Launch of the Women’s Classical Committee UK – Monday 11th April 2016

By Liz Gloyn

The Women’s Classical Committee held its official launch event at the ICS just after Easter, and was delighted at the turn-out to the event and the warm support offered by the UK classical community as a whole. The Women’s Classical Committee was inspired by the US-based Women’s Classical Caucus, and seeks to support women in classics and promote feminist and gender-informed perspectives in classical research. The launch event covered both these strands, encouraging lively debate about challenges currently facing women classicists and showcasing some fascinating work currently underway. A full statement of WCC UK’s aims is available on our website.

The morning session of the launch focused on the experience of the female classicist. We began with a summary of the results of the survey that the Committee had circulated around the UK classicist community. The results shared in some of the depressing trends about employment in HE generally, particularly for early career researchers, as well as highlighting areas where the Committee could provide support; we will be thinking about these issues in the coming months. Discussion groups followed the presentation, on the themes of women, early career researchers and casualization; women, mental health and disability; women and implicit bias; and women, parenthood and caring. One major theme that emerged from all these discussions was the need to reconsider our view of what a classicist looks like, and what that means in terms of the Committee’s activities.

The afternoon began with six spotlight talks on current teaching and research by attendees. Amanda Potter talked about her work with the Brilliant Club, teaching feminism and classical reception through Greek myth. Deborah Hyde shared the rewards and challenges of offering Classical Civilization to students in FE, particularly encouraging mature women learners to take up the subject. David Bullen gave an overview of hitherto neglected feminist interpretations of the Bacchae and what this means for our understanding of the play’s reception. Ioan McAvoy made a compelling case for revolutionising Roman military history through paying closer attention to gendered language and its implications. Kate Cook took us to women’s speech in Greek tragedy, moving beyond ‘who says what’ to explore specific modes of communication, including the choice not to speak through suicide. Carol Atack rounded off the session by questioning how we should teach Aspasia in light of modern feminism’s approach to prostitution and the issue of whorephobia, and how this perspective problematizes the desire to ‘rescue’ Aspasia from prostitution.

A roundtable discussion closed the launch. Fiona Macintosh, Stella Sandford, Alison Sharrock and Susan Deacy shared their experiences of being women in classics, and reflected on the intersections between that and the themes that had emerged during the day’s discussion. The roundtable was followed by the first formal AGM of the Committee. Plans are now underway to organise a pedagogy training day in July for ECRs and graduate students, and to have a WCC UK presence at the Classical Association conference in Kent next year. There are also plenty of other ideas for activity in the future – watch this space!

The Women’s Classical Committee UK is delighted to announce that it is now formally enrolling members, and can receive payment by cheque or bank transfer. The cost of membership is currently £20 per year, or £5 for students, unemployed, retired or underemployed members. There’s more information on how to join on the Committee’s membership webpage.

Dr Liz Gloyn is a Lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and is Administrator of the Women’s Classical Committee.

The WCC UK’s first major event, Classics and Feminist Pedagogy: Practical Tips for Teaching, will take place on Friday 29 July at the University of Birmingham.

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GCSE Essay Prize 2016

by Andrew Mylne

A annual GCSE Classics Conference hosted by Westminster School was established in 2014 in conjunction with the CA’s London branch and with JACT (now merged with the CA).  The one-day event offers pupils in Years 10 and 11 the opportunity to attend lectures on their Latin and Greek set texts and on topics of wider interest.  The speakers at the conference each set an essay title with reading, to be completed by 1 May, and a prize of £100 is awarded to the best entry.  The CA continues to support the event by providing funding for the Essay Prize.

Six essays were submitted this year for the GCSE Essay Prize; four of the titles were responses to the title “What virtues does Pliny the Younger attribute to Pliny the Elder and Arria? Do the negative consequences of those virtues outweigh their positive benefits?”, whilst the remaining two took as their title “Are Herodotus’ stories designed to entertain or to instruct?”. The essays were assessed anonymously by 5 judges who put them in a ranking order: the essay which was thereby awarded the most points was adjudged the winner.

The judges remarked upon the enthusiasm exhibited by all the submissions, and the initiative shown in producing such work in the middle of the build-up to GCSEs. It was acknowledged that producing an essay such as this, of an analytical character and to a prescribed length, was not likely to be something that was especially familiar to pupils in Years 10 & 11: the efforts made in the light of this were the more notable. At the same time, it was considered a shame that more notice had not been taken of the suggestions for additional reading.

