Reading Classics at the AIA-SCS 2023 Annual Meeting in New Orleans

I returned from the AIA-SCS 2023 Annual Meeting in New Orleans (a.k.a. NOLA), just in time for the new term, glad to have seen old friends, learned new things, and enthused about the future of our academic field. This is the Joint Meeting of North America’s big professional organisations for (old world) archaeology—Archaeological Institute of America—and Classics—Society for Classical Studies.

 

Jessie Feito and Prof. Amy Smith

This annual meeting traditionally hosts up to 3000 scholars, teachers & others, from across the world. The numbers were hard to judge this year because it was a blended meeting, with all papers accessed online whether or not they were delivered ‘in the flesh’. Reading’s Classics department chose both options, with Prof. Aston & me each delivering papers, Aston’s online, in Insiders and Outsiders in Ancient Thessaly’ (no surprises there!) and mine in person, in a double-session, Phenomenology and the Painted Vase. One of our recently minted PhDs, Jessie Feito, spoke on the results her postdoctoral project, with Koç University—’Fields of Gold: Lydian Diet at Sardis’—in a session on the Social Life of Landscapes. They also caught up with Signe Barfoed, who has just finished her Norwegian Research Council postdoctoral fellowship with Classics@Reading but is now in Oslo.

 

‘Joan of Arc’ at the parade

In between academic meetings participants had to dodge contestants in the Miss Universe contest, with which we shared the hotel, and of course their photographers! NOLA treated us to four days of perfect sunny weather and amazing food (once we escaped the hotel). Our former colleague and friend Katherine Harloe (now Director of the Institute of Classical Studies) beckoned us to an award-winning Trinidadian restaurant and I even escaped long enough to attend NOLA’s first parade of the year, the ‘Maid of Orleans’ Parade celebrating Joan of Arc’s 611th birthday, on 12th Night! It is clear in any case that NOLA is a great place to meet and think about lessons from the past!

Written by Professor Amy Smith.

AHRC to fund expansion of Reading Ancient Schoolroom

The department has received a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to fund Nadin Marsovszki to work for a year expanding the Reading Ancient Schoolroom. The ancient schoolroom (www.readingancientschoolroom.com) is a re-enactment of a school from Roman Egypt in AD 301; Reading students and volunteers from a wide area teach local schoolchildren some of the literacy, mathematical, and linguistic skills that ancient children would have learned at school, using the original technologies (wax tablets, papyrus rolls, reed pens, inkwells, counting boards) and authentic exercises, while dressed as Romans, in a room with views of the Nile.

Nadin teaching in the ancient schoolroom in 2017 (Photo: Alex Wickenden)

For the past eight years the ancient schoolroom has been a rare event, normally held on campus just a few days each year. Although there is often demand for more of it (both children and volunteers not only learn a lot but also find it great fun), expansion has not really been practical because of the time constraints of its director, Professor Eleanor Dickey. Eleanor did much of the research underpinning the ancient schoolroom and originally started the event as a way to share that research with the public, but the pressures of her ongoing research and teaching limit the time she can spend on this activity. There is also a limit to the amount of time for which Edith Morley G40 can be taken away from the undergraduate students whose study space it normally is.

These restrictions will be lifted by the AHRC award, which will allow Nadin to take over running the schoolroom and bring it to schools instead of expecting them to travel to the university campus. Nadin is the ideal person to undertake this role and is a Reading Classics success story. A Hungarian by birth, she arrived at Reading in 2016 to start an undergraduate degree in Museum and Classical Studies. In her first term she took the ‘Texts, Readers and Writers’ module and met Eleanor, who immediately spotted her potential. Although Nadin started her course with limited English that initially prevented her from doing really well academically, she was obviously enthusiastic, hard-working and intelligent. With support and mentoring from various members of the department (not only Eleanor but also Amy Smith and Peter Kruschwitz), she rapidly blossomed into an academic star, eventually gaining a Distinction in the MA in Classics. She started teaching in the ancient schoolroom in 2017 and has continued to be involved ever since, as literature teacher, pottery teacher, maths teacher, and most recently Latin teacher.

