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CAI Summer School 2018 ‘Entertaining the Masses’

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Classical Association of Ireland Summer School 2018

Entertaining the Masses

17th–19th August , 2018
Queen’s University Belfast

The Belfast Branch of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland welcomes you all to our Summer Conference 2018, to be held at Queen’s University Belfast.

All activities will take place in the Canada Room, Lanyon Building, Queen’s University, Belfast.

You will find a link to the brochure and registration form here. This document contains details on the ticket price as well as the booking form and pertinent information.

For further information please contact

Friday, 17th of August
17.30 Registration & Reception
19.00 CAI Annual General Meeting
19.50 Official Opening by Dr John Curran, School of History, Anthropology, Politics and Philioophy, Queen’s University Belfast.
20.00 Keynote Lecture: Natalie Haynes
‘Honour Among Thebes’
Saturday, 18th of August
9.00 CAI Central Council Meeting
10.00 “Classics and Modern Culture: in conversation with Natalie Haynes”
11.00 Coffee/Tea break
11.30 Lecture: Prof Helen Lovatt
‘Fun and Games in Ancient Epic’
12.30 Lunch
13.30 Lecture: Dr Cressida Ryan
‘Why is tragedy entertaining?
14.30 Lecture: Barry Trainor
(Queens University Belfast)
‘Dungeons and Hydra: Board gaming in Ancient Greece’
15.15 Coffee/Tea break
15.30 Lecture: Helen McVeigh
‘Who read the ancient novels?’
19.00 Reception
19.30 Annual Dinner of the Association
Canada Room, Lanyon Building, QUB
Sunday, 19th of August
10.00 Outing – Medieval and Monastic Ireland
(conducted by Irish Monastic Tours)

Please note that the bus will depart from the main gates of Queen’s University at 10.00am sharp. Participants will return to Queen’s University at 5pm.Price includes lunch at Paddy’s Barn, Saul, Downpatrick ( will visit:

  • Nendrum, the monastic settlement at Nendrum on Mahee Island in Strangford Lough was believed to have been established by St Mochaoi (better known as Coalán) in the 5th Century AD, with links to St Patrick. It is one of the bestpreserved monastic cashel structures in Ireland.
  • Inch Abbey, where the story of St Patrick and the snakes was recorded
  • Historic Downpatrick to uncover St Patrick’s legacy and see the High Cross in Down County Museum
  • Down Cathedral and the traditonal site of St Patrick’s Grave

Useful Information:


Stranmillis College,
Stranmillis Road, Belfast BT9 5DY
A limited number of single, ensuite rooms have been reserved for the summer school costing £38 per night B&B. Please contact Joanne Gribbin on tel: 028 9038 4377 or email:

Duke’s at Queen’s Hotel
65-67 University Street, Belfast BT7 1HL
Tel 028 9023 6666,

Ibis Belfast Queen’s Quarter
75 University Street, Belfast BT7 1HL
Tel 028 9033 3366,

Holiday Inn Express Belfast Queen’s Quarter
106a University Street, Belfast BT7 1HP
Tel 028 9031 1909,

If calling from the Republic of Ireland, replace 028 with 048.

Religious Services:

St Francis Church
Liberty Street, Cork
Sat. 6.30pm vigil; Sun. 7am, 9am, 10.30am, 12pm

St Brigid’s
40 Derryvolgie Avenue, BT9 6FP
Vigil Mass: 6pm Saturday
Sunday Masses: 9am, 10.30am and 12 noon

Fisherwick Presbyterian Church
4 Chlorine Gardens, BT9 5DJ

St Thomas’s Church of Ireland
1A Eglantine Avenue, BT9 6DW

Moravian Church
1a University Road, BT7 1RY
Sunday service, 11am

Classics in Primary Schools? It’s All Relevant!

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When I left high school a few years ago having studied Latin and Classical Civilisation to A level and progressed into University to study Primary Education, I made a promise to myself that I would teach Classics to children in whatever way I could. But more importantly, I would try to stoke the same passion and excitement for the subject in the children I would teach as my own teachers had in me. On my second block placement with Stranmillis University College in Whitehouse Primary School, Principal Frazer Bailie (whom I would like to thank immeasurably for allowing me into his school and having the chance to bring Classics with me) very kindly gave me permission to host a Classics club for Key Stage 2 children every Tuesday afternoon for five weeks. Suffice to say the Classicist in me was elated.


