Merry Christmas!

We’d like to wish all our members, Twitter followers, Facebook likers and blog readers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.  The office will be closing on 21 December and we’ll be back on 7 January, when bookings will open for the CA 2013 conference in Reading.

If you’re a member of the Classical Association, look out for your December issue of CA News which will be arriving during the Christmas break and remember, if you’d like to renew your membership and subscriptions for 2013, you can do so any time here.

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A long way for a little bear!

Percy has been out and about again…

In October 2012, Percy Bear walked along Hadrian’s Wall, from Bowness on Solway to Wallsend.

Percy fortifies himself for the day ahead with breakfast at Four Wynds, Nigel Jarvis’ very well-situated B&B at Longbyre, near Greenhead.

He was interested to meet Tony Wilmott, recently hailed as ‘archaeologist of the year’, at Birdoswald. Percy heard how parts of the site have suffered from erosion and the Roman cemetery is poised precariously above the river Irthing.

The highest point on the walk – Percy checks his bearings (sorry!) on Green Slack summit.

Although it was very muddy underfoot, Percy didn’t find the going too arduous.

He visited all the major sites and at Vindolanda he was able to see for himself how difficult conditions have been for archaeologists this year.

He was surprised to come across some imperial bears at Carvoran, and seized the chance to have his photo taken in such illustrious company.

Percy was thrilled when Catherine Jarvis introduced him to Minimus at Longbyre (though Percy did wonder if Minimus should perhaps have been called Maximus!).

At Chesters Museum, Percy (with Alan Beale) admired a very realistic little Roman dog ….

…and living near Chester himself, Percy was interested to see the boar, the emblem of the twentieth legion which was stationed there.

The Corbridge lion might have been a bit scary….

….but Grrricola, the Corbridge museum guide, was very friendly and showed our bear round.

There was another bear with a back-pack, too  – Ed, a representative of Tyne and Wear Museums – who showed Percy his museum pack, full of interesting things to do – a brilliant idea for visiting families.

Percy felt a real sense of achievement on reaching Wallsend.

He was pleased that Hadrian had had the wall built and that the Path was there for an adventurous bear to follow.


The Secretary would like to thank Frances Culver (whom the Secretary suspects did the actual walking…) for such a fabulous travelogue!

Got your own Percy Bear? Been on any interesting adventures with him? We’d love to hear from you!  To purchase your very own Percy Bear, visit the CA shop.

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Why Percy?

By now, you’ve all met Percy, the chirpy (and adventurous) CA teddy bear. But why is he called Percy? Surely a Classical name would be more appropriate? Why not Archimedes? Caesar? Cleopatra? Sophocles? Ursula? Percy doesn’t sound all that Classical, does it? Well no, but that’s because Percy takes his name from a man whom many regard as the founder of The Classical Association.

In November 1902,  John Percival Postgate wrote an article in The Fortnightly Review entitled ‘Are the Classics to go?’His article appeared in response to the education reforms of the day which he felt would threaten the study of Latin and Greek. Postgate was the Editor of Classical Review at the time, and his editorial published in July of the same year includes a stark warning. The upshot of his article in The Fortnightly Review was a series of correspondence resulting in the founding of The Classical Association in December 1903.

Don’t forget, if you’d like a Percy of your very own (moustache not included), he’s available online here.

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Percy visits Cambridge University Press

Percy recently went to visit behind the scenes at Cambridge University Press.  As you might suspect, there were quite a few books…

Some groovy machinery…

Pssst! Percy! I don’t think you’re supposed to sit on that…

…or that!

And some serious-looking people…

After such a fun day, Percy was exhausted.  He spent the evening working on a jigsaw of Ancient Rome.

The puzzle is timed and there are prizes for the fastest.  Have a peep at the CUP blog for more details.


Have you got a Percy Bear?  If so, send us a picture of Percy on his travels – we’d love to hear from you/him!

