A new T&L blog post on teaching Ancient Sport

Sport was far from being mere entertainment in ancient Greece.  At the major Greek festivals – the Olympic Games among them – it was performed in honour of the gods, in sacred space and among religious ritual and ceremony.  It was a crucial way for city-states to demonstrate their excellence in a climate of controlled and sanctioned rivalry against the backdrop of near-constant warfare.  And the athlete’s body was at the heart of artistic, aesthetic, philosophical and scientific discourse.

A module on sport, therefore, takes students to the essence of ancient life on both the practical and the symbolic level.  Professor Barbara Goff, however, also used her module on this theme to create some innovative assessment types and to allow students to channel what they learned through a diverse range of activities and outputs.  Many of the students’ projects within the module now have a place within our outreach and widening participation activities.

Barbara has written a blog about the module on the University of Reading’s ‘T&L Exchange’, and you can find the piece here.

Athens Study Trip 2019

I could not have hoped for a more fulfilling way to round off my Classics degree at Reading than participating in a study trip to Greece – one could almost call it a Classics student’s ‘pilgrimage’. I first visited Athens over a decade ago when my interests in the ancient world were just beginning and I remember being awed by its incredible landscape and architecture. I was thrilled therefore to finally have the opportunity to return to the city and appreciate its sites from a more informed perspective, as well as experience other places that were completely new to me. The whole expedition was enhanced greatly by the company of an enthusiastic cohort of fellow students and the ever-illuminating insights of Professor Amy Smith and her assistant James Lloyd.

On disembarking at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport, we were immediately struck by the glorious Athenian sunshine, which continued to blaze down on us throughout our stay. We then boarded a characterful, vibrantly purple coach that conveyed us to the British School at Athens (BSA), with the local driver offering us his essential tips on Modern Greek along the way. Having unpacked, we soon set off on our first excursion: Lykavittos hill (closely situated to the BSA), from the summit of which we experienced the most spectacular views of the city and whetted our cultural appetites for all that lay ahead. We also worked up appetites of a more gastronomic nature from all the walking, winding up the day by sharing a meal together in true Greek fashion at a local restaurant, getting to know each other better and sampling a wide range of traditional dishes – many of which were savoured again later in the week!

Each day’s schedule was tightly packed with visits to ancient sites and museums, and I could not possibly do everything justice in a single blog post. Yet I shall at least mention a few of my personal highlights. Firstly, no trip to Athens would be complete without journeying up to the famed Acropolis. It was fantastic to explore not only the iconic buildings on its upper surface, but also both the north slope, featuring some important caves and sanctuaries, and the sites to the south: after writing my final-year dissertation on Sophocles, I could hardly leave without paying homage to the Theatre of Dionysos, and James Lloyd even treated us here to an impromptu performance of an ancient Greek song. Another of my favourite attractions was the Temple of Hephaistos, beautifully situated in the Agora and amazingly well preserved. Further sites visited were the Kerameikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Roman Forum and Hadrian’s Library.

Of the museums, I was especially excited to visit the Acropolis Museum which was still being built during my previous trip. It certainly did not fail to impress. Its transparent walls and ideal location enabled us to look directly across at the Acropolis itself while admiring the displays, and so more easily envision everything in authentic context. One of the museum archaeologists, Dr Fiorentina Frangopoulou, helped us to understand the importance of the museum to the modern Greeks. In addition to the splendid array of statues and artefacts, I was particularly charmed by the imaginative lego reconstruction of the Acropolis on the second floor! The National Archeological Museum was also full of fascinating objects, including the famous ‘Mask of Agamemnon’ discovered by Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenae. Among my personal favourites were a Cycladic harper figurine lost in song, an ancient piggy bank and a vase depicting a musical goose! In addition, I enjoyed the smaller yet equally absorbing Cycladic and Numismatic Museums.

We were fortunate to spend one of our days in Corinth, which included the highlight of the whole trip for me: visiting Acrocorinth, an enormous rock towering above the ancient city, rivalling even the Athenian Acropolis in its magnitude. Although most of the ruins at the top date from later, medieval times, the views it offers of the surrounding mountains, farmland and sea are simply breathtaking, giving the modern traveller a sense of how Greece would have appeared to its ancient inhabitants. Beautiful wildflowers, bees, butterflies and birdsong added magic to the landscape. On descending, we received excellent tours both of ancient Corinth and of its museum, from Drs Christopher Pfaff and Ioulia Tzonou of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Dr Tzonou even gave us a hands-on experience of artefacts, including a stone foot dedicated to Asklepios, the god of healing, and some lead curse tablets, which thankfully cast no calamities upon our trip! While journeying back to Athens, we had the chance to stop off at the site of the Isthmian games and also spotted the historic islands of Salamis and Aegina from the coach.