I should explain that I am a student primary school teacher and so the idea of running an entire club from start to finish is a bit intimidating, even with previous experience of working with children in extra-curricular activities. So as I sat down to plan my five week scheme of work I thought “how do I make this relevant?” Because that’s the key in teaching, isn’t it? Make it relevant, make it fun and the learning will follow. At the time I realised that chances are, the children I would be teaching would have never had any formal experience in learning Classics and so it was up to me to make sure they formed a love for it.

In my training at Stranmillis we are told to make topics as cross-curricular as possible, meaning you can teach Music through Literacy or Numeracy through World Around Us (History, Geography and Science and Technology) topics. I am of the opinion that Classics is the perfect cross-curricular topic and so that is how I set out in planning my club – not only was it going to be fun, it was going to be as enriching as possible.


Five weeks, five lessons and a whole lot of Classics to cram into my short timeslot but I was determined to make the most out of my time in Whitehouse. Week One started with a brief introduction to Classics. An exploration, if you will, of the topic as well as the beginnings of Latin. Over twenty Key Stage 2 children involved in the club seemed enthralled that their first taste of Latin was casting Harry Potter spells – certainly a deviation from the routine Numeracy and Literacy! This not only captured their attention straight off, it meant that even from the very start of their Classical education, they were expanding upon their vocabulary (a statutory requirement in the Northern Ireland National Curriculum). “Expecto Patronum!” shouted eagerly throughout the halls of Whitehouse Primary School quickly turned into a discussion of what a patron was and how the word ‘expect’ comes from the Latin verb expecto.


Moving on to the first few pages of the Cambridge Latin Course (Book I), the children got a taste of some of the first stages in learning Latin when they reach post-primary. With some background to Pompeii and an interesting family, the children once again were able to explore the Latin language. They especially enjoyed the flash card pop quiz at the end with the all important Haribo on offer should they get a new vocabulary word correct.

The Classics Club was off to a roaring start, with some new children joining the following week, having heard of the fun had already in the early stages. Week Two proved a challenge to plan. Do I follow the Cambridge Latin course for the next four weeks or do I vary what parts of Classics the children should experience? I decided for the time being, to move through some more of the Cambridge Latin course so that the children could begin to formulate simple sentences in Latin. And so we moved to Roman houses. Some background and context started us off, generating a comparison of Ancient Roman houses and houses today and so another way in which Classics can be used as a stimulus for the Northern Ireland National Curriculum. The young classicists then moved to learning the Latin names for Roman rooms using flash cards (and an exaggerated Italian accent!). Using an A1 poster of a cross-section of a Pompeian Villa and some laminated character and word cards, the children solidified their knowledge of Latin words and phrases. If I said “Caecilius est in horto” they would have to place Caecilius on the correct place on the board. A competition began, sweets were given out and the next generation of classicists began to see that Classics really was worth learning (hopefully because of more than just the promise of sweets!).

For Week Three, the Classics Club took a flight from Ancient Rome to Ancient Greece and rolled up their sleeves, ready for what I had in store. So far I had managed to link Classics to Literacy, Drama and World Around Us in the Northern Ireland Primary Curriculum but now it was time for some Music. And what better way to do this than to learn to rap the Ancient Greek alphabet? Through the above YouTube video, the children were soon able to rap the alphabet on their own, knew where our current alphabet came and even managed to write out all the Greek letters. This was, out of all the sessions we had together, the most fun for children and teacher alike. It allowed us to let go of our inhibitions and learn a song we could impress our friends with later. I’ll forever cherish the memory of walking twenty children out to the front gates to meet their parents while they sang the Ancient Greek alphabet.


Week Four continued in Ancient Greece with drama and theatre. Incorporating Art and Design and Drama into one lesson was no small task but the children delighted in the great variety Classics was providing them, decorating Greek tragedy masks and trying on togas and stolas. It was certainly quite difference from their normal school day activities!

