This year the Department of Classics, Ancient History & Egyptology decided to start a series of social events for staff and students, with the aim to celebrate and strengthen our sense of community. This week’s post is by Dr Maria Pretzer who has been co-ordinating these events. Maria reports:
As it happened, the first event was scheduled for 31st October, so a Halloween theme was a given. We decided to start with frightening our Egyptologists particularly by putting on The Mummy (1999) with its highly accurate depiction of ancient Egypt and Egyptian archaeology.
After the end of the movie, Troy Sagrillo offered some comments about some of the details. Astonishingly, the production did have an Egyptologist as adviser, and with some effort and expertise, one can actually spot their impact, in places where details are somewhat more Egyptologically inaccurate than throughout the rest of the movie.
One crucial take-away from the story is certainly that speed-reading hieroglyphs is a necessary survival skill: the ancient historian struggling with the hieroglyphics on the DVD menu could have done with some of that, too. It is clear that may more people should take our modules in Ancient Egyptian language! The film also features spoken ancient Egyptian, using a pronunciation that’s a few thousand years out of date.
Prizes were handed out for the best costume (a carrot, as it happens) and to the winner and runners-up in the move bingo, which featured, among other questions, the identification of various things Christian Knoblauch wouldn’t do on his excavation in Sudan. Christian will be relieved to hear that the accumulated answers pretty much encompass everything anybody does with ancient artefacts in this film.
This was a lot of fun, and we had a good turn-out, too: thanks to everybody for coming! The ‘Departmental Social Event’ experiment continues on 21st November, when we’ll be putting Socrates on trial all over again.
The Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology and KYKNOS, The Centre for Research on the Narrative Literatures of the Ancient World, hosted a COAH-sponsored Research Colloquium on Friday, 25 October 2019, in the Mall Room, Taliesin, on Singleton Campus.
The international event – part of the regular biannual Colloquia programme of KYKNOS – centred around four exciting lectures on Greek and Latin texts and their historical and cultural contexts.
Alan Lloyd (Swansea) ‘Timeo Danaos: Motifs can walk’
Rachel Bird (Swansea) ‘The Greek Novel: Voyeurism, Sophrosyne and Heroines as Text’
Olivier Demerre (Ghent) ‘Catching Bodies, Catching Texts: Longus and Ovid on hunting’
Koen de Temmerman (Ghent) ‘Stories of Erotic Desire in Late Antique Hagiography:
the curious case of Euphemia and the Goth (and Callirhoe)’
The Colloquium, organised by Ian Repath and Fritz-Gregor Herrmann, marked the 15th anniversary of the foundation of KYKNOS at Swansea, and at the same time celebrated the 40th anniversary of the arrival at Swansea of Prof. em. John Morgan, at whose initiative KYKNOS was established as a research centre in 2004. At the end of the formal proceedings, John Morgan was presented with a Festschrift with contributions by former colleagues and students, many of whom were present at the event. Some Organic Readings in Narrative, Ancient and Modern contains seventeen original essays which reflect both the wide range of John’s interests and the high esteem in which he is held internationally.
KYKNOS promotes research on the narrative literatures of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Near East.
OLCAP – the research group for Object and Landscape Centred Approaches to the Past is new to the College of Arts and Humanities. The group’s core aim is to promote and support research, teaching, and training that falls broadly in the fields of material culture studies and landscape, especially where these relate to the ancient world. There are three main, related strands of our mission: Research, Pedagogy, Training and Employability. You can read more about these on OLCAP’s webpage. On 14th October, OLCAP celebrated its official launch and we introduced these aims to staff and students across COAH to explore research synergies and potential future collaborations. The kick-off event was a wonderful opportunity to advertise our annual programme – details of which can also be found here: OLCAP 2019 2020 Events. This term we particularly look forward to hosting our first (of many!) termly core skills training workshops, ‘Mapping Material Culture’ where our students will have the chance to practice mapping the landscape in preparation for archaeological investigation! This will take place on 09.11.19 at Singleton Campus, 11.00-16.00.
OLCAP’s first sponsored post on Hieroglyphs, Heroes, and Heretics is a report from Dr Christian Knoblauch (Lecturer in Egyptian material Culture) about his collaboration with Brown University and their excavations in the Sudan. If you would like to hear more about the project, Christian will be giving a talk at 3pm on Tuesday 29th of October at Singleton Campus, Keir Hardie Building Room 429 as part of the CLAHE Research Seminar Series.
Swansea in the Sudan
The first ever Swansea-Brown Uronarti Regional Archaeological Project team on site in the Sudan, January 2019 (image 1). The project is co-directed by Dr Christian Knoblauch (Swansea, far right) and Dr Laurel Bestock (Brown, front left). In the background, there is the remains of the massive mudbrick gateway that controlled entry into the Middle Kingdom fortress – the focus of our work. Although it is almost 4000 years old, the fortress still stands in places to a height of 7 metres. In the foreground is a back-filled administrative building excavated by the team where we were able to observe, for the first time, the arrival of the Egyptians at the site and their organisation of a mammoth building project. Beyond the fortress, looking south, one can see Lake Nasser/Lake Nubia and the desert adjacent to the ancient border with Kush at the Semna Nile Cataract. During the season, we conducted a systematic survey (image 2) of these areas in order to contextualise the fortress in wider settlement and activity patterns. A report on this last aspect of the work has been accepted for publication by Antiquity and will appear in the Project Gallery shortly.
One interesting aspect of the season was the recording and micro-morphological sampling of an intact column of stratigraphy (image 3) Such well-defined occupation layers are a rarity due to the clearing of most of the interior of the fortress in the 1930’s.
