Highlights of 2018-19

Mobility, Technology, and Cultural Transfer in Ancient Italy: From Montelius, through Trendall, to Today

A. D. Trendall Lecture

26 June 2019

Franco de Angelis, University of British Columbia


In the almost quarter-century since the passing of Arthur Dale Trendall, much has changed in the study of the archaeology and history of ancient Italy and the western Mediterranean as a whole. Many new data have emerged, and their retrieval and interpretation have been enriched by new methodological and theoretical approaches. In this talk, de Angelis highlighted three themes important to Trendall’s research—mobility, technology, and cultural transfer. Any discussion of these matters for ancient Italy cannot occur in isolation, and must be situated within the larger framework first established by Oscar Montelius in the late 19th century to explain the development of societies and economies across time and space. He assessed the differences between then and now using this Apulian red-figure situla to launch his discussion. His overall aim was to rethink how we might today envisage mobility, technology, and cultural transfer in the context of ancient Greek Italy. The argument drew on particular case studies involving some of the themes central to Trendall’s own research, as well as other cultural transfers related to them.

Image: Apulian Red-Figure Situla by the Lycurgus Painter (c. 360-340 BC) from Ruvo, Southern Italy. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession no. 56.171.64).


Recent Excavations at Gournia, Crete: New Archaeological Finds and Cultural Perspectives

Michael Ventris Memorial Lecture

5 June 2019

Vance Watrous, Buffalo

Aerial view of Gournia

Image: Aerial view of Gournia


Antiquity, Abolition, and Activism in Nineteenth Century American Visual Arts

Dorothy Tarrant Lecture

13 May 2019

Margaret Malamud, New Mexico State University

Slave images

This talk explored the impact of uses of classicism in the visual arts in abolitionist battles for African American emancipation and equality.


Forming/Informing the modern world? The role of classical scholarship

J. P. Barron Memorial Lecture

8 May 2019

Charlotte Roueché, ICS/KCL

Gertrude Bell et al

2019 marks the centenary of the Peace Conference held in Paris over many months to establish a new world order in the aftermath of the First World War. Those attending the conference were not only statesmen and civil servants, but also academics and intellectuals, unembarrassed to play a role in public affairs. Many of them were classical scholars - something which seems surprising to us now; the aim of this lecture was to tell the story of several such individuals, and also to consider how the scholars of today can - and should - contribute to current public discourse.


FORUM The Roman takeover of Italy

1 May 2019

Terrenato book

By the time Rome faced Carthage in the Punic Wars, the city was already the leading power in the Italian peninsula. How did this come about?
In this forum Professor Nicola Terrenato of the University of Michigan presented a radical new interpretation of Roman expansion in Italy during the fourth and third centuries BCE. In a forthcoming book. The Early Roman Expansion into Italy, he will argue that the process was accomplished by means of a grand bargain that was negotiated between the landed elites of central and southern Italy, while military conquest played a much smaller role than is usually envisaged. Deploying archaeological, epigraphic, and historical evidence, he paints a picture of the family interactions that tied together both Roman and non-Roman aristocrats and that resulted in their pooling power and resources for the creation of a new political entity.
Terrenato presented his ideas in a 20 minute talk followed by responses by
Professor Elena Isayev (Exeter) author of Inside ancient Lucania : dialogues in history and archaeology and coeditor of Ancient Italy : regions without boundaries
Prof Christopher Smith (St Andrews) former Director of the BSR and author of Early Rome and Latium : economy and society c.1000 to 500 BC and The Etruscans: a very short introduction.


What is Plato’s Republic About? Towards a Theory of Resilience

Dorothy Tarrant Lecture

13 March 2019

Sara Monoson, Northwestern University

Canova: Socrates

The series of vivid, discrete episodes of an intellectual journey that shape the Republic invite readers to look at its distinct elements severed from their place in the big argument in which each element plays a part. Unsurprisingly, cherry-picked pieces of the long argument of the Republic have long captured focused scholarly attention as well as popular imaginations – for example, the three parts of the soul, myth of the metals, theory of forms, allegory of the cave, ship of state, account of the tyrannical soul. But the text also explicitly urges readers to steel their nerves, harness their strengths and exhibit some stamina so as to persevere through the twists, turns, oddities, frights, heft and sheer length of the Republic and thus to engage with the construction of the arc of the argument of the text as a whole. What is this long argument about? The short answer is many things—and that this is one reason the text unceasingly rewards examination. In this lecture, Sara Monoson illuminated a layer of meaning that stitches the arc together that has been lost to us for too long—its sustained attention to the psychological challenges faced by combat soldiers and a society at war or poised to be. Consider that it is an uncontroversial fact that the guardians from whose ranks philosophers arise in the ideal city are, by profession, combat soldiers. This lecture proposed that among the things this text is about we must include the human capacity for resilience and an account of its political and philosophical significance.

