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The Tombstone of the Unknown Goddess

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As I am sure many of you know, history can be open to interpretation. Of course, the same can be said for the iconography, cult, norms and values of the various historic societies in question. Many artefacts or texts, initially interpreted one way, may end up being completely different 100 years later (which in turn, may be subject to change one way or another 100 years into the future as well). All of which brings me to the subject of this blog.

I encountered this lovely tombstone on a visit to the Grosvenor Museum in Chester (or Deva Victrix for any scholars/enthusiasts/secret time-travelling Romans amongst you)

As an aside, I strongly recommend a visit to Chester, and the Grosvenor Museum, for you lovers of Roman civic and military history; it contains fantastic artefacts pertaining to Legio XX, as well as beautifully preserved funerary monuments from the classical period.

I was first struck by its similarity to a certain figure I have been researching for the past year. Interestingly, the goddess’ identity remains elusive, with no clear interpretation given for who she is.

As you can see from the picture, the person in question appears to be female, wears a small crown (or polos) on her head and is fully clothed, with a relaxed demeanour in a sitting posture. She also appears to hold a cornucopia (horn of plenty) in her left hand and an offering bowl (patera/phiale) in her right hand. Now, the prevailing interpretation is that she is perhaps a depiction of a Roman ‘genius.’ Instead, I would like to suggest another figure altogether – Cybele.

Cybele is a bit of a strange one even by Roman standards; originally from Phrygia (Turkey), her cult was adopted into the Roman pantheon around about the time of the Second Punic War and eventually became quite popular among the people, in spite of its ‘outlandish’ nature and practices – for example, priests of Cybele, known as Galli, were known to ritually castrate themselves in service to the goddess, and to her companion-consort, Attis. As you do… She is worshipped as a Mother Goddess, reflected in one of the many names given to her – Magna Mater – Great Mother.

Now to the point; look at the following statues of Cybele…

Seem familiar, do they not? Note the similarities in sitting posture, attire (the crown/veil ensemble and long dress/peplum), and accessories (3 of the 4 above show cornucopiae, and 2 of them show a small offering bowl alongside). In fact, I would be hard pressed not to suggest that they are almost identical. Moreover, this unidentified gravestone is only part of a large assemblage of gravestones, several of which contain clear depictions of Attis (so we have that connection too). Finally, we should consider the location of the tomb in north western England. Are there any cults to this Phrygian goddess in this far-flung corner of the Empire? As a matter of fact, there are. 150 miles away, there was a significant triangular temple to Cybele in Verulamium – modern St. Albans outside London.

Of course, there are deviations depending on the worshippers and where the cult was situated. It appears that the closest similarities to the gravestone tend to come from Greek images of Cybele (while the Roman ones vary); moreover, one could note that other deities also have similar trappings/symbols associated with their cults, such as Juno, Annona and Ceres – Juno is often depicted with a similar crown, and Ceres is normally depicted with a cornucopia; Juno however tends to be depicted standing, and Ceres does not always wear a crown.

However, given the consistent similarities in how they look, not to mention the surrounding circumstances, I find that it is Cybele who most closely resembles our unidentified gravestone goddess.

Christopher Cavanagh

Summer School 2019 Review

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The Belfast Summer School is over for another year!  For almost two weeks, 33 students and 7 staff met at Queen’s University Belfast to talk about new alphabets, imperfects and aorists, datives and ablatives, subjunctives and perfects. And that was just the grammar classes! The Advanced Greek and Latin classes read original texts including Demosthenes, Heraclitus, Ovid and Cicero. The final day of the Summer School was taken up with translation for all classes – even those in beginners Greek were reading Aristophanes and Anacreon. In response to requests from students, Beginners Greek tutor Dr Kerry Phelan assembled a number of ancient Greek insults, those found in Aristophanes’ Clouds, Eubulus and the Epistles of Phalaris. Intermediate Greek students read an unadapted section from Chariton’s novel and some adapted Herodotus while Intermediate Latin students were challenged with some Ovid.

As usual, there were other activities in addition to lessons. This year we were blessed with excellent weather and on Wednesday, our discussions of ancient texts and grammar continued in the beer garden at The Parlour Bar followed by dinner in Villa Italia.

