Autumn Books 2015

by Philip Hooker

The Bookseller’s Buyers’ Guide to Autumn 2015 is now out – and these are the books on classical themes which publishers think will be of interest to the general public.

The big one – and a highlight – is SPQR from Mary Beard (“Britain’s favourite classicist”) due 6 October, just before “Super Thursday” when over 500 best-sellers are released – including Dictator from Robert Harris, the third part of his Cicero trilogy.  It will be preceded, on 8 September, by Dynasty from Tom Holland, the sequel to Rubicon, about “the rise and fall of the House of Caesar”.  If all three are energetically publicised, we will be hearing a lot about Roman history.  There was talk of a television series from BBC2 but, if her blog is any guide, this is not something which Mary Beard has had time to do.  She will, however, be at the Cambridge Literary Festival and, on 19 November, will be debating with Boris Johnson in Central Hall, Westminster (he will argue for the Greeks, she the Romans); this Classics for All fundraiser has long been sold out.

Other scholars will also be entering the fray.  Nigel Spivey has just published Classical Civilisation, a history of the Greeks and Romans in 10 Chapters.  Jerry Toner has a succinct The Ancient World in the Ideas in Profile series, with animation by Cognitive, available from iTunes.  Richard Alston with Rome’s Revolution, Thomas Mitchell with Democracy’s Beginning and Peter Thoenemann with The Hellenistic World – using coins as sources – have produced what look like textbooks for students.

We also have more quirky miscellanea about the ancient world.  Jane C Hood tells How to Win a Roman Chariot Race, Paul Chrystal offers In Bed with the Romans and Iain Ferris The Mirror of Venus: Women in Roman Art.  And Peter Jones’ Eureka, all about Ancient Greece, is now out in paperback (and, we suspect, has proved to be a much better seller than the Edith Hall).

There is a new OUP text of Herodotus, edited by N G Wilson and a new translation/commentary on Plato’s Theatetus and Sophist from Christopher Rowe.  Peter Rhodes has added a volume on Thucydides to the Ancients in Action series, Richard Stoneman’s biography of Xerxes has been out for a while, Robin Lane Fox’s Augustine: Conversions and Confessions is due in November.  Eleanor Dickey is offering both An Introduction to the Composition of Greek Prose and Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks from the Ancient World, decidedly pedagogical.

And, reflecting the current enthusiasm for ancient drama, Oberon is publishing The Fall of the House of Atreus (the Oresteia plus Iphigenia at Aulis) in iambic pentameters from Andy Hinds (assisted by Martine Cuypers), not the version used by the Almeida, and a Medea by Rachel Cusk (which they are using).  Bryan Doerries offers The Theatre of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today, based on his work with traumatised veterans and others.  Ken McMullen and Martin McQuillan have combined to produce Oki – an original screenplay inspired by Antigone concerning the current Greek predicament.

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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Fasti Online in 2015

by Elizabeth Fentress

Thanks in part to the valuable support of the Classical Association the Fasti Online project ( has flourished over the past three years.  We have added over a thousand sites, and there are now almost 3,500 excavations in the database – mainly from Italy and Bulgaria, but with a smattering coming in from Macedonia, Albania, Morocco and Ukraine, and Romania promising to return soon.   All of these are translated into English as well as being published in the local language, making the site an international resource.  Since 2012 we have added plans and photographs, making the site far more informative.  The accompanying journal, Fasti Online Documents & Research (FOLD&R Italia) has just published its 336th report (on William Van Andringa’s excavations in Pompeii), confirming its role as one of the most important resources for Italian archaeology today.  Thanks to the project manager, Helga di Giuseppe, and a wide network of archaeologists working in Italy, FOLD&R is peer-reviewed, and has just made it into Italy’s top grade of academic journals (in spite of our continuing policy that no excavation is too boring to publish, as long as it is correctly presented).