This was a more pressing issue in the essays on Herodotus. Both essays tried to wrestle with the notions of ‘entertainment’ and ‘instruction’, but then were inconsistent and/or confused in the way they applied them within their argument. There was recognition of the difference required in evaluating Herodotus and a modern historian as an instructor, and an attempt to think about the sources from which Herodotus drew his accounts, and how they were used. But both essays suffered from insufficient reference to the stories to be found in Herodotus’ text in support of their points. The scope of this title made it a significantly harder one to do justice to.

The narrower scope of the Pliny title enabled those who wrote on it to refer far more, and far more effectively, to the text in support of the points they wished to make. The better essays here managed to lift their discussion out of the GCSE 10- and 8-mark answer style, and to present a thoughtful reflection upon such things as the tension between appearing virtuous and the reality of the consequences of that appearance, the different effect of viewing actions from an individual and collective perspective, and why Pliny thought Arria’s earlier actions were more noteworthy than her famous dying words.

Special mention should be made of Isabel Baker, from St. Mary’s Ascot school, who is still in Year 10, but whose essay on Pliny was clearly and thoughtfully argued as she presented the virtues and then the flaws of the characters, considering their action from a practical and philosophical point of view, and sensibly weighing up achievement against intention.

However, the clear winner was adjudged to be the submission of Alexander Chen from Westminster School. His essay on Pliny was concise and articulate: there was evidence that he had undertaken broader reading beyond the Latin text, and he showed a perceptive grasp of the broader agenda implicit in the title. His argument was balanced and complete, referencing the text well in support of his points, but also showing an intelligent readiness to take his argument on from the immediate evidence of the text. He engaged logically and perceptively with the interaction between the belief behind an action, the action itself and the evaluation of its worth. You can read Alexander’s winning essay here.

Many thanks to all the pupils who submitted their work, and also to their teachers for encouraging them to do so. Thanks too of course to the Classical Association for their generosity in supplying the prize of £100 in book tokens which will be awarded to this year’s winner, Alexander Chen.

Andrew Mylne is Head of Classics at Westminster School





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The end of the Reading Competition season

by Barbara Finney

Spring generally marks the end of the Reading Competitions that are organised by Classical Association branches for local schools. This year the climax was the pilot Classics Competition run by the Lytham St. Anne’s Branch (a branch that is only in its second year of existence but drawing in considerable support).  Four schools agreed to hold heats and forward a finalist to an evening event.  Students were set the task of producing a 15 minute Powerpoint presentation on the topic “What interests you about the Ancient World?” Participation was open to any student whether they studied a classical subject or not.  The finalists included a Year 10 boy who held forth with immense confidence on “Ancient Science and Maths”, a girl from Blackpool Sixth Form College who presented her understanding of “The Importance of Oracles in the Ancient Greek World” and two sixth form boys who spoke respectively about “Mathematics: Theorems, Paradoxes and Discoveries” and “The Fall of the Roman Empire”. No one in the audience envied the judge, Dr Katharine Earnshaw of Exeter University, as she balanced the merits of four diverse and excellent presentations. The winner was Ross Kinnaird of Runshaw College, whose masterly analysis of the end of the Roman Empire was delivered with aplomb and humour.

Ten other CA branches organise Reading Competitions on an annual basis, mainly keeping to the tried and tested format of Junior/Senior classes for reading or reciting a set Latin or Greek passage, where the emphasis is very much on correct pronunciation as well as understanding.  The Southampton branch also hosts a Minimus competition where groups of pupils, often in costume, present playlets.  Parents are encouraged to attend and booklets are distributed that feature the Latin text plus English translation.  The Leeds and District branch this year expanded their repertoire with dramatic dialogues. Bristol host a Latin play competition and Guildford now hold a Certamen (Latin/Classics competition) event each summer in addition to their traditional Reading Competition. All these events are hard work for the organisers but vital for keeping alive the languages and offering inter-school cooperation. The CA generously covers the costs of the prizes (book tokens, medals, certificates).

If any branch is interested in starting up or expanding the remit of a competition, please get in touch with me ( so that I can provide more detail than is included in this blogpost.

Barbara Finney is the Classical Association’s Branches Secretary.

The Classical Association has a number of affiliated organisations, or ‘branches’, to whom it awards funding to support Classics in local areas.  For details of your local CA branch, visit the website.


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The Almeida Iliad and the remarkable summer of 2015

by Professor Simon Goldhill

You have probably seen one of those blissfully dated films – usually with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland – where the kids exclaim, “we have the barn by the river; we have the team; we could put on a show of our own!”.   I was reminded of this scene repeatedly this summer when the Almeida theatre decided to do a full reading of the Iliad in English in the British Museum.

