Previous Events

2018 Year in Review

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CANI‘s 2018 kicked off with a day-long event with Advocating Classics Education in the Ulster Museum on 9 February.


Cross-border antiquities, in-door artillery fire (no one got hurt), creating Greek theatre masks, dramatic decisions over whether to sacrifice a daughter for the ‘greater good’, a Roman military parade down University Road, coin-stamping, an impromptu rendition of the massacre of Teutoburg Forest involving Botanic Gardens and some screaming (in a good way) primary schoolers, an overflowing lecture hall, trying to figure out what the Aeneid was really for, Natalie Haynes’ suggesting how the Ancients can inspire good modern living and numerous visits to the Ulster Museum’s many, many other attractions, including the giant Game of Thrones tapestry and the GCSE/A Level Art displays.

It goes without saying that this kind of event could well be taking pride of place in the CANI annual programme for the foreseeable future.


23 February saw the CANI4Schools initiative return to Dalriada School, Ballymoney to provide a series of curriculum-supporting talks for A Level Classical Civilisation students. Dr Peter Crawford, returning to his old school, initiated proceedings with the talk Defeating Goliath: The Persian Wars. This was followed by talks from Dr John Curran on the Aeneid and Augustan Rome.

CANI would like to thank Dalriada and Mr Bredin for inviting us to speak as it is this kind of event with so many enthusiastic pupils for which CANI was originally formed, demonstrating that interest in the Ancient World is alive and thriving.

Mr Bredin provided reassurance that the main brief of CANI4Schools was hit… “Many thanks indeed for coming to school… to deliver the lectures. The students have commented how useful they found them to their modules and several have been talking now about the possibility of studying some element of classics at University…”

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.


In a late addition to the programme, on 5 March, CANI members were very fortunate to attend William Crawley’s interview of Professor Mary Beard at BBC Blackstaff as part of the eye-opening new series Civilisations. Over the course of 90 minutes, Prof. Beard spoke on a variety of subjects linked to the show, its making, its predecessor by Kenneth Clark.


On 7 March, CANI began its talks programme for the year with Dr Laura Pfuntner (QUB) speaking on ‘A Roman Holiday in Sicily.’ Dr Pfuntner presented the multifaceted approach Rome had towards Sicily. It could be an imperial training ground, a haven for pirates and slave revolts, an Italian workshop, granary and warehouse or a once cultured place in need of saving by the mighty Cicero in order to found a thriving tourist industry by the end of the Republic.


On 11 April, Laura Jenkinson of Greek Myth Comix presented on ‘Teaching Classics via Comics,’ tracing the history of sequential art ‘comics’ from cave paintings seeming to move in flickering light and Roman imperial victory columns. She also demonstrated how comics can not only bring more attention to the Classics but also how they can be superb learning and revision tools (as well as great fun!).


On 12 May, CANI Film Night III saw Don Chaffey’s 1963 epic version of Jason and the Argonauts screened in the Ulster Museum. Following an introduction by Katerina Kolotourou, the stop motion techniques of Ray Harryhausen brought the many obstacles in the search for the Golden Fleece to life – gods and goddesses, harpies and hydras, skeletons and statuesque automatons.


While not technically a CANI event, on 24 May, several of its members were involved in an Ancient History Workshop convened by Dr Laura Pfuntner at Queen’s University Belfast on the subject of ‘Warfare and Peacemaking in the Roman provinces in the first century BC.’ Drawing together scholars and students from several universities and subjects, a series of papers were presented on various aspects of war and peace surrounding the period of the decline and fall of the Roman Republic.


The CANI main 2017/18 programme was completed on 30 May when Dr Pamela Zinn (TTU) presented ‘Animals and Vegetarianism in Antiquity.’ Dr Zinn demonstrated how integral to the ancient life animals were not just as sources of food and burden, but in art, myth, religion, history and as pets. Lack of numbers, difficulty farming and need to use animals for other activities meant meat-eating was less widespread in the ancient world. But while there were some sympathetic philosophers, ancient vegetarianism seems to have been much less about aversion to meat-eating and more about the lack of available meat.

group 2 cropped

In July 2018, the Belfast Summer School in Greek and Latin returned for its third year as 35 students from far and wide gathered at Queen’s University Belfast for beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes, as well as a translation workshop. By weeks’ end, a variety of selections from Homer, Ovid, Catullus, Caesar and Virgil had been tackled by the enthusiastic students.

The classes were supplemented by academic talks on the interpretation of dreams in ancient Greek medicine by Dr Steph Holton and a mock trial of Gaius Julius Caesar on the charge of Gallic genocide by Dr Peter Crawford.

Such was the success of the school that plans are already in place for next year’s edition as well as for a refresher day early in the New Year.

save the date revised

This summer also saw CANI play host to the annual Classical Association of Ireland’s Summer School. On the weekend of 17-19 August, dozens gathered at Queen’s University Belfast to hear a series of talks on the subject of ‘Entertaining the Masses.’