The very volume of this information finally woke us up to the issue of sustainability, as our dedicated server, housed in London by our (wonderful) programmers, L-P archaeology, was hardly an institutional server.  A solution has been found in a new partnership with the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy at the University of Texas at Austin: Fasti Online and FOLD&R are now housed on the University Computers, joining the websites of Metapontum and Chersonesus that run the same software.  Adam Rabinowitz and Michael Thomas are now on Fasti’s board, to represent UT and the CSAI.

A hugely important partnership has been with ARIADNE (, a European Union project that is developing a portal and cross-platform searching tools for archaeological datasets.  Fasti’s own site now has a complete set of metadata, and is expanding through partnerships with other, similar, sites, such as Archéologie de la France Info’s (, which now boasts a similar number of sites. We hope to be able to cross-search their site by the end of the year.

Finally, we are branching out in a new direction.  At the suggestion of Stefano De Caro, AIAC is joining ICCROM, the International Centre for the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, to launch a twin site with the same URL, Fasti Online Conservation, and a new review, FOLD&R Archaeological Conservation, to report on new projects in Heritage conservation.  The new review is edited by De Caro and myself, and the first issue, on the Domus of the Valerii in Rome, with 3D reconstructions of the spectacular wall paintings, should be published within days, when the new site is unveiled.

None of this would have been possible without the support of the Classical Association (and indeed of the Roman Society and Oxford University) – especially because the Italian Ministry of Culture, which requires non-governmental excavators to submit reports to us, has failed to grant funding in the last two years. We are getting by, just, but the usual depressing fact remains: it’s far easier to fund new projects than it is to maintain old ones, no matter how valuable.

Elizabeth Fentress is the Scientific Director of the Fasti Online Project

The Classical Association is a major giver of grants to classical projects, mainly but not exclusively in the UK.  Much of its grant money is invested in a small number of major projects, including the Fasti Online Project, which have been considered to be of fundamental benefit to the discipline. 

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More Theatre 2015

by Philip Hooker

Never have there been so many professional productions of ancient drama in UK theatres – including, now, three major productions of the Oresteia.      This follows the success of the Helen McCrory Medea  (seen in cinemas as part of NTLive), the Kristin Scott-Thomas Electra (later on Radio 3) and the Juliette Binoche Antigone (subsequently on BBC4, next in Edinburgh and Washington).

The big one is a whole season at the trendy Almeida Theatre in London.  This has started with an Oresteia adapted and directed by Robert Icke, which stars Lia Williams as Clytemnestra and has had universally favourable reviews.  It is a free adaptation, with a modern setting, with murders onstage, with no chorus, which starts with the story of Iphigenia (from Euripides), running until 18 July.  It will almost certainly upstage the Oresteia at Shakespeare’s Globe, in a new version by Rory Mullarkey, from 29 August.   We suspect that the Manchester Home production, in a version by Ted Hughes, with a chorus of Manchester folk, directed by classics graduate Blanche McIntyre, from 23 October, will be closest to the original.

Next at the Almeida is the Bakkhai with Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel in a version by Anne Carson from 23 July (all advance tickets sold), to be followed by Medea with Kate Fleetwood from 25 September – accompanied by semi-staged readings of Frogs, Wasps and Lysistrata, a recital of the entire Iliad, talks, debates and more.

At the Scoop, the free theatre alongside London’s City Hall, August will see Captain Show-Off, Phil Wilmott’s version of Plautus in the early evening, followed by Women of Troy.    At the Swan Theatre, Stratford, the RSC will present Marina Carr’s version of Hecuba from 17 September.  At the Gate Theatre, from 2 November, there will be the Sydney Belvoir Theatre version of Medea by Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks, presented from the perspective of the young children.  We also have some dramatisations of Homer – Simon Armitage’s version of the Odyssey : Missing Presumed Dead all about a modern MP who disappears on a mission to Istanbul, opens in Liverpool in September before coming to Shakespeare’s Globe in November (preceded by Derek Walcott’s Omeros).  National Theatre Wales has a multi-media version of the Iliad in Llanelli, by Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes, derived from Christopher Logue’s War Music, in four parts, in September, with two marathon performances, one overnight.  Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum offers a shorter version from Chris Hannan in April 2016.

