Author Archives: Emma-Jayne Graham

Leventis MA Studentships for Teachers

We are delighted to be able to offer three fully-funded scholarships for teachers in state schools or sixth-form colleges wishing to study our new MA in Classical Studies, which will be taught for the first time from September 2024. These scholarships, generously funded by the A.G. Leventis Foundation, will be awarded to UK schoolteachers who intend to introduce or develop the provision of Classical Civilisation (or closely related subjects) in the curriculum of the non-fee paying school or college where they work. 

The Open University’s MA in Classical Studies 

The Open University’s new MA in Classical Studies provides you with the opportunity to discover what it means to do Classical Studies in the twenty-first century. You’ll investigate a range of ancient and contemporary ideas about the Greek and Roman worlds through encounters with literary texts, languages, classical mythology, historical sources and archaeological remains, and their ongoing significance for later periods, places, cultures and creative practices. By exploring a rich and dynamic mix of scholarly perspectives and resources, you’ll address diverse sets of questions about the ancient world. These will enable you to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to produce an independent, extended research project on a topic of your choice. 

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 25 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: https://www.open.ac.uk/postgraduate/qualifications/f59   

The Scholarship 

The Leventis scholarships consist of a grant of £9,000.  This covers the full cost of the tuition fees for the MA with the balance available to assist with the cost of book purchases related to the study of the MA modules and the acquisition and development of resources for teaching Classical Studies, or related subjects, in the scholarship holder’s school or college. 

Developing Classical Studies in Schools 

Applicants may be interested in the panel discussion at the Open University’s Advocating Classics Education event in 2019, in which representatives of the ACE project, Classics for All, and a teacher with recent experience of developing Classical Studies provision in a state secondary school shared their experiences and offered guidance and advice. The full discussion is available online here. 

Note that your plans to introduce or develop classical subjects in your school or college need not necessarily mean offering a formally examined course (such as a GCSE or National 4/5 in Scotland).  Your plans might instead involve introducing classical content into other subject areas, teaching classics-related classes or clubs off-timetable, for example.  Please outline your plans and their expected impact (e.g. in terms of student numbers) in your application. 

How to Apply 

To apply for the scholarship, please complete the MA-studentship-application-form-2024  and send it to FASS-ClassicalStudies-Enquiries@open.ac.uk. 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 and/or transcript; 
  • a statement from your headteacher indicating that they are willing to support your plans to develop Classical Civilisation (or related subject) (This need be no more than one side of A4.) 

The application form includes a section for a personal statement. You should use this section to outline the nature of the school or college in which you teach, your teaching experience to date, and to provide a clear indication of the way in which you propose to develop the provision of Classical Civilisation (or related subject) in your school or college. The successful applicants will be selected on the basis of this statement, on academic excellence in their studies to date, and on the level of support from their school for their development of the curriculum. 

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: FASS-ClassicalStudies-Enquiries@open.ac.uk  

The deadline for applications is  4pm on June 4, 2024 and we intend to inform all applicants by late June. 

Informal enquiries can be made to Prof James Robson (james.robson@open.ac.uk). 

EDI Scholarships in Classical Studies for UK Schoolteachers

We are delighted to be able to offer three fully-funded EDI scholarships for teachers in UK state schools wishing to study either of the following Open University modules:

  • A229 Exploring the Classical World
  • A276 Classical Latin: The Language of Ancient Rome

These scholarships, funded by the OU’s Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, will be awarded to UK schoolteachers who intend to introduce or develop the provision of Classical Civilisation or Latin in the curriculum of the non-fee-paying school or college where they work.  They are open to teachersof any discipline and at any level (primary, secondary or tertiary) looking to develop their knowledge of the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome and/or Latin language and Roman culture with this aim in mind.

In the award of these scholarships, preference will be given to:

  • teachers (broadly defined) working in schools with a high proportion of students from backgrounds which aretraditionally under-represented in the teaching of classical subjects, e.g. those from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background and/or where a high percentage of pupils are eligible for Free School Meals;
  • individuals from backgrounds which aretraditionally under-represented in the teaching of classical subjects, e.g. those from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background (including people with a mixed ethnic background) or from a working class background.

These scholarships are open to those teaching in non-fee-paying primary and secondary schools as well as sixth form colleges. Please note that applicants will normally be expected to have worked for at least two years as a teacher.

