Summer Term 2022 Reading Classics Research Seminar Series

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Summer 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 27 April, 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/3K8h5lg! Below you can find a poster with all titles and a QR code leading to the attendance link!

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

Full list of titles

27 April

Marion Meyer, Institut für Klassische Archäologie, Universität Wien, ‘Worshiping Athena in Athens: the Panathenaia, the peplos for the goddess, and Some Open Questions’.

4th May

Bernardo Ballesteros Petrella, Corpus Christi College Oxford, ‘Comparing early Greek, Babylonian and Sanskrit epic: the overburdened earth motif’.

11th May 2-5pm, a symposium on ‘Rome: city and country’, in honour of Professor Annalisa Marzano. NB this is an all-afternoon event.

18th May

Carol Dougherty, Wellesley College, ‘ “I’m a strange new kind of in-between thing aren’t I?”: Antigone and the Question of the Foreigner’.

25th May

no seminar

1st June

Michelle Zerba, Louisiana State University, ‘Eleusis at the Intersection of Antiquity and Modernity: The Mysteria, Altered Consciousness, and the Neuroscience of Transformational Experience’.

International Women’s Day 2022 in Reading Classics

Reading Classics celebrate the International Women’s Day 2022 with an exploration of the variety of female presence in ancient texts and their receptions as well as in authorship around mythical stories. Professor Barbara Goff, whose research has thoroughly examined the role of women in ancient Drama and beyond, in different contexts, historical circumstances, and societies, has recently delivered a public lecture at the Belfast Hellenic Society on three contemporary women writers engaging with ancient tradition. Keep reading for her account of the ways in which women rediscover their place in the long and ever-changing course of literature.

In early March I went on a plane for the first time since 2019 and flew to Belfast, where I was hosted by the Belfast Hellenic Society.  I am indebted to the Society, and especially Maureen Alden, for their wonderful hospitality.  It was fitting that I gave my public lecture in the Canada Room and Council Chamber, in the imposing Lanyon Building, because it is adorned with a big mural of women from the University, titled ‘Out of the Shadows’. My talk was on three of the recent novels by women writers that channel, and challenge, the Homeric tradition: Madeline Miller’s Circe (2018), Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls (2018) and Natalie Haynes’ A Thousand Ships (2019).  Although these are very different from one another, they all experiment with the idea of a ‘new song’, a version of the well-known epic story that is made different because told by a woman or women, and from a female perspective.

The Council Chamber at Queen’s University Belfast, Lanyon Building

 

Classicists will know that the idea of a new song sung by women is not straightforward.  The chorus of Euripides’ Medea claims that for women to sing, the whole world has to be turned upside down:

Upwards flow the streams of holy rivers

and justice and everything is turned backwards.

The plans of men are tricky, and oaths

to gods no longer hold firm.

Speech will change to hold my life in good repute.

Honour will come to the female race;

The muses of old singers will cease to hymn

my faithlessness.

For not to our mind

did he grant the divine music of the lyre

Apollo, the leader of songs; then I would have sung a song

in answer to the race of men.

Now women can sing, say the chorus; but as we know, they are men, in costume.  And we don’t really know what the new content of a women’s song would be; just before this song, Medea says, in perhaps somewhat misogynistic vein:

In addition we were born

women, most helpless for noble things

but of all sufferings the most clever artificers.

 

The new novels, I suggested in my talk, do not make things very much simpler.

The first-person narrator of Circe makes it very easy for readers to question her telling of her own story; she regularly tells us that she leaves things out and changes the story as she goes.  The ending of the novel – spoiler alert! – throws into doubt the precise identity of the narrator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In A Thousand Ships, the Muse Calliope engages in a long-running battle with ‘the poet’ (he’s unnamed, but he is blind…) over exactly what song he will sing.  So, when the novel relays all the stories of the women caught up in the Trojan War, is that the song of the poet, or of Calliope, or is it something else entirely?  Calliope herself seems a bit confused, because although she wants to memorialise all the women of the war, she gets fed up when the poet wants to sing about Helen.