Edith Hall, in the inaugural issue of the Hellenic Society’s new magazine Argo, reviews some of the above and notes that these are the most familiar plays and asks when there will be a production of, say, Iphigenia in Tauris.    (She is promoting a new version by Tony Harrison set in Crimea).   The answer is 16 June to 4 July at the Rose Theatre, London; it is a new translation of the Goethe version (previously seen at Bath in 2011 and the Gate Theatre in 2003) and it follows a production of the Gluck opera at St Andrews earlier this month.   These may be free versions of the original, but the same might be said of many of the above.

For something more unusual, we turn to the North American theatre scene.   New York Classic Stage has its own rather classy Greek Festival commencing August with an Iphigenia in Aulis, three evenings derived from fragments, a Helene Foley seminar and a deconstructed version of Oresteia, Chicago Court theatre has an Agamemnon from Nicholas Rudell, Philadelphia has an Antigone and a Metamorphoses, Stratford Ontario an Oedipus Rex, but our prizes for originality go to Washington Alliance Theatre for Matthew Buckley-Smith’s version of Seneca’s Trojan Women in June and to Chicago Hypocrites theatre for Sean Graney’s All Our Tragic, a conflation of all 32 extant Greek tragedies in a 12 hour marathon, revived from June.

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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A Million Hits on YouTube…Animation and Teaching Roman History

By Ray Laurence

What happens when the son of a Professor of Roman History brings home his Key Stage 2 project on the Romans?  First thing, wife of Professor reveals to school Zak’s dad is slipping in and out of the school without mentioning the fact he may know a little about the Romans.   Next step, school arranges for him to face down Year 3 for one lesson and for him to wonder: what on earth to say – luckily son on hand to give forthright advice.  After much thought, it is set-up – explain what it is like to be a Roman child aged 7.  Of course, this is the first age at which girls could be betrothed to boys some 10 years older than them – visualised by the concept of the large teenagers the kids see going to the secondary school.  Third thing – do the lesson – a real blast of questions, interruptions, and so on.  Everybody is happy.  Roman project gets done too via going to British Museum  (A-Z of Roman Objects).   Job done, but then I met the animators.

Andrew Park set up an animation company in Folkestone a few years ago called Cognitive.  His story of how he ended up doing this is set out in this TED Talk.  He has kids in primary school too and we talked about my research and explaining Roman childhood.  This became an idea that was pitched to TED.Ed, who marry together ‘educators’ and ‘animators’ to produce short films with big ideas.  Luckily they said yes and I wrote the script, recorded the script with the help of Cognitive and the drawing began.  Every so often, I would get a phone call or email from Andrew with a question: ‘What would be in the side-street?’  Answer: ‘boxing’ – we know Augustus liked to watch it; and another question:  ‘Is it ok to put a polar bear in the bath-house?’   Maps were sent to Cognitive, images of reconstructions and so on and at the end of October 2012 the film was released.

Job done – you would think, especially with a second film released in 2013.  But, oh no – 3 years later we realised there were over 1000 comments on YouTube discussing all sorts of stuff:  the position of the Subura, whether Roman statues were painted, a dose of misogyny, a touch of racial stereo-typing to racism, a little dislike of my voice, and the final comment that caused me to do something: ‘Islam invented arranged marriages’.  I’m working on setting up the means to link the film to resources that explain key themes that are embedded in the film.  Thus, if teachers are using the film for homework, pupils can have access to key texts, short passages, a quiz and discussions.    However, to take this all a bit further – why not have homework based on the writing of an animation script?  A kind teacher piloted this for me and next year I hope to run a script-writing competition. University of Kent has stumped up some prize money and over the summer I will have to get my act together to roll this out.   Please get in touch by email, if you are a teacher who uses this animation for teaching – I’d like to hear your views and what you would like to have in terms of resources built around these films.