Robert Icke and Rupert Goold are two of the most brilliant young directors working in Britain today, and they were responsible for deciding to have the whole summer season at the Almeida theatre in London dedicated to Greek tragedy ­– the Oresteia, the Bacchae, the Medea.  It was a staggering success, with every show sold out.  The Oresteia transferred to the West End; the Bacchae featured a new translation by Anne Carson, one of the world’s finest poets – and it didn’t hurt that Ben Wishaw, the hottest of hot actors was playing Dionysus; and Medea was re-written by Ruth Cusk, one of Britain’s most challenging and sharp novelists – her first play.  In Lia Williams as Clytemnestra and Kate Fleetwood as Medea, the theatre had lured two of the greatest actresses of our generation – and their performances were staggering.  Both the Oresteia and the Medea were modern versions, not translations – and provided evenings of brilliant challenge, especially to the classicist who knew what Aeschylus and Euripides had written.

But the Iliad was an afterthought, imagined in one of those pub moments, where someone has a wild and exciting idea, and suddenly it gains momentum, and then it happens… They had their barn by the river – in this case the British Museum.  In the cavernous grand hall a stage was erected, with screens to show the tweets that were hoped to flow in, and two huge modern African sculptures on either side.  Cameras to live-stream the event were set up, and a makeshift green room was organized downstairs.  Banks of chairs were organized, hopefully.  They also had their team: between them Robert and Rupert have a pretty good pair of little black books and a large number of London’s finest actors could be called on to give up an hour or so of their time to read.  The translation of Robert Fagles was chosen, cut back only slightly, with an expectation that it would take some sixteen hours to read.  The show would end at the theatre with a paying audience and a cast party. How to get from the museum to the theatre?  Well, let’s just get on a bus, and keep reading and filming…. You can see what I mean about the Mickey Rooney style of improvisation. And, boy, did they get together a show of their own!

When I turned up that morning at about 8.00, the scene was chaotic.  The doors of the museum were still locked, but inside staff were running around checking feeds, and making sure that all the technology was on song.  The handovers between actors needed co-ordination, the script needed its tweaks, actors needed help with pronunciation, and were going over the script with exaggerated attention.  Rupert and Robert presided with experimental glee.  I was asked if I could do a two-minute introduction to the Iliad to start it off (of course, I usually do twelve lectures…), but I was happy enough to adlib something – and I was given the catalogue of ships to read, on the grounds that I at least would know how to pronounce all those names.  (And unlike the actors, I was just thrilled to be reading with such a cast, and didn’t mind the short straw of the obviously boring bit…).  At one minute to nine, no-one had any idea what was about to happen.

At nine o’clock the doors opened – and four hundred people rushed in to grab the seats, bags filled with books, sandwiches and drinks.  I know the classics community well enough after all these years, and I was only mildly surprised at the numbers and enthusiasm of the crowd.  But the theatre folk were open-mouthed with awe.

I duly said my two minutes, and read the first six lines in Greek, and then, with the director’s clash of a gong, the one sound effect in the whole un-Hollywood day, handed over to Simon Russell Beale to start, with his extraordinary, echoing voice, “Rage…”.

What followed was remarkable at so many levels.  First of all, the cast itself…  There were so many great figures of the theatre, and in such company there was a palpable sense of competition and joy – each listening to each other, and striving to produce the most extraordinary narrative.  Brian Cox had played Agamemnon in Troy – and here he was with a far, far better script to work with.  Rory Kinnear, fresh from Spectre (though I would prefer to remember his award-winning Iago at the National Theatre) vied with Ben Wishaw from London Spy (oh, and Hamlet) in the battle of the young guns – a thoroughly Iliadic duel.  I passed on the baton to Janet Suzman, who had played in so many great Greek tragic performances in the 1980s (and whose face graces my paperback copy of the translation of the Oresteia by Hugh Lloyd-Jones).  For someone like me who has been going to the theatre in London for so many years, Lesley Manville and Simon Callow brought a host of memories to flood through their readings (with Lesley Manville, in one awful moment, bringing into my mind her Margaret Thatcher, not a figure I want to inhabit my Iliad even in a bad dream).  Tobias Menzies, Samuel West, Mark Gatiss, Bertie Carvel – if you need a line up of heroes they are your men.  (If you saw Bertie Carvel in Matilda, then his lusty rendition of Homeric violence might have raised an eyebrow…). Kate Fleetwood, Sinead Cusack, Lia Williams matched them for power and for emotional energy.  And the evening was brought to a close by the mesmerizing stillness of Tim Piggott-Smith.  What was so remarkable was seeing how Homer’s story could coax such different and yet compelling and complementary approaches.  And to remember what a difference performance makes to such an epic.

