Roman settlement of North Africa. We can relate to these individuals very easily because they’re not just some remote elite: they are people with everyday occupations, everyday hopes and worries, everyday problems. Like (most of) us – the other 99%, so to speak, far away from the palaces and lives of the elite. What is more, these individuals inhabited the very spaces, geographically and socially, that we still inhabit today, along with all their challenges.

It’s neighbourhood poetry, it’s communal art. And it gives us the most direct, emotionally moving, and instructive access to the world(s) of ancient Rome.

Of course, we know how we ourselves, especially in an academic context, interact and engage with Roman inscribed material remains. But how did they do it? We were curious to find out! And then we got very lucky: the British Academy gave María the opportunity to get our joint research going, first through its visiting fellowship scheme, then through additional funding for this video. We are so grateful for their support, and we hope that this video will both repay them for their trust in our research and appeal and communicate to wide audiences just what incredible, valuable material we study in our desire better to understand the Roman world and its diverse cultures.

BW: How exciting to work on such an interesting topic! So I’m eager to know: why did you choose this particular inscription?

We wanted to make a number of strong, important points. About the way in which we perceive, in which we encounter the Roman world. About the way the ancient world is presented to us in museums, archives, exhibitions, and books. And we want to do so while racing a wide audience because what we have to say and offer is relevant to so many different audiences.

 

We want to enthuse new generations with our passion for Roman history, for poetry, for epigraphy. We want to give teachers the opportunity to expand the canon of teaching through the inclusion of poetry that students can easily relate to. We want to invite museums, collections, and policymakers to rethink their approach to the way in which these incredibly exciting, talking objects from the ancient world are displayed. What better way to achieve this than to choose a text that expresses, in such beautiful words, the grief of pet owners – whose faithful companion had died. We feel we all can relate to that, and we feel that this text alone opens up so many new ways of thinking about the Roman world and the people who “were” the Romans, than the ever-same repertoire of classical authors.

BW: There must be a lot of interesting stories out there?

There are several thousand inscribed poems surviving from across the Roman world. You find anything, from obscene graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, to epitaphs on funerary monuments, 110-lines long and erected in the desert of Roman North Africa. You find beautiful, outrageous, hilarious, thought-provoking pieces, but, of course, also the banal and uninspired. How else could it be: writing short(ish) poems was a shared pastime across the ancient world, and the pieces are just as varied as their authors – men, women, children. If you would like to see further examples, you may explore them in an easily accessible format here and here. The material truly is a hidden treasure waiting for its discovery.

BW: What was it like recording this piece? Would you recommend the process to others?

Haha, oh dear! Well… none of us are natural-born entertainers. We all were terrified and at first, we hated to see our faces and hear our recorded voices. But James Rattee, the producer and creative mind behind our video, did an incredible job to make us feel at ease, to make us look smart (within the limitations that we were painfully aware of), and make the video appealing to such a wide range of audiences. We hope that putting this video out there will make it available for generations to come – for pupils, teachers, academics, cultural managers, policy makers: it should entertain and be useful at the same time! It’s genuinely a piece of art.

 

BW: Well we all certainly agree with that, here in Classics at Reading University! Excellent work! Finally then, what is in store next for your project?

We want to do more. We want to reach out to schools, to those who design curricula, design teaching in schools and at university, to show them the potential and possibilities. And we want to transform the way in which inscriptions are presented and utilised in museums – there is so much potential wasted.

We are making first steps. But there’s much more work to be done. So, if you are interested, please do get in touch with us, and we will explore the potential for collaboration with you! And as we are still thinking about reaching larger audiences and improving educational materials we would be deeply grateful if viewers, students and teachers, from all over the world would send us their feedback, even in an informal way. And by all means do feel free to send us any kind of questions regarding how Roman communicate their feelings, emotions, fears, and concerns through their inscriptions.

 

Summer Seminar Series 2021

Author: Amy Smith & Bunny Waring. Edits: Bunny Waring.
Date: 26th April 2021.

