Category Archives: Conferences

Call for papers: Married to the military – soldiers’ families in the ancient world and beyond

Offers of papers are invited for this two-day international conference to be held at The Open University in London (1-11 Hawley Crescent, Camden, London NW1 8NP) on 11th and 12th November 2016.

Hector Andromache Astyanax vaseIn societies where the threat of armed conflict was an ever-present element of the political and social experience, the impact of war was acutely felt by the immediate families of those whose role it was to train for and engage in combat. This conference aims to explore the roles and experiences of military families (defined here as the nuclear family of soldier, partner and children) in the ancient world and to situate these within the wider context of the history of such families. We therefore welcome offers of papers on any aspect of military families in the ancient world as well as comparative studies which consider more recent historical contexts.

The conference aims to commemorate Remembrance Day with a detailed discussion of a subject that is rarely broached in historical and cultural studies. It is true that there has been some headway made in understanding the role of women and children in Roman military forts, especially on the north-west frontier, but there has been very little joined-up thinking on the military family as a general phenomenon in antiquity and how it sits within the history of military families as a whole. The Greek model of standing armies who spent long periods of time away from home in combat – leaving behind wives and children – contrasts, for example, with the Roman practice of establishing permanent garrisons with ‘camp followers’ attached to military bases. The experiences of partners whose husbands were fighting a defensive war at home might differ considerably from those left behind or even joining their partners as they fought in territory far from home.

Possible themes for discussion might include:

  • social status and identity of soldiers’ partners and children
  • legal status and security for soldiers’ partners and children
  • raising children in a military household or with an ‘absent father’
  • experiences of separation, reunion and readjustment
  • relationships between military families and the army
  • dealing with bereavement and physical or psychological trauma
  • military education of children/the role of military children in recruitment

Confirmed speakers include:

Prof. Edith Hall (King’s College London)

Prof. Penelope Allison (University of Leicester)

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to Ursula Rothe ( or Emma Bridges ( by Monday 23rd May.

Call for papers: Remaking ancient Greek and Roman myths in the twenty-first century

Offers of papers are invited for a one-day colloquium on the theme of Remaking ancient Greek and Roman myths in the twenty-first century. This event will be held at The Open University in London (1-11 Hawley Crescent, Camden, London NW1 8NP) on 7th July 2016.

The recent upsurge in revivals of classical myth on the stage – with UK theatres currently programming adaptations of both Greek tragedy and the Homeric epics on an unprecedented scale – is mirrored in other artistic media ranging from the visual arts to contemporary poetry and fiction as well as television and film. This one-day colloquium aims to foster conversation between academics and practitioners working on contemporary versions of the ancient myths in order to examine some of the issues encountered by both scholars of classical reception and those whose creative works they study. How might we account for the ongoing appeal of ancient myths for artists/writers and their audiences? In what ways are retellings of ancient myths shaped by the new contexts or media within which they are produced? Whilst myth is by its nature pliable, are there any limits to the flexibility which creative practitioners have in adapting the ancient tales for a twenty-first century audience? We also hope to consider the ways in which audience engagement with retellings of mythical narratives can foster wider interest in the classical world.

Proposals for twenty-minute papers are invited; we would also welcome proposals for presentations in formats other than lecture-style delivery (e.g. performance pieces from practitioners or ‘in conversation’ sessions).

Confirmed speakers: Emma Cole (Bristol); Lorna Hardwick (Open University); Laura Martin-Simpson (Blazon Theatre); Justine McConnell (Oxford); Henry Stead (Open University).

Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent to Emma Bridges at the Open University ( by Monday 18th April 2016.

Classical Influences on Georgian Stourhead, Stourton Memorial Hall, 11 & 12th November 2015

By John Harrison, PhD student in Classical Studies at The Open University

I’ve noticed over the past few years that some PhD students cunningly organise conferences based around the themes of their research. As I am just at the beginning of my 4th year as a part-time PhD student, and in the midst of writing up, I thought I would take my cue from them. Here is my blog account of last week’s ‘Classical Influences on Georgian Stourhead’ conference.

About 2 years ago, the National Trust Garden Specialist, Richard Wheeler, and I strolled around Stourhead gardens comparing notes. He was of the view that the gardens owe a heavy debt to the Aeneid. I took the view that each of the garden buildings is best interpreted as independent tableaux. Unable to agree, at the end of our walk we decided that the time was right to organise a conference at which classical influences would be considered. Last Wednesday and Thursday this idea was fulfilled.

