The second Belfast Summer School took place from Monday 3rd until Friday 7th July, 2017, and offered classes in Beginners and Intermediate Latin and Classical Greek. The expansion to Latin and the great increase in attendance this year speaks to both the success of last year’s Summer School, and to the desire for ancient language courses in Northern Ireland. We extend our sincerest gratitude to the Open University in Northern Ireland for its generosity in allowing us to use its facilities for classes.
The four classes, two Latin and two Greek, ran concurrently with 12 lessons timetabled over the course of the week. Invited speakers gave presentations on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
On Tuesday, Stephen Strickland (Maynooth University) gave a talk on Food and Character in Suetonius, regarding the emperors Augustus, Claudius, and Caligula. One of the ways in which Suetonius characterised his subjects was through descriptions of the foods that they ate. For instance, the reserved and moderate Augustus was described as having simpler tastes in food than the likes of Claudius, or indeed Caligula who was so extravagant as to eat loaves of bread made from gold, and to drink pearls dissolved in wine. Claudius was the main focus of the talk, an emperor somewhat in between the extremes of Augustus and Caligula, and the students’ discussion afterwards centred on his character and reign.
The second presentation to the summer school took place after Thursday’s classes. Giulio Di Basilio (UCD), provided an introduction to Plato’s Ethics, explaining the dialogue format and giving an overview of the development of Plato’s ethical thought. Giulio talked about humanity’s search for happiness and how, for many philosophers, this required a life of virtue. He then focussed on Plato’s Republic to speak about justice and truth, demonstrating how ancient philosophy remains relevant to the modern world. There was an excellent turnout for both invited speakers, and healthy discussions followed each talk.
On the social side, a large number of summer school students joined members of CANI for drinks and dinner. We had an enjoyable afternoon/evening in Granny Annie’s, Chichester Street. At the close of the School on Friday, Dr John Curran, Convenor of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland, presented certificates of attendance to all participants.
The students attended the Summer School for a wide variety of reasons and for different purposes. There were a number of PhD students, two of whom were studying medieval history and wished to have some knowledge of Latin to further their research. Others were undergraduates thinking about further study in Classics. Yet others simply wanted to revisit their love of languages from school, and some were veterans of the 2016 Summer School who had returned for more! During the course of the week, Open University staff were on hand to speak to students interested in humanities courses in general or classics modules in particular.
Informal feedback has shown that many students would return next year to continue their studies at more advanced levels of Classical Greek or Latin. When planning this year’s expanded Summer School, we had hoped we would have the same success with Latin as we did last year with Classical Greek. Attendance for both languages exceeded our expectations, and both the tutors and students found it a great success.
But what did the students themselves have to say? The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with remarks such as
“I wasn’t expecting to learn so much Latin in a short space of time.”
“I loved the course!!”
“My confidence in Latin has gone way up. I’ve loved this week.”
“The teacher created a friendly and informal atmosphere from the start. His explanations were lucid and the classes were well-prepared and well-organised.”
“This course is wonderful. What a great opportunity to have something like this running in Belfast.”
Thanks are due to the Open University in Northern Ireland for their hospitality, the Classical Association in Northern Ireland for its continuing support, Dr John Curran for always being there, the tutors for their hard work above and beyond the call of duty, and to the 2017 students for being so inspirational!
The summer school staff are already looking forward to the 2018 Summer School, scheduled to run from Monday 16th to Friday 20th July. Given the extraordinary success of the summer school to date, we have bigger and better plans for 2018. Watch this space!
Helen McVeigh and Stephen McCarthy
For more videos and photos of a great Classical day in Belfast, check out our Belfast Summer School 2017 Gallery and our Facebook album below.