Natalie Haynes provided a quick-witted, machine gun delivery of the keynote address on ‘Honour amongst Thebes’, and returned the next day for a conversation with CANI’s Helen McVeigh about the Classics and some questions from the audience.

Professor Helen Lovatt (Nottingham) investigated ‘Fun and Games in Ancient Epic’, highlighting the importance of both not only within the ancient stories but also in the social fabric of the ancient world.


 Dr Cressida Ryan (Oxford) asked ‘Why is Tragedy Entertaining?’ and answered it through the lyrics of the Bee Gee’s song ‘Tragedy’, while invoking Plato, Aristotle, Oedipus and Alfred Hitchcock.

Barry Trainor (QUB) then presented ‘All War and no Play: Entertainment at Sparta,’ highlighting that for all their militarism and austerity, the Spartans were capable of having fun, laughter and humour. Even their great law-giver, Lycurgus, felt that laughter was useful for Spartan society.

The final talk saw CANI‘s Helen McVeigh ask ‘Who Read Ancient Novels?’, using aspects of Chariton’s Callirhoe to suggest that the readers of such ancient fantasy were perhaps far less ill-educated than usually thought.


The CAI Summer School was closed out with a dinner and outing led by Dr Therese Cullen, an expert in early monastic Ireland and Patrician studies, taking in Nendrum monastery, Saul church, Downpatrick cathedral and Inch abbey.



After a postponement of our scheduled first talk of the 2018/19 programme, Dr Raoul McLaughlin stepped in at short notice on 21 November to present a talk regarding ‘Greek and Roman Voyages in the Black Sea.’ Following hot on the heels of the discovery of an intact ancient ship on the sea bed, Dr McLaughlin launched into the position of the Black Sea in the ancient world as a centre of east-west trade through the writings and travels of Arrian and others.


On 5 December 2018 Dr Maria Mili (Glasgow) presented a talk on ‘Objects in Boiotian cult’, focusing on a recently published dedicatory inscription found on a column in 2005 at the Sanctuary of Apollo Ismenios in Boiotia. Dr Mili investigated the importance of consecrated artefacts to Greek religion and the potential links of this inscription to a dedication recorded by Herodotus and to the famous Lydian king, Croesus.

Speakers collage

CANI‘s 2018 programme was completed the following day, 6 December, with our now annual public reading of an ancient text. In the McClay Library at Queen’s University Belfast, this year’s choice had fallen upon selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Over the course of 5 hours and 31 reading slots, those in attendance were treated to the poetic tales of the Creation, Pyramus and Thisbe, the Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus, Orpheus and Euridice, King Midas and his golden touch, to name but a few.

Thanks to the generosity of all those who donated, both readers and those who were just passing through the coffee lounge, £170 was raised for the Simon Community NI.

2018-19 Programme

While the calendar year of 2018 has come to a close, the CANI programme for 2018/19 still has several events to run in the New Year.

2 February 2019 will see the Belfast Summer School offer its Ancient Languages Refresher Day in Queen’s University Belfast.

21 February will see the CANI4Schools initiative on the road again, returning once more to Dalriada School, Ballymoney to provide curriculum-supporting talks for A Level Classical Civilisation students.

On 7 March 2019, Dr Des O’Rawe (QUB) will look at Classics on early film with ‘Framing Antigone‘ in the Old Staff Common Room, Queen’s University, Belfast

On 14 March, CANI continues its close working relationship with the Ulster Museum, which will host our Schools’ Classics Conference, headlined by Prof. Michael Scott and providing curriculum-supporting talks on classical religion, archaeology, history and politics.

4 May will see the Ulster Museum host CANI Film Night IV with Disney’s Hercules being the film of choice this year.

On 22 May, Lynn Gordon (RBAI) with present a talk on the ‘Reception of Classics in Irish literature’ in the Canada Room, Queen’s University, Belfast

The 2018/19 programme will then be closed out with the return of the Belfast Summer School in Greek and Latin on the week of 22 July to 1 August.

Blog Collage 2018.jpg

The CANI blog has continued its eclectic and multi-faceted entries in 2018. It has looked into the monastery of Monte Cassino and its destruction in 1944, the ‘single-handed’ conquest of an Adiabene fort by Sentius the Centurion, the Roman silver find on Traprain Law in Scotland, the reception of comets in Ancient History and Game of Thrones, a CANI trip to Newgrange, a look at the ancient Isle of Mann, while Amber Taylor provided fascinating and extremely valuable accounts at the benefits of (as well as the enthusiasm for) using aspects of the Ancient World to teach sections of the National Curriculum to primary schoolers.

2017/18 also saw CANI launch two publications of its own. The first is a quarterly newsletter reviewing and previewing our events, talks and online activities, the January edition rounding up our events in the last months of 2018 will be sent out to the CANI mailing list early in the New Year.