The second remarkable thing in these awful days of misguided educational policy was the fact that the museum had 10,000 more visitors than usual that day (and it wasn’t even raining), and it was estimated that at least 10,000 visitors stayed to hear an hour or so (and a good number of that first rush stayed the whole duration) – and more than 50,000 watched more than two hours of the live-stream on the day (and many more since).  There were some tourists who looked very bemused – but then stayed an inordinate length of time as the plot worked its magic.  My point is not to praise the “impact” of the event, but rather to underline the immense appetite for Homer that this revealed.  A huge audience tuned in or came along because they wanted to hear the Iliad and sat in rapt attention. There are so many educationalists who seem committed to an ideology that would deny such a need and such an appreciation.

What’s more – and I find this certainly a remarkably satisfying thought – in an era where we are all being encouraged so intently to monetarize and capitalize everything we do, this was a production where everyone gave their time for free, tickets were free (until the theatre itself), and for the price of actors’ bus fares, a labour of love took shape for an audience who could come and go as they pleased.  Such events should be cherished not just as a moment of classics brought to life, but as a brief glimpse of the values we should wish to see in our public culture.

You can probably guess what happened next.  Someone said, “what about the Odyssey?” – and a few weeks later, I was walking into the Almeida being filmed reading the opening lines of the Odyssey in Greek, before the cameras set off on an odyssey around London, with Ian McKellan in Islington Town Hall and Juliet Stevenson doing the Cyclops on – of course – the London Eye.

The summer of 2015 will be remembered as an annus mirabilis for Greek tragedy on stage in Britain – four Oresteias, and a string of other great productions.  In ancient Athens of the fifth century BCE, the festival of the Great Dionysia, where tragedies were performed annually, was matched every four years by the Great Panathenaia, where along with other athletic and cultural events, the whole of Homer was performed by rhapsodes in competition.  There was something pleasingly apposite that the Almeida’s festival of Greek tragedies should have led to these all too rare full-scale readings of epic. Tragedy is constantly engaged in re-writing and re-valuing the narratives of epic.  To hear both forms echo with such power in performance in the modern city was truly memorable.

There were many amazing moments, but for me the anecdote that captures the spirit best is this.  In the scene where Clytemnestra is preparing to welcome Agamemnon back from Troy, she explains, as if in a news interview, that she is not responsible for her husband’s decisions with regard to the war.  The lights in the auditorium went up during this scene, changing the atmosphere, and allowing Lia Williams to make eye-contact with the audience.  In one of the final performances, as she said her bitter speech about a husband’s role in the war, she found herself staring intently face to face into the eyes of Cherie Blair. The ability of tragedy to speak painfully to modernity is what keeps us studying it.

Simon Goldhill is Professor of Greek Literature and Culture in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics at King’s College, Cambridge.  He is also Director of CRASSH (the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities). 

This year’s Classical Association Prize – for the person whose work is felt to have raised the profile of Classics in the public eye – has been awarded to Rupert Goold, Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre, for the Almeida Greeks season which took place between May and November 2015.  




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Developing Classics in Wales

by Evelien Bracke

I recently gave a presentation about the state of Classics in Welsh schools at the CA conference. At first glance, Classics is very much marginalised in Wales: no teacher training exists, only 11% of secondary schools offer Latin with a similar number offering non-linguistic Classics subjects, very few primaries offer it at all, and there is a wide north-south divide. Moreover, in many of the schools where Classics – in whatever shape, whether linguistic or not – is offered, the subject is under pressure (teachers not replaced when they leave, lack of students due to a crowded curriculum, teachers lacking awareness of its uses,…).

The South West Wales Classical Association organises lots of community events in South Wales (see my previous post).  Through this we continue to increase awareness among local communities, yet impact remains, unavoidably, local.

I said at the CA that I look with envy at Classics in England.  However, the recent establishment of the Cymru Wales Classics Hub (CWCH) has already led to exciting and encouraging developments: it has brought teachers together from all over (at least South and Mid) Wales in a dynamic and passionate group. Swansea University hosted our first inset day in November 2015 and first annual conference in February of this year.  The three universities offering Classics in Wales – Swansea, Cardiff, and Trinity Saint David – have now decided to collaborate by hosting events alternately so teachers can benefit from the expertise of different institutions and there is a stronger geographical spread.  We have also set up a working group on Classics through the medium of Welsh (an important requirement if we want to put Classics back on the curriculum).