Studying with the Open University

A229 Exploring the Classical World and A276 Classical Latin: The Language of Ancient Rome are 60-credit modules, requiring regular study each week.  Students are supported by a dedicated tutor, enjoy access to regular tutorials, and study using a combination of printed and online materials. The Open University’s distance learning model gives students the flexibility to study where and when they want.  Modules run from October to May and are assessed via a series of assignments submitted throughout the year.

A229 Exploring the Classical World

This module provides an introduction to the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome. It covers a range of topics such as Homer’s poetry and the society where it was created; Athens in the fifth century BCE; republican Rome; and Roman social history. This module explores ancient poetry, prose, drama and historical texts in English translation along with art, architecture and archaeological evidence to help you build up a solid understanding of key periods of classical history and culture. The material covered provides a strong foundation for the teaching of Classical Civilisation up to GCSE level (or National 4/5 Classical Studies in Scotland).

Further information about Exploring the Classical World is available on the OU website , and on our departmental website.

A276 Classical Latin: The Language of Ancient Rome

This module combines a beginners’ course in Latin with the study of Roman culture and literature in translation. You’ll learn the core principles of the language, while also exploring a range of Latin texts in translation (including Livy, Virgil, Ovid, and Horace) from literary, cultural, and historical angles. The module focuses on the themes of Roman identity, Rome’s origins, and the use of stories from the past in Augustan Rome. The material covered provides a strong foundation for the teaching of Latin up to GCSE level (or National 4/5 in Scotland).

Further information about Classical Latin: The Language of Ancient Rome is available on the OU website, and on our departmental website.

What’s included in the scholarship

The Open University EDI scholarships consist of a grant of £3,228 to cover the full cost of the tuition fees for the module.

Successful candidates will be provided with support and advice on developing or introducing classical subjects in their school. They will also be asked to provide brief written and/or oral updates on their progress and plans during their studies and to complete a report following their completion of the module.

Developing the teaching of classical subjects in schools

There is good support available for teachers looking to introduce classical subjects into state schools provided by the charity Classics for All. For more details, go to the Classics for All website and click on ‘My school wants classics’.  The ACE project website (Advocating Classics Education) also provides useful advice for those wishing to develop Classical Civilisation (and Ancient History) in their schools.  Charities such as the Roman Society and Hellenic Society can provide grants of up to £500 for classroom resources and books.

Note that your plans to introduce or develop classical subjects in your school need not necessarily mean offering a formally examined course (such as a GCSE).  Your plans might instead involve introducing classical content into other subject areas, teaching classics-related classes or clubs off-timetable or offering Latin as a foreign language at KS2, for example.  Please outline your plans and their expected impact (e.g. in terms of student numbers) in your application.

How to apply

To apply for the scholarship, please complete the EDI-scholarship-application-form-2023  and send it to FASS-ClassicalStudies-Enquiries@open.ac.uk. With the form you should also send:

  • a separate curriculum vitae (CV) of no more than two pages;
  • a copy of your degree certificate (or a transcript of your degree that makes clear the level of your academic achievement);
  • a statement from your headteacher indicating that they are willing to support your plans to introduce or develop Classical Civilisation or Latin in your school or college. (This need be no more than one side of A4.)

The application form includes a section for a short personal statement (of no more than 800 words). You should use this section to outline:

  • the nature of the school you work in and its student body (where possible, please provide information on the percentage of pupils with English as an Additional Language, Special Educational Needs and Free School Meals, plus a link to the latest Ofsted report);
  • how you propose to develop the provision of classical subjects in your school;
  • how the scholarship will facilitate greater access to classics for those from backgrounds which are traditionally under-represented in the field (this may apply either to you as the candidate and/or to your students);
  • your teaching experience to date;
  • your need for the qualification.

The successful applicants will be selected on the basis of this statement, their eligibility, and their academic and professional achievements to date, also taking into account the level of support from the school or college.

Stronger applications will normally:

  • show evidence of clear, well-developed plans;
  • outline how the knowledge and skills acquired by studying the module will enhance the candidate’s ability to teach classics; and
  • demonstrate that the candidate’s study of the module will make a meaningful contribution to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in classics education.

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

The Open University is proud to promote 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:  FASS-ClassicalStudies-Enquiries@open.ac.uk

The deadline for applications is 4pm on July 10, 2023 and we intend to inform all applicants shortly afterwards.  (Please note that successful applicants will be required to register for their chosen module by the end of July.)