 

 

 

 

 

In Silence of the Girls, Briseis is the first-person narrator, but the novel sets up a long-running contest between her ‘song’ and the epic songs that celebrate men’s victories and sufferings.  Thus she remembers a song that Achilles sang before his death:

The words seemed to have got trapped inside my brain, an infestation rather than a song, and I resented it. Yes, the death of young men in battle is a tragedy…worthy of any number of laments – but theirs is not the worst fate.  I looked at Andromache, who’d have to live the rest of her amputated life as a slave, and I thought: We need a new song.

 

But even having sung that new song, Briseis is unsure that it will work.  At the very end of the novel, she concludes that future audiences will not want to hear her side of the story; they won’t want to hear ‘about the massacres of men and boys, the enslavement of women and girls’ and instead will want to listen to something much less challenging.  When the novel concludes ‘now my own story can begin’ it is ironic at least, because these are the last words of the novel.

So rewriting the Homeric tradition from the female viewpoint is not necessarily a straightforward enterprise, but the critical and popular reception of these novels shows that it is a highly resonant undertaking that has won over huge audiences.  My audience in the Canada Room was inspired to do more reading, which is always encouraging  – the poet Michael Longley, whom I met at the event,  said he would rush back to reread the Medea.  As classicists we can relish new works, as well as celebrating the ways in which the ancient texts provoke responses – among men as well as women!

‘Out of the Shadows’, Michelle Rogers, b. 1966.  This work over three panels hangs in the Council Chamber at Queen’s. The 25 women depicted represent female staff, students and alumni of Queen’s, and was commissioned by the Queen’s Gender Initiative which works to improve the profile and position of women within the University.

European Festival of Latin and Greek Returns in Reading Classics

The European Festival of Latin and Greek returns in Reading Classics after two years of pandemic, and we gathered the most exciting info about it in a Q&A covering all you need to know!  Enthusiasts of Classical Literature are more than welcome to participate! Find out below what the European Festival of Latin and Greek is and how you can sign up! 

What is it?

An international (not just European!) event when people celebrate the ancient world by getting together in a public place to read aloud a text from Ancient Greece or Rome.

Are they mad?                 

No, they are just really enthusiastic!

How does the Department come into this?          

The Department is going to participate in the Festival again, as we did pre-Covid; we are going to meet in the Edith Morley Quad, at 1pm on Wednesday March 23rd , to read Sophocles Oedipus the King!

Oedipus the King? That’s the one about mums and dads, yes?    

And about human striving and its limits – about our understanding of our own identity – about plague and recovery, blindness and insight, life and death!  People have been fascinated by this play for centuries, and always find something important in it.

Have you done this before?         

Yes, the Department participated in the 2019 Festival in 2019 when colleagues gathered in Edith Morley Quad to read book 6 of the Iliad in various languages. You can have a taste at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na3odYx9CXU! In the pictures, you can see us reading Homer Iliad 6 in 2019, along with the Chinese translation that one of us used.

OK, I’m convinced.  But do I have to speak Greek?            

No, the whole point is that people can read in whatever language they like.  Across the world, the Festival is celebrated in Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Mandarin, Afrikaans, English, French – you get the picture.  And, we don’t have to read the whole thing, just the juicy bits. 

Where do I sign?             

Try https://forms.office.com/r/Bq84DfPb3z to sign up: https://festival-latingrec.eu/english-2/ for more information.  And feel free to email Barbara Goff at hod-classics@reading.ac.uk to tell her how keen you are.  

Food archaeology at Reading Classics

At the Ure Museum we’ve been celebrating Heritage Open Days for a long time: our events usually included opening the museum on a Saturday and hosting activities for adults and families, but during the pandemic we had to go virtual. Thus, in 2020, we launched a much-successful series of short videos created by our staff and our colleagues at the Department of Classics on ‘9 lives of the Ure’s mummified cat’s head’. You can watch the videos here. You can read more about it in one of our previous blogs.  