Meiros Richardson (centre) receives the award for most innovative teacher at the first CWCH conference, with Evelien Bracke and Kyle Erickson (Head of Classics at University of Wales Trinity Saint David)

CWCH was initially set up in preparation for my meeting with the Welsh Minister for Education, Huw Lewis, in November 2015, to discuss the possibility of re-introducing Classics into the Welsh curriculum and teacher training.  Thanks to generous funding and support from the Classical Association and Classics for All, CWCH can now start building onto the foundations that are already present in Wales and work together with the Welsh Government on hopefully introducing Classics at primary and secondary school in some shape or form in the next five years (though with several elections in the meantime, anything can still change, of course).  We are currently planning the following for 2016-2017:

  • translation of Latin-English resources into Welsh and creation of new resources (May 2016)
  • second inset day at Cardiff University (September 2016)
  • Latin teaching starting in a pioneer school to be used as a model for others in Wales (starts September 2016)
  • Latin weekend workshop for existing school teachers interested in offering it.  Teachers will be given a mentor and invited to attend our other events (2016-2017)
  • second annual conference at Gregynog (February 2017)
  • Latin workshops for PGCE students of other subjects in South and North Wales (February 2017)
  • third inset day at Trinity Saint David (late 2017)

Lots of exciting developments are thus ahead of us, and we look forward to the next steps.

For more information, please visit our website. All our events will be advertised there as well as by the Classical Association and on social media (twitter: @Evelien_Bracke).

If you would like to stay informed on teaching and learning of Classics in Wales, please do join our mailing list. Our email address is you would like to send an email to reach all participants of the group. If you have any questions or would like to get involved, feel free to email me (

Dr Evelien Bracke is Senior Lecturer in Classics and School Liaison Officer in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Swansea.  She is also Chair of the South West Wales branch of the Classical Association and Co-ordinator of the Literacy through Classics Project. 

The Classical Association has recently awarded a grant of £10,000 over two years to the Cymru Wales Classics Hub in support of its programme of activities in 2016 and 2017.






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The Classics in Communities Project

by Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson

Background, purpose and aims

The Classics in Communities project  is a partnership between the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the Iris Project. It was set up to raise the profile of Classical languages in the primary sector and to widen access to the learning of Latin and Greek. The project particularly targets schools where Classical languages have not previously featured on the curriculum. It has twin aims: to equip teachers in primary schools with the skills and knowledge necessary to teach these languages; and to conduct parallel research to determine the impact of Classical language learning on children’s cognitive development.

What has been achieved to date?

Widening Access to Latin and Greek in schools and communities: conferences

Two conferences have been held, one in Oxford (2013) and one in Cambridge (2015), where language practitioners, school leaders, policy makers and academics met to share good practice in Classical language teaching, and discuss the role of Latin and Greek in the school curriculum in the 21st century.

Classical Languages regional teacher-training workshops

In 2014-2015, teacher training workshops were held in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast. These regional events were hosted by universities or schools and helped bring together those primary teachers interested in teaching Latin and Classical Greek with experienced teachers. Training was provided and useful teaching resources shared. The participants found the workshops very helpful (feedback was gathered via questionnaires) and are now helping to provide data for the ongoing research arm of the project.


  • Quantitative Data collection in partnership with The Latin Programme (London), the Iris Project (nationwide).
  • Qualitative data collection with school leaders, teachers, pupils and parents through school visits.


Initial analysis of the data reveals positive trends in the development of literacy skills, when a Classical language is used as the medium for (or supplement to) literacy learning. For example, at a large state primary school in outer London, where 51% of students have Special Educational Needs, 82% speak English as an additional language (i.e. they are native speakers of languages other than English) and 69% of pupils are entitled to free school meals, the results of teaching literacy through Latin are very compelling. After one year, 60% of pupils had progressed at least 2 sub-levels beyond their predicted literacy level. After two continuous years of Latin, 75% of pupils had progressed at least 2 sub-levels beyond their predicted literacy level, with many progressing 4 sub-levels beyond their prediction. By the end of 3 years of Latin, 86% of pupils had made this giant leap in literacy attainment. Similar results can be seen in schools across London, East Oxford and the West Midlands where baseline and interim data are currently being collected.

What next?