Informal enquiries about these scholarships can be made to: Prof James Robson (james.robson@open.ac.uk).

Trevor Fear

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Dr Trevor Fear on Sunday 26 February 2023.

Trevor was Senior Lecturer and Staff Tutor in Classical Studies. He joined the Open University in 2003, originally working in Region 04, and going on to contribute to many Arts and Humanities and Classical Studies modules in production and presentation as both module team member, module team chair and cluster manager. Trevor will be best known to tens of thousands of former and current Arts and Humanities students as the author of ‘Cleopatra’, the very first unit of their study journey. This unit, written initially for AA100 The Arts Past and Present and subsequently reworked for the successor module A111 Discovering the Arts and Humanities, showcases Trevor’s generosity of knowledge. Encouraging students to investigate the reputation of Cleopatra VII across time and space, from the Roman and Arabic texts of the first century BCE to the twenty-first century CE, and from Egypt to Hollywood, ‘Cleopatra’ is regularly named by Arts and Humanities students as their favourite unit and the one that first made them start thinking differently about the world around them.

Over the last 20 years Trevor recruited and supported the development of over 100 Associate Lecturers in his role as Staff Tutor, and his leadership of ‘The Relaxed Tutorial’ FASSTEST scholarship project continues to open up new forms of tuition support for neurodivergent students. Trevor was also deeply committed to increasing access to Classical Studies in UK state schools and was responsible for the recruitment and support of holders of the A.G. Leventis MA Studentship for teachers who intend to develop the provision of Classical Civilisation in their schools.

Trevor’s research specialisms focused on Roman Love Elegy and Latin poetry, particularly the writings of Catullus, and most recently on Classical Reception Studies. For the last twelve years he has been the editor of the Open Access journal New Voices in Classical Reception Studies, promoting the research of early career researchers and established researchers moving into the area of Classical Reception Studies, as he himself once did. Trevor also supervised a number of PhD students, the most recent of whom successfully passed their viva a few weeks ago.

Trevor was deeply woven into the fabric of the Classical Studies department and will be greatly missed by his department colleagues as well as those within the Arts and Humanities Staff Tutor and Associate Lecturer communities and FASS more broadly. He will be remembered with genuine fondness as an innately kind, supportive, understanding and completely dependable colleague who always had time and words of encouragement for everyone. Our thoughts are with Trevor’s wife Cindy and his sons Chris and Zac.

Sensory Experience in Rome’s Northern Provinces – a report by Colin Gough and Kirstie Morey

On the 6th October 2018, several members of the department, current and former PhD students, and a handful of MA Classical Studies students attended a conference hosted by the Roman Society at Senate House in London. The theme for the day was Sensory Experience in Rome’s Northern Provinces and here, fresh from submitting their dissertations for A864, OU Classical Studies MA students Colin Gough and Kirstie Morey share their multisensory impressions of the day.

Colin Gough

The one question that unites students, academics and anyone interested in Classical Studies is ‘what was it like in classical times?’ At the Senate House conference last Saturday we had the opportunity to experience some of the sensations of a Roman. What does the Roman ketchup that is garum, made from putrefying fish, smell like? To this modern, westernised nose – not pleasant, and it would have taken real courage to use it as an edible additive. Yet it was so popular in Roman times that there was mass production. Did Roman men wear perfume? Thomas Derrick (Leicester) not only gave a presentation on the multisensory approach to the impact of Roman settlements in the north but, during lunch demonstrated his (real) passion for Roman scents and perfumes. There is nothing like pouring olive oils with rosemary and pepper, scaping off the excess with a strigil to get the authentic Roman post-bathing experience, even though I spent the rest of the afternoon smelling like focaccia. Patty Baker (Kent) not only gave an interesting presentation on archaeological data to explore retrieving indigenous conceptions of flora but introduced the concept of experimental archaeology in recreating floral crowns from mosaic images in Britannia. These were passed around to give the sensory feel of manufacture and wearing resulting in some new profile pictures on social media. We were treated to a fabulous talk by the author Caroline Lawrence who, with a range of ‘props’ not only gave an insight into how she uses the sensorium to develop her books but gave us a hands-on experience of some of the sights, sounds, smells and feels of the Roman world.