We also have the CANI Annual, which rounds up all of the blog posts published throughout the calendar year and some new material including quizzes and crosswords. You can download the 2017 edition at the following link…

If you would like any information about any of our upcoming events or would be interested in organising an event with us in addition to the programme, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

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

We here at the Classical Association in Northern Ireland would like to wish all of our friends and followers a Happy New Year! May Janus provide you with eyes on the past, future and present!

Peter Crawford, Amber Taylor, John Curran, Helen McVeigh, Barry Trainor and Katerina Kolotourou

Public Reading of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

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Statuia_lui_OvidiuSpeakers collage

On Thursday 6th December 2018, members of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland gathered in the McClay Library at Queen’s University Belfast to read aloud selected sections of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The CANI public reading has become an annual event at which we read an ancient text and raise funds for a worthwhile cause: the Simon Community NI.

The Metamorphoses is a single poem covering some 11,995 lines. It was written by Publius Ovidius Naso and completed around AD 8. Ovid was the most distinguished poet of his time and his other works include Amores, a collection of short love poems; Heroides, verse-letters written by mythological heroines to their lovers; Ars Amatoria and its sequel Remedia Amoris, satirical handbooks on love. He was exiled by Augustus in AD 8 to the Black Sea. He never returned to Rome and died in exile in AD 17 or 18.20181206_095927

The poem takes the form of a collection of approximately 250 independent stories taken from myth and connected by the theme of transformation. These stories are taken from both Greek and Roman myth and the poem has had a profound cultural influence, inspiring Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Titian, to name only a few. A flyer containing the background to the poem and its author, the event and CANI was distributed in the coffee lounge.

Shortly after 10am, CANI Chair, Helen McVeigh, welcomed those listeners and readers who had braved the winter weather to hear the first words of the Metamorphoses. The poem begins with the words…

Changes of shape, new forms, are the theme which my spirit impels me

Now to recite. Inspire me, O gods (it is you who have even

transformed my art), and spin me a thread from the world’s beginning

down to my own lifetime, in one continuous poem.

Dr Laura Pfuntner, lecturer in Ancient History at QUB and CANI board member, selected sections of books 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 11 for the reading. Beginning with the Creation, the Four Ages and the Flood, we continued with the timeless myths of Io, Pyramus and Thisbe, Arachne, Niobe, and Pelops. By lunchtime we had reached book 8 and the tale of the Minotaur and Ariadne. Then came the well-known stories of Daedalus and Icarus, Meleager and the Calydonian Boar, Orpheus and Euridice, and Atalanta and Hippomenes. At 3.10pm, another successful CANI public reading was brought to a close by Dr Pfuntner, concluding with the legendary King Midas.


31 reading slots were filled by 18 readers who came to Belfast from as far as L/Derry and Co Clare. We were delighted by the support from readers who took time off work to join in, the teachers who came to read in their lunch-hours, and all those who joined us, read, or donated. Thanks to the generosity of all those who donated, both readers and those who were just passing through the coffee lounge, £170 was raised for the Simon Community NI.

I would especially like to thank CANI board members Dr Laura Pfuntner, Dr Peter Crawford, Dr John Curran and Dr Raoul McLaughlin for their help in preparing for the reading and on the day.

Helen McVeigh

McClay Library, QUB 6 December 2018, 10am-3pm£2 per 10min slot; proceeds go to Simon Community NI

Posted by The Classical Association in Northern Ireland on Thursday, September 6, 2018

‘Objects in Boiotian Cult’ Mili Review

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On Wednesday 5th December 2018 Dr Maria Mili from the University of Glasgow (Dept. of Classics) gave a talk titled ‘Objects in Boiotian cult’. Maria Mili works on Greek religion and has a special interest in how belief and cult practice intertwine with larger political agendas and issues of social and ethnic identity. Her lecture at CANI focused on a recently published dedicatory inscription found in 2005 at the Sanctuary of Apollo Ismenios in Boiotia, the area stretching south of the famous oracular Sanctuary at Delphi.

With the inscription as her starting point, Mili explored the ways in which Boiotian communities perceived their local cult objects as consecrated artefacts with divine protective powers that could be called upon for divine support and safeguard in times of danger.  Consecrated arms, especially arms of defensive character such as shields, were a type of cult object that carried the fundamental notion of divine protection exceptionally well in Boiotia, and were often summoned by the local communities in precarious military circumstances.


The Sanctuary of Apollo Ismenios was one of the most important oracular sanctuaries of Boiotia. It was situated just outside the city gates of Thebes and it played an important role in the shaping of Theban civic identity. The dedicatory inscription had been inscribed in verse (epigram) on a column drum twice:  the earliest text in Boiotian script can be dated to the late-6th century BC and the Ionian script of the later text suggests a date of early/mid-4th century BC. The two versions, inscribed on opposite sides of the drum, are not identical but they overlap significantly.


The epigram commemorates the recovery of a lost shield that originally had been dedicated to the oracular Sanctuary of Amphiaraos by a certain Croesus. The shield was stolen but, through successful divination, it was now resituated at the Sanctuary of Apollo Ismenios. The column drum must have been the base for the shield, the latter being described as ‘gleaming’, a memorial of virtue [and suffering?], a miraculous ‘marvel to the Thebans’.

