Upon the completion of his research fellowship at the University of Edinburgh, CC’S Anastasia Bakogianni caught up with Dr David Pritchard of the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland. David tells us about his new research project Democracy’s Impact on War-making in Ancient Athens and Today. In the modern world Classical Athens is associated with the institution of democracy and its rich cultural output, but in the fifth century BCE it was an imperialist and bellicose polis that took pride in its military prowess.
David explains how sport and warfare were closely linked in ancient Athens. Sportsmen were members of the elite, but they were celebrated by the democratic polis. For Athenian men arete in all types of competition was the ideal to which they aspired. David has explored these issues in his monograph Sport, Democracy and War in Classical Athens (CUP, 2012) and in his edited collection War, Democracy and Culture in Classical Athens (CUP, 2011).
On the modern stage Greek tragedy is often used as a tool to criticise the abuse of power and to condemn war. Euripides’ Troades, which portrays the suffering of the women of Troy, has become a vehicle for delivering this anti-war message. David points out that in a number of his dramas, like the Suppliants and Children of Heracles, Euripides celebrates Athens’ success in war. The democratic polis and its citizens valorised victory in all arenas of life.
On the occasion of his visit to the Milton Keynes’ campus of The Open University CC’S Anastasia Bakogianni caught up with Professor Mike Edwards (Roehampton University, London). Mike talks to us about the bad reputation of Rhetoric and how Plato and Aristotle contributed to this negative view of his favourite subject.
Mike tells us how he fell under the spell of Rhetoric while studying with Stephen Usher at Royal Holloway College, London, who taught him that rhetorical speeches are worthy of study in their own right rather than as simply evidence for the study of ancient history and law. He talks to us about the joy of editing and translating rhetorical texts and his interest in the minutiae of manuscripts and their transmission.
Mike tells us about the rare joy of rediscovering a ‘lost’ text. He was involved with the Archimedes Palimpsest project working closely with other experts in the field to uncover a lost manuscript written by Hyperides, an Athenian orator from the fourth century BCE, that was discovered hidden underneath a thirteenth-century prayer book.
Mike believes strongly that the works of the Greek and Latin orators should be accessible through translations to ensure the survival of the subject. Towards that end he translated the complete works of Isaeus (University of Texas, 2007), another fourth century BCE orator who specialised in inheritance law. Mike’s volume belongs to the Oratory of Classical Greece series edited by Michael Gagarin.
Mike is Vice-President of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric and was editor of its journal Rhetorica (2005-11), which accepts submissions in six languages, including Latin!
He is currently working on a new Oxford text of Isaeus and enjoying the process of going back to the Greek text.
Follow this link or click on the image below to watch the interview!
Last week CC’s Henry Stead joined Lorna Robinson, Mary Beard and many others at the launch of the East Oxford Community Classics Centre - a wonderful new Classics learning venue for people of all ages to attend free events, workshops, lessons, and exhibitions. EOCCC is founded and run by The Iris Project, in association with the University of Oxford. In this video you can see footage of the celebration, and hear Dr Lorna Robinson of the Iris Project explain some of the ideas and ethos behind this pioneering new centre.
You can find out more about EOCCC on the Iris Project website or by following it on Facebook, but first of all follow this link or click on the image below to watch Henry’s film!
CC’s Anastasia Bakogianni caught up with Constanze Güthenke, Associate Professor of Classics and Hellenic Studies at Princeton University, during her visit to the UK. Constanze came to London to present a paper at the Encounters with Athens, Rome and Jerusalem: (Re)Visiting Sites of Textual Authority in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century conference organised by Professor Catherine Edwards at Birkbeck, University of London (1-2 July 2013).
Constanze talks about her new book project Greek Lives: German Classical Scholarship and the Language of Attachment, 1790-1920. She explains that German classical scholarship became the dominant model for academic and archaeological investigations of ancient Greece and Rome during this period. She tells us how her comparative approach arose out of her own educational background which combines a thorough training in Classics, with German and Modern Greek Studies. Constanze also talks about her interest in how academic disciplines are formed which is the research question that drives her current project. Secondary literature has become her primary source in her investigation of the German model.
Her interest in the reception of the classical past in Modern Greece is reflected in her first monograph Placing Modern Greece. The Dynamics of Romantic Hellenism, 1770-1840 (Oxford University Press, 2008) that interrogated the formation of the modern state and its dialogue with classical literature.
At the conference Constanze examined the German encounter with Modern Greece in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. German travellers and scholars came to the modern state seeking a connection to the classical past. The immediacy they sought was, however, complicated by the process of modernisation that they encountered. Their ambivalent response towards this modern reality found expression in their scholarly writings.
