Reading Classics Spring Term Seminar Series 2022

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for SpringTerm 2022, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

In this series of lectures, starting on 26 January, 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. All seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams; tune in every Wednesday at 4pm! Attendance is free and open to all! To attend please follow this link: bit.ly/33Ym1ty! Below you can find a poster with all titles and a QR code leading to the attendance link! 

For our first Reading Classics Spring Term Seminar, we are delighted to welcome Ergün Läfli, Professor of Classical Archaeology at the Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, who will speak on ‘Ancient lamps from southern Turkey’. All welcome thisWednesday 26th January 2022 at 4pm! 

For more information, please contact hod-classics@reading.ac.uk. 

Full list of titles

26 January 

Ergün Läfli (Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir), Ancient lamps from southern Turkey

2 February 

Marco Fantuzzi (Roehampton), Realism becomes Electra (and Euripides) 

9 February

Ioannis Mitsios (Athens), Boreads and Oreithyia or not? Re-examining figures P, Q and R from the west pediment of the Parthenon

23 February 

Çiğdem Maner (Koç), Adaptation, Subsistence and Political Geography in Southeastern Konya from the 3rd to the 1st Millenium BC

2 March

Hana Navratilova (Reading/Oxford), New graffiti season at Dahshur, Egypt, 2021: mapping ancient appraisals of the pyramid complex of Senwosret III

9 March

Hella Eckhardt (Reading), Bridge over troubled water – new approaches to Roman river finds

16 March

Maria Mili (Glasgow), Divine things: Greek gods and objects

 

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

 

Celebrating Egyptian Month in Reading

Authors: Dr Hana Navratilova and Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga

Date: December 2021

The Department of Classics at the University of Reading celebrated the Egyptian Month with research and teaching activities as well as with the interactive event — Live Forever! Welcome to the Underworld — held as part of the Being Human Festival!  

In October 2021, Dr Hana Navratilova spent several weeks working with the Egyptian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, at the site of Dahshur in Egypt. At the same time Dr Navratilova continued teaching and serving as our Department’s Director of Academic Tutoring from her desert location, which had surprisingly good internet speed. The site of Dahshur is located south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and belongs to a large group of pyramid fields, i.e. necropoleis dominated by Old and Middle Kingdom pyramid complexes (3rd and 2nd millennium BCE).

Photo: A sunset in the desert (credit: Hana Navratilova)

The Metropolitan Museum international team works together with the Ministry of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt and research teams specialising at the pyramid precinct of Senwosret III, which has a very long history, starting well before this Middle Kingdom sovereign and continuing until the Roman period. The Greco-Roman history of the site involves a large cemetery: the pyramid of Senwosret III was a place of royal burials, veneration, and admiration by generations of visitors. Its lifecycle turned a new page, however, when Ramesses II decided to use it as a quarry, and we are all excitingly waiting for further archaeological research on that aspect of its history to complement our understanding of the ways in which such an ancient site changed over time!

Photo: ongoing excavation in the demolition zone of the pyramid complex at the site of Dahshur in Egypt. Please note that Covid protection measures have been applied at the excavation area and in housing of the teams. Facemasks are now part of archaeological everyday life as are lateral flow tests!  (Photo credit: Hana Navratilova)

Dr Navratilova’s area of expertise focusses on the New Kingdom material, so-called visitors’ graffiti, while further research interests revolve around the pyramid biography. Monuments in Egypt have almost always a long history, which requires that we study their use, re-use, and reappropriation across time. This perspective on pyramids helps also in our interpretation of long lives of other Egyptian monuments, including temples. The temples at Abydos, for example, have long been in the focus of religious history and pilgrimage study by Prof. Ian Rutherford.

Photo: earlier drawing of a graffito (credit: Hana Navratilova)

The excavation work at Dahshur is still ongoing and we are truly excited to see what the archaeological spade will bring to light!  You can read more about the site of Dahshur at https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dapc/hd_dapc.htm

 

In addition, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology and the Department of Classics at the University of Reading hosted the interactive event ‘Live forever: welcome to the Underworld’ on the evening of 19 November 2021 thanks to a generous grant awarded by the Being Human Festival Hub (https://beinghumanfestival.org/events/live-forever-welcome-underworld).