This brings me onto an important point, the value to Classical Studies of experientialism, that is, personally experiencing a location, environment or object. Naturally, our experiences will not be the same as an individual or group in classical times but it does give an opportunity to consider sociological changes and responses and, indeed, help formulate questions to be addressed. But it goes further. It opened my understanding of the different applications of Classical Studies. This was underpinned by the excellent talk by Mike Bishop. Twitter users may know him as @perlineamvalli. He has walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall over fifteen times and has produced two-minute soundtracks at each milecastle prompting the discussion of how the soundscape has changed (Editor’s note: you can listen to them here!). This approach not only focusses the mind on the establishing a temporal frame but allows reconstruction of a likely soundscape in Roman times. Nicky Garland (Newcastle) suggested physiological responses not available from empirical evidence that can be gained by a personally experienced, multisensory approach to the partially re-constructed Commanding Officers House at South Shields. Sophie Jackson (MOLA) gave an interesting presentation on the modern history of the Bloomberg Mithraeum and how consultants, design teams and scholars approached interpreting the archaeology to translate the atmosphere and ritual into a sensory experience for the 21st Century audience.

Unfortunately, because of space constraints, I have not named all the presenters or the subjects tackled (for more see Caroline’s own blog). However, to finish, I have two abiding memories. The enthusiasm of all who presented and the generosity they have in sharing their experience and knowledge. Using our imagination, new methodologies can be developed giving a greater insight into the past and engaging students of the future and the wider public. It has never been a better time to study classical times and sensory studies can be at the centre of all disciplines. Along with OU postgrad and WiP days, I think everyone should experience conferences – if nothing else it makes you appreciate how good we all are and how approachable and helpful other people can be.

Kirstie Morey

As an A864 OU Master’s student, October 1st was a significant date for me. The culmination of two years of hard work and my dissertation was finally submitted. But I had mixed feelings: I was extremely proud of both what I had written, and of how far I had come. I was incredibly relieved to know that it was in and that I had managed to finish it on time and within word limits. But, I was also very sad. Studying for my Masters had been such a journey and had become such a big part of my life, I simply didn’t want it to end. So, I booked myself onto a Roman Society workshop that I’d had my eye on since reading about it on Twitter, and on Saturday last, ventured to the Senate House for the Sensory Experience in Rome’s Northern Provinces workshop. I was nervous at first as I didn’t think I’d know anybody and I wasn’t sure how ‘interactive’ I would be expected to be at a workshop. But, a couple of familiar faces appeared in the room and we were off. It was great.

Having been introduced to the idea of sensory studies in A864, the concepts were easy enough to follow. And the speakers were very engaging and interesting. Some papers were quite theoretical, like Thomas Derrick (Leicester) and Andrew Gardner (UCL); and some were very much more practical. We wore, felt and smelled our way through various coronas, courtesy of Patty Baker (Kent) and heard our way through the milecastles along Hadrian’s Wall, thanks to Mike Bishop. We oiled and ‘strigilled’ ourselves during lunch with ‘authentic’ Roman perfumes and we chewed on mastic chewing gum.

The highlights for me were Stuart McKie’s (Durham) talk on curse tablets and the connection between them and votive offerings and author Caroline Lawrence’s explanation of how she tries to evoke every sensual experience for the readers of her Roman Mysteries series of children’s books.  I wish she had been available for my kids’ birthday parties – she was brilliant! While Sophie Jackson from MOLA was talking about the history of the London Mithraeum, she showed us a newspaper photograph showing the thousands of people who queued daily in the 1950s to see the original ruins. A lady in the audience shared with us her memories of being in that queue and how it inspired her to become an archaeologist.  That was the icing on the cake.

I am told that this conference may not have been typical and that others aren’t usually so ‘touchy feely’ but, while that may have been the case, the fact that the theme was so interesting, and the speakers were so engaging was secondary to my enjoyment of just being there. It made me realise that my academic journey is not over and that there is plenty more to be involved with, to listen to and, maybe even one day, to contribute to.

By Colin Gough (@saddad52) and Kirstie Morey (@K33Morey)

New publications on the ancient body

The first half of 2017 has seen the publication of several new books by members of the Ancient Body cluster in the department of Classical Studies, so we thought we’d share with you some further details.