We are hopeful the final scientific analysis of the layers and artefacts will shed light on the changing nature of the occupation of the site over two and a half centuries. Finds from these layers included fish-bones and angling equipment, administrative seals, stone arrowheads and some remarkably well preserved textiles (image 4).
There was also time to conduct a condition report of the New Kingdom stone temple that has suffered considerable damage in recent years. An inventory of all decorated blocks (e.g. image 5) was compiled and recommendations were made to our partner, the National Corporation of Museums and Antiquities concerning conserving the structure and making it better accessible to other scholars and the public in the future. We plan to continue this work in early 2020.
The author thanks the COAH Research Fund for enabling his participation in the project in January 2019. Images courtesy of URAP.
Today’s post kick-starts a mini series that will feature on Hieroglyphs, Heroes and Heretics this academic year that showcases the type of teaching that we deliver and our student work. Dr Stephen Harrison, module co-ordinator, introduces the focus and aims of the module, to provide that all important context for the first of our student pieces!
Stephen Harrison: Ronseal don’t sponsor any of our modules at Swansea University, but if they did Beyond Mainland Greece would probably be that module because, like their quick drying wood stain, it is a course that does exactly what It says on the tin: it takes students beyond the Greek mainland – into Asia. The course focuses on two empires, the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire and the Seleucid Empire. The Persians are traditionally seen as the bad guys in Western history: the barbarian invaders whose cruel kings Darius and Xerxes (especially Xerxes) burned Athens to the ground, threatening to snuff out democracy before it was fully established. 150 years later, the Greeks were to have their revenge thanks to Alexander III of Macedon, who earned the moniker ‘Alexander the Great’ as a result of his conquest of Persia. But Alexander died without an established heir and his empire quickly disintegrated as his leading generals fought to succeed to the throne. In territorial terms, at least, the most successful of the contenders was Seleucus I, who emerged who carved out an empire which stretched from India to the Ionian coast. His family would rule much of Asia before pressure from the twin threats of Parthia and Rome in the Second Century BC reduced the Seleucid Empire to a small kingdom centred on Syria.
Traditionally, university courses have given short shrift to these empires – the Persians pop up as invaders at the foundational moment of Classical Greece but are soon dismissed in favour of a focus on Athenian democracy, Spartan idiosyncrasies, and the Peloponnesian War. Then they reappear as the dramatic foil for Alexander’s heroic exploits in the Fourth Century. The Seleucids fair even worse, often dealt with only as one of a succession of powers defeated by the Romans on their march to imperial glory. But the privileging of the Greek mainland is hugely problematic for lots of reasons not least the fact that these two empires were the superpowers of their day – it is as though one were to write a history of the 20th Century and focus solely on, say, Cuba, without ever mentioning the United States. So, this module sought to allow students to study the Persian and Seleucid Empires on their own terms.
All of this reflects my firm belief that extending beyond the usual geographic limitations of ancient history courses offers students the opportunity to develop a much broader understanding of the ancient world, which also helps them to appreciate the importance of some of the unique developments in Greece itself. But in order to do this, students need to be able to work with an array of sources produced in Asia itself, rather than rely solely on written accounts produced on the fringes of these empires by men such as Herodotus, Xenophon, and Polybius. Consequently, we looked at a wide range of sources – from inscriptions written in the name of reigning kings to celebrate and to emphasise their power, to the fascinating astronomical diaries from Babylon, which were recorded fastidiously for several centuries – primarily, these diaries are records of astrological observations, but details such as price data from the local market give us a glimpse into life in the city. Coins, civic inscriptions, archaeology, art, and even letters between local officials in Bactria (ancient Afghanistan) also featured. The students were asked to write four critical analyses of 500 words on some of these pieces of evidence over the course of the term – we have selected some of the best responses for publication here to give you an insight into the sort of thing that our students get up to here at Swansea and the things they are capable of achieving. You will find some creative and original thinking in these pieces of work.
Our first piece is a contribution from Aidan Kee, an Ancient History student, who assessed an inscription from the tomb of Darius I as part of his coursework for the module.
The Persians did not produce the sort of written histories that we often use to explore a society. Instead, one of our best ways into examining the topic are a series of royal inscriptions that the Persian kings set up at key places to emphasise their power and to outline their ideology. These inscriptions very much reflect a top-down perspective on the Persian Empire so there are very real questions about how far the claims made in these documents reflect reality, but they can still be revealing. This particular inscription is part of the text that was carved onto the tomb of Darius I at Naqs-i-Rustam, a few miles from Persepolis, the most important city in the empire. (Introduction by Stephen Harrison)
Translation (from: Kuhrt, A., The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period. Routledge, 2007):
(1) A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this excellent thing which is seen, who created happiness for man, who set wisdom and capability down upon King Darius.
(2a) King Darius/Xerxes says: By the grace of Ahuramazda I am of such a sort, I am a friend of the right, of wrong I am not a friend. It is not my wish that the weak should have harm done him by the strong, nor is it my wish that the strong should have harm done him by the weak.
(2b) The right, that is my desire. To the man who is a follower of the lie I am no friend. I am not hot-tempered. What things develop in my anger, I hold firmly under control by my thinking power. I am firmly ruling over my own impulses.
(2c) The man who is cooperative, according to his cooperation thus I reward him. Who does harm, him according to the harm I punish. It is not my wish that a man should do harm; nor indeed is it my wish that if he does harm he should not be punished.
(2d) What a man says against a man, that does not convince me, until I hear the sworn statements of both.
(2e) What a man does or performs, according to his ability, by that I become satisfied with him, and it is much to my desire, and I am well pleased, and I give much to loyal men.