This year’s theme was “renewal”, so we decided to recreate the ancient Egyptian and Greek underworlds. It was no paradox: far from being a terrifying experience, this was a life-affirming event, in which staff and students acted as guides to the Egyptian and Greek ways to eternity. The corridors and lecture rooms of the department were converted into different branches of the afterlife: our mortal guests were allowed to enter Elysium to discuss life and death with heroes of the Classical world, and then were tested by the tribunal of Osiris and the Egyptian gods, where their heart was balanced against the feather of Maat, the goddess of justice. If their life was found to be good, their name was to be remembered forever! In tune with remembrance as the theme of November, we hope to have shown how ancient cultures coped with the challenge of death and loss, which seemed suitable after a world-wide pandemic.

Live forever: welcome to the Underworld not only disseminated a topic extensively researched in the Department of Classics and the Ure Museum to a wider audience, but it also helped to create a sense of camaraderie among undergraduates and academics, especially after two years of lockdown. The event encouraged students to develop their own teaching resources when engaging our audiences: they created stand-up routines, devised new trails for the museum, learnt to play ancient games, etc.

Jenny, one of our students, said: “I am very grateful for the amazing opportunity to teach how to play Senet, an ancient Egyptian board game to our visitors. This was a very popular part of the event which saw children and parents competitively playing the game as well as asking questions about the Egyptian afterlife. Even one girl came up with the idea that the pieces could represent the need for all parts of your ba, or soul, to reach the afterlife to be together in eternal life”.

Harry designed museum trails on Ancient Egyptian and Greek funerary practices and much more: “What I liked most about the festival was the variety of stuff that was happening, meaning there was something for almost everyone who was interested in Ancient History. For those fascinated with drama, two plays were taking place in which students and professors alike dressed up as Ancient fictional characters such as gods and heroes in a re-enactment of the Underworld – one play was about the Egyptian afterlife, and the other about the Greek. Those with a liking for music in Antiquity were likely happy to hear Dr James Lloyd playing the aulos during the festival.”

You can get a taste of how the ancient Greek aulos sounds in this short video with Dr James Lloyd in the Reading Classics corridor: https://twitter.com/i/status/1461791868262440963.

Being Human Festival provided us with a perfect opportunity to recreate ancient Egypt and Greece, to offer an immersive experience to the local community and to show that, no matter how many millennia have gone by, antiquity remains relevant to understand how we cope with loss, time, the human, and the divine.

 

Follow us on social media:  

Twitter: @UniRdg_Classics 

Facebook: @UoRClassics

Instagram: @classicsuor

 

Follow the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology on social media at: 

Twitter: @UreMuseum

Facebook: Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology

Instagram: @uremuseum 

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! 

 

Troy in the 21st Century: Ure Museum online seminar series, Autumn 2021    

The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the Department of Classics at the University of Reading is proud to announce its second online seminar series, ‘Troy in the 21st Century’ Series.

In these online seminars — alternate Wednesdays, starting on 22 September — speakers will consider the influence of the Troy myths in our current century, on science, TV, gaming, children’s literature and of course the visual arts. The lectures will be presented via Teams Live Events and accompany the British Museum Spotlight loan, Troy: Beauty and Heroism, on display at the Ure Museum 21 September–12 December 2021.

Here is the full list of speakers: 

22 September: Amanda Potter (Open University), Warrior girls in brass bras, fur bikinis and skinny jeans: Televising the Amazons

6 October: D Felton (University of Massachussetts, Amherst), The afterlife of Troy in modern science

20 October: Dunstan Lowe (University of Kent), ‘Write a New History’: The Trojan War in digital games

24 November: Katarzyna Marciniak (University of Warsaw), Troy in contemporary children’s literature

Please register your interest in attending at tinyurl.com/21stctroy or scan the QR code below, and do visit the Ure museum to see the exhibition! All welcome!  

 

 

 

Report on ‘Towards a More Inclusive Classics II’ International workshop, organised by Professor Barbara Goff and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis

Authors: Jenny Messenger, Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Barbara Goff and Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis

Date: September2021

At the start of July 2021, the Inclusive Classics Initiative, led by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis (University of St Andrews), held its second online, international workshop ‘Towards a More Inclusive Classics II’. This event was co-chaired by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson (King’s College London/University of Oxford), and 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.

Themed around ‘Embedding Inclusive Practices’, the first panel, chaired by University of Nottingham doctoral candidate Ashley Chhibber, started with Professor Jennifer Ingleheart (University of Durham) speaking from a Head of Department’s perspective about creating a welcoming space for incoming students. Jennifer mentioned using individual expressions of identity (such as displaying the rainbow flag), the success of a staff race reading group, and the problems faced by departments trying to develop EDI initiatives on a small budget. Dr Naoko Yamagata discussed the Open University’s success of attracting a relatively large proportion of students with a declared disability, along with the challenge of having very low levels of ethnic diversity among the student population, and strategies used to make the curriculum more inclusive, from checklists that challenge assumptions to changing commonly used terms. Dr Marchella Ward (University of Oxford) offered thoughts on the need to take critiques from marginalised students seriously, and to carry out EDI work before publicising it, to avoid appearing to capitalise on the marketing appeal of diversity.