At the beginning of this process Helen King warned me that whilst money and time would be in short supply for such an endeavour, there would be an abundance of goodwill. She was entirely right on all three counts and it was the goodwill that carried us through. The most obvious manifestation of this goodwill was the willingness of the invited speakers to agree to present. I wrote out a ‘dream’ faculty and sent invitations, hopeful that perhaps one or two would agree to participate. Prof Roey Sweet and Richard Wheeler were my first choices for keynotes, with Michael Symes, Oliver Cox, Dudley Dodd, Susan Deacy, Susie West, Alan Power, and our own Jess Hughes, as invited speakers. To my delight they all accepted, and after the Call for Papers, were joined by David Jacques, David Noy, Alan Montgomery, Danielle Westerhof, Caroline Barron, Nicky Pritchard-Pink and Gina Muskett. We had the good fortune to get from the OU financial sponsorship of a keynote speaker and an evening reception. The run of goodwill extended to agreement from the National Trust to hold our reception in Stourhead House, with access to the Picture Gallery, Entrance Hall & Cabinet Room. Local providers were hired to provide canapés. Soft drinks and sparkling wine were arranged and provided by Mrs Rachel Harrison, ably assisted by our children Seb & Cordelia.

Our plan for the conference was to spend Day 1 considering classical influences on Georgian Britain. After a welcome from Mac, the Stourhead General Manager, we began with session 1, ‘Classical Influences in the eighteenth-century garden’. Roey Sweet’s ‘Hoares, tours and country houses’ was an excellent start, and David Jacques account of Lord Burlington and his circle offered us further context. Michael Symes then helpfully took us through ‘Greek’ and ‘Grecian’ influences, which are not, as we might suppose, the same thing.

After lunch we began our ‘Theoretical approaches to studying classical influences’. Susan Deacy offered us a consideration of the importance of Hercules, Jess Hughes the connection between reception and memory, with Susie West offering an explanation of how we understand garden design as art. For me this was one of the very best sessions, with the content of all three papers overlapping on topics such as reception theory, sensation and possible iconography.

The final academic session of the day was themed ‘Beyond Stourhead: Classical influences at other Georgian country houses’. Another great session, with presentations on Penicuik House, Delian artefacts, Herriard House and Kedleston Hall. From 6.30 to 8.00pm we were in the house supping our drinks and munching our canapés, all whilst viewing the fine art of, amongst others, Maratta, Mengs & Poussin.

Day 2 focused on Stourhead and we began with an enthusiastic account from Richard Wheeler in which Stourhead gardens were considered from the standpoint of book 1 of the Aeneid. I followed with a presentation designed to correct the view that the gardens were based on a Claude painting and then by Oliver Cox, who put the voice of the eighteenth-century visitor in the forefront. Dudley Dodd then took us on a wonderful tour of the work of Rysbrach at Stourhead. Lots of information in this session – and some very different points of view. In an attempt to reach a consensus we had an impromptu panel discussion, refereed by Roey Sweet. Perhaps predictably, no such consensus emerged. Caroline Barron also thrilled us with her fascinating account of inscriptions at Stourhead and beyond.

After lunch Stourhead Head Gardener Alan Power took us through the challenges of conservation at Stourhead, littering his presentation with anecdotes and references. After some thanks and cheering the delegates left for a tour of the garden and we got to the important business of tidying up. The conference was a wonderful experience and we have high hopes of publishing the proceedings. A host of people gave unselfishly of their time to make this happen and I would like to thank them all. Key amongst the group deserving thanks were the attendees themselves. When we began this endeavour my benchmark for attendance success was to have as many attendees as faculty. This turns out to have been very unambitious, as we sold out all 80 places on Day 1 and had 74 attendees on Day 2.

There has been some very public wrangling about the National Trust’s attempts to balance broader membership needs with providing visitors with accurate and interesting information. It was therefore a delight to be part of an event at which so many people expressed such a clear interest in recent research and scholarship. It seems to me that good scholarship and greater accessibility to Trust properties have a rich future. The challenge is to find ways to engage a wider public with the rich history and fascinating stories that were the classical influences on Georgian Stourhead.

