Sunday 23Mar2014

Pompeii seems to be crumbling… and for all the promises by the different ministers of different regimes, what needs to be lacking, the news of damage and theft, is sadly not lacking. Here is the round-up of last week’s news in Classics.

Sunday 23Mar2014

A fresco is stolen from Pompeii.

And therefore…

Meanwhile, the war in Syria has faded out of the news, but it still causes damage:

“Britain’s earliest known Roman irrigation unearthed in Cambridge” Cambridge News:

“2,000-year-old Roman sculpture unearthed in Lincoln garden” Lincolnshire Echo:

“The latest on the Lion Tomb at Amphipolis” by . Dorothy King’s PhDiva:

The Gaza Apollo is still missing:

  • “Gaza Apollo will not go to Louvre” and whereabouts unknown. Art Newspaper:

“Ancient Greek Trireme Used for the Movie “300”” Greek Reporter:

Read: “The Cambridge don who taught Mary Beard ‘what it is to learn'” <Cambridge News>:

The Joint Library has new lockers!:

  • “New Lockers!” Joint Library of the Hellenic & Roman Societies / Institute of Classical Studies Library:

Sunday’s Supplements – blogs, comments and other occasional pieces

“I, Augustus, Emperor of Rome…, at the Grand Palais in Paris, review: ‘dazzling and charismatic'” <Telegraph>

“Problems with the Crimea — ancient style” by . A Don’s Life:

“Disappearing into thin air” by . Romans remembering disappearance. Reading Latin – Latin Reading:

“Studying the Book of the Dead at Reading” by Nick West. Classics at Reading:

“Popular Culture and the Democratisation of Classics, with Tony Keen” Classics Confidential:

“Ovid the naturalist” by Jane Alison. OUPblog:

“Ancient Rome in So Many Words: Crepundia” by Chris Francese :

“Libya’s Ancient Borders” by Josephine Quinn. LRB blog:

“What’s in a fragment?” by . David Allsop Classics:

“Nestor and Indo-European Twin Myths, with Douglas Frame” Hour 25, Harvard:




Sunday 02Mar2014

Rain has damaged a significant amount of masonry in Pompeii. It seems the new minister is taking the issue seriously and we hope that there will be less news similar to this in the future – if this persist, when can we seriously consider unearthing more of Pompeii or similar sites? Here are the rest of the news from last week.

Sunday 02Mar2014

A school for gladiators discovered at the edge of empire:

  • “Gladiator School Discovery Reveals Hard Lives of Ancient Warriors” National Geographic: 

A house, discovered near to the heart of empire:

Rain causes damage at Pompeii. See our summary (the first link) for further links:

Homeland security takes action to seize sarcophagus lid obtained by foul means:

  • “Ancient Roman ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Statue Heading Home After Being Seized By U.S. Authorities” CBS New York 

Is the UK being haughty:

Well done to University of Reading’s department and Matthew Nicholls and it’s good that their work has been recognised:

  • Teaching Excellence Winner: University of Reading” Project: Virtual Rome The Guardian Higher Education Network: 

“Headington pupils’ school mosaic inspired by Romans” Oxford Mail: 

“Roman road in İzmir’s ancient site Agora opens” Hurriyet Daily News: 

“Are the crowds in Ukraine reviving an ancient Roman tradition?” BBC News: 

“Digs on Nottingham tram route unearth evidence of Romans at Lenton” Nottingham Post: 

“Archaeologists uncover remains of Roman road in Sedlescombe” The Argus: 

Sunday’s Supplements – blogs, comments and other occasional pieces

“The Olympic Games in Ancient Rome” Latin Language Blog: 

“Vindolanda” – a travelogue. By Cressida Ryan. Weekend Notes: 

“The pleasures of Lille” by Mary Beard. Many classical beaux arts. A Don’s Life: 

“The Latest Scheme for the Parthenon by Mary Beard” <New York Review of Books>: 

“The Past in Pieces: Lego and Lost Civilisations: res gerendae: 