Croesus, King of Lydia

The epigram has been associated by the scholars who published it with Herodotus’ reference to the golden shield and spear that Croesus, the King of Lydia, dedicated to the Sanctuary of Amphiaraos, and which Herodotus claimed to have seen at the Theban Ismenion (Hd. 1.52). Mili questioned the certainty of such a straightforward connection of the material remains with the dedication of the Lydian king and argued for a more nuanced approach to the text of Herodotus as historical source.  She conceded that the inscription may reflect local traditions regarding King Croesus who is portrayed in extremely positive light in Boiotian sources, in contrast with Herodotus’ emphasis on his hubris and punishing death. Boiotian poets Pindar and Bacchylides, instead, both describe Croesus as being generous (Pythian I. 95-97), a blessed man whom Apollo protects and actually saves from the pyre (Ode 3.25-62).

The defeated Croesus before Cyrus the Great

The Boiotian tradition of Croesus as a recipient of divine charis who consequently becomes a hero casts doubts to the reconstructed reading of his ‘suffering’ on the inscription, and at the same time it justifies the Theban eagerness to appropriate his legendary weapon dedication as a heroic relic. Mili noted the widespread belief that heroic relics were endowed with supernatural powers and in numerous occasions their acquisition, stealing or repatriation was paramount in securing the community’s political/social stability or military success. In this respect, the (re)possessing of a heroic shield would procure and potentially ensure divine backing to the military affairs of the community. Indeed, several literary sources testify to the use of sacred weapons in battle, or to the miraculous intervention of consecrated arms at key moments of the battle, offering magical protection and granting victory. Such miraculous appearances/disappearances of sacred weapons are often linked to Boiotian/Theban military entanglements. Mili argued that the references in the inscription to the ‘gleaming’ shield that was ‘marvel to the Thebans’ reflect established Boiotian traditions and beliefs in the agency of sacred weapons.

The final question centred on the historical context of the epigram. Mili considered the circumstances that led to the composition of the two versions in the 6th and 4th centuries BC respectively, namely the potential association of the earliest text with Theban assertions to supremacy in Boiotia, and the connection of the later reiteration of the claim with the rebuilding of Thebes after its destruction by Alexander the Great. With her informative and thought-provoking analysis of a little known relic of Greek religion, Mili gave us a thoroughly enjoyable insight on the agency and versatility of cult objects in the ancient world.

Katerina Kolotourou

Dr Maria Mili (University of Glasgow)Canada Room, Queen's University, Belfast 5 December 2018, 6.45pm

Posted by The Classical Association in Northern Ireland on Thursday, September 6, 2018

‘Black Sea Voyages’ McLaughlin review

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On 21 November, room 02/011 of the Peter Froggatt Centre, Queen’s University Belfast was packed to capacity to hear one of CANI’s own, Dr Raoul McLaughlin present an illustrated talk on ‘Greek and Roman Voyages in the Black Sea’

After a brief welcome and update on future events from CANI convenor Helen McVeigh and an even briefer introduction which as per the speaker’s request amounted to “this is Raoul, he’ll take it from here”, Dr McLaughlin launched into a look at the position of the Black Sea in the ancient world.


It was no surprise that Dr McLaughlin began his talk with the recent discovery of the 75ft, 20-man ship on the bed of the Black Sea. Such well-preserved wrecks provide “a unique opportunity to study the ancient economy,” not just of the Black Sea itself but of the connections it provides between the Mediterranean through the mounted nomads of the Central Asian steppe to China.


But it is not only as a conduit for east-west trade that the Black Sea was important to the powers of the Mediterranean. The lands around the Black Sea provided their own commodities and as sea trade was much cheaper and quicker than over land, the shipping lanes of the Black Sea attracted many merchants and then colonists.

Many Greek colonies sprouted up around the Black Sea, with perhaps the most important being those of the Crimea which presided over the expansion of considerable grain fields, used. Combined with its fish stocks, it was suggested that the Black Sea could have fed up to 20 Mediterranean cities, including the Athenian Empire.


Indeed, Black Sea trade was long enough established to appear in many of the stories of Greek mythology, such as with Promotheus’ chaining to Mount Elburz and most famously in the journey of Jason and the Argonauts to Colchis, now modern Georgia but then considered to be the limits of the ‘known’ world. The suggestion of what the Golden Fleece was – a sheep’s fleece used to sieve gold from rivers – might highlight another important commodity that the Black Sea might have had.


The Roman historian Arrian extensively about the Black Sea and the lands surrounding it, and Dr McLaughlin used that Periplus of the Euxine Sea as a template to follow around the shores of the Black Sea. In the process, he demonstrated Arrian’s depiction of Roman control of coastal positions and the dangers of the Black Sea. Perhaps most intriguing was how far around the Black Sea coast Roman control reached during this period, with a significant Roman garrison at Asparos, now Gonio in Georgia, a lesser garrison at Phasis (Poti), and at Sebastopolis (Sukhumi). Dr McLaughin also recounted the story of how the straits of the Azov Sea were known to freeze so solidly in winter that it allowed a Pontic king to with a naval battle in the summer and a cavalry battle in the winter on the same spot.