Ray Laurence is Professor of Roman History and Archaeology at the University of Kent

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Sam Hood translation prize 2015

Readers are invited to submit entries for the 2015 Sam Hood translation prize.

The judges are keen to encourage elegant and stylish translations from Greek and Latin prose and verse.  Try your hand at translating any one of the following passages (verse passages may be translated into either verse or prose, as you consider most appropriate):

Horace Epode 3
Virgil Eclogue 1.1-17
Petronius Cena Trimalchionis 62 from ‘Sed, quod coeperam dicere’ to ‘non si me occidisses’.
Iliad 8 66-77
Sophocles Antigone 781-801
Thucydides 7.29.3-5

Texts of these passages can be found here, but you may use any text that is available to you, provided that you include a copy of the text you have translated with your translation.

The judges will be looking for accuracy but also, and especially, for creativity when making their decisions.  The competition is open to anyone under 19, still in full-time pre-university education.  Entries should contain a statement from a teacher confirming that this is the case.  The prizewinner will receive not only a cheque for £75 but also a book of classical poetry.

Entries should be sent to:

Dr Katherine Clarke
St. Hilda’s College
OX4 1DY 

by 9th July 2015.

The 2014 competition had a bumper entry.  The winner was Tatiana Sherwood of Haileybury School, with the translation of Juvenal Satires 3. 190-202 that appears below.  The runner-up with the judges’ commendation was Jack Keen, of St Paul’s School, with a translation of a passage of Xenophon’s Hellenica into clear rhythmical prose.

Congratulations to them both! 

Juvenal Satires 3. 190-202
translated by Tatiana Sherwood

Who fears or has ever feared
Their house tumbling down,
In cool Whitby,
Or amongst the shady hills at Brockenhurst,
Or in straightforward Darlington,
Or on the sloping plain of the Peaks?

But we live in a city, mainly bolstered up by
Flute-thin props.
For this is how the landlord stops the house from
Tottering over,
Papering over the old crack’s yawn,
Telling us to sleep untroubled
In a block on the verge of
Tumbling down.

We must live where there are no fires,
No fear each night.
Your neighbour is already shouting
‘Fire!’; already moving his odds and ends;
Your third-floor flat is already full of smoke
And you have no idea.
For if the alarm starts from the ground floor,
The last to burn will be protected
By just one tile from the rain,
Where the soft doves lay their eggs.


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The Cambridge Greek Lexicon Project

By Professor Richard Hunter FBA

The Cambridge Greek Lexicon Project will make available, both in print and online, an entirely new Greek-English lexicon, aimed at everyone who wants to read, learn or teach Greek, based on a re-reading of the ancient sources and organised on modern semantic principles.

The Project in its earliest form was the brainchild of John Chadwick, who originally envisaged a revision of the old Intermediate Greek Lexicon of Liddell and Scott, but it soon became clear to Dr Chadwick and to Dr Anne Thompson, who has worked for Project since 1998, that a quite new methodology was needed, and one which abandoned the traditional practice of patchwork revision of inherited material. Since the early days, the scope and ambition of the Project have increased out of all recognition. The Project is now housed in two offices within the Faculty of Classics at Cambridge, where a very dedicated team of researchers are nearing the end of their labours. As well as Dr Thompson, the team currently consists of James Diggle, who has been working full-time on the Project since his retirement and who leads the Project team, Robert Crellin, whose research was on the Greek tense system, Bruce Fraser, who carries primary responsibility for the electronic and technological side, Patrick James, whose research field is diachronic change in Greek morphology, Oliver Simkin, an expert in historical philology and etymology, and Simon Westripp, a recent graduate from the Faculty.

From the first, it was envisaged that the Lexicon would be published in digital as well as in print form, and early on an agreement to link the Lexicon to the Perseus Digital Library was signed. In addition to the use of the Perseus database, Bruce Fraser designed an innovative, highly granular XML editing system which is used in writing each entry and which translates the guiding lexicographic principles into XML coding to produce a dedicated structure for every type of lexicon entry, specific to each part of speech. This helps the writers to maintain consistency as they compose and will result in a layout which will be clear and accessible for users at every level of Greek knowledge. The Lexicon will be published in hard copy by Cambridge University Press and discussions about further digital platforms are currently on-going. The team will deliver the final files to CUP in the summer of 2016.

