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.

 

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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:

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*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

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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 Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? – Education in the Making.

Interviewees: Prof. Peter Kruschwitz, Dr. María Limón & Prof Xavier Espluga. Interviewer: Bunny Waring

Date: 30th April 2021.

Today the Classics Department of Reading is delighted to announce the release of a special video called What Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? In this video Prof. Peter Kruschwitz (University of Vienna), Prof. Xavier Espluga (University of Barcelona) and Dr. María Limón (University of Seville) discuss the lettered world of ancient Rome and how ancient peoples interacted with the world around them. The video was filmed, directed and edited by James Rattee (https://vimeo.com/jamesrattee/videos) and includes digital footage from Prof. Matthew Nicholls’ Virtual Rome model.

Today we invited Peter, María and Xavier to discuss with us the motivations and methods of making this video and what is next for this interesting project on ancient inscriptions.

INTERVIEW

Bunny Waring (BW): Good Morning All. Thank you for joining us this morning to talk about your collaborative piece What Can a Dog Called Margarita Teach us About Ancient Rome? The Classics Department are very excited to share this work and we wondered if you could explain a little bit about your motivations for this project?

Thank you so much for this – it’s great for us to be back for a little while, albeit virtually. All three of us share the same passion: our enthusiasm for Roman inscriptions, especially inscriptions composed in verse. To us, those inscriptions are not just stones or pieces of metal that happen to have some poetry inscribed on them. They are carriers of art. They are visible, tangible manifestations of a universal artistic practice of Roman times, spanning the empire across time and space, with thousands of examples surviving to the present day.

This art was produced by individuals from all runs of life, and it was produced in the city of Rome just as much as it can be found at Hadrian’s Wall, the shores of the Black Sea, or in the Roman settlement of North Africa. We can relate to these individuals very easily because they’re not just some remote elite: they are people with everyday occupations, everyday hopes and worries, everyday problems. Like (most of) us – the other 99%, so to speak, far away from the palaces and lives of the elite. What is more, these individuals inhabited the very spaces, geographically and socially, that we still inhabit today, along with all their challenges.

It’s neighbourhood poetry, it’s communal art. And it gives us the most direct, emotionally moving, and instructive access to the world(s) of ancient Rome.

Of course, we know how we ourselves, especially in an academic context, interact and engage with Roman inscribed material remains. But how did they do it? We were curious to find out! And then we got very lucky: the British Academy gave María the opportunity to get our joint research going, first through its visiting fellowship scheme, then through additional funding for this video. We are so grateful for their support, and we hope that this video will both repay them for their trust in our research and appeal and communicate to wide audiences just what incredible, valuable material we study in our desire better to understand the Roman world and its diverse cultures.

BW: How exciting to work on such an interesting topic! So I’m eager to know: why did you choose this particular inscription?

We wanted to make a number of strong, important points. About the way in which we perceive, in which we encounter the Roman world. About the way the ancient world is presented to us in museums, archives, exhibitions, and books. And we want to do so while racing a wide audience because what we have to say and offer is relevant to so many different audiences.

 

We want to enthuse new generations with our passion for Roman history, for poetry, for epigraphy. We want to give teachers the opportunity to expand the canon of teaching through the inclusion of poetry that students can easily relate to. We want to invite museums, collections, and policymakers to rethink their approach to the way in which these incredibly exciting, talking objects from the ancient world are displayed. What better way to achieve this than to choose a text that expresses, in such beautiful words, the grief of pet owners – whose faithful companion had died. We feel we all can relate to that, and we feel that this text alone opens up so many new ways of thinking about the Roman world and the people who “were” the Romans, than the ever-same repertoire of classical authors.

BW: There must be a lot of interesting stories out there?

There are several thousand inscribed poems surviving from across the Roman world. You find anything, from obscene graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, to epitaphs on funerary monuments, 110-lines long and erected in the desert of Roman North Africa. You find beautiful, outrageous, hilarious, thought-provoking pieces, but, of course, also the banal and uninspired. How else could it be: writing short(ish) poems was a shared pastime across the ancient world, and the pieces are just as varied as their authors – men, women, children. If you would like to see further examples, you may explore them in an easily accessible format here and here. The material truly is a hidden treasure waiting for its discovery.

BW: What was it like recording this piece? Would you recommend the process to others?

Haha, oh dear! Well… none of us are natural-born entertainers. We all were terrified and at first, we hated to see our faces and hear our recorded voices. But James Rattee, the producer and creative mind behind our video, did an incredible job to make us feel at ease, to make us look smart (within the limitations that we were painfully aware of), and make the video appealing to such a wide range of audiences. We hope that putting this video out there will make it available for generations to come – for pupils, teachers, academics, cultural managers, policy makers: it should entertain and be useful at the same time! It’s genuinely a piece of art.

 

BW: Well we all certainly agree with that, here in Classics at Reading University! Excellent work! Finally then, what is in store next for your project?

We want to do more. We want to reach out to schools, to those who design curricula, design teaching in schools and at university, to show them the potential and possibilities. And we want to transform the way in which inscriptions are presented and utilised in museums – there is so much potential wasted.

We are making first steps. But there’s much more work to be done. So, if you are interested, please do get in touch with us, and we will explore the potential for collaboration with you! And as we are still thinking about reaching larger audiences and improving educational materials we would be deeply grateful if viewers, students and teachers, from all over the world would send us their feedback, even in an informal way. And by all means do feel free to send us any kind of questions regarding how Roman communicate their feelings, emotions, fears, and concerns through their inscriptions.

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Episode 3: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga – A Specialist in Sensorial Archaeology in Museums and Classics.

