CANI Review of 2017

Posted on


CANI kicked off 2017 with two days devoted to its CANI4Schools initiative, starting off with a series of talks to the Classical Civilisation Upper and Lower Sixth classes of Dalriada School, Ballymoney on 23rd February.


After a brief introduction from Mr Stewart Bredin, Head of History at Dalriada, Dr Peter Crawford, returning to his old grammar school where he was first bitten by the Ancient History bug, went through the overall story of the Persian Wars, before Dr John Curran explained how Augustus attempted to ‘make Rome great again’ through various reform, building and propagandist means. Drs Crawford and Curran then combined to go through the chronological fall of the Roman Republic through the eyes of Cicero and then held a brief Q&A session saw pupils ask about the benefits of a History degree and subjects of interest within Ancient History.

Lumen Christ2

The following day, 24th February, Drs Curran and Crawford then headed to Derry/Londonderry on the invitation of Lumen Christi College’s Latin Club. Again working in tandem, they presented a talk on “20+ Things Every Latin Student Should Know About Ancient Rome” covering origin myths, neighbouring peoples, religion, the army, conquest, Roman enemies, the Roman family, trade, literature, slavery, and the modern day influences of Latin on science, law, politics and pop culture.

CANI would like to express our own thanks to the staff and students of both Dalriada and Lumen Christi College. These are the kind of events for which CANI was originally formed, and with so many enthusiastic pupils attending and asking questions, it is clear that interest in the Ancient World is alive and thriving in Northern Ireland.

2017-03-16 18.58.31

CANI then kicked off its 2017 public programme on 16 March with ‘Narrative Experience in Xenophon’s Anabasis‘ by Dr Rosie Harman of UCL. Dr Harman showed how Xenophon justified everything the Greeks did or proposed to do during the ‘March of the 10,000’ in them being superior to the alien inhabitants of the Persian Empire, all the while presenting the story in almost diametrically opposed terms – an ‘easy’ triumphal journey or a harrowing tale of survival against all odds.


On Thursday 6th April, CANI hosted a talk on ‘Greek Percussion’ by Dr Katerina Kolotourou. A historian, linguist, field-archaeologist and accomplished pianist, Dr Kolotorou called upon literary sources and fragmentary sculptural evidence to demonstrate the sistrumtympanon and kithara in the prominent roles required of them by the classical Greek musical ear.


CANI‘s 2016/17 talks programme was completed with Dr Peter Crawford asking the question ‘Who Was Constantius II?’ on 8th June at Queen’s University. The answer required a long checklist for all those in attendance, but can be summed up with saying that this ‘good, bad, and ugly’ enigma of a fourth century Roman emperor was ‘a potentially unpleasant, utterly ruthless and unscrupulous man’ who had his political and military achievements downgraded by negative sources.

Readers Collage

Following hot on the heels of our highly successful public reading of Homer’s Iliad at Queen’s University Belfast, Saturday 17t June saw the second Homeric epic, the Odyssey receive the same treatment, this time in the foyer of the Ulster Museum. Once again, the people of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy and Australia were extremely generous with their time and donations to MacMillan Cancer Research.

Vase Collage

Further colour was added to proceedings by the generosity of Laura Jenkinson, who provided a tremendous amount of material both for advertising the event and for children of all ages to partake in some colouring-in on the day through her @GreekMythComix initiative

BeFunky Collage

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 in facilities laid on by the Open University in Northern Ireland. Four classes, two Latin and two Greek, ran concurrently for 12 lessons and were supplemented by talks by Stephen Strickland (Maynooth) on ‘Food and Character in Suetonius’ and Giulio Di Basilio (UCD) on ‘Plato’s Ethics.’

Showing the range of interest in these classical languages, attendees included PhD students, undergraduates, those looking to revisit their love of languages, and veterans of the 2016 Summer School.


Such was the success this year that the 2018 edition has already been scheduled to run from Monday 16th to Friday 20th July and plans are afoot to include Advanced levels in both Greek and Latin. Watch this space!


CANI‘s 2017/18 programme began on 4th October with a talk by Dr Elizabeth Dawson (QUB) on ‘The Earliest Latin Lives of St Patrick: Hagiography and History.’ Those in attendance were treated to a look at Patrick’s own fifth century writings and then what the works of two seventh century hagiographers, Tírechán and Muirchú, might tell us about Patrick politics, society and the Patrician cult in seventh century Ireland when woven together.