Week Five finished up the Classics Club with a return to Ancient Rome, specifically its dinning table. If time and culinary skill were on my side I might have served a banquet of Dormice, Flamingo Tongues and Garum but alas, it was just a selection of peach juice and iced buns on offer. I sat down and discussed with them the dramatic food and parties hosted by Caligula (a P.C. version!) and took the opportunity to answer questions on Classics at post-primary level, with many students taking a keen interest in the possibility of continuing the subject. Perhaps this was an indication on the success of the Classics Club.


All in all, through my wonderful experience at Whitehouse Primary School, Classics can not only be brought into minds and hearts of primary school children in a meaningful way, it can also be linked to the Northern Ireland Primary Curriculum through a variety of class subjects; however, the most important thing is the joy that Classics brought the children I was able to teach. Their engagement and excitement at each new topic gave me hope that there is a future in Classical education in Northern Ireland and reminded me of just how important it is that this versatile subject is considered to be relevant to the children of today.

Amber Taylor

‘Animals and Vegetarianism in Antiquity’ Dr Pamela Zinn Review

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CANI’s 2017/18 talks programme finished out with Dr Pamela Zinn (Texas Tech University) speaking on ‘Animals and Vegetarianism in Antiquity.’ While the heat outside (and inside) might have acted as a deterrent, such was the interest in the Classics and Dr Zinn’s subject that extra chairs needed to be brought in to the Old Staff Common Room, not to mention a bolstering of the summer drinks table!

Dr Zinn began by demonstrating how integral to the ancient life animals were and not just because the world of antiquity was an agrarian one, with there prominence in art, myths and even history: geese reputedly saved Rome from the Gauls by warning of the approach of an army.


Some animals were seen as divine or capable of revealing divine wishes through omens – cats in Egypt and the original auguries coming from the flight of birds. Dr Zinn then provided some more specific examples such as how because Romulus saw more birds than Remus, the city they built was called Roma not Remora and how Claudius Pulcher famously through the sacred chickens overboard prior to the Roman disaster at Drepanum because they would not give him favourable omens.


While an affront to modern sensibilities, animal sacrifice was not only an important aspect of the religion of ancient societies but also to its diet and community life.


Meat-eating was not as widespread in the ancient world, not due to any real aversion to it, but as many of the animals were less numerous, harder to farm and required for other activities, as beasts of burden, supply of resources, providers of entertainment and instruments of war.


Such community sacrifices were therefore the main source of meat for large sections of the population, with Dr Zinn referring to the prevalence of feasting in ancient epics as suggesting that “only heroes eat meat.”

The ancients were also prominent pet-keepers. They are written about in books and on inscriptions, commemorated on tombstones and depicted on icons and other art. Numerous examples were given including Pompeii’s archaeology famously preserving mosaics and volcanic casts of dogs; how the philosopher Porphyry had a talking partridge and how Tiberius granted a state funeral to a raven who always saluted him as he entered the forum.

With the closeness between the ancients and their animals and meat-eating somewhat uncommon, it might be expected that vegetarianism was more widespread than the evidence seems to suggest it was.

Some philosophers certainly showed sympathy of animals. Pythagoras thought that eating animals was tantamount to cannibalism due to reincarnation, while Lucretius felt that animals had free will and reason and that sacrifice was a violation of the public trust placed in animals. Virgil intimated that animals were key to civilisation.


Of course, these were very much in the minority with the likes of Cato, Aristotle and the Stoics viewing animals as having limited or lesser souls, therefore worthy of being only possessions and food.

To such men and much of the population, vegetarianism and its concomitant abhorrence of sacrifice was a rejection of the gods and/or the community which were so important to ancient societies. Dr Zinn provided the example of Seneca, who gave up vegetarianism for the sake of his political career as it was seen as foreign and anti-social.

After a thoroughly engrossing and colourful talk, Dr Zinn took numerous questions from the audience about various aspects of her work and the subjects covered, striking up further conversations over the summer drinks served throughout.