DSCF6734.jpgOn Thursday, a bus trip was organised to the Thermopylae Battlefield Garden at Kilwarlin Moravian Church, Hillsborough, Co Down. We were treated to a tour of the garden which features a pond, fountain, flower beds and several odd mounds and hills.  These unusual earthworks were built to create a model of the topography of the battle of Thermopylae as it was in 480 BC. The groundworks were ordered by Rev Basil Patras Zula, a Greek native, who came to Ireland in 1828 and became minister at Kilwarlin in 1834 where he served until his untimely death 10 years later. It has been suggested that Zula, who came from a wealthy family, organised the landscaping work in order to provide employment for his parishioners who were living in poverty. Our group were shown where Zula was buried in the graveyard, and were taken inside the church. Following the tour, we were treated to refreshments provided by Kilwarlin Moravian Church. Our grateful thanks go to Rev Dr Livingstone Thompson and members of the congregation who hosted us.

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Dr Raoul McLaughlin gave a lecture about retail in ancient Rome. He began by highlighting the importance of the port of Ostia and the trade routes to Rome. There were auctions for incoming goods as well as permanent markets in Rome. Goods bought and sold included perfume and ungents, clothing, precious gems for jewellers, exotic spices. Warehouses for storage were fronted by retail units: these were made of brick and so safer than normal tenement blocks so the chance of devastating fire was lesser. Ovid offered advice to young men that they should avoid certain districts lest their girlfriends demand that they be bought expensive gifts. Other writers, for example, Martial and Propertius, warn about shopping ventures. Many thanks to Raoul for his fascinating insight into shopping habits in the ancient Roman empire.

During the second week of summer school, Helen McVeigh talked about the joys to be found in the ancient Greek novels. The five extant novels are defined as fictitious stories, narrated in prose and sharing common motifs. The protagonists are a young man and young girl from distinguished families, both of exceptional beauty. They set out on a long journey, together or separately, having sworn to each other mutual pledge of fidelity. After undergoing a series of harrowing experiences including apparent death, kidnap and shipwreck, the couple are reunited and return home to live happily ever after. Choosing to focus on Callirhoe by Chariton, Helen suggested that this novel might have been serialised, given that plot summaries are regularly provided to remind the reader of what has gone before. Most interesting about Callirhoe is the large number of Homeric quotations.  Some of the plot and characterisation is drawn from the Odyssey and Iliad, for example, the characterisation of Callirhoe as a combination of Penelope (the faithful wife) and Helen (abducted to a foreign country to become the illegitimate wife of another).

DSCF6854.jpgCANI was delighted to receive a donation of classics books from the personal library of Dr Robert Jordan, former head of classics at Methodist College Belfast and, from 2000 until his retirement in 2004, Assistant Director of the Institute of Byzantine Studies at Queen’s University Belfast. Dr Jordan donated many Latin and Greek texts, as well as books on various aspects of Greek and Roman history. We were delighted that Dr and Mrs Jordan were able to attend the prize-giving at the end of the first week of the summer school.  Dr Jordan talked about his life as a classicist and presented certificates to those students leaving at the end of the five day course. As a token of gratitude, on behalf of CANI, Helen presented Dr Jordan with Honorary Lifetime membership of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland. The books which Dr Jordan donated were part of a book sale during the Summer School and the money raised will go towards CANI funds.

67374718_1069349019925281_6143659728598728704_nOn the final day of the summer school, Dr John Curran presented certificates of attendance, commending the students on their eagerness to learn these ancient languages. In past years, students have come to the summer school from all over the world. This year was no exception and along with students from Northern Ireland, there were students who had travelled from Co Donegal, Co Clare and Dublin, from England, Italy, USA, Japan, and China.

Thanks are due to many who ensure the continuing success of the Summer School: Amber Taylor, Steve McCarthy, Dr Laura Pfuntner, Dr Kerry Phelan, Dr John Holton, Solomon Trimble, Dr John Curran, Dr Raoul McLaughlin, Dr Peter Crawford, Dr Robert Jordan and Rev Dr Livingstone Thompson. Thanks most of all go to the students, whose passion, enthusiasm and hard work make it all worthwhile.

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When Scribes Mess Up: An Ambrosian Doublet in the Muratorian Manuscript

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We all make mistooks when writing. I made one in teh first sentence of this blog. And the second… (and my word processor informs me that the third is a fragment that I should consider revising…)

“To err is human; to forgive, divine” as the more famous paraphrasing of an Alexander Pope quotation goes; but when that error makes its way through the various stages of the editing process into a final printed copy, it becomes a little more difficult for such an error to be forgotten.

What if you were a scribe charged with copying an important manuscript and in the middle of that copy you have made a mistake – you have placed the Battle of Hastings in 1068 or the Magna Carta in 1212?