Panel Two featured a series of updates on current projects dealing with diversity and inclusivity, which had first been introduced in last year’s ‘Towards a more Inclusive Classics’ workshop. Dr Fiona Hobden and Serafina Nicolosi shared the results of a student survey carried out at the University of Liverpool, which suggested that while the teaching and learning environment was inclusive, improvements could be made to further diversify the curriculum by, for example, featuring more women outside the domestic sphere. Giving an update on the MAPPOLA project, Professor Peter Kruschwitz (University of Vienna) showed how two stories from the margins of the Roman empire were able to destabilise received narratives, and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson (King’s College London and University of Oxford) illustrated the sheer range of diversely positioned stakeholders in the UK Classics community, some of the success stories of knowledge exchange projects among these groups to date, and, crucially, identified future strategic actions required to improve collaboration.

Day Two began with a panel on ‘Decentring the Canon’, with talks from teachers in schools and colleges around the UK and Germany, as well as an update on the Christian Cole Society for Classicists of Colour. Anna McOmish (Aldridge School, Walsall) discussed the value of introducing an Ancient Middle East module into the Key Stage 3 History curriculum, while Peter Wright (Blackpool Sixth Form College) spoke about the Blackpool Classics for All hub and the benefits of using Classics as a tool to boost vocabulary, literacy, and oracy. Ray Cheung, an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, talked about the need to build a community of classicists of colour, to re-envision Classics, and to change institutional mindsets. Vijaya-Sharita Baba (Petroc College, Devon) discussed a personal journey from thinking of Classics as an inherently diverse subject to becoming aware of the ways certain curricula can be exclusive, and called for more resources that would be accessible to students with no linguistic background. Sanjay Sharma (Heinz-Brandt-Schule, Berlin) drew attention to the importance of re-framing and contextualising Classics in modern geographies, and of encouraging students to engage with a wide variety of artistic representations of antiquity.

Following this panel, attendees were able to chat in smaller, themed groups (small technical issues aside). Discussion in the PhD and early career researchers group touched on challenges in terms of lack of funding and support structures, and precarious employment, as well as the effect these factors might have on participating in inclusivity work, such as the inability to commit to longer-term initiatives within a department. Suggestions for future plans included sharing resources to help start reading groups and the need to continue online access to events even after in-person events begin again.

The mid-career and professoriate group praised the opportunity to be able to talk to colleagues from other institutions and discussed the networking role Twitter has assumed. Other topics included the need to find time, headspace, and buy-in to implement staff training at a time of increasing overload; embedding diversity in career paths through hiring practices and promotional processes; and which professional bodies had the ability to act and create change.

Colleagues in the teachers in schools and colleges group raised the question of what universities could do to encourage students into Classics, suggesting that talks tailored to the syllabus and virtual visits can be powerful tools. Finally, discussion about future events included plans surrounding a project focused on raising the profile of neurodiversity within Classics.

Our 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 about lecturers and students in partnership showed how Classics admissions in the university in Nigeria had increased over the last ten years, especially at postgraduate level. Collaboration in various ways, including teaching, publication, and active mentoring, had led to a sense of student belonging. Classics remained a subject of study that could lead to all kinds of careers, ensuring good support from alumni, and a comparative focus on classical reception meant it was clear that Classics remained highly relevant.

From the point of view of the organisers, the workshop was hugely inspiring and provided lots of ideas for action and further thought. The idea of focusing on themes which had emerged as priorities from last year’s workshop proved very fruitful. Social media users followed updates on Twitter from the @inclusiclassics account and using #InclusiveClassicsII. The programme and presentation materials are available on the Institute of Classical Studies website. Professor Barbara Goff and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis, would like to thank all attendees and all the speakers for their enthusiasm and collegiality, Dr Jenny Messenger for her fantastic administrative support, and particularly Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson for kindly stepping in to co-chair when Alexia was unwell.

To be added to the Inclusive Classics Initiative mailing list for information about future events, please email lks01beg@reading.ac.uk.

By Jenny Messenger, Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Barbara Goff and Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis

In the screenshot, can you see a Reading professor, and a couple of alumni?

