2016 has been the first calendar year for which the Classical Association in Northern Ireland presented a full programme, as well as being involved in other events with various academic and community partners. Here is a brief look at all the goings-on involving CANI throughout the past year.
On 19th March, CANI members Dr Martijn Icks and Dr John Curran led a group of QUB History and Archaeology postgraduates in a joint trip with Radboud University Nijmegen to Ravenna, site of some of the most famous Christian churches of late antiquity. The success of this joint venture may be best seen in the plans for a repeat trip in 2017.
CANI’s first event of 2016 came on 30th March with ‘Re-voicing Classics: An Evening of Poetry,’ which saw a panel of some of Northern Ireland’s leading poets convened by Dr Erin Halliday. Ross Thompson, Manuela Moser, Stephen Sexton and Dr Halliday herself presented selections of classically-inspired works of their own and others. Through them, the likes of Ovid, Sappho and the Classical tradition were brought to the halls of QUB once more.
CANI were also proud to collaborate with the Open University for a dual event on 15-16th April, where two prominent scholars of Greek Tragedy and Epic, Dr Laura Swift and Dr William Allan, presented papers on ‘Sophocles, Heaney and the Manipulation of Myth’ and ‘The Homeric Hero’ respectively. Demonstrating the commitment of both the OU and CANI to promoting the Classics amongst schools and the public as a whole, these talks were presented as consecutive days first on 15th April to a gathering of pupils of from various Belfast schools at QUB and then the following day to a public gathering at Stranmillis College.
A slight change of pace was introduced for CANI’s Film Night on 18th May with a presentation of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator in the Black Box, Belfast. It may not be the most historically accurate representation of second century Rome but as Dr Martijn Icks asked in his short introduction, does that really matter? It is meant as entertainment and went a long way to rejuvenating the historical epic as a mainstream genre in film and bolstering interest in the Classics.
The final event of CANI’s 2015/16 programme came on 9th June, where in the Old Staff Common Room of QUB, Dr John Curran stepped forward to read from a prepared statement on ‘Was Judaea Rome’s Northern Ireland?’ Choosing the language of familiarity rather than similarity, Dr Curran demonstrated how these two ‘provinces’ and their political and social circumstances caused ‘Troubles’ for the Romans and the British.
The first Belfast Summer School in Classics took place from Monday 4th until Friday 8th July 2016 and offered classes in Beginners and Intermediate Classical Greek. These classes were extremely well-received and have already been expanded to include Latin for 2017. However, they were not just limited to language classes as Dr Kerry Phelan (Maynooth) spoke about the politician and logographer Demosthenes and Stephen McCarthy (Maynooth) directed a discussion on Sappho’s poetry.
The second half of 2016 saw CANI and its members making connections and presenting talks with other institutions and societies.
On 13th October, the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast hosted a screening of the marvellous Monty Python’s Life of Brian for the second CANI Film Night, before which Dr Peter Crawford highlighted how the reception of the film has gone from blasphemy and bans to academic praise for its depiction of Roman Judaea.
On 3rd November, CANI founder Dr John Curran had the opportunity to present the Sir Samuel Dill Memorial Lecture on behalf of the esteemed Professor Dame Averil Cameron on ‘Samuel Dill, the end of the Roman empire, and learning from history.’
On 15th November, Dr Peter Crawford was invited by the Coleraine Historical Society (www.colerainehistoricalsociety.co.uk) to present a talk on the Coleraine Hoard and what it might suggest about Romano-Irish relations in the surroundings of Coleraine Town Hall.
On 8th December, CANI hosted an immensely successful day-long public reading of Homer’s Iliad in the McClay Library at Queens University, where 41 people from Belfast, RBAI, Victoria College, QUB, Dublin, Maynooth and even Tasmania read part of the great epic, all in aid of the Simon Community NI.
2016 was then closed out by a talk by Professor Theresa Urbainczyk of UCD on 15th December which investigated the depiction of ‘Some Byzantine Women and their Husbands’ in the History of Nicetas Choniates and what that depiction was meant to say about the moral, societal and even political decay of the ‘Byzantine’ Roman Empire on the eve of the Fourth Crusade.
2016 has also seen the CANI website launch its own blog, which has so far presented pieces on the accidental suicide of a Byzantine emperor, a poem from Ross Thompson on the divine personification of the moon called Selene, Trojan War playing cards and paper dolls, falling down the numismatic rabbit hole, Far Eastern remains in Roman London, Roman coins in Japan, the classical allusions to ‘death by molten gold’, the Battle of Cannae and burning princesses from Game of Thrones and a new subsection on ‘My Favourite Picture of Ancient History’.
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Early 2017 will see CANI continue our brief to help bring the Classics to the public as we head out into schools, specifically Dalriada School, Ballymoney and Lumen Christi College, Derry in February to speak to pupils on a variety of subjects including but not limited to the Persian Wars, the End of the Roman Republic, Cicero, Augustan Rome and a general introduction to the Ancient World for a Latin club.
CANI will then be hosting a selection of public talks throughout the first half of 2017. Dr Rosie Harman (UCL) will discuss the sections of the March of the 10,000 in ‘Narrative experience in Xenophon’s Anabasis‘ on 16th March. Dr Katerina Kolotourou will venture into the world of ancient music and its instruments with her talk on ‘Greek Percussion’ on 6th April. Dr Peter Crawford will provide a variety of answers to the question ‘Who Was Constantius II?’ on 8th June before the return of the Belfast Summer School in Classics, which expands to incorporate classes in both Greek and Latin throughout the week of 3rd -7th July.
If 2016 is anything to go by, it is clear that interest in the ancient world, its politics, cultures, militaries, societies and enduring legacies, is in robust good health.
CANI are already in the initial stages of bringing together our programme for 2017-2018 so if there are any schools, community groups or historical societies that would like to organise an event with us or just would like some input about their own activities, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
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