Dr McLaughlin’s talk also took in the cities of the Crimea and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea, before returning to Roman territory across the mouth of the Danube, via the Island of Achilles.


After such an engaging talk, Dr McLaughlin took several questions from the audience, including (but not limited to) the presence of piracy in the Black Sea, how the grain fleets and other commodities almost made the Black Sea a mini-Mediterranean, the importance of the position of Constantinople not only as a link between east and west but also north and south, and how the ship wrecks on the sea bed might be able to tell us something about the ebbing ad flowing of the importance of the Black Sea throughout Roman history.

CANI would like to thank all of those who came on relatively short notice and to Dr McLaughlin for offering his expertise to get the 2018/19 programme off to a belated but excellent start.

21st November 2018, 6:45pmPeter Froggatt Centre 02/011Queen's University Belfast

Posted by The Classical Association in Northern Ireland on Sunday, November 11, 2018

CAI 2018 Summer School ‘Entertaining the Masses’ Review

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On the weekend of 17-19th August, the Classical Association of Northern Ireland was proud to host the Classical Association of Ireland‘s Summer School for 2018 in Queen’s University Belfast. With its range of subjects and speakers, the Summer School promised to live up to its overall topic of Entertaining the Masses.


After the CAI AGM, the 2018 Summer School was kicked off by its keynote lecture entitled ‘Honour among Thebes’ from none other than best-selling novelist Natalie Haynes. The eager audience were immediately enthralled by Natalie’s machine gun delivery and tremendous quick-wit as she covered every possible avenue of the topic that her hour long time slot permitted. Natalie took us back to her days before becoming a best-selling author and classicist, reminiscing about her less-successful stints as a comedian in the Mandela Hall and the Empire, both little more than a stone’s throw away.


That comedic background was in full view with a fast paced, whirlwind but highly entrancing lecture which involved a plethora of (somehow hugely relevant) tangents like The Rock, Fast and the Furious, punching a mega-shark, the Brian Coxes and so many more…

Natalie observed that female characters within Greek tragedy are not the focus of the works, even those named after them – paying particular attention to Antigone who has far less lines than her male counterpart and uncle, Creon. We learned of the interesting consistencies between modern soaps and ancient plays, with both paying heed to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. For them to be tragic, all plots must contain things such as mythos (plot), unity of place (be it in front of the palace of Thebes or on Coronation Street) and unity of time (all things must follow a logical and chronological order).

Focus fell predominantly on Aristotle’s favourite, Oedipus Rex, and how the smartest person in the whole tragedy is Jocasta, Oedipus’ wife/mother. She, above all other main characters (including the male ones) is first to deduce just who has murdered the previous king, ultimately leading to her tragic suicide and all within her minimal 120 lines of dialogue.


Finishing off our fantastic keynote lecture, we are treated to a short reading of Natalie’s book The Children of Jocasta, which showcases the points of view of two of the female characters from the Oedipus stories, Jocasta and Ismene.


The Summer School reconvened the following morning with CANI’s own Helen McVeigh hosting ‘Classics and Modern Culture: in conversation with Natalie Haynes.’ Natalie highlighted that it should be the goal of Classics to make itself less elitist. The days of classical subjects being reserved for those who can afford the education and the appropriate institutions should be gone; those subjects should be made available to study for anyone who wishes to, be it a state school or private one.


“But what got you into Classics?” asks Helen, to which Natalie replies, “a brilliant teacher” – a simple response, but perhaps one that resonates with all of us. Our greatest loves, our greatest interests were perhaps ignited by an inspirational teacher earlier in our lives. We hear of Natalie’s series on BBC Radio 4, Natalie Haynes Stands up for the Classics, a 30 minute show featuring ‘showbiz’ guests, stand up and all centring on characters and people from the Ancient World.

A few more diversions here and there and we round off the conversation with a reading from Haynes’ next work, A Thousand Ships; a compelling story of the Trojan War, from the point of view of the women and the goddesses. Natalie also answers a few questions from the captivated Summer School members.


Dr Laura Pfuntner (QUB) introduced the second lecture of the day, ‘Fun and Games in Ancient Epic’, given by Professor Helen Lovatt of Nottingham University.  The audience was first asked to think about what the epic heroes actually do for fun. “Feasting and games”, according to Professor Lovatt. These were ritualistic, sometimes commemorative and vastly more serious than usually thought. Gladiatorial combat and chariot racing were important spectacles and enormous public events. A key to revealing this information is to look at the architecture of Ancient Rome, especially the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus. The sheer size of these carefully constructed places can only suggest that the Romans considered the idea of games and sport as being of the upmost importance, especially as these structures have been able to withstand the test of time.