6th November saw the pre-visit from our colleagues at Advocating Classics Education, Professor Edith Hall and Dr. Arlene Holmes-Henderson, which brought together a tremendous array of representatives from the full spectrum of education – primary, secondary, tertiary, research, public engagement, examination, governance – all interested in the future of Classics education on this island. But do not take my word for it… Here is what Professor Hall had to say…

“Our wonderful Belfast partners, led by super-efficient Dr John Curran won the prize for the largest number of committed stake-holders at our heart-warming meeting at Queen’s yesterday. Northern Ireland really cares about Classics for Everyone–and there was a delegate from Dublin too!”

ACE Event Flier

A day-long event hosted by CANI, ACE and the Ulster Museum will take place on 9th February 2018 and will feature the acting out of Greek plays in costume, along with talks from Natalie Haynes and Dr John Curran, handling sessions of ancient artefacts and an appearance by Legion Ireland, Roman re-enactors from Cork.

Stay tuned for more details…


The final CANI talk of 2017 came on 30 November attracted a fantastic crowd to hear Dr Philip de Souza (UCD) revealing ‘The Truth About Triremes: Ancient Naval Warfare Re-examined.’ Dr de Souza investigated how the perceptions of sources regarding sailors, sea battles and triremes as ‘man-driven torpedoes’ has potentially distorted the numbers, involvement and abilities of warships and their crews – “the worst scum of the Greeks” according to Isocrates, On the Peace 79, as well as their general use by naval powers such as Athens, Carthage and Rome.

Readers Collage

CANI‘s 2017 was closed out on 7th December with a public reading of the final part of the ‘Trojan War’ Trilogy – Virgil’s Aeneid. From 10am, the McClay Library of Queen’s University Belfast rung out with the rhythmic prose of former Poet Laureate Cecil Day Lewis. A brief diversion at about 1pm saw Seamus Heaney’s translation of Book VI become our guide (the great man even popped up on screen a few times to keep an eye on proceedings…).


By the time Turnus’ pleas for mercy had been ignored in a fit of Aenean rage shortly after 4pm, 23 different readers of all ages, geographical locations and academic backgrounds had taken part, with numerous participants and listeners donating to the Simon Community NI.

With the Trojan War epics thoroughly mined, what might CANI‘s next public reading be? Ovid? Aristophanes? Herodotus? Petronius?; a conglomeration of historians on Alexander the Great? Answers on a postcard…

Blog Collage 2017 .jpg

The CANI blog in 2017 continued its brief to cover as many diverse topics as it could, featuring entries on the Bann Disc, whether or not the Romans invented the concept of “BAE,” the question “is AHM Jones better than Gibbon?”, imperial long necks on coins, ancient coded messages, Helen of Troy and the Rhodian Colossus in Game of Thrones, a really short consulship, an Ulster-American Odyssey and fireships in the ancient world.

We are also always willing to take contributions from our readers so get in touch if you have an idea or even an already completed piece lying around without a home.

2018 will see CANI embark on the aforementioned day-long with Advocating Classics Education in the Ulster Museum on 9th February, aimed at increasing participation in Classics within schools. February will also see CANI heading back to Dalriada School, Ballymoney to provide a series of curriculum-supporting talks on the Persian Wars, the End of the Roman Republic, Cicero and Augustan Rome.


CANIs public talks programme begins again on 7th March with Dr Laura Pfuntner (QUB) describing ‘A Roman Holiday in Sicily.’ Laura Jenkinson of Greek Myth Comix will present on ‘Classics, Comics and Education’ on 11th April. CANI Film Night III will see the epic Jason and the Argonauts battle their way into the Ulster Museum on 12th May. Dr Pamela Zinn (Texas Tech University) will look at ‘Animals and Vegetarianism in Antiquity’ on 30th May, before the return of the Belfast Summer School in Classics between 16-20th July and finally CANI and QUB will play host to the Classical Association of Ireland’s annual Summer School of talks on 17-19th August.

It is clear from the attendance of our events that interest in the Classics and all aspects of the Ancient World is in rude health. We may even need to book a bigger room…

CANI will soon be looking to bring together our programme for 2018-2019 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.

Twitter – @ClassAssocNI

Facebook –

Instagram – classassocni

Email –








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s