Throughout its existence the Project has been funded by both the Faculty of Classics and a host of donors, both major societies and foundations (such as The Mellon Foundation) and very generous individual supporters. The confidence and support offered by The Classical Association has always been a tremendous boost to the Project team, and we are very grateful indeed. If you would like to learn more please consult the Project website at

or contact Professor Richard Hunter (

Richard Hunter is Regius Professor of Greek in the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge, and Chair of the Committee of Management of the Cambridge Greek Lexicon Project.

The Classical Association is a major giver of grants to classical projects, mainly but not exclusively in the UK.  Much of its grant money is invested in a small number of major projects, including the Cambridge Greek Lexicon Project, which have been considered to be of fundamental benefit to the discipline. 


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The CA and the NordClass Initiative

In February this year the Classical Association’s Honorary Secretary, Dr Emma Stafford (Leeds), attended the inaugural meeting of NordClass at Göteberg University, alongside delegates from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.  She had been invited to talk about the history and current running of the CA, by way of inspiration for discussions about the setting up of a new pan-Scandinavian classical body.

Several of the constituent countries already have classical associations, of varying age and size, and often separate associations for school-teachers.  However, given the relatively small populations of the individual countries, and their close cultural links, there is a role for an umbrella organisation which might provide classicists across Scandinavia with mutual support and a stronger political voice.

The talk ‘Creating and Sustaining a Classical Association: the UK Experience’ drew on the centenary volume edited by Christopher Stray, The Classical Association: the first century 1903-2003, Greece and Rome Supplement (Oxford 2003) for an account of the Association’s history, but Emma was in a good position to bring the story up to date, having been Publicity Officer from 2004 before taking on her current role.



You can see Emma’s powerpoint presentation here

The discussions ran over two days, encompassing both strategic and practical issues.  Unlike the CA, NordClass will not have the benefit of income from the publication of academic journals, although it may be able to access at least some start-up funding.  Nonetheless, it was felt that much could be achieved in the first instance by the establishment of an information portal.  If there is a good response to this first phase, some kind of conference might be considered.  An interesting question for the external observer was that of what language should be adopted for the new body’s official communications.  The short answer is that English is these days the lingua franca, especially amongst younger Scandinavians, but it was agreed that use of the local languages, e.g. in advertising specific events, would be important for widening access.

As you may have seen, Percy the CA Bear attended the event too, and tweeted his progress! Two Percies are now in the possession of the children of NordClass’s first chair, Karin Westin Tikkanen (Göteberg).


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World Cinema 2015

by Mr Philip Hooker

The Oscars are over, film buffs have been identifying the films which are due to emerge in 2015. These are the ones with classical themes.

We start with Christopher Honore’s Metamorphoses, briefly mentioned in the last CA News.   This is a collection of stories from Ovid, in modern times, with a non-professional cast.   It appeared at several of the major film festivals (including London) last autumn and had a release in France in September.  Will it gain a UK release?  Reviewers were not very enthusiastic, they found it all a bit baffling, so probably not.

Just out on a UK release is the latest film to depict not just a teacher, but, for extra poignancy, a classics teacher.   We have had Kevin Kline in The Emperor’s Club and Anthony Hopkins in The Human Stain (and previously Mr Chips and Andrew Crocker-Harris); we now have Jennifer Lopez in The Boy Next Door.   She has just separated from her husband, a handsome young man moves in next door and the scene is set for an “erotic thriller”.    There are references to Oedipus and, at one point, he presents her with a fine copy of the Iliad, a first edition, no less.    “One of the worst movies of the year” opined one critic.