Even the most famous and copied of works can see some rather devastating errors creep into its text. In a 1631 edition of the King James Bible, the royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas accidentally listed the 7th Commandment as “Thou shalt commit adultery…”

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This led to their published copy becoming known as the Wicked Bible, the Adulterous Bible or the Sinners’ Bible. It also saw Barker and Lucas hauled before the Royal Privy Council of Charles I, where they were fined £300 and had their printing license revoked.

Due to its being one of the most reprinted books in history, it is unsurprising that this rather important absent negative was by no means the only error to be found within prints of the Bible. Indeed, there have been enough mistakes over the centuries to coalesce into its own sub-genre of biblical errata

Whether they knew it or not, the writers of the TV show Family Guy hinted at this sub-genre in season 2, episode 2…

 Fortunately, the Battle of Hastings, Magna Carta and the 7th Commandment do not rely on a single source for the preservation of information about them, so the error of a single copyist, editor or publisher will not have a dramatic affect on the historical record (although the bank balance, standing and career opportunities of Barker and Lucas would decry that it was not necessarily a victimless mistake…).

But what if your copy ended up the only surviving version of an historical source? And your mistake becomes an accepted ‘fact’, greatly altering the understanding of an important aspect of history? This sounds far-fetched, but there are some important historical sources which ultimately only survive on a single manuscript.

41548N7P3TL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_For example, the first six books of Tacitus’ Annales only survive on a single copy seemingly written in Germany in around 850 (http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/tacitus/) – what if that copy contained a scribal error which changed a date or fate which we do not recognise as such or cannot disprove due to a lack of other source material? Who knows what historical ‘facts’ are mistakes from the quill of an inattentive scribe or the stylus of an old man with failing eye-sight and/or copying by candle light as daylight fails? It is from sources surviving on many manuscripts that we can see just how potentially damaging and extensive such errors can be.

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A particularly egregious example of an inattentive scribe appears in a manuscript rediscovered by Lodovico Antonio Muratori, a leading Italian historian of the 18th century, during his time as a dottori of the Ambrosian Library in Milan from 1695 until his death on 23 January 1750.The most famous part of this manuscript is the 85-line list of New Testament books. Its fame stems from the fact that Muratori considered the manuscript to be 1,000 years old by his time, a consideration largely accepted since. Such a 7th/8th century date makes this the earliest surviving ‘canon list’ – “that is, a list of books that an author considered to be canonical Scripture, [although] the anonymous author of this fragment also cites a number of writings to be excluded, some of them as heretical forgeries.” (Ehrman (2003), 214; Metzger (1987), 191-201; there is also considerable discussion about the date of the original Greek text that the scribe translated into “truly awful Latin” (Ehrman (2003), 241) – late 2nd century or 4th century (Ferguson (1993), Holmes (1994) and Metzger (1994) vs Hahneman (1992))

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While the Muratorian Canon itself raises all kinds of questions over the bringing together of the biblical canon we recognise today, its own origins, time period and when and why it was translated/copied onto the manuscript found by L.A. Muratori, for the purposes of this blog, it is the questions it raises over the potential standard of copyists we could be dealing with in regard to the survival of certain classical texts and ultimately our knowledge of certain aspects of the ancient world.

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This was a question that Muratori himself sought to highlight, for when he published the manuscript as the third volume of his Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevii in 1740, he did so “not so much to illustrate sacred letters, [but] as to exhibit a striking specimen of the barbarism of the scribes of Italy in the ages in which ancient learning had been destroyed” (Tregelles (1867), 2; cf. Ehrman (2003), 240).

We should be wary of such dramatic pronouncements as it tars all medieval scribes with the same brush of ‘barbarity.’ It should also be highlighted that very little is known about the circumstances of the composition of the original manuscript. That it made its way onto the shelves of the Bobbio monastic library (probably) and then the Ambrosian library does not necessarily mean that it was meant for public consumption. Could it instead have been the result of an educational exercise for this scribe? This in itself might explain a good proportion of the mistakes involved.

index4The 75 leaves of the manuscript contain not just the canon list of the New Testament, but also “a miscellaneous assortment of texts from various sources” (Metzger (1987), 192), including several Christian creeds and writings from several fourth and fifth century Christian figures – Ambrose of Milan, Eucherius of Lyon and John Chrysostomus.

While Muratori’s entire third volume highlights “words and sentences containing almost every possible error of grammar and orthography” (Tregelles (1867), 2), a particularly damning example of inattentive copying comes in the text of Ambrose’s De Abrahamo.