Come one, come all! After a short break, the Classics Department is ready to entertain and educate you all with a new series of free, online seminars.
Join us weekly on Wednesdays at 4pm for our Summer Seminar Series which focuses on the theme ‘Making Classics Better’. In this accessible and inclusive online environment, we welcome a stellar group of speakers from as close as Roehampton and as far as Melbourne to address issues that hamper inclusivity in Classics and/or explore means of promoting diversity in the study of antiquity more broadly.

This theme relates to the work of many of our colleagues and follows on from a successful series of workshops on Inclusive Classics co-organised by our Joint-Head of Department, Prof. Barbara Goff (see out 2020 blog post: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/classics-at-reading/page/3/.

Below is the full programme and you can join us—for free—by clicking on our events page: https://www.facebook.com/UoRClassics/events/

28 April: What makes classical myth an ideal topic for autistic children? – Susan Deacy (Roehampton)

5 May: Covid+Collapse – Louise Hitchcock (Melbourne)

12 May: Collaboration in UK Classics Education: Reflecting on Ambitions and Realities – Arlene Holmes-Henderson (KCL)

19 May: Disability Studies and the Classical Body: The Forgotten Other – Ellen Adams (KCL)

26 May: Subverting the Classics? White Feminism and Reception Studies – Holly Ranger (SAS)

2 June: TBA – Patrice Rankine (Richmond)

From Banquets to Sappho: Current Research & Recent Publications (2021.2).

Author: Bunny Waring
Date: 21st March 2021

Amidst adapting to e-learning, preparing lectures and caring for students, staff here at the Classics Department have been busy. A key element of academic life is never resting on your laurels. Each lecturer has their own research passions and are constantly writing blogs, papers, books and articles about what they have discovered and why it matters. Here are some of the latest releases from Prof. Rachel Mairs, Prof. Annalisa Marzano, Prof. Katherine Harlowe and Prof. Barbara Goff!

Mairs, Rachel (Ed.) 2021. The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek World. Routledge.
This volume provides a thorough conspectus of the field of Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek studies, mixing theoretical and historical surveys with critical and thought-provoking case studies in archaeology, history, literature and art.

The chapters from this international group of experts showcase innovative methodologies, such as archaeological GIS, as well as providing accessible explanations of specialist techniques such as die studies of coins, and important theoretical perspectives, including postcolonial approaches to the Greeks in India. Chapters cover the region’s archaeology, written and numismatic sources, and a history of scholarship of the subject, as well as culture, identity and interactions with neighbouring empires, including India and China.

The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek World is the go-to reference work on the field, and fulfils a serious need for an accessible, but also thorough and critically-informed, volume on the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms. It provides an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the Hellenistic East.

For E and Hard copies click here:
The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek World

 

 

Bowman, Alan K., Crowther, Charles V., Hornblower, Simon., Mairs, Rachel and Savvopoulos Kyriakos (Eds.) 2020. Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions Part I: Greek, Bilingual, and Trilingual Inscriptions from Egypt. Volume 1. Alexandria and the Delta (Nos. 1–206). Oxford University Press. 

This is the first of three volumes of a Corpus publication of the Greek, bilingual and trilingual inscriptions of Ptolemaic Egypt covering the period between Alexander’s conquest in 332 BC and the fall of Alexandria to the Romans in 30 BC. The Corpus offers scholarly editions, with translations, full descriptions and supporting commentaries, of more than 650 inscribed documents, of which 206, from Alexandria and the region of the Nile Delta, fall within this first volume. The inscriptions in the Corpus range in scope and significance from major public monuments such as the trilingual Rosetta Stone to private dedicatory plaques and funerary notices. They reflect almost every aspect of public and private life in Hellenistic Egypt: civic, royal and priestly decrees, letters and petitions, royal and private dedications to kings and deities, as well as pilgrimage notices, hymns and epigrams. The inscriptions in the Corpus are drawn from the entire Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, from Alexandria and the Egyptian Delta, through the Fayum, along the Nile Valley, to Upper Egypt, and across the Eastern and Western Deserts. The Corpus supersedes older publications and other partial collections organised by a specific region or theme and offers for the first time a full picture of the Greek and multilingual epigraphic landscape of the Ptolemaic period. It will be an indispensable resource for new and continuing research into the history, society and culture of Ptolemaic Egypt and the wider Hellenistic world.