(2f) Of such a sort are my understanding and my judgment: if what has been done by me you see or hear of, both in in the palace and in the expeditionary camp, this is my capability over will and understanding.
(2g) This indeed my capability: that my body is strong. As a fighter of battles I am a good fighter of battles. When ever with my judgment in a place I determine whether I behold or do not behold an enemy, both with understanding and with judgment, then I think prior to panic, when I see an enemy as when I do not see one.
(2h) I am skilled both in hands and in feet. As a horseman, I am a good horseman. As a bowman, I am a good bowman, both on foot and on horseback. As a spearman, I am a good spearman, both on foot and on horseback.
(2i) These skills that Ahuramazda set down upon me, and which I am strong enough to bear, by the will of Ahuramazda, what was done by me, with these skills I did, which Ahuramazda set down upon me.
(3a) Man, vigorously make you known of what sort I am, and of what sort my skillfulnesses, and of what sort my superiority. Let not that seem false to you, which has been heard by your ears. Listen to what is said to you.
(3b) Man, let that not be made to seem false to you, which has been done by me. That do you behold, which has been inscribed. Let not the laws be disobeyed by you. Let not anyone be untrained in obedience. [The last line is unintelligible]
‘Although […] the Achaemenid History Workshop profoundly transformed our understanding of the Achaemenid empire, members of that group devoted surprisingly little attention to the role of religion.’ So, Lincoln shows, the question of Achaemenid religion is far from answered in scholarship. Therefore, considering the religious aspect of the inscription, it is a useful source of evidence on the subject, especially in relation to Achaemenid kingship. Darius thanks the help that Ahurumazda has given him in his journey to kingship multiple times in the passage. Its placement at the site of Darius’ tomb means that the text is what Darius wishes to be remembered for, clearly revealing the importance of Ahurumazda to his reign.
Zoroaster, a prophet considered active around 1000 BC, allegedly produced the Gāthās setting out ‘a dualistic system in which aša (truth, rightness) is opposed to druj (lie, deceit) with Ahurumazda as the supreme deity.’ Whilst Zoroaster may not have been a historical figure, the rough estimate of when he lived usefully provides us with a rough date for the commencement of the oral tradition conveying the Gāthās. Considering this oral tradition that carried the Gāthās from this time through to Sasanian times, where it was eventually textualized, it stands to reason that it reflected Achaemenid religious ideology in order to survive. Therefore, whilst the Achaemenids may not strictly have been Zoroastrians, it is likely that the Achaemenid Ahurumazda is very similar to its Zoroastrian counterpart. Thus, in the inscription where Darius attributes his ‘wisdom and capability’ to being gifted to him by Ahurumazda, Darius legitimises his reign. Darius has been supported by the protector of aša with skills that make him a good king. Perhaps surprisingly, Darius also presents himself as a judge of aša and druj in the passage, ‘I am a friend of the right, of the wrong I am not a friend’. This idea is also present in the Bisitun inscription, indicating it as an important aspect of his kingship and how he legitimised himself. Therefore, in the inscription Darius aligns himself with Ahurumazda with a subtle hint at his own divinity. However, this is counterbalanced by Darius also presenting himself as a human, subject to aša and druj respectively, ‘I am firmly ruling over my own impulses’. He is clearly below Ahurumazda here, as the Gāthās state ‘look upon the two sides, between which each man must choose for himself.’ Darius clearly is subject to the trials of ‘each man’ demonstrated by his ‘impulses’. This illustrates the caution that Darius had to take when dealing with religion as on one hand it was a useful tool for legitimising his reign, whilst on the other it was vital to simultaneously remain humble and pious. The religious aspect of the inscription is replicated by Xerxes at Persepolis indicating that the way Darius deals with religion in the passage was deemed contemporarily successful. So, the inscription presents us with a useful opportunity to examine how religion was utilised successfully to legitimise the early Achaemenid king’s reigns.
The Temple of Apollo at Corinth with the acropolis in the distance
The Temple of Apollo at Corinth with the acropolis in the distance
Palaestra of Ancient Messene
Palaestra of Ancient Messene
Fortress at Rhamnous
Fortress at Rhamnous
The Lion Gate, Mycenae
The Lion Gate, Mycenae
In this week’s post Jan Doskocil, a third year Ancient History undergraduate, writes about his travels to Greece over the Summer. With the support of his academic mentor, Dr Janja Soldo, Jan applied for a Society of Dilettanti Travel Scholarship to fund this study trip. This is a wonderful opportunity for undergraduate students to apply for funding to support independent travel to classical sites and museums in Greece, Italy or the Eastern Mediterranean. More information about this scheme – and many others that support and encourage exploration of the ancient world – can be found here. Reflecting on the application process, Janja says, ‘When Jan asked me if I would support his application, I was happy to help him with the application letter and to write a reference – his enthusiasm for Greece is contagious and inspiring. I am very glad that he received the scholarship and that he had the opportunity to see the ancient sites, which he learned so much about in his classes, with his own eyes.’
Exploring ancient Greece by Jan Doskocil
Images by Jan Doskocil: The Temple of Hephaestus, Athens; The Temple of Apollo at Corinth with the acropolis in the distance; Palaestra of Ancient Messene; Fortress at Rhamnous; The Lion Gate, Mycenae.
“Awesome! So, this is the place I’ve heard so much about. How could they build that thing?” Such were my thoughts as I visited ancient monuments and wondered which king, hero or famous statesman stood at the same spot thousands of years before me. Although I admit I had to use my imagination quite a lot sometimes, the sites, which some call mere ruins, have still preserved a magical sense of mystery.
