Meet alumna Linda Trafford, who owes her recent success as a published author to her days in the Classics Department at Reading.
I was perhaps an unlikely candidate for an ancient history degree. I’d never studied Latin nor Greek and I didn’t possess a GCSE in History, let alone an A Level.
But what I did have was a passion, some might say obsession, with ancient Rome. I suspect it was my devotion to the emperor Augustus, an explanation of which filled most of my personal statement, that landed me my place at Reading University.
The Classics department at Reading in the mid-90s was peopled by lecturers who seemed barely older than me, the likes of Ray Laurence, Maria Wyke, Edith Hall and Tim Duff. Certainly not the tweed covered, fusty old professors I had been led to believe haunted faculty buildings randomly quoting Virgil. .
University is a time to widen one’s horizons so I deigned to take odd module on ancient Greece. But my love was always for those Romans. Of all the modules I took during my degree the one that sticks most in my memory is The Roman Life Cycle. This was a course that looked beyond dates and events, beyond emperors and generals. Here the emphasis was on the thinking of the average ancient roman; what their views were on their own bodies, on birth, on the gods, on reaching adulthood, on children. This truly opened my eyes to the ancient experience beyond the palaces and battles that had consumed me previously.
Studying ancient history at Reading was invaluable to my writing. It taught me how to evaluate sources, weighing up their worth and credibility before the novelist in me decides; ‘blow it, it’s just too good a story not to use!’
Linda’s first novel Palatine, a dramatic account of the final days of Nero, was published in June. Volumes II, III & IV of the Four Emperors series are to follow.