John Harrison

Workshop: Multitudo: a multisensory, multilayered and multidirectional approach to classical studies

Saturday 21st November 2015, 9.30am-6pm at Roehampton University

Organisers: Alessandra Abbattista (Roehampton) and Eleanor Betts (OU):

We are pleased to announce that registration for Multitudo is now open. This one-day workshop brings together postgraduate students and early career researchers interested in taking a multidisciplinary approach to sensory studies of Greek and Roman societies. The objective of the workshop is to explore the value of applying sensory approaches to the material and literary evidence of the ancient world, and to illustrate how they complement and/or contradict each other. In particular, the workshop will demonstrate a range of methodologies and approaches which may be applied to different literary and archaeological contexts, with a focus on how empirical sensory data may combine, or at times conflict, with that of ancient sources.

There is no fee for attending the workshop, but all attendants must register. Please do register via The deadline for registration is the 15th of November. We welcome a participative audience and with the support of the Classical Association are pleased to be able to offer a small number of student bursaries to eligible presenters and participants. If you would like to be considered for a bursary, please send a request to Alessandra Abbattista ( or Eleanor Betts (, indicating your status and the cost of your travel and/or accommodation expenses, when you register for the workshop.

We are keen to attract undergraduate, MA and PhD students to the workshop, from Classical Studies and other disciplines, so please advertise it as widely as you can. If using Twitter, please use the hashtag #multitudo15.

The full programme and registration details are available on our website:

See also:—Humanities/Workshop—Multitudo–a-multisensory,-multilayered-and-multidirectional-approach-to-classical-studies/

For further information please do not hesitate to contact us: Alessandra Abbattista ( or Eleanor Betts (


9.30-10 Registration and coffee

10-10.10 Introduction: Alessandra Abbattista & Eleanor Betts

Panel 1: Embodied Performance

Chair: Eleanor Betts


Alessandra Abbattista & Giacomo Savani

“The Multisensory Metamorphosis of a Thracian King”

Metamorphosis – ancient Greek tragedy – funeral mourning – myth of Procne

Fabio Lo Piparo

“Blowing Through the Gorgon Mask: a Reading of the Cassandra Episode in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon

Aeschylus’ Agamemnon – Cassandra – aulos – Gorgon mask – Tony Harrison’s Oresteia 


Helen Slaney

“Kinaesthesia as Methodology”

Dance – sculpture – movement – aesthetics – reception – cognition – enactment – embodiment – haptic – tactility – interactive

Anna Trostnikova

“Multisensory Experience of Audiences at Roman Religious Festivals. Spectators or Participants?”

Theatre – collective experience – ritual vs performance – lex iulia theatralis – crowd behaviour – production of space


11.30-11.40 Coffee


Panel 2: Smell, Taste and Touch

Chair: Giacomo Savani


Catherine Hoggarth

“Crossing the Multisensory Bridge”

bridges – urban – rural – multisensory – multidisciplinary – risk – comparative approaches – value – reconstruction – methodologies

Stuart McKie

“Practical Magic: How, Where and When to Curse a Thief in Roman Britain”

Magic – Roman Britain – curse tablets – ritual – experimental archaeology – movement – gesture


Marta Garcia-Morcillo

“Feeling the Market in Ancient Rome”

Smell – hearing – product recognition – competition – social status – performance – interaction – atmosphere – daily life

Patty Baker

“Tasting Roman Food: Experimental Archaeology”

Taste – senses – reenactment – experimental archaeology – recipes – environmental remains


1.00-1.40 Lunch


Panel 3: Sights and Sounds

Chair: Alessandra Abbattista


Orestis Mitintzis

“Visual Aspects in the Experience of Pilgrimage in the Ancient Greek World”

Pilgrimage – pilgrim – sight – nature – sanctuary – buildings – votives – cult statue – Classical and Hellenistic world

Matteo Olivieri

“The Song of the Maidens of Delos: Homage to the Identities of the Pilgrims of Apollo?”

Delos – sanctuary – religious festival – cult – regional sanctuary – Apollo, Artemis and Leto – Delian Maidens – Homeric hymn to Apollo – choral lyric – mimetic performance – dance – ethnic identity – polis identity – Ionian – Cyclades islands – Aegean sea – Greek language & dialects


Francesca Berlinzani

“An Acoustic Problem of the Ps. Aristot. ΠΕΡΙ ΦΩΝΗΣ. Between Auditive and Visuospatial Perception”

Ancient acoustics – Aristotle – formants – echo – resonance – sound perception

Jeff Veitch

“Hearing Architecture: Sound Samples in Architectural Context”

aural architecture – acoustics – sound perception – Roman buildings – sound samples


Jasmine Parker & Eleanor Betts

“A Phenomenology of Visual Perception”