Thanks to generous funding from the Classical Association, phase 2 of the research project will evaluate the effect of teaching/learning Classical languages on student outcomes and teachers’ professional development, and will assess the impact and reach of the project. The data will continue to be analysed and the results will be disseminated through various channels during 2016-2018. A book (Forward with Classics! Classical Languages in Schools and Communities) will be published by Bloomsbury, and will bring together international examples of good practice in Classics education.

Teaching resource videos will be recorded and uploaded online, helping less experienced teachers of Classical languages to see the content and pedagogical elements of a ‘model lesson’.

We will provide additional teacher training workshops in 2016. These will be held in Liverpool, Leeds and Nottingham. The workshops are free of charge for teachers and include initial training in Latin and Greek, alongside pedagogical advice and resource sharing. Follow-up funding is available from Classics for All and financial assistance for purchasing classroom resources is also available. More details can be found on the Classics in Communities website (

Please contact Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson  to register your interest, suggest a location for a workshop, or for more details (

The Classics in Communities project has recently been awarded a Major Research Grant of £30,000 over the next three years by the Classical Association.  

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is a language education specialist and advisor on language policy and assessment to a number of exam boards and organisations around the world. She is currently an academic in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford where she leads research for the Classics in Communities project.


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Spring Books 2016

by Philip Hooker

The Bookseller’s Buyer’s Guide is now published – and these are some of the books on classical themes which publishers think will be of interest to the general reader.  (Plus some others recently reviewed).

The highlighted book is Paul Cartledge’s Democracy: A Life, due in April.   This describes how it was born, developed, eclipsed in the ancient world, how it was revived in the 18th century and has developed to the present century. The best recently reviewed is Daisy Dunn with Catullus’ Bedspread, a literary biography, but a highly imaginative one, given that the poems constitute most of the source material (and are freshly translated in a separate volume).   Most have hailed this as a tour de force.  The top paperback must be Mary Beard’s SPQR, due in April; it was the runaway history bestseller in hardback (with £1m in sales).   Emily Wilson’s Seneca is out in paperback in March.

Tim Whitmarsh had Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World published in November, now reviewed; Paul Rahe had The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta : The Persian Challenge out in January; Richard Tarrant has Texts, Editors, and Readers : Methods and Problems in Latin Textual Criticism due in March.     In more popular vein, we note David Stuttard with Greek Mythology: A Traveller’s Guide from Mount Olympus to Troy (due March), Caroline Moorehead with Priam’s Gold: Schliemann and the Lost Treasures of Troy (due February) and Laurel Fulkerson with Ovid : A Poet on the Margins (due June).    David J Breeze and Patricia Southern both have books on the Roman Army out in February.   The next big British Museum exhibition is ‘Sunken Cities’, featuring works from Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, recently discovered off Egypt, commencing 17 May ; the accompanying book is entitled Egypt meets Greece.   Plutarch’s Hellenistic Lives (including Alexander) is now an OUP World Classic, translated by Robin Waterfield.     Henry Cullen and John Taylor have a new two-volume textbook Latin to GCSE, due April.

Among works of fiction we note Emily Hauser with For The Most Beautiful, a new version of the Iliad, from the women’s point of view, out in January, Simon Cartlidge with The Pomegranate Ring, set in Bronze Age Greece, featuring Peleus and the search for the Golden Fleece and Sarah Walton with Rufius, set in 4th century Alexandria (“passions are hot and books are burning”) – all debut novels.  We have the latest Lindsey Davis The Graveyard of the Hesperides, Simon Scarrow – Invader (with T J Andrews), Harry Sidebottom – Fire and Sword and Robert FabbriThe Furies of Rome.   We also note Nick Brown with The Emperor’s Silver, John Henry Clay with At the Ruin of the World and Rosemary Rowe with The Ides of June.   Seamus Heaney’s last work was a translation of Aeneid Book 6, which influenced much of his writing, due March.   And the most intriguing revival is a translation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar, a novel written in 1937-9 (but unfinished), filmed in 1972, for the first time in English.

Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association.  Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!


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Screen and Stage 2016

by Philip Hooker

Information on most major films to be released in 2016 and most UK stage productions in the first half of 2016 is now available.  These are the items of classical interest:

On the big screen, there will be a brief opportunity to catch Dragon Blade, the Chinese answer to Gladiator, with Jackie Chan and two warring Roman generals on the Great Silk Road; it apparently looks good, the battles are impressive, though the script may be ropey and the sense of history poor.  It is released in the UK on 15 January; most people will have to look for it on Sky Store.

