Fear in Ancient Culture

The 15th Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature 2020 University of Reading, Department of Classics
Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th of June 2020

The Department of Classics at the University of Reading is delighted to host the 15th Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL) in 2020. The theme for this year is Fear in Ancient Culture.

This year’s AMPAL includes a tour of the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, our departmental museum founded by Percy and Annie Ure. In addition to the museum’s permanent display, we are proud to present two temporary displays: the British Museum’s Spotlight loan on the theme of Helen and Achilles: beauty, heroism & the fall of Troy, and an inaugural student exhibit, Fear Beyond Words.

We are delighted to announce that the AMPAL 2020 Keynote Speech will be delivered by Professor Fiona McHardy (University of Roehampton). The speech will be open to all university members and the general public.

Fear is a driving force behind human action that can push people to exceed their own expectations or prevent them from acting at all. As a powerful motivator and emotion, fear has a pervasive presence in ancient life and thought, which is also reflected in literature in multiple ways relating among others to motivation, social interaction and power dynamics. Furthermore, as early as Aristotle’s Poetics, fear had already been understood as a ruling force and a powerful notion even for the construction of literary genres, especially of tragedy. While evaluating the ancient literature as an integral part of understanding such a concept, the diverse influences of different fields of study, such as literary criticism, political theory, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, can add valuable insights.

In this context, AMPAL 2020 invites presentations on fear from literary or interdisciplinary approaches. Questions as to how fear can be defined, who, how and why, causes fear, how fear is related to other aspects of ancient thought, how the sense of fear grows or fades, how this notion forms the interaction among humans or between mortals and gods,

and the role of language in the creation of a fearful or fear-free context, are all considered to be substantial aspects of this year’s theme.

Suggested topics on fear may include, but are not limited to:

  • Fear and literary criticism, meta-poetical or reception analysis
  • Fear and other emotions; fear disguised as other emotions; fear and the sense of respect; fear and related notions and experiences; fear and the five senses or other body reactions
  • Cognitive and behavioural approaches to fear, and emotions in general
  • Fear and the manipulation of memory
  • Fear and the construction of myth and heroic profiles or/and social or political identity
  • Fear and power play; the control of political dynamics; the promotion of political agendas and ideas
  • Psychoanalytical approaches to fear; gendered fear; fear as a significant aspect of rites; fear as anxiety
  • Fear of the other (Orientalism, Amazons etc.); philosophical approaches to fear; fear and the fundamental existential questions
  • Depictions and illustrations of fear in ancient art and material culture
  • Aspects, perceptions and depictions of fear in late antique and early Christian literature and thought; reception of the ancient concept of fear in early modern literature

The Department of Classics at Reading invites postgraduates of every level to submit an abstract of 250-300 words for a 20-minute paper followed by 10-minute discussion by the 21st of February 2020. Abstracts should be sent as an unnamed PDF to readingampal2020@reading.ac.uk. Please include your name, university affiliation, programme and year of study in the body of your email and not in the abstract.

AMPAL 2020 is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students in any relevant discipline as well as to the general public. Details on the registration fee, the conference dinner and other relevant procedures will be announced in due time. All welcome!

Further information on the exact location of the conference and other events attached to AMPAL 2020 can be found at its website.

Please keep an eye on AMPAL 2020 website and to AMPAL Facebook and Twitter for further announcements. Feel free to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and spread the word!

Research of Ure Museum interns acclaimed

Every year the Ure Museum welcomes and benefits from the work of several interns from around the world, other UK universities and even Reading. This week two of our interns from Summer 2019 were celebrated for their work in the Ure. At the 2019 UROP showcase last night Ruth Lloyd, a third-year student in Classics, was awarded Best Poster in the Heritage and Creativity theme, for her work on the biography of Annie Dunman Hunt Ure (1893-1976) on a paid internship through the University of Reading’s UROP scheme. Ruth’s poster moreover was one of two singled out for inclusion in a BCUR (British Conference of Undergraduate Research) event — Posters in Parliament — which brings together undergraduate students from universities across the UK to exhibit their research in Westminster. For her research Ruth worked with Ure staff and archives, University archives and conducted oral history with Ure’s family. Some of her research has already been incorporated into Annie’s Box, an interactive museum outreach project funded by The Friends of the University of Reading. We are delighted that through Ruth’s work our museum’s co-founder Annie Ure will finally have her day in Parliament!

Meanwhile a report of Kutsi Atcicek’s internship has been published in the latest volume of Imperial College’s Imperial Engineer. Kutsi, now in his third year of a course in Materials Science with Nuclear Engineering at Imperial, came to Reading through a grant from RSMA (Royal School of Mines Association) to pursue his interest in ancient materials. Working with Professor Amy Smith & James Lloyd, one of our PhD students who has just completed his viva, Kutsi employed various analytical techniques to research the Ure’s collection of miniature votive vessels found at Sparta’s ‘Achilleion’.

Athens Study Trip 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katherine Evans

Reading Classics hosts MOISA’s 11th international conference

This weekend, 20-22 July 2018, the International Society for the Study of Greek and Roman Music and its Cultural Heritage, a.k.a. MOISA, held its 11th international conference at UoR’s Museum of English Rural Life, organised by UoR Classics’ Professor Ian Rutherford and James Lloyd, working with Donatella Restani (University of Bologna). The three-day conference, themed Music and Materiality, began with a keynote speech from Rupert Till (University of Huddersfield) on ‘An introduction to Archaeoacoustics’. Another highlight was a Saturday night concert at Christ Church, Reading, with performances from Barnaby Brown on a reconstruction aulos (reeded pipe) and Steph Connor on a reconstruction barbitos (a.k.a. ‘Lydian lyre’) and vocals.

The research topics of papers by 27 scholars—representing academic institutions from Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, UK, and USA—ranged from the instruments themselves (auloi and percussion), archaeological evidence of music in Rome, Apulia and Attica, to exciting new approaches and finds. Particularly touching was Prof. Stelios Psaroudakes’ dedication of his paper to the memory of Dr John Gray Landels, his PhD supervisor during his own studies at University of Reading. Dr Landels was instrumental in UoR Classics’ acquisition and study of antiquities relevant to the study of music in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, such as the Reading Aulos.

The event culminated with a visit to the Ure Museum, where visitors viewed a special exhibition of these antiquities and others on loan from the University’s Special Collections as well as the British Museum: Music and Materiality, curated by James Lloyd (on display from May-July 2018) and a hands-on ‘How to make an aulos reed’ activity, led by Callum Rogers. Warning: it takes a high skill level both to make the reeds and play the auloi!