CANI would like to thank Dr Zinn for taking the time to return to these shores and for her presentation and willingness to interact with so many of the attendees afterwards.

And thank you to all who attended on the night and to all other talks in the 2017/18 programme.

Have a great summer and look for our new programme of events for 2018/19, which should be largely finalised in the coming weeks…

If you cannot wait until the autumn for our next public talks then perhaps you would be interested in our upcoming Latin and Greek Summer School or the Classical Association of Ireland’s annual conference being hosted by CANI at Queens University, Belfast this August.

And our blog will continue to delve into the weird, wonderful and not so well-known corners of the Classics and Ancient History.

‘Warfare and Peacemaking in the Roman provinces in the first century BC’ Workshop

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The first (ever!) ancient history workshop to be held at Queen’s University Belfast was convened by Dr Laura Pfuntner on 24 May 2018 on the theme of warfare and peacemaking in the Roman provinces in the first century BC.

The workshop was a welcome opportunity to explore a familiar epoch in Roman history – the decline and fall of the Roman Republic – but from a perspective strikingly different from that of the Roman urban elite. In the face of the letters of Cicero and Plutarch’s biographies of the great men of the period, it is easy to forget that most of the victims of the civil wars are likely to have been living in the provinces governed by Rome.


A series of papers sought to bring attention to bear on the kinds of contexts in which the conflicts between upper class Romans manifested themselves. Alexander Thein (UCD) illuminated the local politics of Athens as Sulla intruded violently into the world of the Greeks, while examining the varied settlements of Sicily and Sextus Pompey’s task in locating himself there allowed Laura Pfuntner (QUB) to provide valuable insight into the perspective of the governed towns and villages of the island during the tumultuous years after Caesar’s death.


Carsten Hjort Lange (Aalborg) demonstrated that the very definition of ‘civil war’ was a highly contested concept that was itself an extension of the politics of the period and Peter Morton (Manchester) again questioned the notion of a ‘fixed narrative’ in looking at the way in which slave revolts were folded into the narrative of high politics, becoming themselves both cause and effect of the deterioration of social bonds.


With Manuel Fernández Götz (Edinburgh), discussions turned to archaeology and some startling insights into some contemporary work being conducted in central and northern France. The strangeness of the northern peoples as depicted by Caesar emerge from the archaeology as more settled, urbanised and sophisticated than hitherto appreciated – and made Caesar’s brutal subjugation even more destructive than many have suspected.


Hannah Cornwell (Birmingham) completed the day with an exploration of the imperial language of peace, a language that had to work in the provinces above all for Octavian/Augustus’ masterly navigation of the Roman commonwealth from the stormy waters of war to what would become Gibbon’s famous two centuries of greatest human happiness.

The day was a splendid success and Dr Pfuntner is to be congratulated not just on the conception of the workshop and its star line-up of scholars, but also on the highly successful format that welcomed speakers, students and even some history colleagues from Enlightenment Studies who were certainly enlightened on the rich sources for the late republic and also the vigour and stimulation of discussions between ancient historians.

We have not heard the last of the QUB ancient history workshop!

Dr John Curran



Thinking About Signing Up for the Belfast Summer School?

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If you are thinking about signing up the Belfast Summer School 2018, but are just not sure if it is for you, here are a couple of videos featuring answers to the questions you might have given by those who attended last year.

If this has made your mind to snap up one of the few remaining places for 2018 (or to start planning for the inevitable 2019 school), check out the following link for more information and the official brochure.

CANI Film Night III: This Time Its in the Daytime w/ Jason and the Argonauts

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In 1963 the world was captivated by the delightful, dramatic stop-motion technique found in many movies of the decade. Don Chaffey’s 1963 version of Jason and the Argonauts was one that caught the attention of millions.


With its terrifying harpies and hydras, clashing rocks, the beautiful Medea and of course, the all important Golden Fleece, this tale is set to keep you interested throughout. Of course, no Hollywood blockbuster is complete without a few deviations from the original mythology. There are some chronological differences with Talos being defeated on the way to the Golden Fleece rather than on the long journey home. The god Triton (wonderfully depicted as a mermaid) makes a big feature as well, holding the Clashing Rocks back from crushing the terrified Argonauts to death – in the original myth it is the blinded King Phineas who tells Jason to release a dove before entering the Clashing Rocks to avoid its imminent dangers. I have always felt that, even with its deviations from Classical myth, it is still a story the Ancients would have been proud of with its colourful visuals, quick pace and constant action.