Nadin’s strengths extend outside the university: while doing her MA she worked as a teacher at a school specialising in children with special educational needs. The teaching experience she gained in this role will be of great use to her in running the ancient schoolroom. But perhaps even more important is the passion she acquired for improving the experience and attainment that autistic children have in school, which led her to focus her MA dissertation on the potential usefulness of ancient educational techniques for autistic pupils today. So in addition to expanding the ancient schoolroom as a resource for all children, Nadin will be using the findings of her dissertation to produce adapted versions of it for autistic pupils.

Spring Term 2023 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Spring Term 2023, 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 18 January, we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars. Our Spring seminar series 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/3VaUN86! Below you can find a poster with all titles.

Full list of titles

18 January

Luigi Prada, Uppsala, The tale of the Egyptian crocodile-bird, or why Herodotus is not a liar

25 January

Rosalind Thomas, Oxford, 12TH ANNUAL PERCY URE LECTURE, ‘Polycrates assigns a mother’: Greek Tyranny in proverb, collective memory and the local ‘polis histories’

Booking required: bit.ly/3v4GgQB

1 February

Diana Rodriguez-Perez, Oxford, Ancient repairs on Athenian pottery: Preliminary thoughts – and a cup

8 February

Giulia Biffis, Reading, Lycophron and lyric poetry

22 February

Erica Bexley, Durham, Comedy in Seneca’s Thyestes (with an epiloque of Shakespeare)

1 March

Joe Watson, Warwick, Ciris’ Progress: Genre, metapoetry and philosophic ascent in the Ciris

8 March

Arietta Papaconstantinou, Reading, Objects, gender and credit in late antique Egypt

15 March

Anne Alwis, Kent, Model ascetics? Exemplarity in Theodoret of Cyrrhus’ Religious History

 

‘Learning Latin the Ancient Way’ translated into German

A German translation of my book Learning Latin the Ancient Way (Cambridge 2016) was published last month by the Swiss press Schwabe with the title Latein lernen wie in der Antike. It’s a fantastic translation, in places better than the original, and so far it has been quite a hit, with the German Classicists’ Association (Deutscher Altphilologenverband) naming it their Publication of the Month. So I am super pleased!

The process behind this publication began in 2019, when a lovely woman named Marion Schneider contacted me out of the blue to say she wanted to translate the book to facilitate its use in German schools. Naturally I thought this was a great idea, and so did my publisher, Cambridge University Press; convincing Schwabe took a little longer, but eventually they came round, and I hope they won’t regret it. So early in 2020 I went to Würzburg to show Marion how the ancient line-for-line translation system works. After all, translating this book was not going to be simply a task of converting English to German. Much of the book consists of bilingual texts that were originally Latin and Greek in line-for-line equivalents, where I have replaced the Greek with English; Marion was going to have to replace the Greek with German, still keeping the original layout. This line-for-line translation is tricky to do in English, because of our fixed word order, and works better in German because of that language’s greater flexibility. So by the end of my session with Marion I was getting pretty jealous, because I could already see that her version of some texts was going to come out better than mine had.

For example, a schoolboy’s explanation of what one of his classmates did was originally written like this in Latin (left-hand column) and Greek (right-hand column), with the two languages lining up so that on each line the Latin and the Greek said exactly the same thing:

Sed statim Ἀλλ’ εὐθέως
dictavit mihi ὑπαγόρευσέν μοι
condiscipulus. συμμαθητής.

 

A literal translation of that into English, keeping the ancient line-for-line equivalent, would have looked like this and would not have made much sense:

Sed statim But at once
dictavit mihi dictated to me
condiscipulus. a fellow student.

 

So in Learning Latin the Ancient Way I had to do this (§2.1.7):

Sed statim But at once
dictavit mihi a fellow student dictated to me.
condiscipulus.

 

But because German allows a subject to follow its verb, Marion was able to match the ancient text more precisely, like this:

Sed statim Aber sofort
dictavit mihi diktierte mir
condiscipulus. ein Mitschüler.