Double International Distinction for our Professor Annalisa Marzano

Author: Dania Kamini
Edits: Prof. Amy Smith and Prof. Annalisa Marzano
Date: 27 August 2021

The British School at Rome has elected our Professor Annalisa Marzano as a Research Fellow. This prestigious non-stipendiary position, which Prof. Marzano will hold for three years, provides another testament for her pioneering research in various areas of Roman studies, including Roman social and economic history, and the ideology, social function, and production of Roman villas as seen in the texts of ancient authors and archaeological remains. Prof. Marzano is an expert on Roman marine aquaculture and large-scale fishing, and her research has brought attention to the importance the exploitation of marine resources had in the ancient economy. Her publications explore and provide an original approach to ancient agriculture and horticulture, marine resources, continuity and disruption in the exploitation of economic resources, settlement patterns, the varied nature of capital investments, and trade. Her research has attracted international recognition, including her election as Member of the Academia Europaea last year, thus highlighting her dedication and crucial contribution to the discipline.  

This accolade quickly follows the publication of an Italian updated edition of Professor Marzano’s ground-breaking Harvesting the Sea: The Exploitation of Marine Resources in the Roman Mediterranean — published by Scienze e Lettere — in early July (http://www.scienzeelettere.it/book/50237.html)!  

Harvesting the Sea offers a fresh approach to a challenging as well as interesting area of research, which has long stood at the centre of scholarly attention. Since its first publication by the OUP in 2013, it has received excellent reviews. Prof. Marzano has been considered ‘the first [scholar] providing a synthesis on the Mediterranean basin in its wider commercial context’ (Botte, E. 2015. Exploiting the Sea. JRA 28: 684). Bringing together her teaching and research skills, Professor Marzano provides both an introduction to the relevant studies for those not familiar with the subject and a guide to the reformation of current research on ancient sources. Find an online version of the book here.

A book launch of Un Mare da Coltivare, the Italian edition of Harvesting the Sea, took place at the Parco Archeologico di Baia in Italy on 28th July 2021 and was livestreamed on the Facebook page of the Parco Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei (https://fb.watch/7jm2eq6VEf/). An international panel of scholars and researchers from Italy and Spain along with the publisher of the Italian version and the director of the Parco Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei presented and discussed the book. The event, which we were glad to share on our social media (https://twitter.com/UniRdg_Classics/status/1419619741346500608), attracted a wide audience including experts in the relevant research area and friends of the study of Classics.  

The location was indeed a great fit for the content of the book. The archaeological site of the Terme Romane of Baiae, in which the event was held, is a complex measuring more than 10,000 sq. metres on four terraces linked by ramps and staircases, which may have been part of the imperial palace of Baiae or, according to some scholars, a valetudinarium, an ancient Roman hospital. Some highlights from recent underwater archaeological investigations at Portus Julius, the first harbour that served as a base for the Roman western naval fleet at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, were presented to those physically attending the book launch. The ancient waterfront of Baiae, with its magnificent villas, streets, tabernae etc. is today submerged due to the volcanism and bradyseism* that characterise the Phlegrean Fields. The area with the highest concentration of remains is protected as part of the archaeological park. If you look for a destination to add in your post-covid travel list, then Terme Romane of Baiae may certainly be a good choice, especially if you keep in mind that it is possible to see the submerged remains by booking authorised excursions and either snorkel or scuba dives 

Don’t forget to follow Reading Classics on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for the latest news, and to subscribe on our YouTube account for a full list of videos and recorded research seminars.    

* Bradyseism is a technical term describing the gradual movement of the surface caused by underground magma chamber, especially in volcanic calderas. 

 

 

WHAT’s IT LIKE? Episode 6: Ms. Roberta Dainotto – A PhD Researcher Specialising in Ancient Greek Philology.

Interviewee: Ms. Roberta Dainotto. Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 16th July 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: Ms. Roberta Dainotto.

A PhD Researcher Specialising in Ancient Greek Philology.

 

Name: Ms. Roberta Dainotto
Area of Specialism: Classics.
Topics of Interest: Ancient Greek Rhetoric.
Job Title: PhD student in Classics, specializing in ancient Greek Philology.
Job Responsibilities: I am finalising my PhD studies and this is my current -and only- occupation! This means that I am trying to finally put together a few years in what I wish it will be a good output (fingers crossed). In the meantime, I am also trying to face new challenges and open up new possibilities, since doing just one assignment for months is quite weary some days. Moreover, I aim to prepare the ground for my future steps. Recently, I have succeeded in a selection to a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard University’s Centre of Hellenic Studies (CHS), which will allow me to work simultaneously on a new project for the next year. I am extremely glad of this appointment which will allow me to approach a different subject under the supervision of a new team of professors – a priceless opportunity to consolidate my field of study.

