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/.
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 past few months have been exciting ones for the Classics department owing to a blitz of media attention covering the publication of Professor Eleanor Dickey’s book Learning Latin the Ancient Way as well as the annual Reading Ancient Schoolroom.
It started in February with an article in the Guardian and lasted until April, when the CBC Radio Canada broadcast a half-hour interview with Professor Dickey; along the way we featured on national TV and radio as well as the Times, the Telegraph, and numerous European publications. The final tally was (as far as we know) 3 printed newspaper pieces, 11 online newspaper pieces in 6 languages, 2 national TV broadcasts, 2 BBC South TV broadcasts, and 6 radio broadcasts (4 in UK, 1 in US, 1 in Canada).
Here is the full list:
Wednesday 10th February
- Guardian online (Alison Flood): http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/10/ancient-greek-manuscripts-reveal-life-lessons-from-the-roman-empire
- Πρώτο ΘΕΜΑ online (in Modern Greek): http://www.protothema.gr/world/article/552202/arhaia-ellinika-heirografa-apokaluptoun-tin-zoi-stin-romaiki-periodo/
- Ziare.com online (in Romanian): http://www.ziare.com/cultura/istoria-culturii-si-civilizatiei/detalii-inedite-din-roma-antica-manuscrise-despre-baia-publica-targuiala-din-piata-si-rudele-baute-1408232
Thursday 11th February
- Guardian print version (Alison Flood), p. 6
- BBC World Service radio: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03j7gc7
- BBC Radio Wales (c. 4:30 pm)
- National Public Radio (US) ‘The World’ programme
- Telegraph online (Alice Philipson): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/12152081/Ancient-Greek-manuscript-reveal-Roman-life-lessons.html
- Jutarnji online (in Croatian): http://www.jutarnji.hr/udzbenici-iz-antike-pokazuju-kako-su-se-nekad-ucili-strani-jezici-studenti-ucili-kako-postupiti-s-pijanim-clanom-obitelji-te-kako-udijeliti–socne–uvrede/1517987/
- ΚΕΡΔΟΣ online (in Modern Greek): http://www.thetoc.gr/koinwnia/article/arxaio-elliniko-egxeiridio-paradideimathimata-zwis
Friday 12th Feburary
- The Times, p. 23.
- Times online (Jack Malvern): http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/article4688596.ece (subscription only)
- BBC One South TV, 1:40 and 6:50 pm.
- BBC Radio Four World at One (just before 2 pm): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b070j7ld – play at 42 minutes in.
- BBC Radio Scotland (4:15 pm)
Saturday 13th February
- BBC 1 TV, BBC Breakfast (around 7:30 am, and/or at 9:50 am)
- In.gr online (in modern Greek): http://news.in.gr/features/article/?aid=1500057932
Sunday 14th February
- BBC 1 TV, 2:24 am
Wednesday 17th February
- Gazete Yeniyüzyil online (in Turkish): http://www.gazeteyeniyuzyil.com/haber/kultur-sanat/romalilarin-hayat-bilgisi-el-yazmalarinda-16447
Saturday 20 February
- Announcement of Naples ‘Presentazione libro’ sent out on Notiziario Italiano di Antichistica
Monday 22nd February
- El Español online (in Spanish, by Lorena G. Maldonado): http://www.elespanol.com/cultura/libros/20160222/104239646_0.html
Thursday 25th February
- Times Higher Education magazine p. 49 (Karen Shook, ‘New and noteworthy’ section, first item) (also online at https://www.timeshighereducation.com/books/reviews-new-and-noteworthy-25-february-2016)
Tuesday 1st March
- ‘Presentazione libro’ in Naples (public event in which book was discussed by a pair of Naples Classicists; in Italian)
Monday 7th March
- Reddit AMA: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/49cvdy/iama_classics_professor_who_has_travelled_around/
Friday 1st April
- CBC radio Canada: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-april-1-2016-1.3516122/translations-of-ancient-latin-give-unique-insights-into-roman-culture-1.3516154
For more information on the Reading Ancient Schoolroom, see http://www.readingancientschoolroom.com.
Learning Latin the Ancient Way, Reading Classics professor Eleanor Dickey’s latest book published this week by Cambridge University Press, has been reviewed in the Guardian. The review can be seen at http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/10/ancient-greek-manuscripts-reveal-life-lessons-from-the-roman-empire The book explores how Greek-speaking students in the Roman empire learned Latin, using the fragments of their Latin textbooks preserved on papyri from Egypt and in medieval manuscripts. In some ways these ancient Latin learners had an experience strikingly similar to that of modern students: they used grammars, dictionaries, and commentaries; they read Cicero’s Catilinarian orations and Virgil’s Aeneid; they memorized vocabulary; they looked up the hard words and wrote translations into their Latin texts.
But in other ways the ancient Latin learners had a very different experience from that of their modern counterparts. Some of these differences come from the fact that ancient learners came to Latin knowing ancient Greek rather than English. So they struggled to learn the Roman alphabet, but they had no problems with the distinction between nominative and accusative cases. Other differences come from ancient educational conventions: ancient beginners started off with bilingual texts, easy Latin accompanied by a running translation. Of course the students could not translate the Latin for themselves as a modern learner might do, since a translation was provided; instead they memorized the Latin, rather the way a student studying French today might memorize a dialogue about ordering croissants in a café in Paris.