 

Right after my meeting with Marion the pandemic hit, and I didn’t hear any more from her for so long that I thought she must have abandoned the project. But she was working away on it, and about a year later she sent me the complete translation. We took the opportunity to fix some mistakes in the original version; for example one of my emendations to a Latin text had turned out to be wrong, so it was handy to be able to eliminate that. And then Schwabe got to work, and I did not have to worry about the copyeditor’s queries or read the proofs or anything – Marion did all the work, and I get to enjoy the result!

Written by Professor Eleanor Dickey

Tea with our visiting Professor, Robert Wiśniewski

On November 18th, Leverhulme Visiting Professor Robert Wiśniewski led an innovative teaching session as part of the Classics MA Research Methods module. Prof. Wiśniewski invited Classics PhD and MA students to a “tea party” to share their research interests and offer peer support. This session broke the mould on seminar-style teaching and offered MA students an opportunity to practice professional networking in a friendly environment.

Prof. Wiśniewski began by introducing his research on Late Antique religion and society and sharing his experience of the Academy in France, Poland, and the UK before passing the torch to our postgraduates. Each student shared their research interest(s) and dissertation ideas before opening the floor to comments from the other students and Prof. Wiśniewski. The discussion was well rounded and many of the MA students were able polish their thesis ideas and came away from the session with a broader understanding of resources available to them.

Harry Aboud, one of our MA students who enjoyed the event said “One thing I did not expect when starting my MA was the volume of interaction between MA students and PhD students, with the afternoon of 18th November being a great example of this. Not only did we get a great chance to learn more about the research of the Classics PhD students, but I felt there was much icebreaking occurring as numerous MA students, myself included, found strong grounds from which we had stuff in common. The event was so enjoyable that I got further inspiration to do a PhD myself and I felt as if further connections between us and the other postgrads were built as a result.”

Our PhD students also enjoyed the session, which provided both a window onto career opportunities in Europe and the UK as well as a chance to share their knowledge with a new cohort. Ellie Goddard, whose PhD thesis explores the Trojan women in late Republican and early imperial Latin literature, said “Tea with Robert was the perfect opportunity to be introduced to the wide variety of research interests that this department has. It was incredibly interesting to hear about Robert’s research, as well as to make connections between our own research interests.” Edward A. Ross, who is working on daily religious life in Hellenistic Central Asia added “Robert was excellent at introducing us and drawing out the similar connections in our research topics. It was also great to learn how different but also the same academic life in Poland is compared to Reading. I definitely think tea meetings like this should become a regular occurrence.” Another one of our PhD students, Summer Courts, who is studying the archaeology of Lowbury Hill, Oxfordshire, commented “I thought the Tea was a great idea! It was nice to be able to support our MA students and help develop their research in an informal environment. I also enjoyed hearing about Robert’s research, which is fascinating, especially from an archaeological perspective. I am looking forward to hearing more from Robert about his work and academia in Poland in the near future.”

Connecting Classics to its Wider Context

Figure 1: Huijiao (Photo taken from https://baike.baidu.com/pic/%E6%85%A7%E7%9A%8E/2626692).

We were excited to hear that the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong has just published an English translation of Shi Huijiao’s The Biographies of Eminent Monks, edited by our PhD student, Edward A S Ross. Tianshu Yang (Jiechuang Institute of Buddhist Studies) was the translator. We asked Edward to share details of this exciting project with us. He reports as follows:

The Biographies of Eminent Monks is a compilation of the lives of over 500 Buddhist figures from 67 CE to 519 CE. This 14-chapter volume became the widely accepted basis for Chinese Buddhist, historical biography literature from the 6thcentury onwards. Extending from China’s first interactions with Buddhism to the Liang Dynasty (502-557 CE), the text of the Biographies of Eminent Monks discusses Buddhist figures well known during the time of Shi Huijiao (慧皎) (497-554 CE), the compiler and author (Figure 1).

Since it does not discuss the Mediterranean world, the relevance of this text to Classics might seem slight, yet there are interesting connections to the west buried in the life stories of these monastics. Since Edward studies ancient Central Asia, he was particularly interested in the monastic figures who came from and visited the so-called “Western Regions.” 47 of the 532 figures mentioned in the text hold ethnic or geographical origins to the west of East Asia, be that Central or South Asia (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2: Estimated places of origin for all 306 biographies with given locations. Points with white borders represent those with connections to the Western Regions (Image created by Edward A S Ross using mapping data from Google Maps (2020))

Shi Huijiao. The Biographies of Eminent Monks. Tianshu Yang, translator. Edward A. S. Ross, editor. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, University of Hong Kong, 2022.