Introduction 

 I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Classics at the University of Crete. I have earned BA and MA degrees in Classics at the University of Catania, which is where I come from. I decided to move to another country because I wanted to approach my subject of study from a different perspective, to enhance my knowledge and skills with the guide of Professors from different backgrounds to mine. The desire of facing new challenges has always lead me to achieve the highest scores, and with the same intention, during my doctorate, I have spent a couple of semesters abroad, respectively at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Reading. I would say that these were the best choices for me, both for my study and my personal growth.

What is your daily life really like?

I actually spend most of my days sitting in front of my laptop, working. This answer may sound banal and monotonous to those who do not do research or deal with more dynamic subjects than ancient texts -although in recent times remote working seems to be the constant for everyone! My life is filled with continuous appointments and deadlines that I try to respect by organising and managing my time in detail. In Greece, we generally do not pursue teaching activities during doctoral research, so much of my daily work often focuses on the same set of activities for long periods. During ‘normal periods’ however, I combine my research routine with seminars and lectures in various fields. I really like to attend these because they help me to look at things from different perspectives and most of the time they give me food for thought for my work or other disparate subjects that I would like to scrutinise further. I dedicate a great amount of time to the University. I like being there as I have immediate access to the library and I can share some pleasant conversations with other colleagues of mine to attenuate the anxiety of writing.

In contrast, under pandemic restrictions, I have stayed home every day, using my desk as my workspace, with lots of folders scattered all around the room. In the long term, such a timetable can be demanding. For this reason, I try to vary my days – alternating my study with long walks in the open or exploring my local area, restoring myself and recharging my batteries or dedicating myself to my friends and family, the best balance to start afresh!

What is the best part of your job?

There are so many things I could mention to answer this question. I will try to list them but I am already pretty sure I will forget something. I have always loved the idea of doing research and dedicating my time to my greatest hobby, which is the study of the ancient world. I think I am blessed with the great opportunity I am benefitting from, and I feel that I am doing what I was meant to. I started studying ancient Greek and Latin back in High School, and after many years, I am still fascinated by learning aspects of the Greek culture, which is so relatable to modern times – in the long run, that has shaped me. Thus, I would say that the first positive aspect of doing research is to explore further a subject you are already interested in. The pressure is high and constant in academia, but the task is stimulating and varied, and this is an excellent incentive, especially considering that PhD research requires a lot of time alone, dedicated to your study. Working on something you are really interested in compensates for all the endless nights and busy days.

One more reason for liking the study of the ancient Greek society is that it highlights the ideals which have founded the basis of western culture, such as democracy, ideals of equality, criticism, justice, acceptance or scrutiny of the other, going beyond unambiguous interpretations and offering plural ways to read an event. Indeed, the awesome thing about studying the past, is its feasibility against modern concerns, providing a great contribution to the modern way of thinking. Overall, Classics teaches you to be boundless in thoughts and respectful of others – two of the best qualities for a human being.

I have been, and still am, so lucky to be in contact with people who have open minds. I would say that this is doubtlessly another aspect to include, namely the chance to continuously enlarge your academic network, meeting many encouraging people who unreservedly give more than you ask for. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of scholars and fellows during the conferences I have attended, the days spent at University or periods spent in offices other than mine, which have definitely changed my approach to my study and have helped me growing up as a student and as an individual.

The last aspect I think worth noting is the chance to travel a lot. The lack of a set routine, allows more flexibility in plans. Particularly, in my department, PhD students are not asked to work on anything but their specific dissertation so everyone can organise their time as conveniently as possible. Moreover, the participation in conferences or activities far from my department or the need to consult other libraries where some exclusive documents are hosted, results in the encouragement of mobility.

Why do you think your specialism is important?

I have always believed that any individual should spend a bit of their time learning about past cultures. This comes from the strong belief that understanding ancient societies (and more widely, other societies) helps greatly to develop an awareness of what we are surrounded by in contemporary times. Understanding other people’s reactions to specific concerns, serves as an example to our own and can offer solutions. Particularly, my field of study is extremely useful for this. I study the dicastic trials and how the methods of argument employed by individual speakers interfaced, evaluating the ways in which storytelling contributed to the shaping of each case. The importance of competing stories in Athenian courtroom practice, is directly relevant to the idiosyncrasies of Athenian cultural practices and helps to understand the society and its members, by transcending the limits of purely factual and legal questions. I focus specific attention on issues of citizenship, inheritance trials, liturgies and the perception of the self. The broadness of these topics ensures a detailed investigation on themes which are very close to the contemporary us, and it is fascinating to understand what has changed between the ancient ways of thinking and what still remains today.

