On Thursday 6th April 2017, The Classical Association in Northern Ireland was proud to host its latest talk on ‘Greek Percussion’ by Dr Katerina Kolotourou in the Old Staff Common Room of Queen’s University Belfast.
To welcome an expert on ancient Greek culture, history and society to Belfast at any time is a great pleasure but to find a speaker with the distinction of Dr Kolotourou, now resident in the city, is doubly a boon to the Association. A historian, linguist, field-archaeologist and herself an accomplished pianist, Dr Kolotorou delivered a bravura lecture on Greek percussion to an audience, in which many will have known of poets, rhetors and drama, but may easily have overlooked (or underheard) the wide range of percussive instruments that accompanied many aspects of Greek culture.
Calling upon a literary sources and fragmentary sculptural evidence, Dr Kolotourou restored the sistrum, tympanon and kithara to the prominent roles required of them by the classical Greek musical ear. From the pulsing energy of the ceremonies of Dionysius to the high spirits of street-musicians of the Piraeus, the Belfast audience had an audio-world powerfully evoked. Understanding the sounds, instruments and players recreated the uniqueness of percussion as a means of musical expression, then as now.
And striking parallels and differences between Greek instruments and those of ancient Egypt and the Near East opened up yet another avenue of enquiry into the relationship between ancient peoples of the eastern Mediterranean.
Not surprisingly, the lecture had attracted the attention of historians of music as well as musicians themselves, and Dr Kolotorou was able to offer food for thought to questioners on 14th century Sweden as well as early modern English song. We very much look forward to hearing from Dr Kolotourou again and wish her well for her ongoing research which is to culminate in what will certainly be a fascinating monograph.
You can see a few more photos from the event in our ‘Greek Percussion’ Gallery
The Classical Association in Northern Ireland’s visit to Lumen Christi College
On Friday 24th February, Dr John Curran and Dr Peter Crawford visited Lumen Christi College in Derry/Londonderry on behalf of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland. They delivered a very informative and engaging talk entitled “20 Things Every Latin Student Should Know About Ancient Rome” to members of the Lumen Christi College Latin Club, other interested students, and senior staff. There was an impressive turnout of approximately 20 students and senior staff for this much-anticipated event.
This fascinating presentation covered a wide variety of topics, beginning with the mythological origins of Ancient Rome and the influence of surrounding cultures, such as the Etruscans and the Greeks, on the Romans. The two esteemed speakers moved on to discuss the Pantheon of Gods and religion in Roman society. A topic that generated much excitement amongst the students was the Roman Army, especially the wonderful replica sword that Dr Crawford used to demonstrate Roman fighting techniques, which the students found to be particularly engaging. One student remarked that “The best part was definitely holding the sword.” Another student agreed: “I loved the sword.”
Dr Curran and Dr Crawford then explained the expansion of the Roman Empire to the pupils, as well as the Punic Wars. Ronan found this particularly engaging: “My favourite part was when they spoke about the Empire.” Many students found the variety of diagrams and maps used in this section helpful and informative. The students also expressed that they thoroughly enjoyed the section on Hannibal and his elephants, with one student remarking that: “My favourite bit was the bit about Hannibal.”
The speakers then moved on to discuss the concept of ‘paterfamilias’ and the patriarchal nature of Roman society. Dr Curran and Dr Crawford successfully explained this difficult concept in a manner that was relevant and appropriate to the age range of the students present by drawing comparisons between the power structure of Roman families and the royal families of Europe.
Other topics discussed included slavery in the Roman Empire, Roman trade, and Roman literature (in particular, the Aeneid). Towards the end of the presentation, the speakers brought the story of Rome into a modern-day context by explaining the Latin origins of the spells in the ‘Harry Potter’ series, and the use of Latin names in the ‘Hunger Games’ series. The students found that link between modern pop culture and the Ancient world to be particularly relevant and interesting. One student commented: “I thoroughly enjoyed the entire presentation, particularly the references to pop culture and how many franchises derive from Latin.”