“Did the Romans really speak Latin sir?” by Andy Keen. Keener Classics: 

“Zoophilia Ancient and Modern” by Edith Hall. The Edithorial: 

“Aristotle on Happiness” by Neel Burton. YT (Neel Burton): 

“4 life hacks from ancient philosophers that will make you happier” The Week: 

“The Power of Song and Music at Pompeii” by Peter Kruschwitz. Reading Latin – Latin Reading: 

“The Odyssey/Penelope Retold review – ‘Ithaca becomes a haven of nightclubs'” The Guardian: 

“Thucydides in Sevastopol” The Crimean crisis through Thucydidies, by Neville Morley. Sphinx blog: 

For your diary…

“A day’s introduction to Sanskrit” 09Jul, London. The Classics Library: 

“Michael Scott – Delphi” 6:45pm, 25Mar. £ Heffers Classics 

“Robin Waterfield in conversation with Paul Cartledge” 6:30pm, 01Apr. £ Heffers Classics: 

And in Spanish/Y en español:

“Calígula: La invención del emperador loco” Tempora: 

“Incautan en Nueva York tapa de sarcófago romano” El Diario Mexico: 

“El mayor parque arqueológico español ya es visitable de forma gratuita en Cartagena” Turismo en Cartagena: 

“Arqueología en vivo en el Barrio del Foro Romano” a Cartagena. Murcia: 

“Melampo el Mercader: La boda de Corónide (I)” por Aristides Minguez. Paprl de periodico: 

“La muerte de Sarpedón” Animasmundi: 

“Ingeniería romana funcionando en el 2.000” via @breviaria. La túnica de Neso: 



Sunday 23Feb2014

We are children of the revolution!

We begin this review with a video organised by Arístides Mínguez and the SEEEC (the Spanish counterpart of the Classical Association) citing, rather humorously, the benefits of Latin. The first item in the news is the fact that our letter, which calls for recognition of Classical Civilisation by EBacc, has been published by the Sunday Times. Our report on the letter was commented by Ken Pickering, the instigator of the letter, which is well worth a read. Ken also deserves plaudits for his effort.

This is one bumper edition of Sunday, our (now slightly late) bulletin of last week’s news in Classics.

— Classics Collective (@ClassColl) febrero 21, 2014

Sunday 16Feb2014

The Sunday Times has published the letters by a a range of Classicists all passionate for Classical Civilisation as a GCSE subject:

The Gaza saga goes on:

A new site has been found in Veneto:

A major restoration process is to begin:

An amateur treasure hunter, armed with a metal detector, has found a hoard in a manner that was illegal under German law. The hoard appear to be significant, even Wagnerian according to The Independent:

  • “Amateur treasure hunter finds Roman gold hoard” The Local: 
  • “Amateur discovers Roman-era German treasure linked to Wagnerian Nibelung legend” The Independent: 

Following last week’s Roman emperor tube map, this week it’s the turn of the Underworld:

  • “London Underground tube map re-imagined as the Ancient Greek underworld” The Independent: 

I do hope the answer is no, even if it might be the easier option for an optimal environment:

Perseus texts might be on the change:

The Viking exhibition is coming:

Sunday’s Supplements – blogs, comments and other occasional pieces

On Univeristy of Nottingham’s departmental blog, a review of the Aristophanes plays in London recently:

  • “Aristophanes in London” reviewed by Oliver Thomas. Argonauts and Emperors: 

On Reading University’s blog, Peter Kruschwitz writes pieces that are always worth reading:

Do we need a more nuanced view of the antiquities across the world?:

It has to be a male-slave hero for a Hollywood film, doesn it?:

Edith Hall on rhetoric, and how she was advised that rhetoric preferably not of the left kind:

“The Greek periplus: from a naviagtional instrument to a narrative technique.” (Article in Spanish):

“Ulysses: the myth and the beauty” with José Emilio Burucúa. In Spanish:

An excellent interview (in Spanish) on words relating to Rome or Romance:

  • “Palabras: Roma, romance, románico” Para todos La 2. A la Carta: 

Yo, Claudius! The indluence of I, Claudius. Article in Spanish:

“The Palatine Hill and Propaganda: the House of Augustus” American Insititue for Roman Culture: 

“A Short History of Byzantium” by Liz James. History Today: 

“The Persecution of Christians in Eusebius” Graeco Muse: 

“Silver Men” of the age of Silver Latin. Translation Scrapbook: 

“New lamps for old…” On making Roman lamp. minimus_latin: 

“Court on a beach? (Edit with answer!)” by Andy Keen. Keener Classics: 

“Roman ice-cream” Andy Keen: 

“Early Roman Oral Traditions” by David Allsop. David Allsop Classics blog: 

“Cupid and Psyche” by David Allsop. David Allsop Classics: 

“Heracles and the Lernian Hydra” by David Allsop. David Allsop Classics: 

“Hesiod and Plato on Prometheus” by Neel Burton. Outre monde: 

“Panorama or zoom? Two methods of teaching Myth” APA: 

“Housesteads Roman Fort” Cressida Ryan. Weekend Notes: 

“Athens 237-9; Alcibiades 48no” and crucket, by Neville Morley. Sphinx: 

“The First Computers, Lasers, Robots, And More: Ancient Innovations From Our Distant Ancestors” Fast Company: 

For your diary…

“Charlotte Higgins” 8-9pm, 02Mar, Bath. £ Bath Literature Festival: 

“Charlotte Higgins and Peter Stothard” 4:30-5:30pm, 02Mar, Bath. £  Bath Literature Festival: 

“Natalie Haynes” 4:30-5:30pm, 09Mar, Bath. £  Bath Literature Festival: 

“Join our Trojan Army” for theatrical performance in Manchester. Royal Exchange Theatre: 

And in Spanish/Y en español:

Ve: “Palabras: Roma, romance, románico” Para todos La 2. A la Carta: 

Ve/See: “ROMAMOR” ¡No lo perda! ¿Por qué latín? A must-watch! Why Latin? Video in Spanish. YT (Arístides Mínguez): 

Lee: “‘Yo, Claudio’, el triunfo de la inteligencia” Blogs EL PAÍS: 

Lee: “Los periplos Griegos: De instrumento de navegación a narración de ficción.” Tempora: 

Lee: “Ulises: el mito y la belleza” con José Emilio Burucúa. Ñ 

Lee: “León ha sacado a la luz 300.000 restos romanos en 200 excavaciones en 17 años” El Diario de León: 

Escucha: “Preguntas a la historia – Agentes secretos en el Estado romano” A la Carta: 

Lee: “Nos quitan el foro” La plaza = el foro? Via Domingo Vallejo. La Marea: 

Lee: “Tenemos el verdadero ‘garum’ de Pompeya” Una entrevista. El Diario de Cordoba: 

Lee: “Melampo, el Mercader: El Parto” por Aristide Minguez. @pdperiodico: 

Lee: “‘Yo, Claudio’, el triunfo de la inteligencia” Blogs EL PAÍS: 

Lee: “De cuando Canarias pudo recibir a los romanos” El Diario de Las Palmas: 

Ve: “La Viagra de los antiguos romanos.” La Verdad: 


Sunday 16Feb2014

George Clooney advocated the return of Elgin Marbles in a rather off-the-cuff remark in response to a journalist. If only he has his morning Nespresso, as it now dominates over the promotion on his new film, Monuments Men.