First, on my two-week trip around Greece, I explored Pella and Vergina. This area formed the heart of ancient Macedonia. Among the remains of the city of Pella there were elaborated mosaics, and the museum contained a number of fine objects – especially the exhibition of weapons decorated with gold, but what really impressed me was the scenery. Dark green mountains in the distance, red roofs of tiny villages, columns made of white stone, olive trees covering the flat land, and the sea mirroring the azure sky… And after this colourful play I entered the underground museum of Vergina and could observe the royal tombs in near darkness. It is worth visiting for lively frescos depicting mythological stories and hunting scenes, gold crowns imitating a wreath of oak leaves, or armour and weapons that may have belonged to Philip II himself. Further south I was fascinated by the epic view of cloud-covered Mt Olympos, the highest mountain in Greece and seat of the gods.
Next I spent some time wandering around Athens. Imagine you sit under the temple of Hephaestus listening to the sound of cicadas early in the morning, feeling the aura of the place. Then you look up at the Acropolis and can’t believe your eyes. There were tourists everywhere, almost falling over the edges. As I went up, it got very hot. Crowds were pushed into one long queue that moved at a snail’s pace. Guards with whistles were screaming at us: “Quick photos and keep moving! Don’t touch it!” Classical monuments, like isolated islands lost in that turmoil of the modern city, were being attacked by roaring masses of selfie hunters. Still, popularity of the place is a proof that the ancient world with its splendour and staggering megalomania has something to say even today. For those who appreciate more peaceful places, I would recommend Rhamnous, situated near the Marathon battlefield, where you can find the temple of Nemesis and fortress. But it is quite an adventure to get there.
Olympia and Delphi also enjoy extraordinary prestige. To visit both sites, I took serpentine roads in the mountains. Then I walked around the temples of Zeus and Apollo respectively. It had to be amazing to be a spectator of the Panhellenic Games or to ask the oracle for advice. Another impressive places were Mycenae and Tiryns – the Lion Gate, citadels, massive walls composed of huge pieces of rock – frankly, some Cyclops were surely assisting… I chanced to attend Epidaurus theatre festival and watched Euripides’ play Iphigenia in Aulis. The performance took place at the ancient theatre in the open air at night. Even though it was in Greek (with English subtitles), I was drawn in the play, the atmosphere and experience were fabulous.
Sometimes I can’t find enough words to describe everything, or, maybe, I use to many – nothing can compare when you see it for yourself.
Interested in a career in broadcasting, journalism or marketing? Enjoy creative writing and Social media? Want to work with like-minded people to share knowledge about the ancient world to a wider audience?
Look no further! The Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Egyptology is inviting students interested in developing a range of transferable skills to apply for a one of a number of Week of Work (WOW) placements.
The Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology is offering up to four WOW placements to support the department’s web officer with the development and maintenance of the department’s blog, newly launched newsletter and their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
This is a fantastic opportunity to gain employability skills, meet new people, and create web and media content for our department! Ella Thomas (a second year Media and Communication Student) held a WOW placement last year and was a Social Media Assistant to Dr. Ersin Hussein, Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology. Ella said the following of her experience:
“I have been responsible managing future contributions to the departmental blog Hieroglyphs, Heroes, and Heretics and I have worked closely with Ersin to create an official annual departmental newsletter. Duties have included emailing staff and students (current and alumni) for contributions to the newsletter’s content and helping in the design and layout of the newsletter. The placement greatly helped me to develop and implement marketing and PR skills that I had been taught on my course, such as managing social media platforms and designing layouts for public facing documents (e.g. leaflets). I have also developed valuable administration skills, such as time management. As a result of my placement I am eligible to gain the SEA award, which will greatly enhance my career prospects after University. The amount of support received from Ersin has been amazing and has greatly enhanced my confidence and belief in my own capabilities. I would recommend undertaking a placement to all students who wish to improve upon their academic and personal skills.”
Good organisational skills and the ability to complete a task to a deadline
Excellent attention to detail and accuracy
The ability to work independently, and to know when and how to seek guidance
Excellent verbal and written communication skills
Good interpersonal skills
A quick learner and able to adapt to change/display flexibility
Est. 04/11/19 – 04/05/20
18 teaching weeks, 1-2 hours per week. Scheduled workshops of 2-3 hours throughout the term.
Application and Closing Date
To apply, please send your CV and covering letter to COAHEmployability@swansea.ac.uk by midnight on Sunday 20th October. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with the employability office (using the email above) or with Dr Ersin Hussein (ersin.hussein@Swansea.ac.uk).
We may have been a little quiet on the blog front last term, but by no means did this mean that we weren’t busy! For example, we saw the completion and launch of the Ancient World on Film project and the successful delivery of new, innovative modules (including handlings sessions in the Egypt Centre and a trip to the British Museum) – you can read about these in the COAH College newsletter here. Towards the end of term, many staff and students delivered papers at The Egypt Centre’s conference ‘Wonderful Things‘, an event that showcased the history of the museum and current research that is taking place there in conjunction with our department. The Egypt Centre Collection Blog is a fantastic read as it regularly features news about its volunteers, the research that our students undertake, collaborative work with the department and the current renovations to its store rooms. All in all it has been an exciting year and the 2019/20 academic year promises to be equally as busy for all staff and students here in the department…
Along with the rest of the university, we are celebrating the Swansea 2020 centenary! This academic year will also see the official launch of OLCAP – our new research group for object and landscape centred approaches to the ancient past. More on this to come! In April, the department will also host the Classical Association conference in April 2020 – a truly international event that draws attention to cutting edge research, innovations in pedagogy across all stages of education provision and pressing issues for our fields of study and work. So watch this space as more information about these events, as well as many others, will be featured on the blog! We also have a number of contributions from our undergraduate and postgraduate researchers to look forward to.