Next up is Chi-Raq, Spike Lee’s version of Lysistrata set in modern gangster-ridden Chicago, written in verse, with Nick Cannon and Teyonah Parris in the lead roles.  (The women campaign for gun control).  It had a brief release in US cinemas in December, but is funded and distributed by Amazon, so it will probably not be seen in UK cinemas, just on Amazon Prime.

There are several films with classical-sounding titles, but no real classical content.   Hail Caesar has George Clooney dressed as an Emperor, but this is really all about Hollywood. Imperium is all about how the FBI foiled a terrorist bomb plot.  Interruption, a Greek film by Yorgos Zios, starts in a theatre presenting Greek tragedy, then some young people dressed in black, with guns, take over and call for some audience participation.  It impressed at the Venice film festival and may come to art-houses.

The new version of Ben Hur is now scheduled for release on 26 August.

On the UK stage, 2015 was the year of the three major Oresteias; we can report a fourth one in Glasgow, commencing 11 April.  It is called The Restless House and is an adaptation by Zinnie Harris, in two parts, a National Theatre of Scotland production at the Citizens Theatre, directed by Dominic Hill.  The Gate theatre in London has an Iphigenia Quartet from 23 April over two evenings – four young playwrights (Caroline Bird, Suhayla El Bushra, Lulu Raczka and Chris Thorpe) reimagine events at Aulis from the viewpoints of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Iphigenia and the Chorus.

Elsewhere, there is a tour of Iphigenia in Splott by Gary Owen (modern life in Cardiff), an Iliad in Edinburgh, an Odyssey in Southampton, a Trojan Women in Bristol and dance versions of Medea and the Odyssey which will both visit Oxford.

Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association.  Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!



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CA Teaching Board Chair’s Roundup of 2015

by Genevieve Lively

It’s now been a year since JACT reformed as the JACT Summer Schools Trust (JSST) and moved its other core activities to continue under the auspices of the Classical Association. Here’s an overview of some of the things we’ve been doing in the last twelve months.

The Classical Association Teaching Board

To oversee the safe transition of activities and resources from JACT to the CA, the Classical Association Teaching Board (CATB) was convened in October 2014. Alongside members of the CA Executive, the ordinary membership of the Board comprises an exams officer and four subject leads representing the former JACT sub-committees (Latin, Greek, Ancient History, and Classical Civilization) – which have now become informal subject advisory groups. Representatives from the exam boards (OCR, AQA and WJEC), the Council for University Classics Departments (CUCD), the Association for Latin Teaching (ArLT), and the editors of Omnibus and The Journal of Classics Teaching also attend meetings.  The Board is now formally constituted as a committee of the Classical Association charged with responsibility for:

  • monitoring, responding to, and leading on developments which might affect the teaching of Classics and Ancient History at all levels
  • assessing initiatives which might promote the teaching of Classics and Ancient History at all levels
  • advising CA officers on the above and making appropriate recommendations to CA Council.

Curriculum reform

Together with our fellow subject groups, the CATB has been lobbying hard to secure revisions to the proposed Latin and Greek GSCE reforms and to ensure that both Classical Civilization and Ancient History were approved as distinct GCSE and A/AS Level qualifications.  Activities included letters to and meetings with OFQUAL and DfE, liaison with awarding bodies, coordinated responses to public consultations, and meetings with relevant government ministers.  The Times carried a letter and an article on this subject on 23 February 2015 and lobbying of OFQAL and DfE on the proposed changes to the top tier grading system for GCSE continues, amidst fears that this will have a negative impact particularly upon Latin and Greek.  As part of this lobbying we have also reiterated (loudly) teachers’ concerns that the Government’s planned decoupling of AS from A level will threaten the viability of Classical subjects in many schools (notwithstanding the efforts of the awarding bodies to ensure that the AS and A levels are co-teachable to the greatest extent possible).  On a more positive note we were able to welcome the final A Level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB) recommendations on reforms to A and AS Latin and Greek, particularly the fact that prose composition remains an option only.

CA INSET events in 2015

Continuing JACT’s support for INSET, the CATB focused its first INSET activities on Classical Civilization and Ancient History teaching. Two successful events took place in 2015: Cambridge hosted a Classical Civilization event in June and Leeds hosted an Ancient History event in November. The CA offered funding towards bursaries for teachers to cover the costs of attending these events and hopes to further develop its INSET activities in the future.

Transfer of JACT Resources

The ArLT have generously agreed to host the back catalogue of JACT resources on their website – with a link from the CA website taking browsers there.  Now that we have a clear sense of existing resources we can start to identify gaps and work towards producing new materials (suggestions so far include notes to advise teachers on topics such as: school trips, starting Greek, primary Latin, employability, and teacher training) and we welcome suggestions for other resources that we might commission in the future.