Photos were taken of the event. An article about the talk also featured in the school newsletter, which can be viewed at the following web address: http://www.lumenchristicollege.co.uk/newsletter
All in attendance have expressed their appreciation and enjoyment of the event, and the students in particular expressed that they felt inspired and informed by the presentation.
I would like express my gratitude to Dr Peter Crawford and Dr John Curran for devoting their time and expertise to come to Lumen Christi College and deliver such an informative and engaging presentation. Furthermore, I would like to thank the Classical Association in Northern Ireland for making such events possible across Northern Ireland, work that is both enriching and inspiring. I look forward to many such events in the future.
Latin Club Founder
Lumen Christi College
CANI would like to express our own thanks to Lumen Christi College, the Latin Club and in particular Ava Wilson for inviting us to speak. It was for this kind of event that 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.
As this was part of the CANI4Schools initiative, these talks are now part of our list of available resources should you, your school or group be interested in hosting a similar event.
The Classical Association in Northern Ireland kicked off its 2017 public programme with ‘Narrative Experience in Xenophon’s Anabasis‘ by Dr Rosie Harman of UCL on 16th March in the Old Staff Common Room of Queen’s University Belfast.
Having studied at Cambridge and Nottingham and taught at Liverpool and Trinity College Dublin, Dr Harman currently serves as a Lecturer in Greek Historiography at University College London and is widely published on various aspects of the works of the 5th/4th century BC Athenian philosopher, historian, soldier and mercenary Xenophon – power, panhellenism, barbarians, identity, colonisation – and what they say about the Greek world of his period.
Dr Harman’s illustrated talk was specifically about the narrative experience of what is probably the most famous of Xenophon’s works, the Anabasis, also known as the ‘March of the 10,000,’ where a Greek mercenary army, eventually led by Xenophon, finds itself trapped in Mesopotamia after the death of their Persian patron and having to march and fight their way back to the Aegean in 401-399BC.
A major part of Dr Harman’s talk focused on the ideological and descriptive contradictions throughout the Anabasis, with Xenophon attempting to cover all bases so as to depict the Greeks as capable of doing everything the alien inhabitants of the Persian Empire could and more. On the one hand the Greeks wanted to return home like Odysseus only for that narrative to be replaced, almost immediately, with something approaching foundation poetry with the 10,000 contemplating founding a city of their own in the Persian Empire, much to the consternation of their enemies.
Was the Anabasis a triumphal journey through enemy territory proving the superiority of the Greeks, where their greatest opponents were geography and hunger or a harrowing tale of survival against all odds? Quite possibly both, with the Greeks frequently not in control but ultimately victorious – usually through the intervention of Xenophon…
Traversing of the difficult terrain of the east made victory all the more sweet, but at the same time there is room to question whether this is all bred of confidence that the Greeks would succeed, anxiety that the dangers would prove too much or indeed hindsight, given that Xenophon knows that they will succeed. ‘Desire for’ versus ‘dislike of’ the ‘easy’ life and the “exotic delights or terrifying danger” were highlighted, with perhaps the most colourful tale being the description of the 10,000 eating poisoned honey reading like a drunken night out, complete with the awful hangover afterward (which seems somewhat apt on St Patrick’s Day…).
Demonstrating the interest stirred up by Dr Harman’s talk, there were a variety of different questions and points of discussion put forward by the audience – the reception of mercenaries at home, their aims of on the expedition and return, Greek perceptions of rivers and travel up-stream, the extent of the 10,000’s baggage train, when and where Xenophon might have been writing, his possible note-taking early in the march, his ultimate (un)reliability as a narrator, his harnessing of the styles of both Thucydides and Herodotus an his reception as an historian amongst his contemporary Greeks, Alexander the Great and the Romans.
The Classical Association in Northern Ireland would like to thank Dr Harman for her fascinating talk and to all those who attended, gave their enraptured attention and provided so many interesting and insightful questions.