For hard copies and more information:
Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions

 

 

Marzano, Annalisa. 2021. Caesar’s triumphal banquet of 46 BC: A Hypothesis on its Political Significance on the Basis of a Recent Epigraphic Discovery from Pompeii in: politica antica 10: 99-107.

An inscription recently discovered in Pompeii reports how many individuals were accommodated on sets of three dining couches in a public banquet. This information allows us to reconsider the number of people feasted during Caesar’s famous public banquet of 46 BC, suggesting that the number of individuals was very close to the number of people on the corn dole list. Caesar revised this list shortly after the celebrations of 46 BC, drastically reducing the number of recipients; therefore the public banquet of 46 BC may have had a strong political dimension connected to the revision of the corn dole list Caesar was planning.

To read more click here:
Caesar’s Famous Banquet

 

 

Finglass, P.J., Kelly, A. (Eds.) 2021. The Cambridge Companion to Sappho. Cambridge University Press. With chapters by Harloe, K, Goff, B.

No ancient poet has a wider following today than Sappho; her status as the most famous woman poet from Greco-Roman antiquity, and as one of the most prominent lesbian voices in history, has ensured a continuing fascination with her work down the centuries. The Cambridge Companion to Sappho provides an up-to-date survey of this remarkable, inspiring, and mysterious Greek writer, whose poetic corpus has been significantly expanded in recent years thanks to the discovery of new papyrus sources. Containing an introduction, prologue and thirty-three chapters, the book examines Sappho’s historical, social, and literary contexts, the nature of her poetic achievement, the transmission, loss, and rediscovery of her poetry, and the reception of that poetry in cultures far removed from ancient Greece, including Latin America, India, China, and Japan. All Greek is translated, making the volume accessible to everyone interested in one of the most significant creative artists of all time.

See a full list of chapters and papers here:
The Cambridge Companion to Sappho.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Episode 3: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga – A Specialist in Sensorial Archaeology in Museums and Classics.

[Image of an image of Mithratic iconography and Latin inscription in a stone frieze. Lalupa]

Interviewee: Dr. Claudina Romero Mayorga. Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 16th April 2021

Welcome to the Classic Department’s series What’s it Like? During these episodes staff, volunteers and students who specialise in all fields of Classics, Archaeology and Museums, will share with you the realities of their jobs. What to be a Linguist? Museum Curator? Archaeologist? Lecturer? Well Travelled Researcher? A Barrier-Breaker? Have No Idea? Then read on!

This week: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga

A Specialist in Sensorial Archaeology in Museums and Classics.

Name: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga
Area of Specialism: Archaeology, Classics and Museums.
Topics of Interest: Ancient Mediterranean civilisations, material culture, education, sensorial archaeology, music, polychromy, 3d printing.
Job Title: Education officer at the Ure Museum and Sessional Lecturer at the Department of Classics.
Job Responsibilities: Develop and deliver educational sessions for primary and secondary schools, organise outreach activities, family events, lead the Young Archaeologists’ Club, research the collection, welcome visitors, manage volunteers and interns, teach Latin or Roman History to undergraduates.

Introduction

I grew up watching old films and documentaries about ancient civilisations: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome….everything sounded so mysterious and exciting! I wanted to know all about them so I started reading as much as I could. The objects left behind by them felt as if they still had a special power, so my focus was not so much on their languages, but on the material culture produced by these peoples who lived so many years before me. By the time I got to the university, “Gladiator” had already left a mark on me, and well…Romans are my thing now. I love working at the Ure Museum and teaching people about our amazing collection.

 

[A glimpse at some of the fantastic displays in the Ure Museum, including pots to get excited about. Ure Museum.]

What is your daily life really like?

Replying to emails takes most of my time! Before the pandemic, I would get lots of school groups in the Ure Museum and the time would just fly. Talking to kids, teachers, parents, looking at them being amazed by an ancient pot…Best feeling ever!!! Having children tell you that they want to be archaeologists and work in a museum after their visit is priceless…But in 2020 with the arrival of COVID, things changed dramatically. Although online sessions still felt great and children got to engage with 3D models, it wasn’t the same. I’m really looking forward to reopening soon!