Looking Ahead to 2016                                 

Our priorities for 2016 are to continue building upon the successful transfer of activities from JACT to the CA; to further develop online and print resources for teachers (in accord with the new qualifications and curricula); to continue to act as teachers’ advocates in the final round of government consultation on qualification reform (particularly the GCSE grading boundaries, and the new specifications for Classical Civilization and Ancient History); and to work closely with our fellow subject groups in championing the teaching of Greek in schools. We hope you will let us know what else we should be doing…

Dr Genevieve Lively ( is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Classics & Ancient History at the University of Bristol, and is Chair of the Classical Association Teaching Board.

You can read more about the first two CA-sponsored INSET days at Cambridge and Leeds in the reports published on the Blog on 23 October and 21 December.

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Perspectives on Greek History: a Classical Association INSET day

by Penny Goodman and Peter Liddel

On 21st November 2015, the Classical Association Teaching Board held its first INSET day for teachers of ancient history.  The event was funded jointly by the University of Leeds and the Classical Association, and spanned two locations: the University’s magnificent Parkinson Building and the galleries of Leeds City Museum.

The Parkinson Building, University of Leeds © Tim Green

The focus for the day was Ancient Greek History, and the aim to show how a wide range of classroom approaches might be applied to encourage students to engage with the sources and important historical issues.  The morning began with Emma Stafford’s plenary lecture, ‘The Curse of 300? Popular Culture and the Teaching of the Spartans’, which surveyed the appearance of the ancient Spartans in modern literature, cinema, and video games.  Dr Stafford underlined the wide range of literary and political themes which emerge out of the modern ‘Spartan mirage’, and demonstrated ways in which modern cinematic representations of ancient Sparta might be used in the classroom for getting to grips with the uses of the past.  As she noted, Zack Snyder’s 300: Rise of an Empire has even been deployed as a resource for pre-battle combat training!

After coffee, there were four workshop sessions.  David Hodgkinson (St Helen and St Katharine, Abingdon) offered a seminar on the teaching of Socrates, underlining the importance of placing him within the context of democratic Athens in the late fifth century BC.  Alex Orgee from OCR gave an update on the revisions to Ancient History at A-level and GCSE, and sought comments and feedback from teachers on the new draft criteria and specifications.  Roger Brock (University of Leeds), in ‘Looking Afresh at Herodotus’ Persian Wars’, surveyed recent Herodotean scholarship, placing emphasis on both the rehabilitation of Herodotus as a military historian and also the Histories as a source for perspectives on Greek and Persian ideologies.  Nina Wallace (Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke) showed how it is possible to make Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War accessible to a wide range of students: with great clarity she outlined a range of tasks and tools for tackling this complex work.

After lunch, delegates moved to Leeds City Museum.  Here, Peter Liddel (University of Manchester) talked about the teaching of Greek epigraphy.  He noted that the current A-level specifications neglect the potential of Greek inscriptions, but that online resources such as Stephen Lambert’s Attic Inscriptions Online are increasingly making them accessible to a wider audience in English translations.  Meanwhile, the museum’s Learning & Access Officer, Natalie Burns, gave a tour of the Ancient Worlds Gallery.  Natalie showed the group how to get pupils thinking about the legibility of ancient inscriptions and revealed that small museum collections are often particularly useful for helping students to compare artefacts from different periods, as they are often displayed close together or even side by side.

An inscribed arbitration relating to a dispute between Paros and Naxos, on display in Leeds City Museum ©

The format used for this INSET day was clearly extremely successful.  The generous sponsorship of the Classical Association and the University of Leeds meant that attendance could be offered free of charge, and travel bursaries awarded to a small number of delegates who lacked access to institutional funding.  As a result, around 50 teachers and students of ancient history from schools and universities across England attended, and, to judge from their feedback, got a great deal of value and enrichment out of the day. It was also an excellent opportunity for Classics at Leeds to showcase its expertise and facilities to an audience of teachers – who are of course crucial advocates for student recruitment – and to build on its existing relationship with the local city museum.  So there is a great deal to be gained from INSET days on this model for all concerned.  We ourselves are currently developing plans for another one next year, this time focused on the Romans and located somewhere in the south of England; and can only recommend that other schools and universities get involved.

Dr Penny Goodman is a Lecturer in Classics at the University of Leeds and Dr Peter Liddel is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Manchester.

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