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

If I had not had the chance to start a PhD, I rather think I would have become a teacher or, maybe, a publisher. Since I was a child my greatest desire was to write books, especially for use in schools. I had always loved the processes behind publishing, experiencing it as I grew up via my parents working in that field. This is one of the reasons for my choosing Philology as a topic. At some point, I had also wondered about studying either chemistry or engineering. I was very enthusiastic about the idea of producing and contributing to a tactile subject (if I may use this definition), through a more practical approach. In any case, I think that an analytical and critical spirit is also strongly required in the sphere of classical studies – the ingredients of these sciences and humanities are common, although differently applied, and I do not regret my choice!

Did you always want to be what you are today?

This is the toughest question of the form. I still wonder what I am today! A PhD is not an especially defining commitment in your career. You feel part of the University but you are no more a proper ‘student’ than you are a full member of the staff! It is such a liquid position! Overall, this is twofold. On the one side, it gives you all the possibilities at hand, an exciting platform of opportunities on which to build. On the other, the lack of definition and concerns for the future are worrying. This means that throughout the years you alternate stages of comfort and discouragement. But this is part of the game, so in the end you learn to live with this feeling.

However, to answer the question, I would say yes – I have always loved doing research, and I still feel the same enthusiasm as my first day as an undergraduate student.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I would like to withdraw what I said before. This is the most challenging question! I have really no idea of what is next. I am full of dreams but I need to stay focused on the immediate achievements. Within 5 years I hope my doctoral thesis will be published,  then I could focus on other aspects which really interest me. I hope I would have a position in one of my top universities as a postdoc or a lecturer (may I include the University of Reading, too?!). I assume these would be my next achievements, however, I know how difficult these are to procure, so I try to remain confident but with my feet on the ground. Whatever will happens as long as I am happy, then its convenient. Moreover, I have many other personal goals that I wish to pursue, but I would rather not say them out loud for superstition’s sake!

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

  • Work hard to gain your goals. It does not matter how long your path takes, how difficult the road would be. All efforts are worthy of the energy spent in the end!
  • Do not think that a success lasts forever. Of course, a good result carries joy and satisfaction, but the fact that you have reached it should incentivise you to go further!
  • Focus on the big picture. Do not be discouraged if something goes wrong and you have not been able to achieve what you have aimed for in one month. Take all opportunities you can, meet as many people possible, do not close your door to extra activities and stay open to academic life and chances. All these things are part of your Ph.D – Do not limit yourself.

A Final Note

I have spent only a short period at the University of Reading- which was meant to last longer, but the pandemic forced the city’s closure. Nevertheless, those months were significant to me. I have experienced many things, from the volunteering activities with the Ancient Schoolroom, to participating in some enlightening seminars. I met the members of a remarkable department and long chats with Professors and colleagues have helped me to produce considerable pieces of my thesis, developing some theories which are now under peer review for publication. I feel lucky to have been part of this great department, and I wish this experience could be followed with other opportunities in future.

A part of the work I have done during my studies at the University of Reading is now published in an article which you can read here and I have recently been awarded a fellowship in Hellenic Studies! 

WHAT’s IT LIKE? Episode 5: Prof. Amy Smith –- A Specialist in Art History, Ancient Greek Ceramics & Classical Antiquities.

Interviewee: Prof. Amy Smith. Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 18th June 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: Prof. Amy Smith

A Specialist in Art History, Ancient Greek Ceramics & Classical Antiquities.

 

 

Name: Prof. Amy Smith.
Area of Specialism: I am a classical archaeologist, with a particular interest in: ancient Greek ceramics; ancient iconography; digital classics; ancient religion & politics; museology; reception of Classical antiquities.
Topics of Interest: All of the above, plus female goddesses (esp. Athena, Aphrodite), heroes (esp. Herakles); red-figure painters (esp. the Pan Painter); sensory archaeology (esp. music); materiality.
Job Title: Professor of Classical Archaeology; Joint Head of the Department of Classics; Curator of the Ure Museum.
Job Responsibilities:

Professor of Classical Archaeology: Teach and research Classical archaeology & related subjects (e.g. ancient Greek language, Greek history); encourage, recruit (i.e. find funding for) & supervise postdocs (currently Signe Barfoed, on a Norwegian Research Council Grant) & PhD students. I get a two new PhD students next year, namely Summer Courts, working on ‘The Archaeology of Hidden Identity’ & Caitlin Laurence, working on ‘Statistical and Digital analysis of 6th-4th c. BC Attic pottery found in Anatolia’; engage with the worldwide community of scholars incl. external examining undergrads (currently at KCL) & postgrads (currently external examiner to Leeds PhD); serving on advisory boards & committees (e.g. editorial board for New Classicists & Claros); outreach to schools & other national audiences); & much else!