Professor Lovatt explained that “storytelling is serious business”, with feasting and games playing a major part. Epics such as the Iliad and the Aeneid go into great depth at times to describe fun and games for us. The Iliad 23 gives us the great example of the funeral games held for Achilles’ dear friend, Patroklos. As Professor Lovatt highlights, these games are perhaps fun for the viewer (and reader) but can be very serious for the participants as they quite often argue over results such as when Menelaos in Iliad 23 complains that Antilochos only overcame him in the chariot race by cutting him off.

An interesting question was raised regarding the competitiveness of Ancient Greek society as a whole, with Professor Lovatt reminding us that sport, games and competition were seen throughout Greek life, be it through the work of poets, vase painters or of sculptors.


After a brief interlude, Helen McVeigh introduced Dr Cressida Ryan (Oxford) for her talk asking ‘Why is Tragedy Entertaining?’ Following the Bee Gees’ song ‘Tragedy’ (the Steps version), we follow Dr Ryan through the five things that make tragedy entertaining by using five different lyrics from the catchy song.

Plato lambasts the concept of poetry (especially tragedy) within his Republic, considering it self-indulgent, provoking the wrong emotions. It does not help the grieving move on, leaves us with the inability to reason and so strays us further and further away from his concept of the ‘good soul’. The views of Plato’s most famous student, Aristotle, differ drastically. He believes that one must be a genius not a madman to write good poetry. Aristotle suggests we can learn from poetry as it can be relevant within our own lives. Aristotle himself was not sure how to define tragedy, offering four separate definitions in the Poetics. What he does state are the rules which a tragedy must follow and for there to be rules there must be reason – something which Plato believes a tragedy lacks.


Dr Ryan then raised Hitchcock’s concept of suspense versus surprise. In one scenario there is a bomb under the table between two people but the audience has no idea until the bomb explodes. This is surprise. Suspense is where the bomb is under the table, the audience know it is going to go off soon, while the people at the table may not. In many ways, suspense is perhaps more effective as the audience then gets to participate in the action of the play. Classical tragedy offers similar journey – quite often the audience know what is around the corner: the audience know Oedipus has married his own mother; it’s just a matter of time until he finds out.

It should be said that during this lecture we almost had a tragedy of our own when the wind breezed through an open window causing a banner to fall right in front of some unsuspecting CAI Summer School attendees! Dr Ryan was on the case however, and swiftly moved the banner out of the way.


Dr John Curran then introduced QUB’s own Barry Trainor, who presented his paper on ‘All War and no Play: Entertainment at Sparta.’ Barry highlighted that what we generally think of when we think of the Spartans – militarism, social order, austerity – is a somewhat narrow idea of what they were really like as a people.

Their frequent festivals not only carried heavy religious connotations – famously causing Sparta to fail to arrive in time for the Battle of Marathon – but may also have been important ‘holidays’ from the usual day-to-day austerity of Spartan life.

Barry then focused on Spartan laughter, a concept that could be considered ‘unspartan’ but was actively encouraged. The legendary lawgiver Lykourgos believed that laughter was also a way for Spartans to escape from the austerity of their everyday life, to relax and unwind. Sosibius also mentions the prevalence of the divine personification of Laughter amongst the Spartans, who built sanctuaries to this emotive god. Barry also spoke of how the Spartans taught their youth what kind of laughter was acceptable and encouraged them to mock one another. The butts of these jokes quite often were the Helot slaves who would be systematically humiliated as a means of mental subjugation and thus demonstrating the superiority of the Spartans.


The final talk of the 2018 Summer School was introduced by Amber Taylor, as CANI’s Helen McVeigh asked ‘Who Read Ancient Novels?,’ with significant focus on the Callirhoe of Chariton. This tale features apparent death, long journeys, love at first sight (many times!) and reuniting all as prevalent themes throughout its length. But who read this fantasy story?

Ben Edwin Perry suggested that the novel was intended for the uneducated and women; perhaps he believed it was intended for a kind of ‘Mills and Boon’ readership. As Helen points out, this is not necessarily the case. At one point in the text, Chaireas, the narrative’s male protagonist, is compared to Achilles. It is well worth noting that if the readers of Chariton’s novel had not been taught Homer at school then this comparison within the middle of the text would have been for nothing. Therefore, Chariton would have been inaccessible to his supposed readers.


Helen asked us to think about the women who could have been reading this tale. Greek vases depict women reading and studying – clearly educated and literate, while Herodotus spoke of a mother teaching her child Greek language and grammar. Chariton’s Callirhoe was polite, intelligent and cultured. Could this in turn mean she was literate?

After the projector decided to switch itself off, Helen took a few questions from the enthralled Summer School delegates, speaking of (potentially rude) monks, the influence of Dickens and if Chariton’s text survives in full.


And with that the 2018 CAI Summer School lectures came to a close, allowing delegates and speakers to adjourn to nearby watering holes for further discussion and refreshment, before reconvening at QUB for a splendid dinner. This may have been the end of the weekend’s festivities, but not its opportunities for learning.