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In section 1.3.15, the scribe has copied out the same thirty lines of text twice, one after another. It could have been that the 7th/8th century scribe was simply repeating a copying error from the original writer of the text he was copying (Westcott (1886), 522). This would suggest that the scribe was tired or became distracted and then failed to read through his finished work in order to miss such a glaring error.

If the repetition of these thirty lines of text were the only issue with this section of Ambrose’s De Abrahamo in the Muratorian manuscript, then we would forgive the scribal error. However, there being two copies of the same Ambrosian section allows us to delve a little more deeply into the copying abilities of this particular scribe… what we find does not make for pretty reading… quite literally in fact.

Beyond the aforementioned “truly awful Latin”, there is far more than one error in this Ambrosian doublet…

Looking at the repeated sections, we can see just how inaccurate the scribe was when it came to copying the text he had in front of him. Indeed, the divergence between the two supposedly identical sections is significant. In just thirty lines, “there are thirty-three unquestionable clerical blunders, including one important omission, two other omissions which destroy the sense completely… one substitution equally destructive of the sense, and four changes which appear to be intentional and false alterations.” (Westcott (1886), 523-524)

Such an overwhelming wealth of errors in such a short passage suggests that the scribe was more than inattentive, tired or distracted; he seems to have been generally “unable or unwilling to understand the work which he was copying.” (Tregelles (1867), 25). Could it even be so bad that there was a point behind it? Was the scribe creating his own exam for others to find his errors? This seems unlikely, but is the kind of query that can be raised by such myriad and blatant mistakes.

When so many errors take place within such a short section, it makes you question just how many mistakes the scribe made in other sections of the Muratorian manuscript. Indeed, it likely played a role in L.A. Muratori’s decision to bring together an entire volume devoted to terrible scribes from his finds in the Ambrosian library.

Thinking back to the first six books of Tacitus’ Annales mentioned earlier, which survived only in a ninth century manuscript… are there some important errors in that manuscript which change established ‘facts’ about the reign of the emperor Tiberius? Such potential errata plays a role in the sheer amount of amount of depth that goes into commentaries on works such as the Bible or those of Tacitus and in the very foundations of the discipline of Classical Philology (although the ancients have themselves been involved with such linguistic and textual investigation virtually since historical sources were being written down).

Such academic scrutiny of the Classics has been invaluable to the study of these texts and the subjects they record. Errors such as those of our anonymous 7th/8th century scribe of the Muratorian manuscript or of the original Greek author can be investigated against other sources of information to check their integrity and repair the historical record when necessary.

1280px-Biblioteca_Ambrosiana_2010We should also be careful not to dismiss such errors, particularly ‘factual’ ones, as entirely meaningless. Could there be a political, religious, social or educational reason for such factual or textual mistakes? Is the original author or his later scribe reflecting a dissenting opinion?

We should also remember that while scribes may make mistakes, they will also be making corrections to the errors of the original author, beginning the philological process hundreds of years before more modern commentators.

Of course, we should also be somewhat wary that the translating, copying, editing and commentating processes across the centuries, with the combination of restorative and damaging effects they can have, increases the distance from the original text, for better or worse.

And we need not think that in our computer age that we are immune from such copying and editing mishaps. If anything, things like the ‘copy and paste’ and ‘find and replace’ functions can make errors, when they happen, far more widespread. No doubt you will find an error or two (entirely my own) in this blog regardless of the numbers of eyes that have cast their editing gaze over it…

Bibliography

Ehrman, B.D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Oxford (2003)

Ferguson, E. ‘Review of Hahneman (1992),’ JThS 44 (1993), 691-697

Gallagher, E.L and Meade, J.D. The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: texts and Analysis. Oxford (2017)

Guignard, C. ‘The Muratorian Fragment as a Late Antique Fake? An Answer to C. K. Rothschild,’ Revue des Sciences Religieuses 93 (2019) 73-90

Hahneman, G.M. The Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon. Oxford (1992)

Hill, C. E.  ‘The Debate Over the Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon,’ Theological Journal 57 (1995), 437-452

Holmes, M.W. ‘Review of Hahneman (1992),’ Catholic Bible Quarterly 56 (1994), 594-595

Metzger, B.M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development and Significance. Oxford (1987)

Metzger, B.M. ‘Review of Hahneman (1992),’ Critical Review of Books in Religion 7 (1994), 192-194

Sundberg, A.C. ‘Canon Muratori: A Fourth-Century List,’ HThR 66 (1973), 1-41

Tregelles, S.P. Canon Muratorianus: The Earliest Catalogue of the Books of the New Testament. Oxford (1867)

Westcott, B.F. A General Survey of the History of the Canon. London (1866)

Classics in Primary Schools (Take Two): Let’s Add Philosophy!