3.30-3.40 Coffee


Panel 4: Theorising the Senses

Chair: Jeff Veitch


John Harrison

“The Stourhead Temple of the Nymph: a Multisensory Experience”

Grotto – Stourhead – nymphaeum – multisensory – synaesthesia – kinaesthesia – vision – audition – olfaction – thermoception

Hannah Platts

“Sensing and Feeling at Home: Multisensory Approaches to the Roman Domestic Realm”

Multisensory – insula – domestic – home – status – identity (belonging) – Roman


Kelli Rudolph

“Method and Theory in Ancient Sensory Studies”

Ancient methodologies: analogy – polarity – inference – theoretical positions: status of qualities – the relations between contraries – notions of elements; understanding of ancient approaches to study of the senses

Emma-Jayne Graham

“Objective Senses and Sensory Objectives in the Graeco-Roman World”

Objective/subjective senses – texts/materials – metaphor/experience – perception/description

5.00-5.20 Closing discussion

5.20-6.00 Drinks reception


Antiquity and Photography: call for papers

On Thursday 10 September, we’re holding a one-day colloquium on the topic of Antiquity and Photography, to be held at the OU offices in Camden, London.

A few days remain before the (slightly extended) deadline to submit an abstract, if you’re interested in speaking at this event. 300-word abstracts for 20-minute papers should be sent to the organiser, Joanna Paul ( by Monday 13 July. Here’s an outline of what we hope the colloquium will address:

The fantasy of capturing the ancient world on film has fired the popular imagination ever since the early 19th century. Whether allowing armchair tourists the opportunity to view ancient sites without the need for travel, or reanimating ancient history and myth in flesh and blood, rather than pen and paint, the camera has, for more than two centuries, channelled a unique vision of the distant past. But while cinema’s relationship with antiquity has been endlessly studied in recent years, the same cannot be said of still photography, in all its forms. From the earliest days of the daguerreotype, which quickly became a valuable means of depicting archaeological sites, to the artistic photography of the present day, which can variously recreate and redestroy antiquity using both analogue and digital processes, the photographic medium is a powerful vehicle for exploring and commenting on our relationship to the past, which deserves to be examined in much more detail.

This one-day colloquium aims to provide a forum for colleagues interested in this area of research, in which any question or topic related to the theme of Antiquity and Photography can be discussed. In particular, it is hoped that the colloquium will explore some of the more creative and/or subjective ways in which photography has addressed the ancient past, in addition to its use as a tool for documenting archaeological finds. Confirmed speakers so far include Zena Kamash (Royal Holloway), Joanna Paul (Open University), Shelley Hales (Bristol), and Katy Soar (Sheffield).

Watch this space for a final programme and details of how to register for the colloquium!

From the current exhibition 'Pompei e L'Europa 1748-1943' (Pompeii Amphitheatre)

From the current exhibition ‘Pompei e L’Europa 1748-1943’ (Pompeii Amphitheatre)

The Poetics of War: Remembering Conflict from Ancient Greece to the Great War

by Emma Bridges

Last week I attended an international conference entitled ‘The Poetics of War’ at University College London. For researchers like me, whose work focuses on cultural responses to armed conflict in the ancient world, reflections on the centenary of the First World War provide the opportunity for drawing comparisons between the memorialisation of wars in more recent history and those of the classical past. This conference brought together classical scholars as well as those working in other fields, and our shared interests in the ways in which war is remembered from a range of different perspectives – personal, local, and national – and via different written and artistic media made for some thought-provoking discussions.Poetics of War poster

Topics covered ranged from ancient Greek and Roman literary, monumental and artistic commemorations of war to the ways in which more recent conflicts – the Crimean War as well as World War I – have been memorialised. We thought too about the overlap between these periods, and in particular about many of the ways in which the classical tradition has influenced more recent responses to war. Particular highlights for me included Edith Hall’s keynote lecture on David Jones’ modernist war poem In Parenthesis, and a talk by Elizabeth Vandiver, whose important work on classical influences on the poetry of the First World War is an outstanding example of recent work in classical reception studies.

In my own paper I sought to bring something of my own research into female perspectives on war to the conference. I focused on a twentieth century historical novel by Naomi Mitchison, Cloud Cuckoo Land (1925) which, although set in the closing years of the Peloponnesian War in the fifth century BC, also reflects some of the wartime experiences of the generation of women who had lived through World War I. Although 1920s literature is something of a departure for me in relation to previous research I’ve undertaken, the opportunity to think about how some of the themes of my work might resurface in this historical period was a valuable one. In particular it led to interesting conversations about gender roles in wartime and the extent to which war narratives are often dominated by male voices, as well as women’s engagement with the classical tradition.