Image: A. Canova, 1797. "Socrates Saving Alcibiades at Potidaea."


Paestum: what new excavations and scientific analysis tell us about a Greek city in Italy

ICS/British School at Rome Lecture

26 February 2019

Gabriel Zuchtriegel, Director of the Archaeological Park of Paestum

Aerial view of Paestum

The three Doric temples of Paestum have been at the center of archaeological research since the 18th century, when artists, writers and scholars "rediscovered" the site about a 100 kilometres south of Naples. However, there are still many lacunae in our knowledge about the people who lived in Paestum and built the temples. New excavations and archaeometric analysis carried out by the Archaeological Park of Paestum together with partners from Italy and abroad shed new light on a series of questions: what was daily life like in a Greek colonial city like Paestum, and how did the construction of the temples interact with the local community and their environment?


Public engagement workshop in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University

Saturday, January 12th 2019

This workshop brought together academics of all career stages who are working on classical subjects (broadly defined), in order to share strategies for successful public engagement, and to explore the benefits which engagement can bring both to researchers and the various publics with whom their research is shared.

As well as featuring a series of talks from academics who are involved in a variety of current public engagement projects, the programme for the day gave attendees the opportunity to share their own ideas (no matter how embryonic) for engagement activities based on their current research. There was also time allocated for facilitated discussion of potential projects with other participants, with a view to fostering collaboration, creative thinking and the sharing of experience.


Thessaloniki, a Metro-polis through the centuries

ICS and the British School at Athens Lecture

28 November 2018

Polyxeni Adam-Veleni, Director General of Antiquities, Hellenic Ministry of Culture & Sports


photograph by Orestis Kourakis

During excavations of the Metropolitan Railway in modern Thessaloniki, significant antiquities were discovered on the site of seven new stations. These include a previous unknown town, the Roman-period cemetery of a rich village, and many burials in the eastern and western necropolis of ancient Thessaloniki. Excavations in two stations, in the heart of the ancient and modern city, have revealed the central marble avenue (the “decumanus maximus”) and the vertical streets (the “cardines”), two huge ellipsoid squares, and in addition shops, luxury residences and public buildings. Together these discoveries transform our understanding of ancient Thessaloniki from antiquity to the Byzantine Empire. 


Weaving Women's Stories (Being Human Festival 2018)

16-17 November 2018
St Margaret's House, Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PL

Woman weaving

A series of free public events, including an evening performance, a drop-in workshop for families, and a weaving workshop with textile artist Majeda Clarke.


Brecht and Greek tragedy: radicalism, traditionalism, eristics

T.B.L. Webster Lecture

14 November 2018

Martin Revermann, University of Toronto

Brecht illustration

Brecht always considered Greek tragedy, and the kind of drama which in his perception Greek tragedy so prominently exemplified, as deeply problematic, politically naive and artistically flawed. These radical eristics of reception, so to speak, are in stark contrast to the philhellenism which traditionally informs responses to Greek tragedy. Brecht nonetheless very much needed Greek tragedy, and Tragedy in general, as an art form to engage with polemically, and the relationship between the two can be described as both dialogical and dialectical: without Greek tragedy as a target and an anti-model to work against Brechtian drama would lack a vital means of creating its own artistic autonomy and uniqueness.
This lecture discussed key moments of Brecht’s complex and often stimulatingly idiosyncratic engagement with Greek tragedy: his 1948-adaptation of Sophocles’ 'Antigone' (Brecht’s play, his production in Chur/Switzerland and the subsequent ‘model book’), his theoretical treatise 'Small Organon for the Theatre' as well as what Revermann calls ‘functional equivalences’ (like the use of masks, the nature of chronotopes, the use of choruses, closural techniques or the representation of divinity).


Ancient Magic

31 October 2018


Since ancient times humans have used magic to curse and protect, to harm and heal, to divine and constrain. This free Hallowe'en event explored the mystical objects and potent rituals of our magical past. Expert talks from academics and an author were followed by the opportunity to participate in a range of hands-on activities exploring ancient magic – from making curse tablets and poppets to divining the future and turning humans into beasts.