CANI Review of 2017

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…

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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

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CANI’s 2016 in Review

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2016 has been the first calendar year for which the Classical Association in Northern Ireland presented a full programme, as well as being involved in other events with various academic and community partners. Here is a brief look at all the goings-on involving CANI throughout the past year.


On 19th March, CANI members Dr Martijn Icks and Dr John Curran led a group of QUB History and Archaeology postgraduates in a joint trip with Radboud University Nijmegen to Ravenna, site of some of the most famous Christian churches of late antiquity. The success of this joint venture may be best seen in the plans for a repeat trip in 2017.

QUB/Radboud University Nijmegen Trip to Ravenna


CANI’s first event of 2016 came on 30th March with ‘Re-voicing Classics: An Evening of Poetry,’ which saw a panel of some of Northern Ireland’s leading poets convened by Dr Erin Halliday. Ross Thompson, Manuela Moser, Stephen Sexton and Dr Halliday herself presented selections of classically-inspired works of their own and others. Through them, the likes of Ovid, Sappho and the Classical tradition were brought to the halls of QUB once more.

‘Re-voicing Classics: an Evening of Poetry’ Review

‘Re-voicing Classics: an Evening of Poetry’ Gallery


CANI were also proud to collaborate with the Open University for a dual event on 15-16th April, where two prominent scholars of Greek Tragedy and Epic, Dr Laura Swift and Dr William Allan, presented papers on ‘Sophocles, Heaney and the Manipulation of Myth’ and ‘The Homeric Hero’ respectively. Demonstrating the commitment of both the OU and CANI to promoting the Classics amongst schools and the public as a whole, these talks were presented as consecutive days first on 15th April to a gathering of pupils of from various Belfast schools at QUB and then the following day to a public gathering at Stranmillis College.

The Manipulation of Myth and Homeric ‘Heroes’: Greek Tragedy and Epic for Schools Review

Greek Tragedy and Epic for Schools Gallery


A slight change of pace was introduced for CANI’s Film Night on 18th May with a presentation of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator in the Black Box, Belfast. It may not be the most historically accurate representation of second century Rome but as Dr Martijn Icks asked in his short introduction, does that really matter? It is meant as entertainment and went a long way to rejuvenating the historical epic as a mainstream genre in film and bolstering interest in the Classics.

CANI Film Evening: Ridley Scott’s Gladiator Review

CANI Film Evening: Ridley Scott’s Gladiator Gallery


The final event of CANI’s 2015/16 programme came on 9th June, where in the Old Staff Common Room of QUB, Dr John Curran stepped forward to read from a prepared statement on ‘Was Judaea Rome’s Northern Ireland?’ Choosing the language of familiarity rather than similarity, Dr Curran demonstrated how these two ‘provinces’ and their political and social circumstances caused ‘Troubles’ for the Romans and the British.

‘Was Judaea Rome’s Northern Ireland?’ Review

‘Was Judaea Rome’s Northern Ireland?’ Gallery


The first Belfast Summer School in Classics took place from Monday 4th until Friday 8th July 2016 and offered classes in Beginners and Intermediate Classical Greek. These classes were extremely well-received and have already been expanded to include Latin for 2017. However, they were not just limited to language classes as Dr Kerry Phelan (Maynooth) spoke about the politician and logographer Demosthenes and Stephen McCarthy (Maynooth) directed a discussion on Sappho’s poetry.

Belfast Summer School in Classics 2016 Review

Belfast Summer School in Classics 2016 Gallery

The second half of 2016 saw CANI and its members making connections and presenting talks with other institutions and societies.


On 13th October, the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast hosted a screening of the marvellous Monty Python’s Life of Brian for the second CANI Film Night, before which Dr Peter Crawford highlighted how the reception of the film has gone from blasphemy and bans to academic praise for its depiction of Roman Judaea.

CANI Film Night II: From Mary Whitehouse and the Bishop of Southwark to King’s College, London and the Bright Side of Life (of Brian)…

CANI Film Night: Monty Python’s Life of Brian Gallery


On 3rd November, CANI founder Dr John Curran had the opportunity to present the Sir Samuel Dill Memorial Lecture on behalf of the esteemed Professor Dame Averil Cameron on ‘Samuel Dill, the end of the Roman empire, and learning from history.’

