Latest Event Updates

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

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The Open University and the Classical Association in Northern Ireland were extremely proud to host their joint Greek Tragedy and Epic for Schools event in Queen’s University, Belfast.

After a welcome and introduction from Dr John Curran (QUB/CANI) and Dr Janice Holmes of the Open University, Dr Laura Swift (OU) entertained and educated with her talk ‘Sophocles, Heaney and the Manipulation of Myth.’

From how the “vested emotional interest” in Greek myth is perhaps best displayed today in ‘fan-fiction’ through the terrible opening night of Phrynichus’ The Capture of Miletus to Alfred Hitchcock’s film-making advice for adding suspense to an otherwise boring conversation by putting a ticking time-bomb under the table, Dr Swift presented the “familiar but flexible” nature of Greek myth.

Dr Swift highlighted how receptions of the title character in Sophocles’ play Antigone and her opponent Creon can change. Most appropriately given the surroundings, it was the adaptation of Seamus Heaney that drew much attention, in particular his depiction of Creon, the seeming “ideal politician” who slides into paranoid tyranny under the guise of patriotism – an ancient rendition of George W Bush and the Patriot Act: the corruption of power at work once more.

Dr William Allan (University College, Oxford) followed up with a look at the frequently unheroic Homeric Hero, ranging from Achilles the “touchy psychopath,” the honourable death-seeking Hector, the Cyclopean cheese-stealing Odysseus to the modern day Batman vs Superman.

Dr Allan demonstrated that the hero of Homeric tradition could not only fight well but could be expected to speak and think well, but with the proviso that Greek heroes were and indeed are only interesting when they failed to live up to these ideals. For every glorious victory in combat, tremendous feat of endurance or skill, eloquent speech or ingenious Trojan Horse plot, there was a less than heroic catastrophe – Achilles got his friends killed through his own haughty stubbornness; Hector doomed his own city through his need for a gory, honourable death; Odysseus, for all his smarts, got many of his men killed through his own stupidity and selfishness while Batman and Superman went to war over a misunderstanding that would have been simply fixed through a brief conversation.

We at CANI were thrilled by the numbers of schools represented in the audience, all keen to bolster their knowledge and understanding of tragedy and epic poetry by listening to and conversing with two such prominent classicists as our speakers. It demonstrates that interest in the Classics continues to be strong across Northern Ireland and beyond.

As Dr Curran said in his introduction to the event, this was kind of event encapsulated the two main raisons d’être of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland – promoting the Classics and providing help to schools, so for so many to show their interest by attending is a great boon to the aims of CANI.

CANI would also like to thank not just Dr Swift and Dr Allan for taking the time out of their busy schedules to travel to our shores to present their excellent, thought-provoking talks and to all the attendees for making the event such a success, but also Janice Holmes, Jennifer Shepherd and the Open University in Ireland who did so much to make this great event happen.

Dr Peter Crawford


For more photos and a couple of taster videos from this tremendous event over in our Greek Tragedy and Epic for Schools Gallery

Classical Readings from Michael Longley and Peter McDonald

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Following the success of our own poetry evening last month, we are happy to point anyone interested in hearing more classically-inspired poetry from some of the best pens these isles have to offer in the direction of the upcoming Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry event this Thursday featuring Michael Longley and Peter McDonald

Thursday, 14 April, at 8pm in the Crescent Arts Centre


Michael Longley is a recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, and his translations and adaptations from classical literature have garnered international critical acclaim. His most recent poetry collection, The Stairwell (2014) won the Griffin Poetry Prize.


Peter McDonald’s Collected Poems appeared in 2012, and a new volume of translations from ancient Greek, Homeric Hymns, has just been published by Carcanet Press, together with his most recent poetry collection, Herne the Hunter (2016).


Contact Details

2-4 University Road
County Antrim

Tel: (028) 9024 2338

Exploring Greek Literature: Epic and Tragedy

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Exploring Greek Literature:

Epic and Tragedy

Saturday, 16 April, 2016

Stranmillis College, Belfast

11 am – 1 pm

Please join us for a morning of lectures dedicated to exploring Greek epic and tragedy, hosted by The Open University in Northern Ireland & the Republic of Ireland and the Classics Association in Northern Ireland (CANI).

The event will feature lectures by two dynamic Classics scholars with a knack for bringing the ancient world to life through their research engagement in Greek literature.




Dr Laura Swift (OU) specialises in archaic and classical Greek poetry and drama.  She has also blogged on a variety of popular classical themes, including ancient haircuts.  Having served as the academic consultant on the National Theatre’s production of Antigone, she will be drawing from her experience of Greek theatre in academic and popular contexts in her session on Greek tragedy. For more information on Dr Swift, see her webpage at

bill allan_0

Dr William Allan (Oxford) will be drawing on his extensive research in Greek literature for his lecture on the Greek epic.  To find out more about his research interests and involvements, see his webpage at

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

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On Wednesday 30th March, the Canada Room at Queen’s hosted ‘Re-voicing Classics. An Evening of Poetry’. The evening began with an expression of the special debt owed to Michael Longley who for many years has seen the ancient mind so vital in our own world. This sense of the beauty and passions of antiquity followed in a series of readings from Erin Halliday, Ross Thompson, Manuela Moser and Stephen Sexton, who included work by Caitlin Newby. Each also shared with the audience their inspiration from the great poets and Classical myths.

So it was that Ovid’s wonder at nature’s fecundity and Sappho’s meditation on the enfolding nature of love were joined by evocations of the dismaying fall of Icarus in the loss of Russian cosmonauts and the imagining of Orpheus as a burned-out aging rock-star. The unique agility of poets writing in the North of Ireland in conveying the powerful emotions of the ancient mind while seeing the same elegies, tragedies, epic struggles and sensualities around us all was evident in the work of the readers who are set to carry on a great poetic tradition. It was difficult not to sense the shade of Louis MacNeice as somehow present, delighting with us all at so many ‘things being various.’ And wonderful to have the Classical tradition, literally, at the heart of Queen’s again!

John Curran


You can check out our Gallery for more photos from ‘Re-voicing Classics: an Evening of Poetry’ Gallery

And for an extra special treat, head over to our Blog to read one of the classically-inspired poems, re-voiced and presented at our evening of poetry – Ross Thompson’s Selene

Ross Thompson’s Selene

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Following the success of our evening of poetry ‘Re-voicing Classics’ which took place in the splendid surroundings of Queen’s University’s Canada Room, The Classical Association in Northern Ireland is very proud to present one of the poems that those in attendance had the pleasure of hearing.

From the pen of the award-winning Ross Thompson and based on the divine personification of the Moon from Greek Mythology, here is Selene.



Marie-Lan Nguyen (2006)




They found her lying in the hare’s corner,

taking the long sleep in the tall, damp grass.

Gossamer shawl drawn over her shoulders.

Cardigan buttons gleaming like cut glass.


The locket which housed two blonde baby curls

frozen tight to a freckle on her breast.

One foot was bare and straight. The other whirled

towards a pink slingback that came to rest

at the gnarled root of a weeping willow.


Who could tell which wrong path and which deep wounds

led her to lay down upon this pillow,

this bruised lawn, beneath such a bitter moon.


Still, they draped coats across her silver skin

though they knew that the cold came from within.

Ross Thompson

Ross Thompson


Endymion and Selene, by Sebastiano Ricci (1713), Chiswick House, England