Author Archives: Ursula Rothe

Doctor Toga on Radio 1 – by Ursula Rothe

What to do when you get an email out of the blue from a BBC radio producer asking if you’re willing to be interviewed about the toga on a Radio 1 programme focusing on toga parties? You say yes, of course! I mean, you know it’s going to be silly, and you know you’re not going to be able to get much useful detail across. But on the other hand, everyone thinks they know what a toga looked like, when they rarely do: this was a golden opportunity for me as a Roman dress historian to challenge the misunderstanding surrounding Roman dress, and especially togas, and that to a large audience. After all, challenging misinformation and misconceptions about Roman dress is also the aim of my new website, Doctor Toga ( ), a one-stop clinic for people from theatrical societies, re-enactment groups and the media to get expert advice on Roman dress for costumes.

The interview took place over the phone on Tuesday afternoon, and it involved Scott Mills and Chris Stark firing questions at me whilst also engaging in banter with each other. The line wasn’t brilliant, and it was not always easy, given the lack of visual cues, to know when to stop or start talking, but I think the result is pretty good nonetheless. It was clear they were trying to shock me with laddish innuendo at various stages, but Classical Studies scholars are not easy to offend – least of all Australian ones! I’m particularly pleased they left in my plug for my new website, although they did cut me talking about my upcoming book on the toga. Also, I was disappointed not to be able to tell them when they asked me when knickers were invented. (I must look that up.) But you can’t have it all!

It was interesting how much fun they made, at the beginning, of the idea that there might be someone who is an expert on the toga. Although perhaps somewhat confronting, it is always a healthy experience to be reminded of just how obscure the niche you inhabit is for some people. Let’s hope this kind of interview goes some way to convincing people that the classical world is still very much with us, and that it is a useful thing that there are people out there who spend their lives trying to understand it better. At the very least, let’s hope it will lead to a few more toga-like togas on the party circuit this freshers’ season!

You can find a link to the interview here (minutes 7.27-14.23):

Studentships: MA in Classical Studies

We are delighted to be able to offer two fully-funded scholarships for our MA in Classical Studies:

  • One scholarship will be awarded through an open competition, on the basis of the academic excellence of the applicant.
  • One scholarship, generously funded by the A.G. Leventis Foundation, will be awarded to a UK schoolteacher who intends to introduce or develop the provision of Classical Civilisation in the curriculum of the school where they work.

The Open University’s MA in Classical Studies:

The MA in Classical Studies at the Open University focuses on the question ‘How do we know what we know about the ancient world?’ It is designed both to introduce you to key concepts and themes in Classical Studies and to allow you to explore some of these in more depth. Over the course of the two modules that make up the qualification, it gradually builds up your knowledge and the skills you need to explore ancient visual and written material, while also training you to become an independent researcher. This is the ideal qualification for anyone who wants to know more about the ancient world and the ways in which we can approach it as researchers. It also offers an excellent starting-point for those wishing to teach classical subjects in secondary school. It is a two-year qualification requiring approximately 16 hours of study time a week, which means that it can be completed alongside employment, and it is taught entirely online. No specific prior knowledge is assumed, and there is no requirement to have studied Latin or Ancient Greek, but an undergraduate degree in a cognate discipline is recommended as a basis. By consultation other arrangements can sometimes be made if you do not hold a degree in such a discipline. This usually involves preparatory reading. Further information about the MA is available on the OU website, and on our departmental website. The scholarship covers full fees for the MA.

How to apply:

To apply for the scholarship, please complete the MA-scholarship-application-form 2018 and send it, completed, to With the form you should also send:

  • a separate curriculum vitae (CV) of no more than two pages;
  • a copy of your latest degree certificate;
  • a transcript of your degree that makes clear the level of your academic achievement;
  • the name of an academic referee who would be prepared to support your application if you are shortlisted (this should be someone who has taught you or worked with you);
  • a statement from your headteacher indicating that they are willing to support your plans to develop Classical Civilisation, if you are applying for the Leventis scholarship.

The application form includes a section for a personal statement.

  • Applicants for the Leventis scholarship should use this section to outline their teaching experience to date and to provide a clear indication of the way in which they propose to develop the provision of Classical Civilisation in their school. The successful applicant will be selected on the basis of this statement, and on academic excellence in their studies to date.
  • Applicants for the open competition scholarship should use the personal statement to give an account of their prior experience of studying the ancient world, and to explain why they want to study for the MA in Classical Studies at the OU.