Sunday 16Feb2014

An amazing discover of a school from the Roman era was made in Egypt, which surely must highlight the importance of proper preservation in Egypt:

A very important petition highlighting the importance of Classical Civilisation as a subject was written last week. It has been sent to The Sunday Times and it remains to be seen if it will be published next Sunday:

Some excellent poetry here, well worth a read:

The case of the Apollo statue, allegedly found in the sea of Gaza, goes on. At least it didn’t go beyond eBay…:

George Clooney’s comment at Berlin Festival supporting the return of the Elgin Marbles has caused ripples. If you do read the articles (and the poll) below, we recommend having a look at the comments:

  • “Bill Murray backs George Clooney over Elgin Marbles” BBC News: 
  • “George Clooney needs to look to his own marbles, says Boris Johnson” London Evening Standard: 
  • Poll: “Is George Clooney correct? Should Britain return the Elgin marbles?” The Guardian: 
  • “Tiffany Jenkins: Parthenon marbles should stay” The Scotsman: 

If it is to be built, HS2 could lead to the unearthing of much antiquities, from the Roman era or otherwise:

  • “HS2 – what to expect: The biggest dig for ancient treasures and prehistoric beasts in UK history” Bucks Herald 

Insciption found in modern Iran:

New findings reveal differing messages from the nudes of the two sexes in Roman mosaics:

  • “Research analyzes the cultural construction of nudes in Roman mosaics.” HeritageDaily: 

As new history is created in war, history is lost by the cowardly extremists:

  • “The destruction of the idols: Syria’s patrimony at risk from extremists” The Independent: 

But there is good news for preservation in Varna:

  • “Bulgaria’s Roman Baths to Be Restored – Varna Mayor Pledges” Novinite: 

A new exhibition at the Isle of Wight:

A Simon Armitage play “The Last Days of Troy” is going on stage at Manchester from May:

Mary Beard delivers an important lecture on “The Public Voice of Women” with reference to antiquity from Penelope onwards. The lecture will be made available soon:



How not to release a ground-breaking and genuine piece of new:

It was Valentine’s Day (and I hope you did remember, if you needed to):


Sunday’s Supplements – blogs, comments and other occasional pieces


“Saving the Villa of the Mysteries” On conservation. Can we excavate more of Pompeii? Archaeology: 

“Winter Olympic oddities are the real heroes at Sochi” by @LASwiftClassics. #Sochi Conversation: 

“Ancient Rome’s fraudulent foreign students” by Peter Jones. The Spectator: 

“What Emperor Augustus left us” by Roderick Conway Morris. The Spectator: 

Review by Andrew Worley of “”Travels in Elysium” by William Azuski” Origins: 

“Do you see what I see?” on The Body Sphere. Ancient perception of colours with Mark Bradley. ABC: 

“Virgil on Twitter” by Andy Keen (with apologies to Virgil, Book IV). Keener Classics: 

“New Sappho: not for Valentine’s Day!” Argonauts and Emperors blog: 

“The Romans, Just Wars and Exceptionalism” by Shadi Bartsch. HuffPost – The Blog: 

“The Latest Scheme for the Parthenon” by Mary Beard. The New York Review of Books (paywall): 

“Review: Clouds” The Tab London: 

“Romans in Clackmannanshire, Part II”  by Adrian Murdoch. Bread and Circus blog: 

“Succession and the Aurei of Mark Antony, 13/02/14” Coins at Warwick: 

“Janet Glassbrook: The Mysterious Miss G and the Case of the Roman Brothel” TrowelBlazers: 

“Language-Focused Summer Programs in Italy and Greece” American Philological Association: 

For your diary…

Finds from Crossrail excavations now on display:


And in Spanish/Y en español:

“La larga noche de verano de los etruscos” El País SemanalEL PAÍS: 

“La USC suma a Euclides y Platón a su colección de clásicos del pensamiento” La Vox de Galicia: 

“El Templo Romano abre de nuevo y amplía el horario de visitas” El Dia de Córdoba: 

“La excavación en la villa romana de la Sagrera se prolongará hasta mayo” La Vanguardia: 

“La muerte de un hombre justo (V)” por Aristides Minguez. Papel de Periodico: 

“El abastecimiento al ejército romano durante el Imperio (I)” Tempora: 

“Los gálatas (II): ¿tribu o Estado?” Tempora: 