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Sport and Competition

Those of you who were at our conference in Exeter earlier this month may remember a rather engaging plenary given by Percy Bear Prof. Chris Carey entitled “What Makes a Winner?” with a distinctive Olympic theme.

If you missed it, or if you were there and it whetted your appetite for more Olympics-related Classics, good news!  You can hear more from Prof. Carey (and others) at a two-day conference:  ”Sport and Competition in Greece and Rome” which brings together archaeologists, sports scientists, ancient historians and many more.

The conference will be held at the British Museum, and is just one in a series of events to celebrate the return of the Olympics to London.  You can find a full list of events  here.


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The Classical Association Conference: Exeter 2012

By first time attendee, Sophie Raudnitz

As an MA student contemplating a PhD, I decided to attend the CA conference this year in an endeavour to ascertain ‘Who’s Who’ and ‘What’s going on’ in the world of Classics. I had some trepidation in advance, on both intellectual and social fronts. This was not only my first Classical Association conference but my first academic conference of any kind since my undergraduate days almost twenty years ago. Also because I am a distance learner with OU, I knew that I would not have any contacts via a university faculty and that as a mature student, most other people in my position academically would be very much younger than me.

In the event, I found the conference hugely rewarding intellectually. Although I had gone with a view to finding out what was being studied, it was even more interesting and instructive for me to think about how different scholars were approaching ancient material, that is, by way of history, politics, literary theory etc. This was not in the spirit of pigeonholing but rather in terms of the ways in which different approaches could complement each other and what they had to offer in practice. This, I know, will help me in no small way to clarify my thinking about my own projected research.

Socially, the reality was as difficult as I had anticipated.That said, I did stumble into someone else taking my course and also managed to meet a few women in similar situations to myself, largely thanks to Twitter, which provided not just a photo for identification purposes but also a pretext for opening a conversation, especially where I had corresponded with the person already.

I was hugely impressed by the smooth running of the conference, especially given its size and scope. This is a tribute to the vast amount of preparatory and behind-the-scenes work that must have gone on. I was also agreeably surprised by the diversity of the academic classical community, particularly in terms of the male/female split. Though there were clearly fewer women in senior positions, it is to be hoped that some of the large numbers of young women presenting papers will eventually help to swell their numbers.  I was delighted too that Will Griffiths received the Classics prize, especially as someone who had very little (and no positive) experience of Classics at state school in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Overall I am very glad that I battled my demons and attended the conference. In addition to being ‘character developing’, it was useful, very interesting and even (I can say this in retrospect) fun.

Sophie Raudnitz is an MA student with the Open University, an ex-English teacher and a mother of three boys. She hopes to start a PhD in 2013.

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Birmingham & Midlands CA Sixth Form Conference

By Polly Toney

Following on from a successful re-launch in October of last year, which saw Lindsey Davis as guest-speaker, the Birmingham and Midlands CA held its first Sixth Form Conference on Saturday 10 March. Expected to become an annual event, with the potential to roll out the formula beyond Key Stage 5 to supplement GCSE teaching and learning in future years, the Sixth Form Conference demonstrated the BMCA’s ongoing commitment to facilitate and enrich classical learning in schools and colleges.

Proceedings took place at the University of Birmingham and we were delighted to welcome students (and several teachers) from a range of schools and further education institutions; from the relatively local, e.g., King Edwards Five Ways, to the further afield, e.g., Leicester Grammar. In an even more impressive vein, we were delighted to procure the speaking services of academics from across the country, including Professor Ingo Gildenhard, who travelled all the way down from Durham and Professor Oliver Taplin, whose busy schedule literally saw him jump out of a taxi, give his lecture to rapturous applause, then almost immediately set back out again to Oxford (the jet-setting lifestyle of the academic, eh?).