In addition to scheduled group outings, we had some free time to spend on whatever stirred our own individual interests. I particularly appreciated the further stunning panoramas available from Philopappou Hill and the Areopagus (which I made sure to ascend via the steeper, ancient steps!), and it was also enjoyable just to wander round and take in the atmosphere of some of Athens’ more touristy areas such as Plaka, with its pretty winding streets and rows of shops. Above all, I loved being surrounded by Greek lettering wherever I went: I had great fun trying to decipher signs and inscriptions.

As a lover of the animal world, I could not conclude without mentioning the thirteen hoopoes I spotted during our stay (one of my favourite birds and very apt in terms of Greek mythology). We also fell in love with the numerous tortoises we found chilling out amid the ancient ruins, as well as the free-roaming dogs, cats and kittens which did their very best to distract us from our primary mission!

I cannot thank the Classics Department enough for giving me this wonderful opportunity at the end of my undergraduate journey, as well as the BSA for hosting us. I would certainly encourage other students to embark on future study trips (…though do be prepared to walk … a lot!).

Katherine Evans

Classics at UoR Doctoral Research Conference 2019

Classics was well represented yesterday at UoR’s annual Doctoral Research Conference, held on 19 June, in which Nathalie Choubineh (upper right) and Luca Ottonello (bottom left) competed. This annual event, open to all doctoral researchers and staff from across the University, showcases the diversity of doctoral research undertaken at the University of Reading. Nathalie, who has passed her viva, subject to minor corrections, in April of this year, presented her research poster on Kretike, an aspect of ancient Greek dance that featured in her PhD thesis, written under the supervision of Profs. Barbara Goff and Amy Smith. Luca, who is a part-time PhD candidate, competed in the research image competition, with his digital reconstruction of the Temple of Bel in the ancient city of Palmyra. Palmyra is a case study for his PhD thesis that he is writing under the supervision of Prof. Amy Smith and Dr. Ian Ewart (School of Construction Management and Engineering). As well as meeting new people who shared their interests, both of them found the conference a welcome opportunity to think about ways in which to communicate their research to broader audiences. The Classics Department is proud to now display Nathalie’s poster in its hallway in the Edith Morley building, while Luca’s photograph is displayed with some of his 3D prints of Palmyrene architecture in the Ure Museum.

Launch of a new modern Greek novel

(Posted on behalf of Dr Dimitra Tzanidaki-Kreps)

On Sunday 26 May in Greek Flocafe in Piccadilly Circus Dr Dimitra Tzanidaki-Kreps spearheaded the book launch of “In the madman’s mirror” by author Konstantinos Alsinos. The book is a well-written imaginative novel whose protagonist, a nameless young sailor, son of a Greek refugee, fresh from his latest journey, stops at the city’s local cafe and finds himself looking in a mirror opposite. There he will be approached by a partially cross-eyed madman who is holding a mirror in order not to look at himself but behind him at whoever follows him. It will be this fantastical encounter that will prompt three further equally surreal encounters with the Chronos, the Devil and the God, all personified by three old men who despite any external appearances they seem to be one and the same entity as if they are sides of one and the same coin. In a kind of a dancing kaleidoscopic philosophical meditation each of these encounters take place in varied topography ranging from a cathedral to a brothel, a railway station and an opera to the sea, a forest, a cave (with explicit reference to the platonic cave of shadows) and a whitewashed Greek chapel. Each of these encounters will bring the young man face to face with key questions regarding God, devil, man, soul, love, life, Eros, art, freedom. Even though the novel spans 281 pages, the actual narration time is just one day starting and ending at sunset. We are informed early on that the young man loves to look at the sunset and it is often at such times that these key existential questions tend to surface with the sea and his pen being his two sources of consolation. At the end of the novel the young man would be metamorphosed to a much wiser human being, a lot more in peace with himself transcending seeming contradictions, dichotomies and falsehoods to arrive at a more holistic organic sense of self and the cosmos in unison with the madman who in the first place became the catalyst for this transformative life journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photos: John Kolikis)

 

Reading Classicist interviewed by the Panoply team

Why is ancient pottery important?  What can it tell us?