The Sir Samuel Dill Memorial Lecture: 3rd November 2016 – Delivered by John Curran, Convener of CANI


On 15th November, Dr Peter Crawford was invited by the Coleraine Historical Society ( to present a talk on the Coleraine Hoard and what it might suggest about Romano-Irish relations in the surroundings of Coleraine Town Hall.

CANI Event ~ by invitation from Coleraine Historical Society Review

CANI Event ~ by invitation from Coleraine Historical Society Gallery


On 8th December, CANI hosted an immensely successful day-long public reading of Homer’s Iliad in the McClay Library at Queens University, where 41 people from Belfast, RBAI, Victoria College, QUB, Dublin, Maynooth and even Tasmania read part of the great epic, all in aid of the Simon Community NI.

#IliadLive Belfast Public Reading Review

#IliadLiveBelfast and the Simon Community

#IliadLiveBelfast Public Reading Gallery


2016 was then closed out by a talk by Professor Theresa Urbainczyk of UCD on 15th December which investigated the depiction of ‘Some Byzantine Women and their Husbands’ in the History of Nicetas Choniates and what that depiction was meant to say about the moral, societal and even political decay of the ‘Byzantine’ Roman Empire on the eve of the Fourth Crusade.

‘Some Byzantine Women and Their Husbands’ Review


2016 has also seen the CANI website launch its own blog, which has so far presented pieces on the accidental suicide of a Byzantine emperor, a poem from Ross Thompson on the divine personification of the moon called Selene, Trojan War playing cards and paper dolls, falling down the numismatic rabbit hole, Far Eastern remains in Roman London, Roman coins in Japan, the classical allusions to ‘death by molten gold’, the Battle of Cannae and burning princesses from Game of Thrones and a new subsection on ‘My Favourite Picture of Ancient History’.


We are also willing to listen to ideas and even contributions for future contributions from our readers so get in touch.

Programme of Events 2016-17

Early 2017 will see CANI continue our brief to help bring the Classics to the public as we head out into schools, specifically Dalriada School, Ballymoney and Lumen Christi College, Derry in February to speak to pupils on a variety of subjects including but not limited to the Persian Wars, the End of the Roman Republic, Cicero, Augustan Rome and a general introduction to the Ancient World for a Latin club.

CANI will then be hosting a selection of public talks throughout the first half of 2017. Dr Rosie Harman (UCL) will discuss the sections of the March of the 10,000 in ‘Narrative experience in Xenophon’s Anabasis‘ on 16th March. Dr Katerina Kolotourou will venture into the world of ancient music and its instruments with her talk on ‘Greek Percussion’ on 6th April. Dr Peter Crawford will provide a variety of answers to the question ‘Who Was Constantius II?’ on 8th June before the return of the Belfast Summer School in Classics, which expands to incorporate classes in both Greek and Latin throughout the week of 3rd -7th July.

If 2016 is anything to go by, it is clear that interest in the ancient world, its politics, cultures, militaries, societies and enduring legacies, is in robust good health.

CANI are already in the initial stages of bringing together our programme for 2017-2018 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

CANI Facebook

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Greek Tragedy and Epic For Schools

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Greek Tragedy and Epic For Schools

The Classical Association in Northern Ireland and The Open University are delighted to present two lectures on Greek Tragedy and Epic for 6th form students of Classics, Classical Studies and English Literature

Friday 15th April

The Peter Froggatt Centre, room 02/017

Queen’s University, Belfast

 1.15 – 2.00: ‘Greek tragedy and the manipulation of myth’ (Dr Laura Swift)

 2.15 – 3.00: ‘The Homeric hero’ (Dr William Allan)





Dr Laura Swift (The Open University)

A Classics graduate of the University of Oxford, Dr Swift’s research interests lie in Greek tragedy, in particular on the relationship between the tragic chorus and other types of choral song performed in Greek society.

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Dr William Allan (University College, Oxford)

Originally from Fife, Dr Allan studied Classics at Edinburgh and taught at Harvard before moving to the University of Oxford. He is particularly interested in archaic and classical Greek tragedy and epic.

If you are interested in having some of your students attend this event, please, do not hesitate to get in touch with us through any of our contacts