[Image of an image of Mithratic iconography and Latin inscription in a stone frieze. Lalupa]

Interviewee: Dr. Claudina Romero Mayorga. Interviewer: Bunny Waring.
Date: 16th April 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: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga

A Specialist in Sensorial Archaeology in Museums and Classics.

Name: Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga
Area of Specialism: Archaeology, Classics and Museums.
Topics of Interest: Ancient Mediterranean civilisations, material culture, education, sensorial archaeology, music, polychromy, 3d printing.
Job Title: Education officer at the Ure Museum and Sessional Lecturer at the Department of Classics.
Job Responsibilities: Develop and deliver educational sessions for primary and secondary schools, organise outreach activities, family events, lead the Young Archaeologists’ Club, research the collection, welcome visitors, manage volunteers and interns, teach Latin or Roman History to undergraduates.

Introduction

I grew up watching old films and documentaries about ancient civilisations: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome….everything sounded so mysterious and exciting! I wanted to know all about them so I started reading as much as I could. The objects left behind by them felt as if they still had a special power, so my focus was not so much on their languages, but on the material culture produced by these peoples who lived so many years before me. By the time I got to the university, “Gladiator” had already left a mark on me, and well…Romans are my thing now. I love working at the Ure Museum and teaching people about our amazing collection.

 

[A glimpse at some of the fantastic displays in the Ure Museum, including pots to get excited about. Ure Museum.]

What is your daily life really like?

Replying to emails takes most of my time! Before the pandemic, I would get lots of school groups in the Ure Museum and the time would just fly. Talking to kids, teachers, parents, looking at them being amazed by an ancient pot…Best feeling ever!!! Having children tell you that they want to be archaeologists and work in a museum after their visit is priceless…But in 2020 with the arrival of COVID, things changed dramatically. Although online sessions still felt great and children got to engage with 3D models, it wasn’t the same. I’m really looking forward to reopening soon!

[A YAC event (with permission) where young children are taught how to clean and understand ancient artefacts. Mayorga.]

A lot of my time is also spent planning new public events (online or face to face) for families, for older teens: trying to develop new educational resources for everyone, talking to my colleagues and other museums, updating our website, posting on our social media, writing grants applications and planning Young Archaeologist Club (YAC) sessions. If I’m teaching Roman History to undergrads, I need to prepare my classes and then mark their assignments. When I teach I try to make sure that they see that I’m passionate about the subject and that although everything seems to have been researched and discovered already, there’s still plenty to do.

I do love object-based research so whenever I have a bit of time, I would focus on a specific object and learn as much as I can. I also enjoy travelling; I like meeting colleagues in beautiful destinations to discuss our work, visit museums and tasting local food (this activity is also known as attending international congresses and seminars). Getting funds to do this can be very competitive and difficult, but I never give up!

[Dr Mayorga and Assistant Curator of the Ure Museum Jayne Holly on a research trip. Mayorga.]

What is the best part of your job?

· Handling ancient objects is the best part without any doubt! I still feel like a 5-year-old when I hold an old pot.

· Working with the curator and assistant curator at the Ure is great fun, we’re always coming up with new projects and new challenges…I don’t know what a boring day at the office is.

· Learning from other colleagues

· Being mind-blown by kids’ questions

 

Why do you think your specialism is important?

Studying ancient civilisations, in general, makes you aware that some of the problems we face today as a society, already existed in the past (misogyny, elitism, poverty). Looking at the solutions they came up with – or the lack of them – might give us a better perspective of the circumstances we are living in. My interest in sensorial archaeology comes from my focus not on emperors and great characters, but on ordinary people: how they behaved, what they liked, whom they loved, what they ate, if they were happy – and if so, how they expressed that. I believe that trying to know another person (even if that person has been dead for more than 1000 years) generates empathy and there’s nothing more important right now than trying to understand the person who is in front of you.

[The Ure Museum’s Museum in a Box tells the life of Annie Ure, the co-founder of the Ure Museum, whose life studying antiquity highlighted women’s rights issues throughout the ancient and modern eras.]

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

I guess I would be good in general admin, but I would do better in a position that would allow me to support or mentor young people. Teaching is a calling, whether it’s Classics or Economics, but I believe I would be good at working with younger people.

Did you always want to be what you are today?

Yes! Haha, I get to work in a museum and at the Uni, although I took the long and winding road to get here. People usually go for Museum Studies if they want to work with collections or in a heritage site. I started studying History of Art in Madrid and then my PhD in Archaeology offered fieldwork training: I was part of a team that dug up a Roman villa in Spain…and to spread the news among the locals I guided some tours and “played” with the finds to show kids how fun and interesting the Romans were. There I got bitten by the “museum bug” (beware!) and ended up researching lots of museum collections and storage facilities for my final dissertation in every single European country.

[Dr Mayorga teaching a range of students and volunteers about the importance of Museum collections. Mayorga.]

But I had to work and study at the same time, so it took me longer than expected. Volunteering and taking up education modules did the rest. But because I have a PhD in Archaeology people usually don’t understand why I’m the Education officer, as if researching and teaching were two completely different activities, when in the end they’re two sides of the same coin. I can’t conceive one without the other.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I hope the pandemic is over by then! I would love to see the government showering universities with funds, especially to support Humanities. Would love to have my role as an Education officer as full-time, and to continue teaching at the University of Reading. It would be great to have certain events and activities already cemented in our educational calendar (3D printed resources; Ancient music sessions).

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

  1. Go for whatever you love: languages, physics, computers. That will always stay with you, money won’t. Studying something that you don’t like is torture.
  2. Don’t believe everything you read: even if it is printed in a book by a famous author, it’s opened to discussion.
  3. Travel as much as you can.

What to know more?

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date with what events the Ure Museum has to offer head over to the Museum’s webpage here.