Joint Head of Department: I share this job with Barbara Goff (which is a godsend) because both of us have other big administrative jobs that we can’t really get rid of—she’s Departmental Director of Teaching & Learning; I’m Curator of the Ure; we divided it along lines that fit with those roles. So while she does the student-facing things I do the outreach & research, incl. postgraduates for the most part. That entails amongst other things organising and hosting our department’s online research seminars, which we’re now (with the speakers’ permission) beginning to share on our Department’s YouTube account. This term I’ve been working with marketing partners on devising a new department website: fun finding pictures & stories but challenging like so many such projects that come from ‘above’ because fitting into the dreaded ‘template’ stifles our creativity.

Curator of the Ure Museum: Of all of my jobs this is the one that is most variable from day to day, week to week, year to year. I’ve been doing it for nearly 21 years now, during which time we’ve had major analogue and digital projects, like redesigning the Ure’s learning environment (i.e. restyling the place) in 2004-5, creating our own bespoke database (https://uremuseum.org/cgi-bin/ure/uredb.cgi), redesigning (twice) & maintaining our museum website, temporary exhibitions, e.g. our upcoming Spotlight Loan from the British Museum: ‘Troy: Beauty and Heroism’ (21 September-12 December 2021; already twice postponed!). Normal day-to-day stuff includes answering scholarly requests about visiting, studying & using our artefacts & archives for research; representing the Ure Museum at network meetings, conferences, etc.; supervising & supporting but not line-managing two part-time members of staff—Jayne Holly (Assistant Curator) & Claudina Romero Mayorga (Education Officer)—and with them recruiting & supervising (& seeking funding for) interns, volunteers, & other helpers; chivvying members of the department staff to help us out from time to time; seeking small and large pots of money to do pretty much everything; and running our own research activities including seminars etc. We have no internal funding, except for staff, & no external funding unless we go out & find it, so everything is on a shoestring, which means we’re very good at putting interns & volunteers to good use (e.g. on our Museum in a box projects & a forthcoming lesson in a box on democracy with Study Higher).

Introduction

I was born in Libya & my dad took credit for my becoming an archaeologist because he took my mum to Leptis Magna when she was pregnant. I think it more likely that my childhood in London inspired me: museums were free, we lived near them, & I ducked into them when it was raining! My English teacher in preparatory school loved the painter J.M.W. Turner so she developed my art historical interests, while my history teacher in secondary school told us all about Minoan civilisations! Shortly after that, I visited Corfu, which I still remember as my favourite childhood holiday (I was already a Gerald Durrell fan). Archaeology finally won out in university when I was lucky enough to be taught Greek mythology by a bronze age archaeologist (Jerry Rutter at Dartmouth). Before I pursued postgraduate studies at Yale, I took a detour into publishing & after a few years as Assistant Editor of the American Journal of Archaeology (a brilliant opportunity, and fun to live in Boston) I realised that I enjoyed the content of the articles slightly more than fiddling with the layout, proofreading etc. At Yale I got to work with Curator Susan Matheson at the Yale Art Gallery & was torn whether to pursue a university or museum career. So when Reading interviewed me in the Ure Museum I jumped at the chance to combine both.

I am very lucky to have a job doing lots of things I love: teaching, helping younger people develop skills, both in the classroom & in the museum, research & much else. Being an archaeologist I am genuinely interdisciplinary: (1) I like how a combination of sources—material culture, ancient texts, scientific analysis, etc.—help us piece it all together; (2) I don’t have to restrict myself to one time period, culture group, or place, because of course cultures have always bumped shoulders with each other and (3) the more I study antiquity the more I realise the importance of intellectual history, that is, understanding how and why our society has inherited perspectives gained from other cultures & societies that have responded to the ‘Classics’ since antiquity

What is your daily life really like?