To kick start the year, I draw your attention to the UWICAH postgraduate conference that will take place on 16th November on the theme of Narratives of Power! This conference has been organised by our postgraduate research students and, as you can see below, promises to be a fantastic event. We look forward to seeing you there!
From the organisers:
On the sixteenth of November the Universities of Wales Institute of Classics and Ancient History Postgraduate conference will take place in the Council Chamber and Conference Room 2 in Singleton Abbey. PhD candidates in the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology at Swansea University have this year organized the conference. The topic of this year’s conference will be Narratives of Power, and explores powerful narratives in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Near East. After a successful call for papers, the conference has drawn speakers from across Britain and beyond. The conference will feature twenty-two speakers, from eighteen institutions (including all three UWICAH Universities, Swansea, Cardiff and Trinity St David’s, Lampeter) and run from 09:30-17:30; followed by a roundtable debate and drinks in a nearby pub.
The delegates have interpreted Narratives of Power in a wide variety of ways, and therefore there will be talks on many topics including mythology, material culture, rulers, identity and more. Furthermore, we are thinking of publishing some of the papers from the conference in an edited volume. Food and drinks will be provided for attendees of the conference, and we hope to see as many people as possible from Swansea to support the event. If you are interested in attending, email email@example.com and/or sign up on Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/uwicah-2019-narratives-of-power-tickets-73538673151).
Eventbrite QR code:
Thomas Alexander Husøy, William Clayton, Urska Furlan.
Singleton Abbey, Swansea University, SA2 8PP
Conference Room 2
Rebecca Rusk (Reading): The Rule of Zeus in Hesiod’s Theogony
Thomas Humphrey (UWTSD): Power and Diplomacy in the Amarna Letters: Cypro-Egyptian Relations in the 14th Century BCE
Brian McPhee (North Carolina): Brawn Without Brain? Mythopoetic Trajectories in Heracles’ Teratomachies
Rachael Cornwell (Liverpool): The Power of Change: The Accumulated Impact of Minor Linguistic Changes on the Egyptian Verbal System
Georgina Homer (Open University): Infamous Medea: Power Through Reputation and Infamy
John Rogers (Swansea): “I Made This as an Act of Praise”: Power and Agency in 7th-Century BCE Egyptian Non-Royal Statuary
Gina Bevan (Cardiff): Medusa’s Rape: Lady Gaga and Victimhood
Marwa Abdel Razek (Cairo/Cairo Museum): The Mystery of Female Figurines (Concubines) Represented on Plaques and Beds in the Cairo Museum
Archaic and Classical Greece
Thomas Alexander Husøy (Swansea): Thessaly and the Narrative of Identities in Central Greece
Lonneke Deipeut (Leiden): Horses in Egypt: A Status Symbol or a Status Marker?
Richard Phillips (Birkbeck College, London): Cultural and Political Soft Power in the Ancient Greek World: Paros and Athens
Islam Alwakeel (Ain Shams): Offering of the Field (sḫt) in the Egyptian Temples of the Greco-Roman Period (Edfou-Dendara)
Matt Thompson (Nottingham): Projecting Power By Displaying Nothing? Possible Motivations for the Apparent Refusal of the Spartans to Dedicate Captured Arms
Henry Bohun (UWTSD): Exploring Ptolemy II Within the Narrative of Ancient Egyptian Kingship: Ruler Cult and Material Culture
Ana Garcia Espinosa (Cardiff): Mercenary Armies and Power: The Narrative of Leadership in Xenophon’s Anabasis
Frédéric Rouffet (Paul-Valéry): Title TBC, Egyptian Magic
Conference Room 2
Late Classical Greece
Egyptian and Roman History
Maria Gisella Giannone (Exeter): Narratives of Power By and Within Athens in Isocrates’ On the Peace
Ella McCafferty Wright (Cambridge): The Meroe Bust of Augustus and Narratives of Rebellion
Leon Battista Borsano (Scuola Normale Superiore): Kyrios Estō: Narrative(s) of Power in Late Classical Lycia
Consuelo Martino (St. Andrews): The Last Republican or the First Emperor? Discussing Suetonius’ Divus Iulius and the Political Power of Biographical Writing
Roberta Dainotto (Crete): Building Concepts of Power Through Narrative in Forensic Speeches: The Case of Apollodorus
Domiziana Rossi (Cardiff): Sasanian Kings as Decision-Makers: Reshaping the Ērānshahr
This week’s blog is a call for filmmakers interested in working on an exciting new collaborative project between staff and students at Swansea University, local communities. Details below:
The Ancient World on Film is an exciting new collaborative project between staff and students at Swansea University, local communities, and filmmakers. Filmmakers will work with staff and students in the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology to produce a short film (5-10 minutes) about the ancient world which opens up the subject to new audiences. Staff and students will be responsible for writing the script in consultation with local communities so that the films can be targeted effectively at our ideal audiences. However, we hope that filmmakers will embrace this opportunity to mentor our students and help them explore the creative potential of the medium. We are particularly keen to develop new ways of presenting information about the ancient world which go beyond the traditional documentary format and will welcome suggestions from filmmakers about how to do this. The films will be shown at a big launch at the Taliesin theatre in May 2019, where filmmakers and students will have the opportunity to discuss the production process with members of the public and invited guests.
We are producing four films in total and invite pitches from filmmakers to produce one or more of those films. For each film:
You Will Need:
* Demonstrable experience producing short films; ideally you will be able to demonstrate experience delivering a contracted film on schedule and on budget.