The scholarships will not be awarded to students receiving full funding from other funding bodies. It is not necessary to register for the MA degree before making this application.

The Open University promotes diversity in education and we welcome applications from all sections of the community. If it would help to have the application in an alternative format please contact

The deadline for applications is 4pm on Monday 2nd July and we intend to inform all applicants of the outcome in mid-July.

Informal enquiries can be made to Joanna Paul (



CHASE Studentships – 2016 Round Now Open!


Calling all motivated, independent-minded enthusiasts of Classical Studies: Are you interested in doing a PhD with us, but don’t have the finances to fund yourself? All is not lost!

The Open University is a member of the CHASE Consortium (alongside the Courtauld Institute of Art and Goldsmith’s College at the University of London and the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, Kent and Sussex) which offers fully funded PhD studentships for UK students. (For EU students the award covers fees only.)

The new round for entry in October 2016 has just been opened.

CHASE studentships offer generous funding for skills training programmes and allow you to network with students and scholars in the other CHASE institutions via workshops and an annual conference.

Please note that in order to qualify for a CHASE studentship you need first to have applied to do a PhD in Classical Studies at the OU in the usual way by the deadline of 13th January 2016.

The CHASE selection forms a second tier and candidates will be informed whether or not they have been sucessful in April 2016.

If you are interested, please get in touch with the Classical Studies department’s Postgraduate Coordinator, Dr Ursula Rothe ( as soon as possible to discuss your research proposal.

To find out more about applying to do a PhD in Classical Studies at the OU, visit our Postgraduate webpage at

To find out more about the CHASE studentships at the OU, go to

And to find out more about CHASE, visit the consortium website at

Behind the Scenes: Creating the New MA Part 2 (A864)

I’m the chair of the team currently putting the finishing touches on the brand-new module for Part 2 of the MA in Classical Studies, and I think I speak for the whole team when I say it has been quite a journey! When we started out, we knew we had to follow up the more thematically broad-based and skills-oriented MA Part 1 with a more specific subject-based module; we settled on the topic of the human body in the ancient world, as it seemed broad enough to be able to cover a variety of themes and types of evidence, but specific enough for students to feel that they have an in-depth knowledge of the subject. It also happens to be one of the most dynamic and fast-growing areas of classics right now, with several of the field’s key scholars amongst our staff at the OU. Because of this, of course, we have all been very excited to work on this module in particular, and many of us have been able to bring our own research expertise into the teaching material, which is always fun!

In Block 3 of A864 we look at religious healing in the ancient world. This votive stele shows the healing hero Amphiaraos treating the shoulder of Archinos, who is also shown being bitten on the same shoulder by a snake whilst sleeping. Sanctuary of Amphiaros, Oropus, Attica. Marble, c.400-380 BCE.

In Block 3 of A864 we look at religious healing in the ancient world. This votive stele shows the healing hero Amphiaraos treating the shoulder of Archinos, who is also shown being bitten on the same shoulder by a snake whilst sleeping. Sanctuary of Amphiaros, Oropus, Attica. Marble, c.400-380 BCE. (This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom)

Once the initial excitement subsided, however, it was clear that it wasn’t going to be the easiest module in the world to put together. What exactly did we want to get across to students? How could we choose topics that would teach students not just about the ins and outs of that topic, but what they tell us about different types of evidence, or investigation techniques, or periods of scholarship? And how were we going to manage the fact that much of our material would inevitably go very close to the bone for many of our students? Topics like disability, sexuality, birth and death can be difficult to teach because they lie at the very heart of some of the central concerns – and taboos – of human society. Rather than seeing this as a disadvantage, however, we have embraced this fact, because it means that students will be thinking about, discussing and formulating thoughts on matters that have profound significance for the way we live our lives. We think that by learning about how Greeks and Romans used and regarded their bodies, we can go some way to understanding not just the interesting things that make our societies very different, but also the commonalities that make us all human.

As the start date (3rd Oct.) looms, we are now putting together the final items of teaching material and starting to populate the module VLE. We are very much looking forward to seeing how the first year of presentation goes, and to those of you registered on the module, we hope very much that you enjoy it!

To find out more information and the latest news on the module, visit the MA in Classical Studies Facebook page at .

Ursula Rothe on behalf of the Module Team for Part 2 of the MA in Classical Studies