“El secreto de sus ojos” Sobre referentes clásicos de canción del rapero Shé. Secretos de Argos: 

Sol Day

Sol Day 09Feb2013 – tot desperanda Gove duce et auspice Gove (1)

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

There is compelling evidence that there is a need for an increase in Classics teachers across the state and private sector. Classics is in boom, in particular in the state sector. Against this backdrop Gove announced:

And I can announce today that their work will be complemented by Professor Christopher Pelling from Oxford University – who will be leading a brand-new project in collaboration with several universities to develop top-quality professional development for non-specialist teachers of classics in state schools. His work will help state school students compete on equal terms with privately educated students for university classics places.

(See longer extract of Gove’s speech on our blog: Gove: Professional Development for non-specialist teachers of Classics.)

In other words, there will be a new project, led by a top academic at a top university, to allow students from the state sector to compete on equal footing with the students from the private sector for university places in Classics. Yet this is a small passage in a very, very long speech. It announced a policy, but did not detail it. For us Classicists and for Pelling especially there may be compelling evidence for Classics to be provided: provided by quality teachers, provided for a variety of reasons, provided equally across the sector. But did the Secretary of State made equipped with this knowledge? Perhaps he spoke to Boris for evidence, perhaps not, but the Secretary of State has form in trumpeting his ideology on the simple argument of tradition. We would do well to see his motives and reasoning by engaging in a popular past time of Classicists: close textual analysis.

The first half of the text refers to how the initiative is university led. This is politically important to show that Gove is engaging top academics and facilitating outreach; it is also important considering schools and, in particular, A-levels are preparation for a university courses. In the same section of the speech Gove announced : “we’re working with world-renowned, world-class Russell Group universities and Professor Mark Smith of Lancaster University to reform A levels – ensuring they provide students with the knowledge and skills they need for the demands of university study.” This leaves you in no doubt what types of universities Russell Group members are; I hope you are not reading this from Birkbeck, Royal Holloway, Reading or Swansea, Kent. Mark Smith has the honoured for being named because he is from Lancaster, a 1994 group-university. This is akin to saying “all the experts and Mark there…”

The collaboration of such high-end universities in the Classics project allow joint-up thinking as the universities participating are preparing their future students; they can also help allay the criticism of bias against the private sector as, as you read in the final sentence, this is to ensure an equal starting point when applying to Classics courses at university (and we know that all Classicists at school go on to become Classicists at university, don’t we?). Is this a policy to aid the ailing departments of Classics across the higher education institutions of the land? It does certainly no harm, in the sense that Classics department across the land might now be able to report a better ratio of state:private intake. But the final sentence quoted above hints more at reducing the gap between state and private schools or, as most of the media reported it, making state schools like private schools.

So what sort of Classics teachers do state schools have. The article implies that non-specialists Classics teachers will be given professional development. It would be great if any readers can direct us to statistics showing the background of teachers offering Classics in schools as whilst there are statics on offer for demands of teachers, whilst we know there is a shortfall of teachers from teacher training course (JACT Bulletin, 2013), there does not seem to be figures on how that shortfall was met. In my travels I have met a department of  several MFL teachers teaching Key Stage 3 Latin. In one department of 1.3 people, 1 of whom wanted a career change and became the Head of Classics from the Head of Music; he began the department from scratch and built up the department sufficiently to draft in an English teacher with a qualification in GCSE Latin. I know the English teacher would like to be re-trained but can find no opportunity, can this project help? Or more pertinently, how many teachers are seeking a subject change and how many are quite satisfied with their allocation of year 7s and 8s?