This is the movie that began to stoke the fire of my love for Classics. As a young girl my father put this movie on the television with the intent to show me one of his favourites – little did he know he started me on my journey through the Ancient World. I was in awe of the stop motion techniques of Ray Harryhausen that brought the harpies, Talos and skeletons to life; mythology really did seem like magic when portrayed on the screen.


With all of this in mind and following the success of our previous screenings of Gladiator and Monty Python’s Life of Brian, CANI were incredibly excited to host their third annual movie screening of Jason and the Argonauts in the Ulster Museum, who CANI would like to thank once more for its willingness to host our events. With a fascinating and insightful introduction by CANI’s own Katerina Kolotourou (and after some deliberation at how to move a large curtain away from blocking the screen), an enthralled audience sat back and for an hour and 44 minutes watched in admiration as Hera and the gods on Mount Olympus aided Jason and his companions in their quest.


Speaking to a few people after the performance, I received nothing but positive opinions for the screening. There appeared to be ample debate after the showing with some viewers telling me that seeing Jason and the Argonauts playing on a larger screen for the first time, really served to bring the movie and the Classical myth it derives from, even more alive. The setting of the Golden Fleece became even more mysterious and magical as its golden wool seemed to glitter that much brighter. The hydra was a big favourite as well; showing its fierce hissing and jabbing on the big screen only served to heighten the fear it produces.

Overall I can say with confidence that this was a wonderful event for all involved. It can be said that Classics (and the enthusiasm for Classics) is very much alive not just in the traditional sense, but even from the modern viewpoint where big budget productions bring these tales into the eyes and hearts of all who watch them. This was the third movie event for CANI and hopefully there will be many more to come.

Amber Taylor

Ulster Museum Lecture Theatre£5 entrance, brief introduction, drinks services available12th May 2018, 2pm

Posted by The Classical Association in Northern Ireland on Sunday, January 7, 2018

Paid to Behave: The Traprain Law Hoard

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Those of you who have been following CANI since the earliest days of its 2014 reincarnation, you will know that the hoard of Roman silver found at Ballinrees near Coleraine in Northern Ireland and the circumstances of its deposit there have been the subjects of several pieces involving CANI members: the inaugural talk, a guest lecture for the Coleraine Historical Society  and a published article for Classics Ireland.


Given the weight of focus on this Coleraine find in CANI pieces, you might be forgiven for viewing it as an isolated product of raiding, trading and/or political payments. However, the Coleraine Hoard is not the only silver find in Ireland – there is its ‘sister’ hoard at Balline, Co. Limerick from a similar period and at least two documented coin hoards of Quigg and McKinlay from the North Coast, nor is it part of a solely Irish phenomenon with Britain being the site of numerous late Roman hoards of various size, including the enormous Hoxne Hoard and the smaller, earlier but no less intriguing Falkirk Hoard.


Recent finds such as the Echt Hoard near Limburg in the Netherlands, on top of a whole lot of others, show that it is not even a specifically British or Irish phenomenon.


But it those finds from outside Roman territory on the British Isles and made up purely of silver like Coleraine and Balline that are the interest of this piece. Specifically it is the over 20kgs of silver of various sizes and shapes which make up what is known as the Traprain Law Hoard.

Unlike the Ballinrees find, the site of the hole in the ground in East Lothian from which this hoard of silver was plucked has a more straightforward explanation. The sheer fact that this Scottish hoard was found five years into an extensive nine-year excavation immediately suggests that archaeologists knew that there was something to be looked for on the hill called Traprain Law, about four miles east of Haddington in East Lothian, Scotland.

This 221m hill had a long history of human usage before it became the resting place of a large hoard of Roman silver. By the middle of the second millennium BC, it was a site of burial and by the first millennium BC, there is evidence of occupation and even defences.