What is it like to be a museum curator?

Who is the Painter of the Woolly Satyrs?

Find out the answers to these questions, and much more, by reading the interview with Professor Amy Smith, conducted by Sonya Nevin and Steve Simons of the Panoply Vase Animation project.

Panoply brings Greek vases to life by animating their figures and creating surrounding stories, informed by a deep knowledge of ancient mythology and life.  Some of their first animations were of vase-paintings from the Ure Museum’s own collection.  You can find out more about the project here.

 

Ancient Egypt and New Technology: The Present and Future of Computer Visualization, Virtual Reality and Other Digital Humanities in Egyptology, Indiana University, Bloomington, 29-30 March, 2019

(Posted on behalf of Dr Hana Navratilova, Research Associate at Reading Classics.)

Moviegoers and gamers have been used to stunning visualisations of an ancient Egyptian landscape already for some time. And some of these visualisations have been based on a surprising amount of archaeological and historical data, such as in the popular Assassin’s Creed Origins. However, even apart from impressive educational potential, there is much that digital humanities can offer. The meeting ‘Ancient Egypt and New Technology’ held at the Indiana University’s Bloomington campus and organised by Dr Steve Vinson, aimed at harnessing the possibilities of digital technology to help and enhance research work in the humanities, particularly in Egyptology, alongside an instructive and impactful outreach.

The meeting constituted of two intense days of talks and discussions. We have revisited digital dictionaries as well as 3D and virtual reality reconstructions, which Reading readers will be familiar with from University of Reading’s very own Virtual Rome.  Diverse models of digital research infrastructures were compared – from relational databases to large collections with potential use of the AI to support interactive resources search in large datasets – such as a planned complete list of Egyptian artefacts in the museums and collections across the world.

As in medical sciences, Egyptology too could benefit from digital technology bringing quantity of data to our fingertips – in a hope that this would promote a high quality research. As Mark Depauw of the Trismegistos project noted, Egyptology has been rather good at producing diverse ‘silos’ of knowledge. It will help to promote a richer knowledge-making, if we can connect these ‘silos’.

Immersive VR experiences attracted attention, but there was a good level of critical assessment of respective pros and cons of various approaches. The discussions were productive and touched upon issues of sustainability, long-term archiving, accessibility and linking of the various silos of data that Egyptology and other humanities are generating. A call for transparency was made, as well as for an ethical approach to acknowledging not only the origin of data but also the process of selection and interpretation, as noted by Willeke Wendrich. Generally, there was a balanced appreciation of new technologies as useful tools, but without naïve enchantment. Visualisations of the ancient world, repositioning of artefacts in their space and time, modelling of related artefacts spread across the world and integration of archival legacy with recent results will benefit scholarship, education and popularisation.

Publishing news from Reading Classics students!

We have recently learned of wonderful publishing successes by one of our recent alumni, and by a current doctoral student.

Charles Stewart, who completed his BA in Ancient History in summer 2018, has had an article accepted by the Journal of Roman Studies.  The article is based on part of his undergraduate dissertation, which won one of the Department’s prizes for the best dissertation in 2017-18.  Entitled ‘Fractional arithmetic in the Tabula Alimentaria of Veleia’, the article posits a new way of understanding practical arithmetic was conducted in the Roman world of the second century AD, and in so doing resolves an apparent anomaly that has long plagued scholarly reconstructions of Trajanic alimentary schemes.  It will come out in the next issue of JRS, published in the autumn.  Charles is now a Research Associate of the Department, and is considering postgraduate study.

Rosie Mack is writing her PhD thesis on the depiction of horses on ancient Thessalian coins, under the supervision of Drs. Emma Aston and Rachel Mairs.  Her article, ‘Numismatic evidence (or not) for the aphippodroma horse race at Larisa’, has been accepted for publication in the numismatics journal Koinon.  Like Charles’, it takes on a long-standing misunderstanding of ancient material, in this case a series of Larisaian coins which have traditionally been taken as evidence for a certain equestrian contest at a Thessalian festival.  Rosie shows that, in fact, the coins depict an aspect of horse-training and so shed light on practical horsemanship in northern Greece as well as on the numismatic strategies of the polis of Larisa.

We are delighted by these publishing successes of our students: many congratulations to both Charles and Rosie!   