This, we are also to know, is a project for the benefits of state schools. Gove went on to say: “Academics of this calibre are serious about the need to give state school students the extra level of stretch and challenge that privately educated students enjoy through extra coaching and preparation.” The assumption can only be that private school non-specialists are automatically equipped with such stretching abilities, or perhaps that there are no non-specialists in private schools. Time will tell if teachers in the private sectors are to compose, Ovid-style, addresses to the doorman begging them to let them into these professional development sessions. The decision is a strange one for readers of the last JACT Bulletin (2013) who might recall that 70% of the posts advertised in TES in the year 2011-12 were in the independent secondary sector, 83% if primary independent posts are also included; the decision is not a strange one for all who are politically minded. Gove could have said independent schools (and academies) could hire unqualified (i.e. non-QTS) teachers, and indeed 41% of independent schools did according to the same article in JACT Bulletin.

So what is the motive behind this initiative? I am not sure. It is a step in the right direction and, anecdotally, I know there are teachers who would be very interested in courses if they are recognised to provide the same opportunities to products of PGCE Classics courses at the end of the course. The announcement was made in a section where many similar initiatives intended to boost the quality of education in the state sector is announced, and the stated method for this is to make schools in the maintained sector more like private schools. By this close textual analysis and by reference to the contemporary setting, the conclusion is that Gove is interested in traditional schools for modern maintained schools.

We will come back with a second installment, published not on a Sunday, to analyse how this initiative relate to the education landscape for Classics.


Sunday 09Feb2014

Gove, Sappho, tweeting Pope. So much in this weekend’s edition of “Sunday”.


Sunday 09Feb2014

The news that is probably going to affect us, who are already Latinists, most:

  • “Forthcoming in Fall 2014: The Digital Loeb Classical Library®” Harvard University Press: 

The news that is probably going to affect those who will be Latinists, and all who will be the future of the nation:

  • “Gove: Professional Development for non-specialist teachers of Classics” Classics Collective: 
  • “Helping Latin in State Schools” Classics at Oxford: 
  • “Gove: Classics lessons to help state pupils compete for university places” The Daily Telegraph: 

And some observations on the Gove plan, not least by Chris Pelling, the man to head the project:

And Latin is going well in Oregan in the US:

And Latin is going well in the Muslim world:

The Sappho now revealed, queestions start coming:

Nor is the provenance of the Apollo of Gaza certain…:

  • “Vernon Silver on the “Apollo of Gaza”” Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: 
  • “Sam Hardy on Variant Stories About Discovering the Apollo of Gaza” Portable Antiquity… Issues: 

An underwater church?:

  • “Greek Mystery of a “Lost Church” in Ancient Greek city Nicaea” Greek Reporter Europe: 

Reservation effort on the Side:

Recurring vandalism activity at a Gallo-Roman site at Treignes, Belgium:

“Archaeological findings in industrial zone to be removed to make way for warehouse” in İzmir. <Hurriyet>: 

“George Clooney says Britain should return ancient monuments to Greece” <ekathimerini>: 

Pope tweets:

  • “Latin’s the perfect language for a tweet, or even an emailum” The Daily Telegraph: 
  • “Pope’s Latin tweets are a roaring success” The Local: 
  • “Pope’s Latin tweets attract more followers than Arabic tweets” Al Arabiya News: 
  • “There’s new life for a dead language as Papa Franciscus tweets ad infinitum” The Times (paywall): 
  • Read: “Pope’s Latin Twitter feed is pumping new life into a dead language” The Australian: 
  • “Le succès inattendu du Pape en latin sur Twitter” Le Figaro: 
  • “Daniel Gallagher: «Traducir mensajes del Papa al latín es más fácil que del argentino al español»” ABC: 

A special mosaic goes on show at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire:

  • “Picture Gallery: Spectacular Roman mosaic found in Israel shows ancient animal paradise” Culture24: 

Summary from the conference which heard academics share ideas and practices of using digital means to aid ancient language teaching at universities:

Listen back to a great introduction to the Phoenicians:

In an anniversary year, can you help with an Augustus survey?:

  • “Fancy taking part in some Augustus-related research?” Commemorating Augustus: 

Also in the news:

Mary Beard is the interviewee in The Times´main Saturday interview, but this spawned subsequent coverage that focused on only one small part of the interview, unfortunately:

  • “Saturday interview: Mary Beard” The Times (paywall): 
  • “Me and Kate: the record straight” The storm in the vessel… A Don’s Life: 
  • And many other national press articles on Beard’s comment on the Duchess of Cambridge.