Eleanor Betts (ed) (2017) Senses of the Empire: Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture (Routledge).

This new edited volume addresses the growing field of sensory approaches to Roman material culture. Extending beyond the presentations from the November 2013 conference held at The Open University Regional Centre in Camden (London), this volume discusses the value of integrating sensory perspectives into existing archaeological, historical and literary analyses of the ancient world. Amongst the chapters you will find important new explorations of theoretical and methodological approaches to ancient sensory studies, as well as specific case studies on urban sensescapes, Roman funerals, entertainment venues, the smells of the military fort of Vindolanda, the sounds of the tuba, touching and tasting in animal sacrifice, the visual and tactile aspects of signet rings and votive dedications, and the motion of pantomime performances. Several contributors are members of the Classical Studies department: Eleanor Betts, Emma-Jayne Graham and Valerie Hope. From the cover:

“The Roman empire afforded a kaleidoscope of sensations. Through a series of multisensory case studies centred on people, places, buildings and artefacts, and on specific aspects of human behaviour, this volume develops ground-breaking methods and approaches for sensory studies in Roman archaeology and ancient history. Authors explore questions such as: what it felt like, and symbolised, to be showered with saffron at the amphitheatre; why the shape of a dancer’s body made him immediately recognisable as a social outcast; how the dramatic gestures, loud noises and unforgettable smells of a funeral would have different meanings for members of the family and for bystanders; and why feeling the weight of a signet ring on his finger contributed to a man’s sense of identity. A multisensory approach is taken throughout, with each chapter exploring at least two of the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The contributors’ individual approaches vary, reflecting the possibilities and the wide application of sensory studies to the ancient world. Underlying all chapters is a conviction that taking a multisensory approach enriches our understanding of the Roman empire, but also an awareness of the methodological problems encountered when reconstructing past experiences.”

For more see the Routledge website 

 Jessica Hughes, (2017). Votive Body Parts in Greek and Roman Religion (Cambridge University Press).

This major new monograph began life as part of a Leverhulme-funded project titled Changing Beliefs of the Human Body based at the University of Cambridge (2005-2009). By exploring a range of different forms of anatomical votive, across the ancient Mediterranean and parts of Europe, the book ‘aims to track how and why the anatomical votive cult developed and spread in classical antiquity, and to shed light on some of the varied meanings that these objects held for their ancient users and viewers’ (p. 3). By bringing votive body parts into a conversation with other visual and literary sources from the classical world, it emphasises their importance for a wide range of topics in classics, as well as demonstrating how votives intersect with modern theories and perceptions concerning the body. From the cover:

“This book examines a type of object that was widespread and very popular in classical antiquity – votive offerings in the shape of parts of the human body. It collects examples from four principal areas and time periods: Classical Greece, pre-Roman Italy, Roman Gaul and Roman Asia Minor. It uses a compare-and-contrast methodology to highlight differences between these sets of votives, exploring the implications for our understandings of how beliefs about the body changed across classical antiquity. The book also looks at how far these ancient beliefs overlap with, or differ from, modern ideas about the body and its physical and conceptual boundaries. Central themes of the book include illness and healing, bodily fragmentation, human-animal hybridity, transmission and reception of traditions, and the mechanics of personal transformation in religious rituals.”

For more see the Cambridge University Press website.

Jane Draycott and Emma-Jayne Graham (eds) (2017). Bodies of Evidence: Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future (Routledge).

Continuing the anatomical votive theme, the origins of this edited volume lie in a conference held at the British School at Rome in June 2012. Contributors to the book explore not only the roles that anatomical votive offerings played in ancient religious and healing contexts but also the roles their subsequent collection and study continue to play in shaping ideas about the human body today. Chapters include examinations of confession stelae, swaddled babies, hair, eyes, wombs, feet, and open torsos, as well as topics such as fragmentation and disability, museum collections and new chronological and theoretical assessments. Emma-Jayne Graham and Jessica Hughes, from the Classical Studies department, are both contributors. From the cover:

“Dedicating objects to the divine was a central component of both Greek and Roman religion. Some of the most conspicuous offerings were shaped like parts of the internal or external human body: so-called ‘anatomical votives’. These archaeological artefacts capture the modern imagination, recalling vividly the physical and fragile bodies of the past whilst posing interpretative challenges in the present. This volume scrutinises this distinctive dedicatory phenomenon, bringing together for the first time a range of methodologically diverse approaches which challenge traditional assumptions and simple categorisations. The chapters presented here ask new questions about what constitutes an anatomical votive, how they were used and manipulated in cultural, cultic and curative contexts and the complex role of anatomical votives in negotiations between humans and gods, the body and its disparate parts, divine and medical healing, ancient assemblages and modern collections and collectors. In seeking to re-contextualise and re-conceptualise anatomical votives this volume uniquely juxtaposes the medical with the religious, the social with the conceptual, the idea of the body in fragments with the body whole and the museum with the sanctuary, crossing the boundaries between studies of ancient religion, medicine, the body and the reception of antiquity.”

For more see the Routledge website.

Happy reading!

Classical Studies at The Student Hub Live 2015

Earlier this week I participated in The Student Hub Live 2015 (no login required!). This was a three day event streamed live online from Walton Hall in which different people from across the OU, including both staff and students, were invited to talk about what they do, conduct live experiments, engage in lively debate on everything from serial killers to language and literacy, and even have a go at this year’s quiz show: Wheel of Ologies.

This sort of online event is a great opportunity for students (and potential students!) to get a better sense of what we all do and to understand what makes the OU tick. Students who perhaps wouldn’t normally come to the campus in Milton Keynes can hear from a whole host of people who have a variety of roles in the university and can even interact with them via a chat stream or Twitter. This time around participants ranged from the new Vice Chancellor Peter Horrocks and the senior leadership team of the university, to those who run Library Services and the Careers Advisory Service, as well as central academic staff and other students.

The theme of this event was interdisciplinary study and it was tied closely to the BA/BSc(Hons) Open Degree. If you sign up to study for this degree you can tailor your studies to suit your own needs and interests. Not many other universities will let their students range quite so broadly across subjects as diverse as English literature, biology, Spanish, statistics, retail management, child psychology and of course Classical Studies! Effectively, then, the Open Degree lets you put together an entire degree programme that matches exactly what you want to study, even if these are subjects that might not normally be studied in parallel. For me, the Open Degree represents what the OU is all about: letting people who want to study do so in a way that works for them.

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On the sofa for some chat with colleagues from Social Sciences and Health and Social Care

As part of the event, I was asked to contribute to a short ‘chat show’ on Tuesday evening, sharing a sofa with colleagues from the Faculties of Social Sciences and Health and Social Care who were talking about their research on subjects as wide-ranging as Scottish Independence, the recent General Election and the upcoming EU referendum, EU citizenship and identity, as well as the practical needs of an ageing population in Britain. It was a bit daunting being amongst people who work on issues that are so very ‘now’ but as I talked a bit about identity in the Roman empire and about how my work on anatomical votive offerings helps us to understanding how ancient people thought about their identities in relation to their ever changing (i.e. ageing) bodies, I realised that we had more in common than I first thought. Our methodologies are very different, the evidence and data that we work with is also very different, but we are all interested in people, how they think and how they understand and experience the cultural contexts in which they live.

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Team ‘Ologies for Dummies’ getting quizzical.

On Wednesday I took part in the Wheel of Ologies quiz which involved two teams with buzzers trying to outdo each other on general knowledge questions linked to different ‘ologies’ (e.g. zoology, epistemology, pantology, and the wildcard bonus category of ‘ninjology’ or the study of ninjas!). My team didn’t exactly romp to victory. In fact, we lost fairly dismally, although I was relieved to get a question about Caligula’s horse correct! It was great fun to mix in with current students, heads of other faculties and people based ‘behind the scenes’ at the Library, whilst the audience played along online (possibly with some help from Google!). For me, and I think for many students, this was one of the highlights of the whole event, reminding everyone that regardless of our roles in the university we are all just ordinary people who like to have a bit of a laugh, even if general knowledge quizzes are not everyone’s strong point!

Some catch up versions of the different Hub Live sessions should be available to watch on the website before too long and you might want to keep an eye out for the next Student Hub Live and even take part!

Emma-Jayne Graham

Behind the Scenes: On location with A340 The Roman empire

Something that makes OU module materials unique is their combination of different media: printed books, audio, video, interactive activities and online materials. In the second of our ‘behind the scenes of module production’ series I thought I’d share some of our experiences of making the films for one of our new modules, due for presentation in October 2015: A340 The Roman empire.