Charles Stewart (and Auguste Rodin!)

 

Rosie Mack at Delphi

Classics Department International Reading of Homer’s Iliad – By Bunny Waring (MA City of Rome)

On Friday 22nd March 2019 the Classics Department led the University of Reading’s participation in the European Festival of Latin and Greek.  This global event encourages academic communities to introduce and seduce public audiences with passage readings of ancient literary works. This year’s choice was Homer’s Iliad, an ancient Greek tale spanning many books of legendary battles, bravery and beloveds. After much thought, it was decided that Book Six would be suitably enticing and informative. In this Book Homer describes the honour and bereavement of war, detailing the pride of the soldier Hector and the grief of his wife. Book 6 provides detailed scenes of war, brotherhood and an importantly detailed portrayal of the ancient custom of guest-friendship. Book 6 also provides dialogues between lower ranking soldiers, such as the friends Glaucus and Sarpedon. These Trojan allies give short conversational speeches to each other through which Homer highlights the complexities of military relationships, the compelling nature of heroism, and the grim reality of war. As the battle commences, low ranked soldiers are killed by higher ranking soldiers, who in turn are killed by the leading characters Hector and Achilles. The narrative provided by this wide range of characters, emotive circumstances and moral conflicts produces the epic battle, which is still remembered through Homer’s work in the present day.

At 1pm, with Book 6 in hand, professors, undergraduates, postgraduates, curators and volunteers from the University and the town marched into the open air quad and surrounded on three sides by the Edith Morley building, they gathered on the green stage of this temporary theatre. PhD Researcher James Lloyd opened the event with a musical rendition of an ancient Greek song, thought to have been used thousands of years ago to begin such recitals. Subsequently, Head of Department Dr Emma Aston read, in ancient Greek, lines 1-11 recalling a fierce battle the led against the Trojans by Ajax. Each passage was then narrated by attendees who described the torment of Hector, Andromache and Paris in English, Italian, Chinese and German. The event was uplifting for all those taking part, with many onlookers stopping to observe. James Lloyd of Classics said: “the event was well attended and enjoyed by all. It was particularly good to hear the variety of different languages spoken during the reading, which is testimony to the thriving international community present in the Department of Classics”.

The reading of Homer’s Iliad was a success and a credit to those who organised it. The event was short, precise and rekindled a passion for the storytellers of old whilst introducing the works to those unfamiliar with the tales. If you missed the event, fear not. The video of the recital is on YouTube and can be viewed here.

Photo credits: James Lloyd, Amy Smith & Bunny Waring.

 

LGBT history in Berkshire: the project continues

Over the summer in 2018, two Reading students, George Stokes and Amy Hitchings, worked with  Katherine Harloe of the Classics Department, in collaboration with the Berkshire Record Office and the County Archivist Mark Stevens, on a UROP project entitled ‘Offences against the person: tracing hidden LGB histories through the Berkshire County Archives’.  This project continues to produce fascinating results, and readers of our blog may be interested in the attached issue of the Berkshire Echo devoted to a write-up of George’s and Amy’s work to date: Berkshire Echo January 2019.

Keeping it in the Family? Exploring familial tension and rupture in the ancient & early-medieval Mediterranean. CALL FOR POSTERS

Call for attendees and poster presenters

We are delighted to announce the programme and our call for attendees and poster presenters at the PG & ECR conference ‘Keeping it in the Family: Exploring familial tension and rupture in the ancient and early-medieval Mediterranean’ at the University of Reading on 24-5/4/19.

This event and the lack of registration fee is made possible by the generous support of the Past & Present Society and Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies in providing accommodation and travel bursaries to speakers, and the Department of Classics at the University of Reading.

Posters

We invite posters that respond to our central question, or to the themes that emerge from our papers as listed below. Those working on chronological periods or regions outside our initial remit are especially welcomed to invite comparative discussion, as are those who are unable to attend the entire event.

Attendees

A limited number of places for attendees are available for postgraduates and early-career researchers working in all related disciplines.

Needs-based Bursaries

Thanks to the generosity of the Classical Association, we have 7 travel bursaries of maximum £60 to support attendees or poster presenters.

Attendees or poster presenters who wish to apply for a travel bursary should write to us at readingancientfamily2019@gmail.com by 02/4/19 with a response to the following criteria:

  1. a) Their current funding status (i.e. funded/unfunded doctoral position, post-doc, sessional lecturer, teaching fellow etc.)
  2. b) Alternative sources of conference funding to which they have applied, or indication of why they are ineligible.
  3. c) If they have any extenuating circumstances that make conference attendance more expensive.

