CANI’s programme of events for the calendar year 2019 began with a new addition to the usual list of events. Due to the popularity of the Belfast Summer School in Latin and Classical Greek, a refresher day was added on 2 February, with 14 students braving the cold to spend the day consolidating, revising, learning new Latin and Greek grammar, and reading texts in the original language at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. This shows once again that the appetite for the Classics is still there if it is made available to the public.
CANI4Schools again saw Dr John Curran and Dr Peter Crawford travel north to Dalriada School Ballymoney to deliver a series of curriculum-supporting talks AS and A2 Classical Civilisation students on 21 February. Dr Curran presented on ‘The Rome of Augustus and Virgil’ and ‘What was the Aeneid for?’, while Dr Crawford summed up the end of the Roman Republic in ‘From Rubicon to Actium’ and then put Julius Caesar on trial for destroying the Republic (the student jury said there was enough reasonable doubt to acquit).
Mr Bredin, Mr Doherty and the students commented on how useful the talks had been not only in presenting aspects of the end of the Republic, the establishing of the principate and the source material involved, but also as revision exercises for the new lay-out of the A Level courses.
On 7 March, Dr Des O’Rawe (QUB) broke down ‘The Cinematic Interpretations of Antigone.’ The audience were vividly informed of the continuing vitality of the ancient tragic heroine of Sophocles’ play in the various versions of her fate on the big screen – Brecht’ Antigone (1948), Tzavellas’ Antigone (1961), Cavani’s The Cannibals (1970) and Straub and Huillet’s Antigone (1992). Dr O’Rawe also demonstrated how through the medium of this single story, we could see the political circumstances of their time echoed in their making.
On 12 March, CANI had the pleasure of being invited by the Armagh Robinson Library to attend the launch of an exhibition of 17th and 18th century publications and illustrations, as well as other works inspired by or based on Aesop’s Fables collected by archivist Thirza Mulder. CANI members, Helen McVeigh and Dr John Curran were treated to a tour of the library, and shown some of the 42,000 books it contains, including a religious text dating from the 15th century and a first edition of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, complete with the author’s own pencil corrections to changes his publisher made without his knowledge.
CANI returned to the Ulster Museum on 14 March to host its second annual Schools Classics Conference. Dr Greer Ramsay (Ulster Museum) spoke on the subject of ‘Hoards,’ as a perfect introduction to this important subject as a snap-shot of their period and the questions they raise regarding their origin. He also drew the attention of the audience to the fascinating ‘Hoards’ exhibition currently resident in the Ulster Museum.
Dr Katerina Kolotourou (CANI) presented ‘Strange Discoveries in Archaeology’, focusing on the grave of the ‘Griffin Warrior’ near the Palace of Nestor at Pylos. This Bronze Age shaft tomb been dated to the mid-fifteenth century BC and contains, amongst many other things, the Pylos Combat Agate, a highly detailed seal that seems to be 1,000 years ahead of its time.
The keynote address was presented by Prof. Michael Scott (Warwick) on the subject of ‘Understanding the Oracle at Delphi.’ Prof. Scott highlighted the origin myths of the site and how they may have emerged from the need to explain what was a peculiarly inaccessible site. He also addressed perhaps the most famous aspects of Delphi – the (high) priestess being exposed to hallucination-causing gases and how her intentionally ambiguous ‘predictions’ meant that she could never be proven wrong.
In addition to these excellent talks, two archaeology interns, Christoph Doppelhofer and Christine Farnie, presented an artefact handling session, while the re-enactors from Legion Ireland once again showed off their vast array of Roman equipment and extensive knowledge. Their commander even proclaimed that he was there “to take his money back” from the Roman coins on display in the museum’s ‘Hoards’ exhibition! A great day was rounded off by CANI’s own Helen McVeigh and Dr Raoul McLaughlin joining Prof. Scott for his weekly Facebook Live Q&A, addressing questions submitted by viewers.
On 4 May, CANI hosted its fourth annual Film Night in the Ulster Museum. After modern Hollywood epics, historical comedy, and sword and sandal fantasy, our choice this time was Disney’s Hercules. Amber Taylor (CANI Board member) provided an introduction to the film and the associated myths, differences between the two and the continuing influence of the heroic, muscular Hercules in the modern psyche and entertainment. The screening due a strong attendance from a wide demographic and was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
CANI’s final public event in the 2018-19 calendar was Lyn Gordon (RBAI) giving a lecture on the ‘Reception of Classics in Irish Literature.’ Particular focus was paid to Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Route 110’ which describes the bus route from Belfast to Cookstown in terms of Aeneas’ journey to the Underworld from Virgil’s Aeneid VI. Mrs Gordon also noted the classical influences on other Irish writers such as Michael Longley and James Joyce.