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51UIQZQYggLAround this time last year I found myself writing a blog about my experiences in running a Classics Club for the first time as a student teacher. In my second year at Stranmillis University College Belfast, I wanted to introduce Classics to children who had never experienced the subject before; to challenge myself and the children but most importantly, to demonstrate as best I could the relevance Classics holds for children in primary schools. My time in Whitehouse Primary last year proved to me that Classics was an immeasurably important and useful subject for children to be exposed to. The level of interest and engagement the children had for the things I taught them spurred me to want to continue my Classics Club in the future.

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Fast forward to a few months ago and I found myself back in Whitehouse Primary for my 3rd year placement, running my Classics Club for P6s and P7s. For the first few weeks we did similar things to the previous year. We used the Cambridge Latin course for our first two lessons, again looking at Caecilius and his family in Pompeii. The new pupils were enthralled by this new language, intrigued by its links to Harry Potter and also how it helps us understand our own English language. Even the pupils who had previously attended appreciated looking at Latin again. Caecilius is a lovable character and they enjoyed the chance to explore the language a second time, noting things that perhaps had not clicked before such as the syntax of Latin sentences. I thought it was exciting that the children noticed this, as it showed that their understanding of Latin had progressed from the previous year; their confidence in revisiting the topic allowing them to engage with the language deeper than at surface level.

We also revisited the Greek alphabet, again rapping it and dancing along (because how else would you learn to recite it?). Last year, I had the children practice writing out each individual letter to allow them to get to grips with their formation; however, one of the points I reflected on last year was that I focussed too much on rapping the song at the start, meaning I did not get to progress the lesson as much as I wanted to. This year, I managed my time more effectively and the lesson moved more quickly. As a result, not only did the children write out the basic formation of Greek letters but they were also able to scribe their transliterated names – something that was much more fun and meaningful to them! I noticed in the coming weeks most wrote their names on their worksheets in Greek without my instruction – I was thrilled!

Something that I had wanted to do the previous year but was perhaps too nervous to do was to discuss some philosophy with the children. My Latin teacher when I was at school always encouraged challenge in learning. She believed it was important to never shy away from things that may be perceived as ‘too difficult’ as then children would be losing out on meaningful learning, especially because the children will take so much more from a lesson if they feel encouraged to engage in it, no matter how different or challenging the lesson may be; it’s all down to how a teacher puts the information across. So I took a deep breath and began to think about what I could put into a Classical Philosophy lesson.

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I decided to base the lesson on Plato’s Socratic dialogue Euthyphro, written in the 4th century BC. It tells the story of Socrates meeting Euthyphro outside court. Euthyphro is there to prosecute his father on charges of murder for leaving a man who killed a slave tied up and left to die from exposure. Socrates, astonished by Euthyphro’s confidence in prosecuting his own father, states that Euthyphro must have a clear idea of what is pious or impious due to his audacious attitude towards the situation. A dialogue ensues between the two, based on concepts of morality and religion. If I were to put this across to children, I had to change it a bit.

I started with introducing the club to the concept of philosophy itself: what it is, the etymology of the word (including how we can write it using our newly learned alphabet) and looking at examples of ‘big questions’ that they may have considered themselves. To set the scene I felt it necessary to portray Socrates visually as a character. We looked at pictures of statues and busts of him, learning how he was perceived as a person and how he perceived himself as the ‘Gadfly of Athens’.

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Moving on from this, I presented an altered version of the Euthyphro dialogue the children. To keep it suitable for everyone in attendance, I strayed from the more religious connotations of the original, and led the discussion into a questioning of morality. Our question of the day was; what makes something just, just? After I told the story I gave them 5 minutes to jot down their thoughts on a table. On one side: why Euthyphro was right to prosecute his father. On the other: why he was wrong. The discussion that followed this brainstorm astounded me. To summarise what we discussed, we decided that as a people, we follow the law to do what is right; we follow the law as the government created these laws; we trust the government to decide what is right as they make the laws on the basis of morality; morality comes as a matter of instinct and instinct is a matter of unconscious thought. In this way, Euthyphro’s father committed a crime by acting consciously to leave the man to die. The question was raised that perhaps someone else should have charged his father, not Euthyphro himself.