As always at such an event it is those exchanges with other scholars working in related fields which offer the opportunity to make fresh connections – both in terms of meeting new people and in thinking about the material on which we are working. If it’s a sign of a successful conference to return home with both a reading list and a contacts list that are longer than they were at the start of the event, this occasion was certainly a fruitful one!

All talks from the conference were recorded and will be available in due course via the YouTube channel of UCL’s Classics department; I’ll post the link here when they are live.

Psychology and the Classics meeting in Leuven

John Harrison is currently writing his PhD thesis on ‘Myth in reception: Insights from Stourhead house and gardens 1714-1830

I remember vividly during the course of studying A330 how excitedly I opened Chapter 3 of Eric Csapo’s Theories of Mythology. I remember also my surprise at finding that the chapter titled ‘Psychology’ begins and ends with Freud – with most of the pages in between dealing with Freud. It was (and is) curious to psychologists like myself how psychoanalysis seems to have become the dominant psychological approach for explaining myth, especially given the richness of psychological paradigms such as the cognitive, developmental and neo-behaviourist approaches. How refreshing then to see a call for papers announcement for Psychology and the Classics: A Dialogue of Disciplines, which was held in at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven between 24th & 27th March.

So many highlights, but here is a selection of the sessions I enjoyed most:

  • Prof Jennifer Radden opened the meeting with her fascinating key-note in which she offered the view that Richard Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy is not just a fascinating seventeenth-century view of emotion, but also a text relevant to modern day psychiatry and neuroscience.
  • The Day 1 evening reception was held at the Leuven Museum and in addition to Belgian beer tasting, we were engaged by the Making Learning to make votives. Huge fun, I would do it all again in a snip 🙂
  • A highlight of Day 2 for me was Luca Grillo’s wonderful presentation, in which he sought to apply cognitive psychology models to our understanding to Cicero’s multiple uses of irony. Two competing models appear to explain Cicero’s irony, and Luca’s call to arms was for psychologists and philologists to collaborate to determine which model is the best fit.
  • In Prof. Christopher Gill’s excellent keynote he sought to show that the roots of modern Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be found in the work of the Stoics, especially in the writing of Epictetus. Since the Leuven meeting I have had the opportunity to discuss this issue with CBT expert colleagues from the THINC task force, who were content to agree the point.
  • Friday’s opening session, titled ‘What can the cognitive sciences offer Classics?’ was a fascinating session. We were treated to presentations on the application of cognitive analysis of Odysseus’ behavior during his 10 year journey home, as well as a second invocation of schema theory (I had discussed this cognitive theory in my Day 1 presentation) by William Short. This block of presentations was helpfully drawn together by Prof. Douglas Cairns, whose current research interests include classical emotions and metaphor.
  • The application of cognitive psychological theory to a classical theme for me found its zenith in Lilah Grace Canevaro’s entrancing presentation ‘Anticipating audiences: Hesiod’s Works and day and cognitive psychology’, in which she interpreted aspects of Hesiod in cognitive psychological terms. A further treat was Joel Christensen’s premise that theories of learned helplessness could be applied to aspects of Odysseus’ behavior, and especially whilst he was Calypso’s guest on Ogygia.

Odysseus and Calypso, red-figure vase, 5th century BC, Naples Archaeological Museum The close of the meeting brought deservedly warm applause for the organisers, and especially Jeroen Lauwers. A wish expressed by many of the presenters was that this event should be beginning of what promises to be a fruitful and mutually beneficial interdisciplinary approach. As one with ‘a foot in both camps’, I’d willingly endorse such a view. Perhaps the next step is for psychologists to repay the compliment by hosting their classical colleagues at a reciprocal event?

John Harrison

Image: Odysseus and Calypso, Red-figured vase, 5th century BC, Naples Archaeological Museum.


The OU at the Classical Association annual conference

We’re delighted that the Open University’s Department of Classical Studies is going to have a strong presence at this year’s Classical Association annual conference, with several of our colleagues presenting papers on topics which represent the range of our research interests. PhD student Mair Lloyd, who has convened a panel on ‘Sustainable Classics’, has written a post on her personal blog giving a taste of what to expect; you can read it here. If you’re going to be at the conference do come and say hello to us! We’re also looking forward to 2017, when the conference will be jointly convened by the Open University and the University of Kent.