Rather more invigorating must be Dragon Blade, the big Chinese release for its new year, with Jackie Chan as the head of the Silk Road Protection Squad and John Cusack and Adrien Brody as Roman generals, warring among themselves, in 48 BC.    Actually, the Silk Road was not there then, the Roman empire was not contiguous to China and generals would never have enlisted the Parthians for assistance, but never mind the history, just enjoy the spectacle of a $60m production; it is said to be a bit like Gladiator, but with martial arts.   It might, just possibly, appear at the Terracotta Film Festival in London in May.

Then we have Asterix: le domaine des dieux, an animated film, released in France and much of Europe in November, all about the building of a new estate next to a village in Gaul to create a Roman city.    This one has had strong reviews and is said to be close to the spirit of the original, unlike the galumphing live action movies with Gerard Depardieu.   It has a UK release date of 21 June.

At the end of the year Ithaca will be released in the US; it stars Meg Ryan (who directs), Tom Hanks and Sam Shephard; it is a remake of William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy, filmed in 1943 with Mickey Rooney, loosely based on the Odyssey.

And the one which will appear in multiplexes (due 19 February 2016) is a new version of Ben Hur, directed by Timur Bekmambetov (a Russian, best known for his vampire movies) with Jack Huston, Rodrigo Santoro, Toby Kebbell and Pilou Asbaek, which has been filming at Cinecitta in Rome and at Matera, not, we hope, a Europudding.

Mr 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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‘Teaching with Ancient Artefacts’: JACT INSET day for Secondary Teachers at the Ashmolean Museum

By Dr Jane Masséglia

Classics teachers are multi-taskers: in any given week they might be found teaching languages, literature, and history topics across a great chronological range. And yet, some will admit to being reluctant about using archaeological material in their classroom teaching. It may not have been part of their own school or university experience, and the prospect of learning new terminology can be daunting. But in the teaching of ancient history topics (e.g. the lives of ancient women, slavery or religion), evidence such as coins, tombstones, tools and ancient art, can be an important antidote to the elite male-dominated literary sources.

The Ashmolean Latin Inscriptions Project (AshLI) is a three year project, run jointly by the Ashmolean Museum, and Warwick and Oxford Universities, which aims to demystify epigraphy (the study of inscriptions), and produce teaching resources on Roman life which complement the Primary and Secondary curriculum.

On 22nd November, AshLI teamed up with JACT to host a one-day course at the Ashmolean Museum, for Classics teachers interested in teaching with ancient sculpture, coins and inscriptions. 38 Secondary teachers from all over the UK attended the event, which was free of charge, thanks to support from Warwick’s Centre for Advanced Study and Oxford Classics Outreach.

The day began with an opening lecture from Warwick’s Dr Dan Orrells on Winkelmann and the history of art appreciation, and was followed by a programme of museum-based sessions in the Ashmolean, delivered by a team of Warwick and Oxford academics. With postgraduate volunteers helping them to find their way between venues, every teacher attended three taught-sessions on different types of artefacts (sculpture, inscriptions and coins), and was allocated an additional slot to explore the museum at their own pace. Dr Zahra Newby led a session on ancient sculpture, focusing on the museum’s remarkable Cast Gallery, and its main antiquities galleries. The teachers were among the first groups to visit the recently redisplayed Greek Gallery which was reopened in October 2014. Prof. Alison Cooley and Dr Jane Masséglia led a session on reading inscriptions, using material from the Rome and Randolph Galleries. They showed how both large inscriptions on stone (such as tomb inscriptions written by friends and family members), and on much smaller items (such as votive plaques, water pipes and sling bullets from the Roman Civil War), could be used to enhance teaching about Roman social life, living conditions, religious practices and the experiences of Roman soldiers. Dr Clare Rowan gave the teachers a chance to get even closer to their material with a handling session in the Heberden Coin Room. She showed how ancient coins were produced, explained about denominations, and encouraged the teachers pick up and compare Greek and Roman coins from different mints and chronological periods. For many of the teachers, being allowed to handle an Athenian ‘owl’ (tetradrachm), was one of the highlights of the day.