[A YAC event (with permission) where young children are taught how to clean and understand ancient artefacts. Mayorga.]

A lot of my time is also spent planning new public events (online or face to face) for families, for older teens: trying to develop new educational resources for everyone, talking to my colleagues and other museums, updating our website, posting on our social media, writing grants applications and planning Young Archaeologist Club (YAC) sessions. If I’m teaching Roman History to undergrads, I need to prepare my classes and then mark their assignments. When I teach I try to make sure that they see that I’m passionate about the subject and that although everything seems to have been researched and discovered already, there’s still plenty to do.

I do love object-based research so whenever I have a bit of time, I would focus on a specific object and learn as much as I can. I also enjoy travelling; I like meeting colleagues in beautiful destinations to discuss our work, visit museums and tasting local food (this activity is also known as attending international congresses and seminars). Getting funds to do this can be very competitive and difficult, but I never give up!

[Dr Mayorga and Assistant Curator of the Ure Museum Jayne Holly on a research trip. Mayorga.]

What is the best part of your job?

· Handling ancient objects is the best part without any doubt! I still feel like a 5-year-old when I hold an old pot.

· Working with the curator and assistant curator at the Ure is great fun, we’re always coming up with new projects and new challenges…I don’t know what a boring day at the office is.

· Learning from other colleagues

· Being mind-blown by kids’ questions

 

Why do you think your specialism is important?

Studying ancient civilisations, in general, makes you aware that some of the problems we face today as a society, already existed in the past (misogyny, elitism, poverty). Looking at the solutions they came up with – or the lack of them – might give us a better perspective of the circumstances we are living in. My interest in sensorial archaeology comes from my focus not on emperors and great characters, but on ordinary people: how they behaved, what they liked, whom they loved, what they ate, if they were happy – and if so, how they expressed that. I believe that trying to know another person (even if that person has been dead for more than 1000 years) generates empathy and there’s nothing more important right now than trying to understand the person who is in front of you.

[The Ure Museum’s Museum in a Box tells the life of Annie Ure, the co-founder of the Ure Museum, whose life studying antiquity highlighted women’s rights issues throughout the ancient and modern eras.]

 If you didn’t have your current job, what else could you apply your skills to?

I guess I would be good in general admin, but I would do better in a position that would allow me to support or mentor young people. Teaching is a calling, whether it’s Classics or Economics, but I believe I would be good at working with younger people.

Did you always want to be what you are today?

Yes! Haha, I get to work in a museum and at the Uni, although I took the long and winding road to get here. People usually go for Museum Studies if they want to work with collections or in a heritage site. I started studying History of Art in Madrid and then my PhD in Archaeology offered fieldwork training: I was part of a team that dug up a Roman villa in Spain…and to spread the news among the locals I guided some tours and “played” with the finds to show kids how fun and interesting the Romans were. There I got bitten by the “museum bug” (beware!) and ended up researching lots of museum collections and storage facilities for my final dissertation in every single European country.

[Dr Mayorga teaching a range of students and volunteers about the importance of Museum collections. Mayorga.]

But I had to work and study at the same time, so it took me longer than expected. Volunteering and taking up education modules did the rest. But because I have a PhD in Archaeology people usually don’t understand why I’m the Education officer, as if researching and teaching were two completely different activities, when in the end they’re two sides of the same coin. I can’t conceive one without the other.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I hope the pandemic is over by then! I would love to see the government showering universities with funds, especially to support Humanities. Would love to have my role as an Education officer as full-time, and to continue teaching at the University of Reading. It would be great to have certain events and activities already cemented in our educational calendar (3D printed resources; Ancient music sessions).

 What 3 tips would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar path?

  1. Go for whatever you love: languages, physics, computers. That will always stay with you, money won’t. Studying something that you don’t like is torture.
  2. Don’t believe everything you read: even if it is printed in a book by a famous author, it’s opened to discussion.
  3. Travel as much as you can.

What to know more?

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date with what events the Ure Museum has to offer head over to the Museum’s webpage here.