Patrician Journies


Early on Sunday morning, a group of Summer School attendees departed QUB with their tour guide Dr Therese Cullen, an expert in early monastic Ireland and Patrician studies.

The first stop was Nendrum monastery on the shore of Strangford Lough.  Founded by St Mochaoi in the fifth-century, Nendrum was a sizeable monastic settlement that held a significant influence over the local area. It is one of the best preserved cashel sites in Ireland and continues to use a tide-mill, which dates back to the early 7th-century; possibly one of the oldest in the world.

The group then travelled to Saul church, which tradition holds was the location were a local chieftain granted St Patrick a barn for shelter – Saul being the anglicised word for Sabhall, Irish for barn.


After a soup and sandwich lunch at Paddy’s Barn, the next stop was Downpatrick cathedral – the traditional resting place of St Patrick. Much to delight of all, Dr Cullen had liaised with archaeologists from QUB who agreed to show us the excavations that were taking place at the cathedral. There was some artefact handling and shown the actual dig sites.

Just outside Downpatrick, the final stop of the day was the well-preserved Inch Abbey. Dr Cullen rounded off a very pleasant and informative day by showing off the various areas within the Abbey, such as the cloister, the altar and even the oven!


There are many who need to be thanked for their contribution to what was a fantastic weekend.

– the Classical Association of Ireland for allowing CANI to host the Summer School at QUB once more

– the staff of QUB who looked after us so well over the weekend

– Dr Therese Cullen of Irish Monastic Tours for sharing her expertise on the guided tour

– all of the delegates who attended the Summer School, offering insightful questions and intriguing discussion

– the speakers for their insight and expertise on the classical world

And special thanks to Helen McVeigh and John Curran for all their efforts in helping bring together such a fantastic event.

Amber Taylor and Barry Trainor

Canada Room, Queen's University BelfastFriday 17th August 2018'Honour Among Thebes'Natalie HaynesSaturday 17th…

Posted by The Classical Association in Northern Ireland on Saturday, July 21, 2018

Belfast Summer School 2018 Review

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In July 2018, 35 students and seven staff gathered at Queen’s University Belfast for the third Belfast Summer School in Latin and Classical Greek.  Many students came from Belfast and the surrounding areas and some travelled from as far as Enniskillen, L/Derry, County Donegal, County Clare, Birmingham, Kent, and even Massachusetts, USA.


Nineteen students signed up for Latin at Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced level. The Intermediate class reviewed grammar, while the Advanced students read Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the original language.  Ten students studied Greek at Beginners level, with the remainder taking Lower Intermediate and Intermediate classes. Intermediate level provided a grammar review while the Lower Intermediate Greek class was intended for students who had completed the Beginners’ level course.


This year we also introduced translation workshops on the Saturday. The Classical Greek workshop was led by Dr Martine Cuypers (TCD), examining the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey. The Latin workshops were led by our tutors, in which students looked at a few unadapted extracts from texts including Catullus, Caesar, and the beginning lines of Virgil’s Aeneid. All of our students performed admirably with these difficult texts after only a week of study.

The range of students was as diverse as previous years. In the Beginners’ Greek class alone there were high school students, a postgraduate student about to embark on the study of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, and an English graduate entering his training for the ministry.  Among the Latin classes, there was a GCSE student who wanted to read a Latin text as preparation for A level, a solicitor returning to her Latin roots having rediscovered the Ecce Romani books from her schooldays, and a trainee primary school teacher who hopes to inject some Classics into her lessons.

Many others said they were taking the course for fun. Each of our students has their own story and it was a joy to meet them and chat with them during the course of the week. In particular, Anita, Amber and Ava have attended the summer school for three years’ running.  In 2016, Ava had just completed her GCSEs though her school did not offer any Classics subjects: she is self-taught in Latin and learned Greek from the summer school. We are extremely proud that she has been accepted to study Classics this autumn at the University of Cambridge.


The summer school prides itself on the language skills of its tutors.  Each year the number of classes has increased and this year’s new appointments to the staff were Dr Laura Pfuntner (QUB, Advanced Latin) and Dr Steph Holton (Newcastle University, Intermediate Greek).  Other tutors were Dr Kerry Phelan (Maynooth University/UCD, Beginners’ Greek), Helen McVeigh (Lower Intermediate Greek), Stephen McCarthy (Maynooth University, Beginners’ Latin) and Stephen Strickland (Intermediate Latin). Solomon Trimble, a student of Greek and Latin at Belfast Inst, was the summer school assistant.

Academic talks were presented by Intermediate Greek tutor Dr Steph Holton who spoke about the interpretation of dreams in ancient Greek medicine, and CANI’s Dr Peter Crawford who offered evidence in a mock trial of Gaius Julius Caesar. On both occasions, there was standing-room only for these fascinating talks, with many interesting questions offered from the floor.  Many thanks to both of our speakers.