* To supply your own filming and editing equipment.
* Public liability insurance.
* To be prepared to undertake a DBS check if necessary.
* Ideally you will have experience producing films as part of a team, and particularly of working with community groups and/or students.
* Ideally you will be available to attend a workshop with members of the local community in late January or early February 2019. Dates will be confirmed after further consultation with all parties involved.
* To consult with students and staff during the script-writing period (February-March 2019). This can be done remotely if necessary.
* To be able to shoot the film in March or early April 2019. Filming is expected to take no more than one day.
* To provide a rough cut of the film for discussion by mid-April 2019.
* To deliver the final film by 30th April 2019.
* To attend a film screening at the Taliesin theatre on the University’s Singleton Park Campus on Monday 13th May from 4.30 to 7.30.
You Will Receive:
* A fee of £1,500 to be paid in two instalments (the first instalment to be paid after filming, the second upon delivery of the final film).
* A budget of £1,000 to make the film.
* 1 film (5-10 minutes in length) shot in Full HD format (1920×1080)
* Delivered as an MP4 file and one copy on a blue-ray disc
* Deadline for completion: 30th April 2019
* You will also be required to discuss a rough cut of the film with students at an appropriate moment in the process, likely in March or April 2019.
We are looking to create exciting, new films about the ancient world and we intend to give filmmakers and students plenty of scope to utilise their creative vision and skills to develop the film. In particular, we want to move beyond the traditional documentary format and find innovative ways to communicate information about the ancient world. For an idea of what we mean by all of this, feel free to have a look at an earlier project led by Dr Harrison.
Send a brief (1 page max) cover letter detailing your experience and including a link to a showreel or equivalent to Dr Stephen Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr Joanne Berry (email@example.com) by 23.59 on 31st December 2018. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted in the first week of January 2019 with a view to further discussion.
We would love to hear from interested filmmakers, so please send informal queries and expressions of interest to Drs Berry and Harrison.
On the 16th March, we had our annual Classics Schools’ day. Pupils from four local schools attended the day and took part in workshops and talks by our academic staff as well as an object handling session at the Egypt centre. Pupils from Castle School in Pembrokeshire reflect on their experience:
We arrived at Swansea at about 10:30 at the large, phenomenal university. We were a bit late due to traffic and parking problems but that didn’t matter much! On the way to the entrance I couldn’t help but notice the big buildings and the green garden areas. Beautiful. The inside was equally as nice and after getting lost we found our way to the first talk. Sadly we had missed a bit because we were late.
When we got there (a bit late because it takes an hour to get there and there were some traffic and parking problems) we saw lots of people, so it must be a big university.
Classics in Wales
The first talk was taken by Dr. Evelien Bracke. It was about the Romans and some Roman artefacts in Wales. It was very interesting. She talked about some Roman Artwork and buildings in Swansea that were inspired by Roman architecture. The students mentioned many museums in Swansea that held proof that the Romans did play a big role in British society. In fact we had just recently visited Caerleon where there is a theatre and some cool Roman baths. It’s amazing there.
Guest blog post by Minette Matthews, 2nd Year Ancient History Student
Every year the British School at Athens offers an intensive 3 week summer course for undergraduate students interested in Ancient Greek history. On this course, students are taught by 3 specialists in Greek Ancient history – one of them being Dr. Chryssanthi Papadopoulou, the Assistant Director of the British School at Athens. Approximately 10 days are spent in Athens looking at various archaeological sites and museums (among these the Acropolis, the Parthenon Museum, the Kerameikos, and the National Archaeological Museum), and 11 days in the Peloponnese visiting Mycenae and Tiryns, and Corinth, to name a few. In 2016 I successfully applied for a place on this course.
By Oscar Brierley, 2nd Year Classical Civilisation Student
Student Interest Research
The Remorse of Nero, J. W. Waterhouse. 1878. A depiction of Nero lamenting after the assassination of his mother Agrippina in AD59, notoriously by his own command.
I was first introduced to the intricacies of Nero’s reign of AD54-68 in Dr Nigel Pollard and Dr Joanne Berry’s Rome: From Village to Empire module. While I had heard of him before, the interpretation that I had of him was merely superficial, devoid of any historical methodology. What I learned about him in these lectures, however, challenged this view in the most fascinating way: it brought to light the facts of Nero’s reign, with no bias, creating a completely different character from what had been formed in my mind. This is the basis of my fascination with Nero, and, to an extent, my love of history. The fact that there are so many interpretations of Nero, so often exaggerated to draw in an audience, simply reflects that very little has changed since his reign. Some of Suetonius’ more extravagant accounts continue to be repeated today, and filtering through these accounts to find the truth never ceases to entertain me.
The idea that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” has long been rejected by historians. However, the notion that Nero was a debased, merciless emperor to the extent that he would not look out of place in a horror story still remains laced within history. The name Nero has become so synonymous with brutality that if you were to call someone “Neronian” you would most probably follow by offering them a therapist appointment. Most people, when Nero is mentioned, would call back to Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus in Gladiator, and think that he is a close enough representation. If Suetonius’ Twelve Caesars, and a number of other works on Nero’s life are taken as fact, this perception would not be far from the truth.
Only recently have we been able to read Roman history with a level of modern academic scrutiny. Before the nineteenth century, sources such as the works of Suetonius and Livy could mostly be accepted as fact, with little notion of the possibility of a personal, ideological narrative within their works. Recently however, there has been an increase of historians looking at history in the context the society in which they were written, and not their own. And yet still there remains a struggle to separate fact from fiction when it comes to modern accounts of Roman Emperors, most prominently those of the imperial era. Else Roesdahl perfectly describes ancient works driven by a personal narrative as “historical novels”, yet documentaries and books continue to disperse them as fact. Nowhere else is this as apparent as in depictions of Nero, which continue to be as sensationalist today as they were almost 2000 years ago.