Indeed the texts read by ancient beginners have much more in common with material read by modern French learners than with that read by modern Latin learners. Ancient students studied short dialogues and narratives about daily life: buying clothes, buying food, having lunch, borrowing money, and visiting sick friends. Of course, ancient daily life was not quite like modern daily life, so the dialogues also cover going to the public baths, winning court cases, making excuses, getting into fights, taking oaths in temples, and coming home drunk after a Roman orgy. Just like their modern counterparts, these dialogues were written to teach students about culture as well as language; therefore they offer us priceless insight into life in the Roman empire as Romans saw it.
Learning Latin the Ancient Way provides extracts from all types of ancient Latin-learning texts: bilingual dialogues, alphabets, grammars, dictionaries, annotated copies of Sallust, word-lists to Virgil, prose composition exercises, Aesop’s fables, stories about the Trojan war, letters of congratulation for sending to successful legacy hunters, an explanation of the Roman law on manumission, etc. Portions originally written in Greek have normally been translated into English, but the Latin remains in Latin; this means that modern students can experience and use these texts as their ancient counterparts would have done (or ignore the English and treat the passages like any other translation exercise). A few passages lack word division and punctuation, to make it clear what reading was really like in antiquity.
Professor Dickey hopes that her book will be used by modern Latin teachers and students (it is suitable for learners who have already done at least one year of Latin) and that it will enable modern learners to enjoy the ancient Latin-learning materials, which are now able to be used once more for their original purpose.
Copies can be purchased from Cambridge University Press (to whom Professor Dickey is very grateful for pricing the book at an affordable £18, a sharp contrast to most of her previous books): http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/classical-studies/classical-languages/learning-latin-ancient-way-latin-textbooks-ancient-world?format=PB.
The Reading Ancient Schoolroom welcomed more than 100 participants to campus on 27th and 28th January. Groups from Farnborough Hill School, Leweston School, St Gabriels School, and Langley Academy, as well as numerous families and individuals, learned how to act like Roman children. Participants also read Homer from papyrus scrolls, wrote with styluses on wax-coated tablets, learned how to do mathematical calculations on an abacus and Roman counting board, wrote with reed pens and ink on ostraca, studied Latin from a textbook used by ancient Greek speakers to learn Latin, learned the Greek alphabet the way a Roman would have learned it, and recited poetry from memory. There were also opportunities to handle objects in the Ure Museum.
Participants ranged in age from 4 to 18, and all reported having a great time. Volunteers, who included numerous first-year undergraduates as well as graduate students and staff, also had terrific fun; this is good as no-one is paid for work on the schoolroom. So we are EXTREMELY grateful to all our hard-working volunteers!
More detail on the event, and more photographs, can be seen at http://readingancientschoolroom.com/2016-schoolroom/
The Academia Europaea is the European-Union equivalent of the British Academy and the Royal Society, an international learned society composed of leading experts in the physical sciences and technology, biological sciences and medicine, mathematics, the letters and humanities, social and cognitive sciences, economics and the law. It was founded in 1988 and currently has c.3000 members, drawn from across the whole European continent. Only 24 of these are UK Classicists, so Professor Dickey joins a select group.
This honour is wholly independent of the British Academy election, as each election was based on a distinct and lengthy peer-review process. The rare double honour is testimony to Professor Dickey’s standing in the international scholarly community as well as in the UK.
Please read the University’s official press release regarding Prof. Eleanor Dickey’s election to the fellowship of the British Academy here:
She will speak on the topic of
‘Lucian’s Shortbread Eating Primer’: how to make fun of your language textbook‘
Thursday 8 May 2014, 5 pm, Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, Oxford.
Prof. Dickey will also give a lecture on the topic of
‘Education, Research, and Government in the Ancient Greek World‘
Thursday 8 May 2014, 1pm, Gresham College, London.
Both lectures are free and everyone will be welcome.
The department is very pleased to welcome Eleanor Dickey as Professor of Classics. Eleanor is a linguist with interests spanning Latin, Greek, and other ancient languages; her presence gives the Reading department the greatest concentration of Classical linguists in the UK outside of Oxford and Cambridge. Eleanor is American and was educated at Bryn Mawr College (BA, MA) and Oxford (MPhil, DPhil); she has previously worked at the University of Ottawa in Canada, Columbia University in New York, and the University of Exeter.
Eleanor arrived with a Leverhulme grant and will therefore be on leave for her first two years. Nevertheless she is visible in the department on Wednesdays and is enjoying getting to know colleagues and graduate students. As this is the first time in nearly 20 years that she has worked in a department containing other Classicists interested in language, she finds the atmosphere particularly congenial! (Besides, in this department are people who keep chickens and build coracles. How could one not be thrilled by that?)
Eleanor has published books on Greek forms of address (OUP 1996), Latin forms of address (OUP 2002), ancient Greek scholarship (OUP 2007), and the Colloquia of the Hermeneumata Pseudodositheana (vol 1 CUP 2012, vol 2 CUP forthcoming). (The colloquia are an elementary Latin reader composed for ancient Greeks learning Latin during the Roman empire; they contain little dialogues on topics like how to buy food, borrow money, hold a dinner party, or have an argument. Working on them has been tremendous fun!) Her current project is on Latin loanwords in Greek.
You can find out more about Eleanor at http://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/about/staff/e-dickey.aspx