Click on the image below or follow this link to watch our interview
In the second interview with Professor Nancy Rabinowitz, CC’s Anastasia Bakogianni asks her about her work teaching Greek tragedy in American prisons. The starting point for her was the desire to diversify the appeal of Greek tragedy by engaging with modern revivals of Greek tragedy and by taking these ancient dramas beyond the classroom.
Nancy tells us about her internship with the Medea Project: Theatre for Incarcerated Women/HIV Circle organized and conducted by Rhodessa Jones. This project has brought Greek tragedy and classical mythology to women’s prisons. In the case of Euripides’ Medea the women, many of whom have left behind children of their own, did not sympathise at all with Medea’s predicament. The work made them see their own responsibility for their children’s lives. They had an easier time relating to Pandora, used by the gods as a means of bringing evil to mankind, and Persephone, the lost daughter incarcerated in the underworld.
Nancy argues that Greek tragedy does not shy away from the difficult questions such as current explorations of race, gender, sexuality, disease and disability. She tells us about her collaboration with Fiona McHardy (Roehampton University) on an edited collection entitled Difficult Dialogues: Teaching Sensitive Subjects in the Classics Classroom (Ohio State Press: forthcoming). This book is designed to help classics teachers engage sensitively with these difficult topics.
Nancy also tells us of her work with male prisoners who have grown to enjoy performing Greek tragedy disproving the belief that Classics is an elitist subject. Sophocles’ Antigone proved particularly popular as an exploration of masculinity and the father-son relationship. Prisoners were hostile to Creon’s perspective, while they saw themselves more like a returning Agamemnon worrying about what the family they had left behind while they were serving their sentences.
Finally Nancy testifies to her experience that education can help open people’s minds to new worlds of the imagination. She also affirms the importance of continuing to perform the ancient Greek dramatic texts thus allowing new audiences to appreciate them and respond to them in a performance setting.
Click on the image below or follow this link to watch the interview
On the occasion of the Classical Reception Studies Network graduate workshop that they co-organised at the Institute of Classical Studies CC’s Anastasia Bakogianni talks to Nancy Rabinowitz, Professor of Comparative Literature at Hamilton College. They discuss their shared interest in the theme of war and the portrayal of women in Greek tragedy, theme of their workshop.
Nancy tells us about how she utilises the lens of modern conflicts to return to Greek tragedy and to continue her investigations into the portrayal of women in these ancient plays. She discusses her work for an article she is currently working on for a volume edited by Peter Meineck (New York University) entitled Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks. She tells us how ancient warfare targeted all women – both those who were conquered and the ones left behind at home. She argues that the anti-war interpretation of Euripides’ Troades is a modern phenomenon and that this ancient play is a revelation about what war was like in ancient times. Modern revivals of the play become popular during times of conflict, but it is important to remember that for ancient audiences war was a fact of life.
Nancy talks about how war’s madness impacts on those left behind in dramas such as Aeschylus’ Agamemnon which deals with the aftermath of the War at Troy. The Oresteia trilogy as a whole endorses Orestes’ revenge, but modern audiences have trouble accepting Hecuba’s revenge in Euripides’ eponymous play. We are more sympathetic towards Hecuba’s sufferings in the Troades, but we cannot accept her desire for revenge when it involves the murder of children.
Finally Nancy tells us about her involvement in Peter Meineck’s project Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives which is designed to bring Greek literature to new audiences by organising a series of staged readings, lectures and discussions.
Click on the image below or the following link to watch our interview: http://youtu.be/5gTj1CA4RAE
The final video in our series on ancient religious scepticism features the acclaimed historian, author and broadcaster Dr Bettany Hughes in conversation with Professor Tim Whitmarsh. Bettany’s recent book takes as its subject the Greek philosopher Socrates, who in 399BC was put on trial for impiety (asebeia in Greek) and subsequently executed. As Bettany explains here, Socrates was deeply suspicious of the written word, which is why our historical evidence about the man and his (dis)beliefs come from other contemporary and later writers. In particular, Tim and Bettany discuss the work of Aristophanes, Plato and Xenophon, exploring how these writers’ rather different portraits of the great philosopher may have been shaped by their own literary and political agendas. Bettany also moves beyond the theme of religious scepticism to share some of her thoughts about why the figure of Socrates has such an enduring appeal, and our mini-series ends with a simple but powerful reminder of the basic Socratic values: to love one another, to share our ideas, and to care about those around us.
For Bettany’s current and future projects see http://www.bettanyhughes.co.uk
Click on the image below or follow this link to watch our interview!