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An informal dinner took place in Town Square on Botanic Avenue and was also attended by members of the CANI Board. After the concluding classes on Friday morning, certificates were presented to the students by Dr John Curran from CANI and QUB’s School of History, Anthropology, Politics and Philosophy.  Dr Curran congratulated the students on completing an intense week of study, and thanked all the staff for their hard work and enthusiasm.


Student feedback this year was overwhelmingly positive, in many cases expressing a desire for a longer course, more Greek and Latin!

Other comments included:

“I would like to thank CANI for this amazing opportunity.”

“I liked the instructor’s energy and enthusiasm and want to come back next year for another class.”

“(The course) was very absorbing, thoroughly planned and a real pleasure to attend.”

We could not have had such great success without our wonderful students.  We love teaching Latin and Classical Greek and clearly there is an audience for these languages.

Grateful thanks are due to Dr John Curran, Dr Peter Crawford, Dr Martine Cuypers, Queen’s University Belfast, Maynooth University and the Classical Association in Northern Ireland.

Plans are afoot for next year’s summer school so…


Latin and Classical Greek15-19th July 2018

Posted by The Classical Association in Northern Ireland on Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Aeneid, Book VI, A Journey through the Underworld at Lumen Christi

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On Tuesday 26th June 2018, Lumen Christi College’s Latin Club graciously hosted Amber Taylor representing the Classical Association in Northern Ireland for a presentation entitled The Aeneid, Book VI, A Journey through the Underworld.


After an initial discussion of what the Aeneid was, who its author Virgil was and what happened in the story prior to Aeneas entering the Underworld engaged, an excited group of 20 post-primary school pupils listened intently to the tale of the epic hero Aeneas’ descent into the Underworld, alongside the Cumaean Sybil to seek out the ghost of his father Anchises and the advice that he would give to him.

Not only did the presentation of a particular book of Virgil’s Aeneid offer the chance to explore the dark and twisted geography of the Underworld as well as its terrifying monsters (e.g. harpies, gorgons and hydras) but it also gave the opportunity to explore themes and stories perhaps not explored in the epic itself. Death is of course the most prominent theme and Virgil explores this in various ways.


Through Book VI we see a κατάβασις (katabasis), a ‘going down’ to the Underworld and so the presentation was able to side track for a short time and explore those who have entered Dis aside from Aeneas, such as Hercules during his 12th labour and Orpheus to rescue Eurydice. Ways in which one can die were also explored with Dido, having committed suicide at the loss her lover Aeneas, now forever roaming the Fields of Mourning; those who have died before their time and those who are eternally damned to torture for their sins in Tartarus.


Of course, when Aeneas finally reaches his father he is told the truth of his future – he will come to begin the lineage that will be the founders of Rome, the greatest empire in the entire world (as Virgil likes to point out!). As Anchises points out the future rulers of Rome, Virgil’s voice sings loud throughout the passage, praising Rome for its glory and triumphs as well as the line of Caesars, especially Augustus himself, who was emperor around the time the Aeneid was written.

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A question and answer session at the end prompted some really intriguing questions from the pupils of Lumen Christi, showing their enthusiasm and engagement for Classics such as “Why did Virgil base The Aeneid on both The Odyssey and The Iliad, rather than one?”.  As well, a pop quiz ensured all went away with some sweets to kick off the start of Summer (and hopefully encourage their outlook on Classics!).

Lumen Christi’s Latin Club teacher, Miss Ava Wilson had this to say about the talk; “Lumen Christi College was delighted to welcome Miss Amber Taylor to speak to pupils about various translations of ‘The Aeneid, Book VI’ on Tuesday 26th June. The event was attended by around 20 pupils from both Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. It is safe to say that all became thoroughly engaged with Miss Taylor’s lecture, expressing interest in all aspects of the material covered, including the riveting plot of the epic, the geography of the mythological Underworld, the dramatic value of the text – even the Latin of the original and the nuances of Seamus Heaney’s translation.

 Miss Taylor really got the group engaged with the Latin of the original text, pointing out and explaining the significance of individual words. The pupils seemed to really enjoy this, and, for those who have studied some of the language, it gave them the opportunity to see the kind of level their efforts could lead to! The pupils seemed to really enjoy seeing how the material related to pop culture and other myths. I think the inclusion of such references helped make the material more accessible to them.

The success of the quiz at the end stands as testimony to both the level of interest shown by pupils and the effectiveness of Miss Taylor’s lecture – the prizes went rather quickly! This definitely generated an interest among pupils who were new to the subject. I would like to thank the Classical Association of Northern Ireland for this wonderful opportunity and, in particular, Miss Amber Taylor for her interesting and engaging presentation.” (Ava Wilson).

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Once again, the Classical Association would like to thank Miss Ava Wilson for organising the event and for helping make it such an enjoyable day for all involved. As well, we at CANI would like to extend our thanks to Lumen Christi College for once again allowing us into their school and letting us explore the Classics with their pupils.

Amber Taylor