Mai Musié, Oxford’s Classics Outreach Officer, was also there to remind teachers of the variety of talks, teaching sessions and support available to school groups, with both Warwick and Oxford offering visits to schools and welcoming school visitors to their Classics departments. Jo Rice, Head of Education at the Ashmolean, stressed the great range of opportunities for teachers planning a visit to the museum, including bespoke sessions to complement a particular topic being studied in school.

Written feedback from teachers showed the event to be a great success. The team is now planning a similar event for Primary teachers, and will be visiting the current PGCE cohort at King’s College London to show the trainee teachers how Latin inscriptions can be used in both history and language teaching. As for the ‘demystifying’ of ancient artefacts, the team were delighted to read among the participants’ comments: ‘I run a course called ‘An Introduction to the Classical World’ in my local comprehensive. I will now definitely add sessions on Inscriptions and Coins; I have previously been wary of both.

For more information on AshLI, and for stories about Roman life taken from Latin inscriptions, see the project blog ‘Reading, Writing, Romans’,

To book a school visit to the Ashmolean Museum:

To arrange a visit to a University Classics Department, or for a speaker to visit your school:


Dr Jane Masséglia is Research Fellow, the Ashmolean Latin Inscription Project (AshLI) at the Ashmolean Museum and the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, University of Oxford

If you are planning a similar event take a look at the CA website for information about grants in aid of School-teaching and Outreach


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Spring Books 2015

by Mr Philip Hooker

The Bookseller has just published its Buyers’ Guide of books due in the first half of 2015.  These are books which publishers have nominated as books which should appeal to the general reader.  This note picks out some with classical themes which might have appeared as “Summer Reading” in a July CA News.

Top of the list – and highlighted – is Edith Hall’s Introducing the Ancient Greeks, which ranges from Bronze Age seafarers to the Navigation of the Western Mind, a 2000 year stretch.   She has identified ten of their characteristics and described them in ten chapters with different communities.   (Sense of humour, intriguingly, lies with the Spartans).  It was published in the US in July 2014; the UK launch event was at Kings College in December, it finally appears here on 2 April; the UK publicist calls this “Horrible Histories’ Groovy Greeks for grown-ups” which must seriously misrepresent its scholarship, erudition and originality.  Natalie Haynes and Paul Cartledge gave it enthusiastic reviews, James Romm was more mixed.

Next is Emily Wilson with The Greater Empire: A life of Seneca, a definitive, accessible, biography of the philosopher, politician and popular writer in the age of Nero, published in the US in October, due here in March.    And Guy de la Bedoyere with The Real Lives of Roman Britain – a set of individual personal stories, no military campaigns or imperial politics, due 15 May.

In the revived Pelican paperbacks, we now have Richard Jenkyns on Classical Literature; “an opinionated romp” said one reviewer.     Oliver Taplin, an accomplished poet, has verse translations of Sophocles’ Oedipus plays plus Ajax and Philoctetes, due from OUP in February; this is oddly not a World Classic, which series still relies on H D F Kitto’s 1962 version of the three most popular plays.  But it will have a new edition of Martial’s Epigrams from Gideon Nesbit (with parallel Latin text) in June. Penguin Classics has a new version of Apollonius’ Jason and the Argonauts by Aaron Poochigian in February, replacing the 1959 one from E V Rieu.

More populist works include Harry Mount’s Odyssey – ancient Greece in the footsteps of Odysseus, due July, a reprint of Dilys Powell’s 1973 classic Villa Ariadne, all about Knossos, Evans and Pendlebury, in June and the latest Lindsey Davis, Deadly Election, in April.   And Ian Jenkins’ The Body in Ancient Greece is the highly illustrated book of the British Museum exhibition, which runs from 26 March to 5 July.

In the Autumn, the big ones should be Mary Beard’s SPQR, to coincide with a BBC television series in November and Robert Harris’ Dictator, the final volume of his Cicero trilogy.

Mr Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association and a regular contributor to CA News.  Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!

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