July saw the return of the ever-popular Belfast Summer School in Latin and Ancient Greek, this time with even more classes, workshops, days and events tied in. Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Greek and Latin were again joined by Translation Workshops, with the added option of 5- and 10-day courses. There were also academic talks from Dr Raoul McLaughlin and Helen McVeigh, on retail in Rome and Ancient Greek novels respectively. There was also an outing to the Thermopylae Battlefield Gardens at Kilwarlin Moravian Church, Hillsborough and the first iteration of the CANI Bookshop, made possible by a very generous donation from Dr Robert Jordan, who also presented the students with their certificates at the end of the courses.
It is a testament to the ability of the cohort of tutors put together by Helen McVeigh that the Summer School was able to attract students from USA, China, Japan, Europe, the UK and Ireland, with many returning year after year to build on what they have learned. Long may it continue!
The CANI programme for 2019/20 began on 16 October with Dr Emma Southon’s talk on ‘The Life and Legacy of Agrippina the Younger.’ Dr Southon highlighted the importance of Agrippina to the story of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the records of historians such as Tacitus, but also how she was almost universally derided as an arch-manipulator and “ruthless slut.” Because of her gender, her administrative achievements were often seen as crimes, with the Neronian lens further ruining Agrippina’s reputation – she had birthed him, reared him and put him on the throne, so she was responsible for his actions. Dr Southon sought to shine a light on this often maligned and pigeon-holed empress.
On 27 November, CANI welcomed Prof. Patrick Finglass (University of Bristol) to deliver our winter lecture on ‘A New Papyrus of Sophocles.’ After summarising the myth of Tereus, Prof. Finglass highlighted the newly found section of the otherwise missing Tereus of Sophocles and explained some of the linguistic detective work necessary to decode what is happening in the scene presented on the papyrus. Prof Finglass highlighted that Tereus revolves around the reaction of the woman to the wrongs of the man, similar to the myth of Medea but with the added layers of rape and cannibalism…
This event also saw the second outing of the CANI Bookshop after its successful debut during the Summer School. Its line up was bolstered not only by ancient themed toys from Susan Crawford but also a generous donation from Dr William Barr, a Latin academic from Northern Ireland, who has published translations of the likes of Persius and Claudian. CANI are very grateful to them and to those who took the time to peruse and then buy from our selection of works.
The calendar year 2019 was finished out on 5 December with our now annual public reading in the coffee lounge of the McClay Library of Queen’s University, with all proceeds going to the Simon Community NI.
In a little over 5 hours, 29 reading slots were taken up by 16 readers telling the stories of the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea and the Peloponnesian War in the words of the great Greek historians, Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon. CANI would like thank all of those who took part in the reading, sat and listened along, and donated so generously.
2019 has also seen the CANI blog continue its eclectic mix of subjects from several different writers.
We saw ‘Satchmo’ at the Pyramids, the coins of unknown Roman emperors, the fooling of a forger with a forgery, the last Vestal Virgin cursing the imperial family, St Peter confronting the first Christian heretic, the use of Classics in primary schools, copyists making a mess of primary texts, unidentified goddesses on British tombstones, the battlefield of Thermopylae in Northern Ireland, a Persian king being crowned before he was born and a look at the oldest yet known original document from a ruler of ancient Italy…
See? I told you it was eclectic!
We have plenty of other subjects slated for the New Year – a lesser known rebel from AD68, the history and sounds of the Iron Age Celtic horn, the carnyx, the story of the False Neros, a social revolt in ancient Sparta and the scholarship of the emperor Claudius.
You can keep an eye out for our new entries on a social media and the website, as well as look back at past entries.
You can also head over to the website for more in-depth looks at the events we have held in 2019.
CANI would like to thank all of the speakers, tutors, groups, individuals, institutions etc. who contributed to the organisation, preparing and delivering of all of our events in 2019. We could not do it without you.
And here is to 2020!
Peter Crawford and Helen McVeigh