With the aim of providing support for both the AS and A-Levels syllabuses in Classical Civilisation and Latin, the day’s programme consisted of three pathways from which students could pick and choose. Following registration, Birmingham’s very own Professor Ken Dowden, kicked off the day in style with his keynote address. Covering AS and A-Level Latin, Professor Ingo Gildenhard (Durham), Dr Elena Theodorakopous (Birmingham) and Dr Chris Whitton (Cambridge) gave presentations on Cicero’s In Verrem 2, Ovid’s Amores 3 and Tacitus’ Annals 14 respectively. For AS and A-Level Classical Civilisation, Professor Oliver Taplin (Oxford), Laura Snook (Birmingham) and Dr Niall Livingstone (Birmingham) spoke on Greek Tragedy, Greek Art and Architecture and Greek Comedy. While our third pathway, designed as a miscellany of general interest talks, invited Emma Southon (Birmingham), Dr Carl Buckland (Nottingham) and Dr Niall McKeown (Birmingham) to muse on Caligula, Women in the Ancient World and Slavery in the Ancient World. After lunch, the entire cohort got together to hear Dr Juliette Harrison (OU and Birmingham) present on Virgil, rounding off the day with Dr Liz Gloyn’s extremely well received talk on Classics and Film.

As this was our first Sixth Form Conference and due to the relative newness of our re-formed CA branch we made sure to survey our attendees for their feedback and feel that all future events will benefit from their helpful suggestions. For example, with talks beginning at 10am through to 3.30pm we feel that the programme could be condensed and would benefit from drawing to a close around the 1-2pm mark, especially considering the lack of catering facilities on campus at the weekend. Moreover, we anticipate that the programme for next year’s conference will be available much earlier in advance to ensure maximum attendance and will expand its remit to support the AQA, as well as the OCR, syllabus.

With our new logo in circulation, courtesy of Luke Holliday, a Graphic Design student from Solihull College, the re-formed BMCA will soon be entering into its second year of proceedings and would like to extend its thanks to all those of you who have attended events thus far. Consolidating this year’s successes, the next promises to be even better, kicking off in October (exact date to be confirmed) with Professor Edith Hall as speaker for our Autumn Lecture.

You can find further details of the Birmingham & Midlands Branch on the CA website here, or by searching Facebook for ‘Birmingham and Midlands Classical Association’.

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Getting the most out of the CA conference

By Dr Liz Gloyn

Attending your first conference can be a nerve-wracking experience, and giving your first paper can be even more stressful. However, a little bit of forethought and preparation can make the whole experience much smoother and more enjoyable. For those who may be attending or presenting for the first time at the Classical Association conference in April, here are some top tips on making sure you get the best out of the experience.

Writing The Paper

  1. Make your argument obvious. Be absolutely clear about why your audience will benefit from listening to what you have to say. What is new and exciting about your research? Why are you changing the way people think? Make sure you clearly state your main point more frequently than you would in a written piece – this means your audience has multiple opportunities to absorb the information.
  2. Keep to the time limit. Your paper must fit into the CA’s twenty minute time slot.
  3. Remember that you are speaking, not writing. Keep your sentences shorter, more so than you would in your writing, as listeners will be able to follow your argument more easily.
  4. Practice reading your paper. Make sure you know the shape of each sentence, where the emphasis will fall and what direction the paper moves in. Listen for the places where you might rewrite passages to make them easier to say (and thus to understand).
  5. Make sure you begin and end your talk well. Begin with a couple of sentences to contextualise your work, and end with a clear summary of what you have said, so your audience knows you are rounding off your argument.