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In what I have just written it is important to say that all of that information and discussion came from the mouths of 10-11 year olds. I merely led the questioning to heighten their thinking. The children in this club were a range of abilities, all equally engaged in this debate. I was fascinated to see the discussion being led in directions that I had not even thought of myself in the planning stages. If there had been more time for discussion, I would have let the debate run on for far longer.

For my final lesson I let the pupils decide what they wanted to learn about. Of course, they chose the gods. Seeing the group’s ability and interest in the philosophy lesson, I took this as an opportunity to let them explore Classics in a different way. In my first year at Stranmillis, my Literacy lecturer told us about the power of reading to the children. Just reading. Letting them sit back and listen to a text, appreciating its stylistic devices, envisioning its detail and building a level of comprehension that they may not have if they only read it to themselves.

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I did not have a simplified book of Greek myths for kids at hand, nor did I feel it necessary. These children deserved a challenge, one that would let them fully appreciate the splendour and beauty of Classical literature. I chose to read them Ovid’s Metamorphoses (the translated Penguin Classics version, with a few words and phrases omitted here and there), specifically Book III when Acoetes and his crew are captured by Dionysus under the guise of a young boy. I felt this would let them see the power of the gods, without having to simplify the story. They marvelled as I read to them about the “beautiful faced” young boy staggering along the shore to Acoetes’ ship, demanding to be taken to the island of Naxos. They sat transfixed as they listened to how the sailors’ bodies contorted, twisted and changed colour as they transformed into dolphins as Dionysus’ wrath overpowered them for not being taken to his destination. They sat in awe as Dionysus revealed himself in his true form, covered in grapevines, and surrounded by exotic cats while the ship was slowly enrobed in ivy. Comparing this final image to Peter Pan’s ship turning to gold from Tinkerbell’s pixie dust helped them even further in appreciating the beautiful images that Ovid has constructed for us.

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Their reactions to being read this story that I had specifically chosen not to simplify made me feel I had made the right decision. They did not need a fairy tale version of Ovid’s myth; they just needed it to be read as though it was one. From this telling they were able to see the true power of the gods, and a glimpse of what it would be like to face their wrath.

All too soon, my Classics Club had come to an end. I felt proud at what I had discovered this time around. Not only was it proven to me once again that Classics is a relevant and engaging topic for children at KS2 level, but it provides avenues of challenge that children of all abilities may not otherwise be able to explore. The children seemed to appreciate how I approached the club lessons every week – I did not over simplify them, I always answered their questions (if I was able to) and, what I feel was most important, we explored Classics together.

Rather than through a transmission model of teaching, I felt this time I really did hold an ongoing discussion with my pupils. We pondered, we questioned and we delved into topics such as philosophy head first. We listened to stories that captivated us through their words, not just the pictures on the page. In this way an inclusive atmosphere was created, where all streams of thought were welcome, allowing the children to learn from the club what they wanted, encouraging individuality in opinion and acceptance of different points of view. I felt that, through my determination to challenge my pupils, they in turn felt respected to be able to handle ‘big questions’ and so were able to develop their own ways of thinking, no matter what their ability level was. In turn, by understanding that they were being met with challenge and being encouraged to tackle it, the children were more engaged in what I had to say and in what we discussed together, thus continuing to develop their love and understanding for the Classics.

Below are some of their responses in a final self-assessment that I asked them to complete for me, further demonstrating the impact the study of Classics has on young pupils;

“I attended last year and loved the addition of the lesson on philosophy. I enjoyed questioning different things and reading the stories of Socrates and Euthyphro…I love learning and reading about the gods and I want to keep studying Latin.”

 “…This year we did something different, we learned about Philosophy. It was hard and challenging but that’s what I enjoyed about it…”

 “Last week we did Philosophy which means to think deeply. We learned the story of Socrates and his friend Euthyphro. Some pupils even got so engaged in the subject they began to make multiple booklets and take pages of notes. The subject was definitely challenging but our teacher managed to make it fun.”

 I would like to thank Whitehouse Primary School and its Acting Principal Ms. Dawn Blain for allowing me the wonderful opportunity of once again holding my Classics Club within their school. I would also like to extend my thanks to the pupils who attended my Classics Club, for their enthusiasm, engagement and encouraging me to continue to pursue the teaching of Classics to primary school children.

Amber Taylor

Amber has also blogged on Pompeii and P6: Let’s Talk Volcanoes!