The Roman empire covered a huge amount of territory and a range of different environments, landscapes and cultures. Some of the earliest discussions that we had as a module team were about how we could bring this diversity to life without actually being able to take students on the ultimate archaeological fieldtrip. How could we help people to understand the essential differences between the landscape of a city in North Africa and the experiences of soldiers stationed on the northern frontier of the empire? Film was the obvious solution, allowing us not only to convey what these places are (or were) like, but also to actually move around them, providing a dynamic context for the artefacts, monuments, activities and even people who lived in the Roman empire.

Volubilis still

Professor Phil Perkins gets up close and personal with some inscriptions in the forum at Volubilis (Morocco).

But we faced some decisions: we couldn’t film the whole empire so where would we go? After much discussion we chose three locations: Hadrian’s Wall, Rome and Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, and the city of Volubilis in Morocco. We picked these because they are places which allow us to share the types of evidence that are important to us, but also to tell the stories that we want to tell about how the empire can be understood from the remains it has left behind. Each also has its own interesting history to explore.

We had to do a lot of preparation in advance – filming educational materials is not just about turning up at an archaeological site and pointing a camera at whatever looks nice! We had to decide exactly what it was that we wanted to use the films for and how they would be divided up, what we wanted A340 students to learn about, how we could use the fact that we were on location to communicate a sense of scale and of landscape, as well as finding and then talking about evidence that was still in situ. So it was essential that we did our research, making sure that we knew what we needed film and why.

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Dr Emma-Jayne Graham filming by the river at Chesters Fort (Hadrian’s Wall) with Lindsay Allason-Jones.

The filming teams themselves were very small, made up of an academic or two to do the talking to camera and to make sure that the right things were being shot and explained appropriately, a director (who was also often operating the camera) and, in Italy and Morocco, a local fixer to smooth the way, arrange transportation and secure filming permits. It certainly isn’t glamorous! But filming is an opportunity for a module team to think creatively about how we can best share our enthusiasm for the Roman empire and make it possible to understand these places as if you were there for yourself. We all love talking to people about how fascinating we find the Roman world and to do it surrounded by columns, mosaics and Roman artefacts only heightened our excitement, something which will hopefully be clear to those who watch! Film is also our chance to draw attention to things that you might not actually notice even if you were there: an unprepossessing line of dusty rocks is the only remaining evidence for the earliest city wall at Volubilis; that pile of stones in the corner of a milecastle on Hadrian’s Wall is actually a staircase which allows us to estimate the height of the Wall; a crumbling concrete dome at Hadrian’s Villa was at one time the latest innovation in Roman architecture.

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Roman leather shoe from the excavations at Vindolanda.

Filming also gives us an opportunity to invite experts to talk about the very spot on which they are standing. Lindsay Allason-Jones shared with us her enthusiasm and unparalleled knowledge about Chester’s fort on Hadrian’s Wall, whilst Andrew Birley, Director of the Vindolanda Trust, allowed us to get hands on with some of the precious finds from the site. Going to Vindolanda meant we could film archaeology in action, but it also let us talk to ordinary people and get a range of different perspectives on how we know about the Roman empire.

Each location of course had its own complications. Rome is a busy city, with traffic noise and large numbers of tourists, not to mention being prone to summer downpours and, at Tivoli, the dreaded zanzara (mosquito)! Sites on Hadrian’s Wall are spread out, meaning clambering over styles, tramping over rough ground and, in the case of our director Nick, having to walk backwards whilst filming, hoping not to fall into the 3 metre deep v-ditch! Volubilis threw up different issues, besides the heat there were cultural considerations associated with filming in an Islamic country, language difficulties and an unforeseen airline strike which led to an extra day at Casablanca airport for the team.

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Dr Eleanor Betts braves the mosquitoes by the canopus at Hadrian’s villa, Tivoli (Italy).

So, whilst we didn’t perhaps travel as widely as the emperor Hadrian once did, and certainly didn’t return home to fill our offices with quite as many spectacular souvenirs as he placed in his grand villa at Tivoli, we had a lot of fun exploring the empire and hope that students of A340 will enjoy these virtual fieldtrips to far flung (and not so far flung) parts of the Roman empire.

Watch this space for a taster film of A340 The Roman empire coming soon!

By Emma-Jayne Graham (A340 Module Team Chair)