Experiencing Ancient Education: the Reading ancient schoolroom

School image

A blog post from Eleanor Dickey.

Above: A Roman relief from Trier showing part of an ancient school, and Below: Reading’s Emma Aston modelling a costume based on that relief.

On November 19th the department will be hosting an ‘Experiencing Ancient Education’ event, in which local children will have the opportunity to find out first-hand what an ancient school was like. This day is part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, a new initiative aiming to bring cutting-edge Humanities research to the general public in novel and interesting ways. The festival includes many other exciting events, including some others at Reading; you can find the full programme at http://beinghumanfestival.org/.

Our event builds on recent work on ancient textbooks that describe a day in the life of schoolchildren; these textbooks have recently been translated into English for the first time (http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/classical-studies/classical-languages/colloquia-hermeneumata-pseudodositheana-volume-1) by Reading’s Eleanor Dickey. We are gathering a set of Roman costumes along with wax tablets, styluses, reed pens, ostraca, papyrus, windows looking out on the Nile, and all the other accoutrements necessary to create an authentic atmosphere in what is usually the Resources Room. Lecturers and students from the department are learning about ancient teaching methods (no raised hands and no note-taking — how will we cope?) in preparation for guiding participants through a set of ancient-style school exercises. We are confident that the experience awaiting our participants will be unique in modern times — though with great regret we have decided not to use that stereotypical tool of the ancient classroom, the whip.

Several other activities are planned to accompany the event: the Classics Kitchen will be selling authentic Roman food and explaining how it is prepared, the Ure museum will be offering a special look at its collections, and we hope also to have a demonstration on how to make ancient writing equipment.

Bookings are almost full, but some tickets are still available; these are free but need to be reserved as the Resources Room has a finite capacity. You can reserve a place at http://beinghumanfestival.org/event/experiencing-ancient-education/.