Decisions will be given by 4/04/19.

 

Poster presenters who do not wish to apply for a travel bursary can register by email on a first-come-first served basis until 19/4/19 listing their name, affiliation and potential title.

Attendees who do not wish to apply for a travel bursary can register by email on a first-come-first served basis until 22/04/2019 listing their name and affiliation.

 

Becca Grose, Doukissa Kamini & Rebecca Rusk (organising committee) 

 

Keeping it in the Family? Exploring familial tension and rupture in the ancient & early-medieval Mediterranean (PG and ECR Conference)

24-25th April 2019, University of Reading – London Road Campus

Conference Programme


Day 1 (Wednesday 24th April)

10.00-11.00: Registration

11.00-12.30: First session

Taboos within the Family Structure (chair: Andreas Gavrielatos)
Olive, Peter (Royal Holloway University of London): Re-centring debate about the Danaïds’ plea in Aeschylus’ Supplices.

Watson, Joe (Durham University): Inscribing Incest: Byblis’ Love Letter to Caunus and Ovid’s Fear of Taboo in Metamorphoses 9

Kirsch, Stephanie (University of Bonn): Taboo to topic? – Small scale violence against children and disciplina in the Roman family from the 2nd century BCE till 2nd century CE.

12.30-13.20: Lunch break

13.20-15.10: First keynote speech & response

Kate Cooper (RHUL): When Fathers Fail: Gender, cultural change and family dynamics in late antiquity
Response: Christa Gray (Reading)

(including 14.20-14.40 coffee & cake pause)

15.20-16.50: Second session

Interfamilial Conflict, Succession and Inheritance (chair: Rebecca Rusk)

Paprocki, Maciej (Universität München): Apollo, Kronos’ avenger? Divine intergenerational conflicts in light of ‘Kronos’ curse’.

Martorana, Simona (Durham University): Telemachus, Penelope’s puer: (de-) legitimation, precarious masculinity and familial liminality in Ovid’s Heroides 1.

Shields, Katharine (University College of London): “Do not kill anyone of [your] family, it is not good.” Succession, inheritance, and legal language in the Proclamation of Telipinu.

16.50-17.15: Coffee Break


17.15-19.05: Second keynote speech & response

Edith Hall (KCL): Are house slaves family? Seeking Illumination from Artemidorus’ Interpretation of Dreams

Response: Emma Aston (Reading)

(including 18.15-18.35 wine & nibbles pause)

19.05-20.00 Continued wine reception and poster session.

20.00: Dinner


Day 2 (Thursday 25th April)

09.00-10.30: Third session

Family on the Edge: Perceptions and Pressure of Family Image (chair: tbd.)

Kostecka, Katarzyna (University of Warsaw): Dealing with family failure – unsuccessful kin in the Epinician Odes of Pindar.

Sandon, Tatjana (University of Edinburgh): Concubina mea amantissima. The role of concubinae in Roman family and society in light of the epigraphic evidence. 

Morassi, Davide (University of Oxford): Tough love: fatherhood as a metaphor for political and military leadership.

10.30-11.00: Coffee Break


11.00-12.30: Fourth session

Wives and Mothers: Expectations and Challenges (chair: tbd.)

Golay, Charlotte (University of Lausanne): Reproductive expectations:  Fear and tension around the production of children within the Hellenistic couple.

Thoma, Marianna (University of Athens): Women and intergenerational conflict in Greco-Roman family: “If she spends another month with me like this, I will throw myself into the sea.” 1 (P.Petaus 29,8-10).

Patzelt, Maik (University of Sheffield): The aftermath of familial rupture: constructing and contesting the widow’s identity in late antiquity.
12.30-13.30: Lunch Break

13.30-15.00: Fifth session (chair: tbd.)
(Re-)Constructing Families

Clarke, Anactoria (King’s College London): Mantic lineage: Constructing hereditary transmission of prophetic skills.

De Luca, Gaia (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris; Università Orientale, Naples): Conflicting citizenship within the family: a Rhodian example.

15.00-16.30: Roundtable Chair: Barbara Goff (Reading)

Title: tbd.

 

Kindly supported by the Past & Present Society, the Classical Association, the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and the University of Reading Classics Department