Delivering The Paper

  1. Remember that you are giving a performance. Speak confidently and at a sensible speed. Whatever you do, remember to sound excited about what you’re saying – if you aren’t enthused about your subject, why should your audience be?
  2. Think about your body language. Try to establish eye contact with your audience as much as possible. Watch out for slips in your posture, like swaying from side to side or jumping from one foot to the other. Be aware of what your hands are doing.
  3. Be sensible about your presentation aides. Powerpoints are useful if you have images, figures, tables or site maps to display; if you will mainly be discussing texts, then handouts with margins for people to scribble their own notes on will be more useful.
  4. Don’t panic if you don’t get any questions. This doesn’t mean your paper was a failure – it means that you thoroughly convinced your audience of your point.
  5. Manage your crisis in advance. Back up your paper in something like Dropbox. Have a copy of your paper and handout or Powerpoint e-mailed to yourself. If you are travelling by plane, keep the paper copy of your talk in your hand luggage.

Attending The Conference

  1. Do your preparation. Have a look at the conference program, find out who you know who is going, work out what you want to hear and who you want to catch up with.
  2. Be willing to experiment. Pick a panel you know absolutely nothing about that sounds interesting, and go along. You may hear something unexpectedly helpful for your own research.
  3. Take an interest in other people’s work. Think of questions for speakers, either during the discussion period or to follow up with them afterwards. The subject matter of papers also always gives you material to start up a conversation during the breaks.
  4. Network – and remember what networking is about. The primary goal of networking is to meet interesting people work on interesting things, not to engage in some kind of Machiavellian mind game. Be guided by your genuine curiosity and enthusiasm about classics, and you’ll start meeting people who are as fascinated by your work as you are by theirs – which is the point.
  5. Remember that conferences are supposed to be fun! For all the pressure involved in preparing for conferences, they are great opportunities to meet interesting people, hear exciting new ideas and continue learning about the discipline. Try not to forget that once you’re actually on the ground.


Dr Liz Gloyn is a teaching fellow at the University of Birmingham and specialises in Roman Literature.  She is also a regular blogger – you can read more about her work and find other useful posts on her blog, Classically Inclined. (Picture courtesy of Nick Metcalfe)

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Hull: the visitor’s perspective

By Penelope Goodman

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Hull to give a talk on Roman cities for a joint meeting of the local Classical and Historical Associations. My title was ‘Roman cities from the outside in: the visitor’s perspective’, and my basic point was that if we really want to understand how people in the ancient world experienced their cities and thought about where to place their buildings, then looking at a plan of the city drawn from above is not actually very helpful. People in the ancient world did know how to make city plans, but they were the sort of rare prestige project that might be commissioned by an emperor to form part of the state archives – not something ordinary people would use as they navigated their way around. Instead, most people experienced urban landscapes from the very human perspective of standing on the ground and moving around their environment. As visitors, this meant that they experienced new cities step by step, never seeing the whole city at once but instead viewing each individual building in a sequence, and accumulating insights into the character of the community which they were visiting as they did so. What’s more, local communities clearly knew this, and their small-scale planning decisions reveal a distinct preference for placing prestigious monuments or facilities likely to be attractive to visitors on major through-routes into the city.

Having never been to Hull myself before I went to deliver my talk, I was in a very good position to explain the difference between a map view and a human view of a city by talking about my own journey. As many people do nowadays, I looked Hull up on Google maps before setting off, which gave me an idea of its overall layout and allowed me to see which route I would drive in along. But the map view didn’t convey much of the real texture of the city – things like what actually catches the eye when you are standing in middle of it, which are the newer and older neighbourhoods, or which roads are prone to traffic jams. It wasn’t until I drove in along the A63 that I could really appreciate the scale of the Humber estuary and understand why it has been so important to the development of the city, or experience the mixture of edge-of-town warehouses, 60s tower-blocks and Victorian pubs that allowed me to place Hull in the same category as other cities I already knew like Birmingham or Leeds, and grasp the basic elements of its history and modern character.