Our approach received great feedback and thus, we decided to hold our 2021 HOD Events virtually once again. In addition, our museum was just reopening in September with a much-anticipated joint exhibit with the British Museum, and we preferred those two events not to clash. If you missed our British Museum Spotlight Loan or if you wish to visit it again, please follow the link for an online version of it: https://collections.reading.ac.uk/ure-museum/https-collections-reading-ac-uk-ure-museum-troy/

This year’s HOD theme was “edible England” and reminded us of the importance of food – well more than food itself, of the habit of eating and drinking together – in antiquity. Through a series of videos by our members of staff who have examined the relevant area of research from various points of view, we explored ancient diet, depictions of food in our collections, how people used to share food with gods (sacrifices and libations) and their communities (banquets), how important food was in funerary contexts, and even created cook-along videos to eat like an ancient Egyptian, Greek or Roman. All videos are available on our YouTube channel and website https://collections.reading.ac.uk/ure-museum/home/whats-on/hod-2021-eat-pray-love-in-antiquity-at-the-ure-museum/

Poster of the event, provided by Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga 

Although museums and galleries have noticed certain virtual fatigue in the last months of lockdown, people were becoming more and more anxious to visit the real places and interact face to face, and thus, we can happily claim that our virtual HOD was a success! We had 412 views on our YouTube channel and our webpage visits increased a 84%; most of our audience came from the UK, but also from USA, Singapore, Australia and Europe!

It’s amazing how food – a topic that engages most of our senses – can be addressed from afar: by evoking the smells of burnt meat in a sacrifice, the delicious fragrances of baked pastelis, panis focaccias and cakes, the strength and energy provided by Spartan dishes, the beautiful representations of Egyptian food and Greek fish plates, all accompanied by sweet Greek wine. Let’s toast for more opportunities to come together.

The event was organised and held by the team of the Ure Museum under the guidance of the Curator, Prof. Amy Smith, and the Education Officer, Dr Claudina Romero Mayorga.

In fact, this year’s HOD topic was a great match for our Department’s long and strong record of research on the field of food archaeology. We are delighted to have been the academic home for various projects, among which an outstanding position is occupied by the work of Dr Jessie Feito, whose doctoral thesis focussed on the relevant area of expertise. Dr Feito was recently awarded her PhD by the Department of Classics at the University of Reading under the supervision of Prof. Annalisa Marzano, and she has been accepted as a postdoctoral fellow in…

Dr Feito has kindly provided us with a short introduction and summary of current research trends in food archaeology. We are truly thankful to her for sharing her knowledge, and we wish her all the best in the new and exciting steps of her career.

Recent decades have seen a notable increase in interest in the archaeology of food. Food was, and is, more than just a means of achieving the necessary caloric intake for survival; it had social and political significance in antiquity and was highly important culturally and economically. Food is at once a necessity to all, while also being unique to particular peoples and populations, shaped by preferences and cultural practices. This makes the study of food an exceptionally interesting and versatile research topic.

PhD students at the field. Picture retrieved from https://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/phd/department-life-for-phd-students. Dr Jessie Feito is at the front. 

Scholars of the ancient world have explored food and dining habits in a variety of ways. Ancient literature describes food and dining events with texts such as Petronius’ Satyricon, for example, satirising lavish Roman dinner parties, and Apicius’ De re coquinaria providing a glimpse into recipes used in antiquity. Archaeological evidence also offers significant insight into dietary practices. This can be in the form of structural remains of kitchens and dining rooms, such as those famously preserved at Pompeii, or in artistic representations of food and dining in frescoes as well as in mosaics. Ceramics and vessels associated with food preparation and consumption can reveal how meals were cooked and eaten, while the remains of transport containers such as amphora, can shed light on the production and transport of important commodities such as wine, olive oil, and garum. Archaeologists also study the remains of the foodstuffs themselves: zooarchaeology, or the study of animal bones, can be used to explore the consumption of animal products and archaeobotany focuses on the plant remains.