Some come from as far west as Parthia, a region in Central Asia well known in the Mediterranean world. This reminds us how deeply connected different parts of the ancient world were to their wider global context. Whether through trade, war, or religious pilgrimage, people from the Mediterranean and Asian worlds did indeed interact. This is why it is important for those studying ancient history to broaden their source bases to garner a deeper understanding of the nuances of cultural interactions in the ancient world.

From the outset, the goal for this translation project has been to produce an open-access volume of Shi Huijiao’s The Biographies of Eminent Monks, so that these poignant stories and crucial aspects of Chinese Buddhist history are widely available to the English-speaking public, practitioners, and academics. The full ebook is available at https://www.academia.edu/90233933/Shi_HuiJiao_The_Biographies_of_Eminent_Monks_%E9%AB%98%E5%83%A7%E5%82%B3.

 

Congratulations to Alex Winch, winner of Outstanding New Teacher award

Last Thursday we were delighted to entertain some alumni who had come to take part in a careers event.  Every year we invite alumni to come and talk about their careers to our Part 2 students, giving ideas about what paths are possible.  As well as museum and teaching careers, these alumni spoke about the police, archaeology, and clinical trials.

Two of our alumni, Alex and Jon, comprise the Classics Department at Henley College, and Alex has recently won the Classical Association’s award for Outstanding New Teacher (https://classicalassociation.org/classical-association-teaching-awards/).  We could not be more proud!

Alex (right) with two fellow winners

Reading Classics welcomes Dr Sam Agbamu

Next week on October 19th we welcome a special speaker to our regular research seminar series.  Of course all our speakers are special, but Dr Sam Agbamu, who is currently at Royal Holloway, is about to join the staff of the Classics Department at Reading, in January 2023.  We are hoping that lots of students and staff will come to the seminar and welcome him!

Sam did his PhD at King’s College London, researching modern Italy’s use of the history of Roman imperialism in Africa, during its own imperial endeavours on the continent in the nineteenth and twentieth century.  Sam’s current research project, which he will pursue at Reading as part of his Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, is on the afterlives of the neo-Latin epic, the Africa, by the fourteenth century humanist Petrarch.  This poem recounts the history of the Second Punic War, and Sam is studying its role in transmitting ancient ideas about the continent of Africa into the early modern and modern era.  Sam’s other interests include anti-racist and anti-colonial approaches to the literatures and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, and their receptions.  In spring term he will teach on our Part 2 module ‘Roman History: the rise and fall of the Republic’, and a new module on ‘“Race” in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds’.  Students are encouraged to sign up for the new module if they would like to, as there are still places on it.

Petrarch by Justus of Ghent (public domain)

Petrarch by Justus of Ghent (public domain)

 

 

Autumn Term 2022 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Autumn Term 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 5 October, we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars. Our Autumn seminar series, ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi, 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/3BYG7Td! Below you can find a poster with all titles.

 

Full list of titles

5 October

Robert Wisniewski, Warsaw/Reading, ‘Four sermons, some relics, a bishop and a curse: Constructing the cult of saints in late antique Hippo’

12 October

Jo Quinn, Oxford, ‘North African monumental architecture in the Hellenistic period within the frame of regionalism’

19 October

Sam Agbamu, Royal Holloway, ‘Petrarch’s Carthage: Between ‘race’ and religion’

26 October

Elena Giusti, Warwick, ‘Rome’s imagined Africa’

9 November

Jacke Phillips, SOAS/Cambridge, ‘Connecting ancient Egypt, Bubia and Ethiopia and even beyond’

16 November

Timothy Penn, Oxford, ‘The boardgames of Roman and post-Roman North Africa: A regional perspective on personal leisure in the past’

23 November

Elena Chepel, Vienna, ‘Dramatic competitions in Ptolemaic Egypt: New papyrus programme for the royal festival of Theadelpheia’