My destination was the city’s Danish church – a building which itself says a great deal about Hull’s history as a major international port. There I was welcomed warmly by Sylvia Usher from the Historical Association and Margaret Nicholson from the Classical Association, who took me into town to visit the Hull and East Riding Museum, and especially to see the fantastic mosaics which they have there from a number of wealthy Roman villas in the surrounding area. Google maps certainly hadn’t primed me to expect the 17th and 18th century merchants’ houses which line the High Street in the museum quarter, and suddenly reminded me strongly of nearby York. By the time we’d finished with the museum, eaten a delicious Chinese meal and returned to the Danish church, I felt that I’d really come to know Hull on a human level as a rich and varied city with a very interesting history.

But at that point it was time to turn to some rather older cities. I took Pompeii, Herculaneum and Ostia as my case-studies, because they are some of the best-known and best-preserved cities of Roman Italy. I showed the audience how the busiest routes into Pompeii and Ostia were lined with lavish tomb monuments, each celebrating the status and achievements of individuals, but also collectively showing off the wealth, piety and social hierarchy of the community as a whole to any approaching visitors who cared to look. Meanwhile, for Herculaneum, we thought about what the seafront terraces must have looked like from the point of view of a boat on the sea, with the buildings rising in stacks above you and an eminent town patron raising his hand as though in greeting. Next, we considered the significance of city walls as markers of the ‘true’ boundaries of the city, and noted that many city gates had niches or altars where the experience of entering into the heart of the community could be marked appropriately via a religious offering.

Once metaphorically ‘inside’ our three cities, we traced the likely routes of visitors through the street network – past fountains and shop-counters carefully placed to catch their eye in Pompeii, or the sophisticated curves of a vast theatre fronting right onto the main street running through Ostia. Finally, we considered the likely main destination of most visitors – the forum (central square at the heart of the city), bustling with activity and lined with impressive civic and religious monuments, many of them consciously designed to signal the close links between the local civic community and the fashionable grandeur of Rome. By the time we got there, we had built up a real sense of the sorts of things an ancient community would want to show off to outsiders – its wealth, its sophistication, its prominent citizens, its entertainment facilities, its capacity for self-government, the goods for sale in its shops and its connections with the capital. Of course not every building in every city was commissioned or located purely to cater to the perspective of the visitor – but it would be hard to understand the design of a Roman city in any real depth without keeping at least one eye on the experiences of real people moving about its streets.

I always love sharing my enthusiasm about the ancient world with other people, and I’m glad to say my audience seemed to enjoy it too. I had a packed house of a good forty or more people, who kept me busy with all sorts of great questions afterwards – like what sort of smells the visitor might have experienced (all sorts!), whether cities in places like Roman Britain would be designed according to the same principles (yes indeed), what levels of social inequality we can detect by looking at things like house sizes (almost always very considerable disparities), and whether ancient communities might also demonstrate their control over law and order by displaying the bodies of executed criminals along major approach roads, Spartacus style (sometimes, yes, especially at crossroads). I must say that last one is one way in which I’m rather glad my visit to Hull didn’t resemble the experience of a Roman visitor! But even today, looking a map can’t replicate the full experience of going to a city and walking around its streets, complete with their sights, sounds and indeed smells. I’m glad to be able to count Hull now amongst the cities which I have visited properly for myself.

Dr Penelope Goodman is a lecturer at the University of Leeds and specialises in Roman urbanism and sanctuaries of the imperial cult.  For more information on events like this, you can find your local CA Branch and their programme of events here.

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Classical Quarterly Taster

Not so long ago, I published a post about a Greece & Rome taster.  Great news!  There’s now something similar for Classical Quarterly!  Pop over to the CUP website to view some of the highlights from the 2011 issues of Classical Quarterly.

Don’t forget, members of the CA can subscribe to the journals at dramatically reduced rates, so to stay up to date with leading scholarly opinion, why not add a journal subscription when you renew or take out your membership?

And that’s not all!  A recent Greece & Rome article, “Deformity in the Roman Imperial Court” by Lisa Trentin was featured in the latest issue of BBC History Magazine (vol.13 (2) Feb. 2012, p.14).  You can find the Greece & Rome article here.

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