Nero came at a time when the Roman senate was still adapting itself to a state ruled by a single emperor. The senate and Roman elite began to realise their need to secure influence which was rapidly dissolving under Emperors who noticed the senate was now merely an advisory institution. The pragmatic members of the elite, however, realised that there was still a way to exercise power over the Emperors: through writing. Roman elites had already been writing diaries and cataloguing letters for centuries, but not as extensively as during this time of slow senatorial alienation from imperial power. With loss of power came the rise of writing Roman “history”. Authors began to write with more than the glorification of the Roman empire in mind.
Suetonius’ account of the lives of emperors is wonderfully useful when attempting to discover the ins and outs of Roman society and its elites, but becomes frustrating in its description of details, some of which Suetonius could not possibly have known. He cites “reliable authorities” as his sources, which dissolves any form of reliability his statements have. A particularly far-fetched moment in his description of Nero comes after the assassination of his mother Agrippina by his own order. It states that Nero rushed to his mother’s corpse to examine and assess her body critically, perversely. This certainly does evoke a reaction of disgust in the reader, but this is exactly the reaction Suetonius desires. If he wanted to give his readers a chance to critically evaluate Nero, he would have omitted this moment entirely. Nero’s chapter in Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars is rife with moments like this, but sensationalist stories attempting to dramatise Nero’s life for an audience reaction do not end with Suetonius’ work. You simply have to watch a modern documentary on his life to find that ridiculous examples of imagery still remain. Documentaries begin with wonderful montages of brutality and fire overlaid with the sounds of screaming crowds and a deafening orchestra in the process of a violent fit. While it certainly is attractive to an audience, you could start a documentary on any Roman emperor with a montage of brutalities and remain safe in the assurance that it remains loyal to its source material. Nero’s violence was not unique, simply more public and personal.
Those who did not write history, the common people of Rome, it is harder to predict the opinions of. However, we can probably assume that Nero’s reign, being of such spectacle, was in fact enjoyed by the lower classes of Rome. His love of all the arts and past times of Rome, from poetry to music to athletics, ingratiated him with the Roman people, something an Emperor completely enthralled with the Senate would find nearly impossible. He thrived in this section of Roman society, something which has been difficult to determine due to the colouring of history by the elite. Nero’s obsession with Hellenic, artistic culture benefitted both him and the eastern half of the empire when he brought into effect a “liberation of the Hellas”, exempting Achaea and the Peloponnese from taxes. Upon his return, Nero acquired all manner of divine acclamations, “Nero Zeus the Liberator”, to name one among many others. On one side of this decision is a certain distaste from the Senate due to its removal of a large portion of income to Rome. On the other, however, was a huge increase in support for Nero from the lower classes, marvelling at his generosity.
And yet it cannot be denied that Nero was a man of few boundaries when it came to indulging a more extreme lifestyle. And it is in these indulgences that he simply happened to be on the wrong side of the authors of history. His obsession with art leaked into his political life, spawning a number of Hellenistic values being put upon the Senate and people of Rome. The most prominent example of this is the quinquennial Neroneia he introduced to Rome in AD60: a series of artistic competitions, modelling on Homeric contests. This slow merging of Hellenistic and Roman values in the public domain was unsurprisingly disturbing for the traditionalist Senate. While leaking into some parts of his political attitude, his love of art simply replaced and removed other aspects of politics. His apparent lack of reaction initially to Vindex’s revolt in AD68-69 shows his mental separation from some aspects of policy, and a reliance upon others – in this case probably Verginius Rufus, a nearby commander of an army – to solve the issues which he held no concern for.
So why do people love to dramatise his life so often? Part of the problem when looking at Nero’s life comes from the imaginations it seems to have captured. Recently, in Trier, there was an art exhibition using the theme of Nero’s death named Lust and Crime, a rather theatrical name intended to pull in those with less interest. In the same way that Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra twisted the love between its two protagonists to romanticise their situation, this art installation reveals representations of Nero’s life that have twisted him into a figure of mythical debauchery.
The fact of the matter remains, however, that we will never truly know Nero. We can only get two extreme accounts of him-one supportive, and one, more substantial, damning him. Though recently it has been accepted that the truth about Nero’s reign remains hidden somewhere between those two accounts, it is impossible to pinpoint exactly where. Modern romanticising of his reign has not helped this, and many documentaries and books on his reign merely act to obscure the balance between the two opinions. Nero has inspired so much artistic interest in his modern audience that his supposed final words, “what an artist dies in me”, take on a completely different meaning. Though an artist died with Nero, his death generated more works of art and imagination than he could possibly have wished for, transforming his rule into one of mythical proportions.
I took Dr Heather Hunter-Crawley’s Greek and Roman Art and Architecture module last year and was taken on an art historical journey, studying the progression of art from Bronze Age Greece to the Byzantine era. One of the ways in which this module was brilliant was the way in which the students were taught how to ‘look’ at art, which isn’t as passive an experience as one may think (similarly to Alastair Sooke’s ‘Treasures of Ancient Greece’, a BBC Production which I highly recommend watching if you are interested in the art history of the ancient world). Heather teaches her students not only the historical significance of sculptures, pottery, and paintings – the Pergamum altar, and the Jockey of Artemision to name a couple of my favourites – but the ways in which they can be read and interpreted. However, while I could easily continue to write about the merits of this module that is not the purpose of this post. Instead I wish to write about a guest lecture given by Dr Nigel Pollard which was organised by Heather at the end of this module.