This has seen Traprain Law classed as an Iron Age oppidum, and one of significant size for northern Britain, covering up to forty acres. This has helped fuel speculation about the exact nature of the ‘settlement’ on Traprain Law. Was it purely a religious burial site? Did it development into a permanent town? Was it a seasonal meeting place for the Votadini or was it a defensive hill fort, only retreated to in the face of Roman or Scotti invasion? It would later be used as a beacon site, to warn of English invasion. Perhaps it was all of these at various times.

Traprain Law’s archaeology suggests an occupation by the Votadini tribe, perhaps even as their principal settlement (called Curia by Ptolemy, Geo. II.3.7), between the 40s and the late second century, perhaps influenced by the arrival of the Romans in Britain and their subsequent withdrawal from the Antonine Wall. After a gap of a generation or two, the hill was again occupied from the 220s through the middle of the fifth century. The final abandoning of Traprain Law by the Votadini tribe and their proto-kingdom of Gododdin may coincide with the moving of their capital to Din Eidyn, the site of Edinburgh Castle.


Being a potential ‘capital’ for the Votadini or other Caledonian/Pictish tribes bordering the Roman Empire made Traprain Law a magnet for Roman material gathered through any number of means – raid, trade, religious devotion or diplomatic contact. Similar arguments over origins are made for the Balline and Coleraine Hoards, but with Traprain Law, its position on the Roman frontier and the existence of supposed diplomatic connections may see more decisive support for that collection of silver being a payment to a local chieftain to keep the peace or provide soldiers for the Roman army.


The archaeological dig which unearthed the Traprain Law Hoard began in 1914 under the leadership of Alexander Ormiston Curle. It was not until 1919 that pieces of silver plate started to emerge, along with drinking vessels, spoons, items marked with Christian symbols, remnants of a Roman officer’s uniform and various crushed and hacked up pieces of silver, some of which, despite their messy shape and size, were cut down to a specific weight, marking them as bullion. Some of the items were of high enough quality as to bring about suggestions of origins in some of the workshops in some of the major Roman cities of the Mediterranean.

For all the silver in the Traprain Law Hoard, there were only five Roman coins, in contrast to the 1,483 found in Ballinrees. The Traprain coins are also considerably clipped, but there is enough detail on them to aide their identification and therefore the dating of the hoard. The emperors depicted on the coins are Valens, Arcadius and Honorius, which puts the very earliest date in the last years of the fourth century but more likely the hoard comes from the first quarter of the fifth century.

1856, 1205.8

Coin of Julian from Coleraine Hoard in the British Museum collection (1856, 1205.8)

The Traprain Law Hoard underwent some restoration where appropriate and was sent to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, where it was CANI‘s good fortune to see it last month.

Nation Museum of Scotland

Posted by The Classical Association in Northern Ireland on Sunday, May 20, 2018

For more information and pictures on the Traprain Law hoard, go to

Dr Fraser Hunter, Principal Curator of Iron Age and Roman collections at National Museums Scotland, has also given talks and presentations on the Hoard.


Bland, R.F., Moorhead, T.S.N., and Walton, P., ‘Finds of late Roman silver coins from Britain: the contribution of the Portable Antiquities Scheme’ in F. Hunter, and K. Painter (eds.), Late Roman Silver: The Traprain treasure in context, (Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 2013), 117-166

Crawford, P.T. ‘The Coleraine Hoard and Romano-Irish Relations in Late Antiquity,’ Classics Ireland 21-22 (2017) 41-118

Curle, A.O., The Treasure of Traprain: A Scottish Hoard of Silver Plate, (Glasgow: Maclehose, Jackson and Co, 1923).

Hunter, F. and Painter, K. (eds.), Late Roman Silver: The Traprain treasure in context, (Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 2013)

Feachem, R.W. ‘The Fortifications on Traprain Law,’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 89 (1955-6), 284-289

Ridgeway, W., ‘Niall of the Nine Hostages in Connexion with the Treasures of Traprain Law and Ballinrees, and the destruction of Wroxeter, Chester, Caerleon and Caerwent’ JRS 14 (1924), 123-126