Working from home during lockdown gives me more of a pattern than I used to have, but either way, I tend to wake up early, take a swim or a run or both, eat a big breakfast (I keep chickens!) and then settle down to my laptop, reading, answering and/or deleting the tonnes of emails I receive. This is all interspersed with meetings & classes in term time, checking my schedule for upcoming deadlines for grant applications, presentations or papers I’ve promised to give, references I need to write, teaching sessions to prepare and the associated marking. Summer term, which is never-ending in times of COVID19, is dominated by marking. If the sun is shining, I might try to take a midday break in the garden or take a walk/cycle ride to an errand, just to get me out of the house. For research, (that I prefer to do in a library), I try to block off time either a whole day or at least a whole afternoon to let me get in the right mindset, but there’s never enough time for research, especially during term time. If I’m doing research or writing at home sometimes a quiet evening might give me the chance to focus without noticing the time passing. I’m a big multitasker so I might cook at the same time (I’m a firm believer in slow cooking, including sourdough bread). Now that we’re allowed into the Oxford libraries again I’m booking as much time as I can—including weekends—to research there.

The Museum work is interspersed throughout my Professor work and often indistinguishable from it, visavis research. A lot of people both within & beyond the University treat me like I’m either Curator or Professor or Head of Department or even web editor, i.e. like I’ve only got one job! Since the first lockdown, I’ve had had weekly meetings with my Ure colleagues so that we can touch base with each other on our many initiatives & what the various interns/volunteers are doing with/for us. In many ways, my curatorial work is my most important ‘teaching’. I’m very proud of the huge number of assistant curators, interns & volunteers we’ve had in the Ure over the years: some have gone on to get their MAs or PhDs & become successful curators or other museum professionals, teachers, lecturers, researchers, editors, filmmakers. I’m just as proud of the others who have developed skills from time spent in museums & academia, such as event planning and marketing.

What is the best part of your job?

The best thing about my job is that no two days or weeks or years are the same: I have worked in lots of different & very wonderful places, with amazing & interesting people.  I have flexibility with my schedule, although—especially nowadays—our work is never done (and this is the worst part). Like most academics, I do maybe an average of 1.5 x more hours than my employers think.

Why do you think your specialism is important?

My work is important for 3 big reasons.
(1) Teaching, (i.e. helping young people learn about their world & how they might contribute to it), is an essential thing & a great privilege.
(2) We need to learn from the past! Archaeology helps us fill in the gaps provided by the biased texts, giving us perhaps a more honest glimpse at real people. To be fair, as an art historical archaeologist I tend to look at the stuff that richer people used, yet it still helps everyone to understand how it has been used, seen & understood by humble people too.
(3) Helping audiences young and old, academic & general to engage with museum content is a brilliant way to bring together teaching, learning about the past, & developing peoples’ interpretative confidence. Anyone can have a good and inspiring interpretation of an artefact that contributes to our understanding of (pre)history. In these three ways, I think I can, and do, make a difference.

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

If you’ve read this far you’ll know that I’ve dabbled in editorial & museum work; I was taught my proofreading skills when I worked as a paralegal intern! So I’m sure I could apply myself to all of those tasks, ‘tho my best friend in high school & I dreamed of opening a bakery, & I sometimes think that I might enjoy running a pub or café on the river.

Did you always want to be what you are today?

No, only since I watched Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Actually, that film gave me the excuse to study ‘Classical Archaeology’ as an undergraduate, but throughout that degree, my MA, MPhil & PhD, I just thought I’d push it as far as I could (& as long as I could get funding for my studies—see below). Imagine my surprise when I actually got a job (at Tufts University) & started to think I might actually become a Classical Archaeologist!

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I hope to be a Professor, still at Reading (perfectly situated between London & Oxford, with excellent access to airports), but perhaps not Joint Head of Department anymore. I hope that I’d have had the chance to visit China (I was scheduled to go there in March 2020!) & to take up my Visiting Professorship at University of Queensland (postponed since Autumn 2020) & much more in terms of travel to collections, conferences, etc. If universities go belly up then I’d like to be sailing around the world.

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

Don’t pursue academia unless you’re doing it for the knowledge & fun; that is, don’t just do it for the career/job because that might not ever happen. So keep your eyes opened for other opportunities & don’t be afraid to jump out of your comfort zone. The best advice (which I’d like to pass on) was from a friend of a friend in the finance office at Boston University. She said ‘don’t bother with a PhD unless you get a fellowship’. The logic, that if you don’t rise to the top of the pile (of students) at that stage then it will be hard for you to rise to the top later in your career, is unfortunately true. That said, whatever you choose to do, put your all into it, make it work, and have fun: your own enjoyment will enthuse others & make everyone (including yourself) enjoy it that much more.

What to know more?

Head over to the Ure Museum for our new exhibition on Troy or read about the fascinating foot vase at the top of this article here.