One focus of Nigel’s lecture was on the Hague Convention in 1954 which passed the Act on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, a law which made it a crime against human rights to damage or destroy a site or cultural or historical importance. The catalyst for this was the extensive damage done to sites during the Second World War, for example Coventry Cathedral or Pompeii. Now, this Act is enforced by groups such as the International Committee of the Blue Shield, which protect sites under threat and seeks to gain the co-operation of governments or other bodies that can help to implement this.
Figure1: Artemision Jockey. National Archaeological Museum, Athens
However, Nigel noted that while this law is commendable, it is not always enforced (of course some sites are easier to protect than others), and there is a global disparity in the definition of ‘cultural heritage’. For example in 2003 the Iraq National Museum in Bagdad was looted as a result of American forces not stepping into the security vacuum after the Taliban were pushed out. Also when comparing the number of UNESCO sites in Europe and Middle Eastern States the difference is quite staggering; 499 and 81 respectively (I use this example as Nigel’s lecture focused predominantly on the Middle East and the West). This to me suggests a dominant interest in Western sites and Western ideas of culture, perhaps at the expense of those elsewhere.
Reflecting back on this lecture I can’t help but notice that in seeking to protect sites of cultural heritage, we are simultaneously potentially making them more vulnerable to cultural conflict. In the past, sites of cultural or historical importance have frequently been targeted by opposition parties as a means to demonstrate another culture’s vulnerability or lack of permanence in the world. In 25/24 BCE the Kushites invaded the province of Egypt (now North Sudan), and in a fit of triumph against Augustus, emperor of Rome, they severed a bronze head of Augustus (see figure 2), which they took back to Meroë and buried under the steps of their victory monument. Not only did this demonstrate resistance to Rome as it was never returned, but this symbolically showed the Kushites’ strength and perhaps cultural superiority over the Roman Empire, and would have evoked a sense of disgust from the Romans (if they knew that this had happened).
With this in mind, it is perhaps not particularly surprising that cultural sites are damaged now, especially with Palmyra in mind (August 2015), and ongoing cultural conflict in the Middle East.
It is noticeable that the West has become increasingly desensitised to the atrocities that have been going on in the Middle East; some may go so far to say as disinterested. Therefore, destroying a place that we have so clearly stated is important to our culture seems an obvious way to attract our attention. Equally though, this Western interest in ancient sites has fuelled the selling of looted antiquities eg. from Apamea. Does that mean that the West is indirectly violating the 1954 Hague Convention?
While I agree that it is important to continue to protect sites with historical importance, I do think that we should be aware that there is a cultural disparity in the consensus in terms of ‘cultural significance’ which may have potentially caused conflict between groups of people. I also would argue that when people set out to protect these sites, it is necessary to be aware that increasing their publicity can have a negative impact. This is a diverse and complex topic, one which ultimately has no ideal solution.
Written by Minette Matthews, 2nd Year Ancient History Student
Here are a couple of links if you are interested in reading more on this:
On Thursday 23rd February 2017, the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill 2016-2017 received the Royal Assent and so became an Act of Parliament. This was a big moment for me, as I’ve been part of lobbying efforts to achieve this for the last five years as a board member of the UK National Committee of Blue Shield. The key provision of the Act is that the UK will finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and its two Protocols, of 1954 and 1999. ‘Cultural Property’ in this sense includes monuments, sites and buildings, museums, galleries , libraries, archives and their contents ‘of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people’.
Damage to cultural property has been long-standing feature of wars and internal conflicts throughout history, and has been subject to considerable scrutiny in recent decades, through conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Egypt and the former Yugoslavia. This is the result of deliberate, ideologically motivated attacks on cultural property associated with other cultures and religions, accidental damage caused by insufficient care and respect for cultural property when conducting military operations, failure of occupying armed forces to safeguard cultural sites and property for which they are responsible, and looting of unprotected sites and collections in conflict zones for the illicit antiquities trade.
The UK, like the USA, didn’t ratify the original 1954 Hague Convention for political and military reasons associated with its Cold War context, and while the UK claimed to work within the spirit of the Convention (for example, at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq), it is the last country with extensive military involvements abroad to ratify it. Passing of the Act and ratification of the Convention will be important symbolic steps in demonstrating the UK’s commitment to the protection of cultural property as well as having practical implications. For example, violations of the Convention and its protocols will be recognised as offences in UK law, and legal sanctions relating to dealing in ‘unlawfully exported cultural property’ will be strengthened. The UK is preparing an inventory of its own cultural property for the purposes of protection, and potentially some buildings may be marked with the Blue Shield emblem for protection, already in use in some countries such as Austria. Another requirement of the Convention is that the UK is establishing a special unit within the armed forces for the protection of cultural property, inevitably popularly dubbed the ‘New Monuments Men’ after the Anglo-American Allied Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission of the Second World War, popularised by the 2014 George Clooney film. In addition, the UK set up a £30 million Cultural Protection Fund to fund projects and initiatives in this field in 2016, after consultation with heritage specialists including myself.
I became interested in this issue through my research relating to damage to archaeological sites such as Pompeii in the Second World War, and the history of the ‘Monuments Men’ organisation. For that reason I played a role in the re-establishment of the UK National Committee of Blue Shield in 2012. However, as an archaeologist, much of my past research and fieldwork related to Roman Syria, so the intensification of the civil war there involved me more and more in contemporary efforts to preserve heritage sites in conflict zones. I have digitised many of my images of archaeological sites in Syria that have been damaged in the conflict as a contribution to their preservation for research and teaching.