My research utilises the latter, examining plant remains in order to explore food production and consumption in two parts of the Roman world: Italy and the Near East. In using regional case studies, I am able to explore the ways that the Roman Empire impacted diet and agricultural practices in regions of different historical, socio-cultural, political, economic, and even environmental contexts.

The potential for archaeological evidence to shed light on food in the ancient world is vast, and, despite the significant advances that have been made, there is certainly room for our understanding to be improved with further research—this only serves to makes the archaeology of food more exciting! We now know that while dietary practices and preferences varied across the ancient world, just as they do today, the importance of food was universal.

Library Exhibition Highlights Scholars of Colour

Author: Bunny Waring
Date: 14th May 2021.

Prof. Katherine Harloe has been selected to take part in an exhibition displayed in Trinity College’s Library. This project, College Fellow Katherine Ibbett, aims to highlight the work of jurists and scholars of colour from the UK and beyond. The scholars highlighted were voted for by Trinity’s community and centred around those whose work they want to introduce to broader audiences. They include:

  • Professor of international law Dapo Akande
  • Classical scholar Katherine Harloe
  • Poet and literary critic Tsitsi Ell Jaji
  • Physical chemist Carla Pérez-Martínez
  • French scholar Debarati Sanyal
  • Mathematician Pranav Singh
  • Barrister Alexandra Wilson.
  • And more!

 

 

The portraits were taken by Ben Peter Catchpole who has been working remotely with the subjects via Zoom, enabling a ‘fuzzily informal‘ feel that ‘suggest the real warmth of each encounter‘.

In a recent blog post on Trinity College’s website Organiser Katherine Ibbett says:This exhibition signals a firm commitment to diversity in representation at Trinity – in the pictures we show in public areas, in our reading lists, and in the decisions we make about the future of our academic community. Some of our subjects already have a Trinity connection, and we plan to invite others to spend time here at some point in the future.’

With Photographer Ben Peter Catchpole adding: ‘This project was certainly different to anything I’ve done before. Firstly it was during what has been a difficult time for all of us. To photograph someone, often miles away, in various places around the world without even holding a camera, felt like such a challenge. It isn’t necessarily an original idea to take photos remotely, but I had to decide on the best methods while retaining consistency. It was a pleasure photographing every one of them. Shining a light on diversity within academia is very important, so I’m delighted to participate in the project.’

The photographs will be on display in the Lawns Pavilion Reading Room, before moving to the main library upon its reopening. The portraits are also available on Ben Peter Catchpole’s website.

Professor Timothy Duff elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Reading Classics is delighted to announce that our Professor of Greek, Timothy Duff, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.  Professor Duff is one of the foremost scholars of ancient historiography, and is internationally renowned for his work on Plutarch.  His election as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society sees him join a diverse and distinguished group of academics  who have made “an original contribution to historical scholarship” (as the Society’s website states – https://royalhistsoc.org/membership/fellows/), including two other members of the Reading Classics Department, Professors Peter Kruschwitz and Annalisa Marzano, both elected in 2011.

Latin mottos and a pioneering astrophysicist

When I ventured up to the observatory at Mt. Stromlo, a veritable jewel in the crown of the Australian National University (where I’m currently a Visiting Researcher) little did I expect to find anything written about the University of Reading in the visitor’s display. The walnut desk of Pioneer Director of the Solar Observatory, Walter Geoffrey Duffield, however, encouraged closer inspection, especially as it reminded me of our mock-up of the desk of Professor Percy Ure, our Pioneer Professor of Classics at University of Reading, in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology. And amazingly, Professor Duffield was tempted to Canberra to take up that directorial role from none other than University College, Reading, as it was then called, where he had served from 1913-1923 as Professor of Physics. After the observatory tour, as I climbed higher up the mountain, I discovered the great man’s grave, where he is buried also with Doris, his wife, and Joan, his daughter, who survived ’til the ripe old age of 104, just a few years ago. The simple wooden cross, with its Latin inscription, Per ardua ad astra, ‘Through struggle to the stars’, however, clearly refers to him and his work. After all, he & his family are the only modern persons buried on that mountain: unlike his daughter he died at an early age, in 1929.

Later that evening, while seated in St. John’s (Anglican) Church, Reid, just around the corner from the Australian War Memorial, my eyes began to wander & set themselves upon a distinctive plaque also with a Latin motto. And amazingly it commemorates the same W.G. Duffield, yet with a different and yet more appropriate Latin motto, Arduus ad solem. I say ‘more appropriate’ because he was in fact a solar scientist and a solar observatory director, thus spent his short life ’striving towards the sun’. I discussed it with Canon Paul Black, now Rector of that church, who had indeed buried Joan Duffield on the mountain a few years back, although the plaque was placed in the church long before his time, in 1954.

A small amount of research later, however, it became clear to me how and why these mottoes were chosen to honour Duffield. Per ardua ad astra is the motto of the Royal and Commonwealth Air Forces, thus a reflection of his time in service in the Air Force. Arduus ad solem is the motto of none other than Victoria University of Manchester, formerly Owens College and now part of the University of Manchester, where Duffield earned his PhD. The sun is emblazoned on that University’s shield and Duffield certainly took its message into his heart.

Professor Amy C. Smith

Prof. Pollmann re-appointed Extraordinary Professor at Stellenbosch

Prof. Karla Pollmann

Karla Pollmann, Head of the School of Humanities and Professor of Classics, has been re-appointed as Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

This appointment gives recognition of Professor Pollmann’s proven specialized expertise in Classics and Early Christian Studies, and her eminence in her profession and field of study.

It also implies Professor Pollmann to be involved in the academic programmes of the Stellenbosch Department of Ancient Studies.

Many congratulations!

The Sixth Annual Percy Ure Lecture

We are delighted to announce the sixth Annual Percy Ure Lecture:

Professor Christopher Smith (British School at Rome):

Commercial Tyrants:
A Model for Central Italy?

Friday, 25 November 2016

5pm

University of Reading
Whiteknights Campus
Henley Business School
Lecture Theatre G15

All welcome!

UreLecture

The lecture is free to attend, but booking is recommended, as space is limited: if you wish to attend, please register your interest with Prof. Peter Kruschwitz at p.kruschwitz@reading.ac.uk.

The Annual Percy Ure Lecture series was launched in 2011 to celebrate the centenary of Reading’s Classics Department:

http://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/about/urelecture.aspx

http://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/about/class-history.aspx

http://www.reading.ac.uk/classics/

Reading Ancient Schoolroom

The Reading Ancient Schoolroom welcomed more than 100 participants to campus on 27th and 28th January. Groups from Farnborough Hill School, Leweston School, St Gabriels School, and Langley Academy, as well as numerous families and individuals, learned how to act like Roman children. Participants also read Homer from papyrus scrolls, wrote with styluses on wax-coated tablets, learned how to do mathematical calculations on an abacus and Roman counting board, wrote with reed pens and ink on ostraca, studied Latin from a textbook used by ancient Greek speakers to learn Latin, learned the Greek alphabet the way a Roman would have learned it, and recited poetry from memory. There were also opportunities to handle objects in the Ure Museum.

Participants ranged in age from 4 to 18, and all reported having a great time. Volunteers, who included numerous first-year undergraduates as well as graduate students and staff, also had terrific fun; this is good as no-one is paid for work on the schoolroom. So we are EXTREMELY grateful to all our hard-working volunteers!

More detail on the event, and more photographs, can be seen at http://readingancientschoolroom.com/2016-schoolroom/Writing 15