Sunday’s Supplements – blogs, comments and other occasional pieces

A really interesting features article on mnemonics:

The ways of myth, mythology:

Joan Breton Connelly, author of “The Parthenon Enigma,” discusses the book:

A Roman comparison of, or innovation on, Sappho’s poem:

Have you been to all these amphitheatres?:

“The Villa Borg – images of a reconstructed Roman Villa in Saarland (Germany)” by Carole Raddato. FOLLOWING HADRIAN 

Recommended article:

“British Museum – Greek and Roman Sculptures” A video. Vimeo: 

“Scenes of Ovid’s love stories in art” OUPblog: 

“Eros, sophrosyne, myth and the Hippolytus” Classics in Sarasota blog: 

“Why does Q almost always go with a U?” Good QUestion… The Week 

“Giving the gift of ancient tongues” by Prof Christopher Pelling. The Sunday Times: 

“The Classics Czar, Michael Gove, and Civilization” by Edith Hall. The Edithorial: 

“Argonauts and hobbits” by Helen Lovatt. Argonauts and Emperors blog: 

And in Spanish…

“Teatro greco y romano en la red” El Faro de Vigo: 

“La muerte de un hombre justo (IV)” por Aristides Minguez. Papel del Periódico 

“El abastecimiento al ejército romano durante el Imperio (I)” Tempora: 

“Daniel Gallagher: «Traducir mensajes del Papa al latín es más fácil que del argentino al español»” ABC: 

Sol Day

Sol Day 02Feb2014 – It’s a small world

The Classics community is a small world. This statement might seem unsubstantiated and I will do little to substantiate it over this blog post, but this is where I shall start my post, because you must have heard these words vel sim before. Everyone knows everyone in the Classical world, or something like that.

Recently, we hear news that the Joint Association of Classical Teachers (JACT) is consulting about a merger with the Classical Association (CA). You can read about it here, and by now the representatives of both organisations would have met. One wonders what the conversations would have been: a shared goal of spreading Classics? You keep your annual CA and I keep my Bryanston? A joint Twitter feed? A joint campaign to bring Latin onto the National Curriculum? Collective outreach effort? A seamless transfer from A-Level Classics to degree-level Classics? It may even be sharing the Senate House office? Have a single secretariat? Ensure one pool of money is used effectively across the board?

I hope you will forgive me in that the suggested topic above is meant as a light-hearted enactment of the meeting of the organisations. It seems to me that JACT is serious in its consideration of merging with the Classical Association. Such a merger would represent the union of a professional organisation representing schoolteachers with a broad-based association serving those with any degree of interest in the classical world.

JACT was founded in 1963, at a time was not in crisis, but crises. The abolishment of Latin as a requirement to enter the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (realised slightly differently in each of the universities) coupled with the rise of comprehensive school are sparks in a world where classrooms were still obsessed in the grammar-translation-or-bust model. This is a world before Cambridge Latin Course, and that has been around for a while. The crises, the sparks, the triggers for schools to drop classical subjects. JACT was meant to reinvigorate that, and it achieved a varying degree of success over the years – yes Latin did not make it into the National Curriculum when it was established, but it did not fall off the cliff either.

William Thompson, a Lecturer in Classical Method at the University of Leeds (a department recently under threat of closure), was one of they key figure in establishing JACT, as was John Sharwood Smith of the Institute of Education (an organisation that no longer offers Classics):

Thompson had tried to persuade the CA to increase its subseciption which had remained unchanged from five shillings since the Association’s foundation and to transform itself into an organisation that would support teacher of schools Classics. Sharwood Smith had been involved in moves to expand the functions and to change the name of the ARLT [Association for the Reform of Latin Teaching].

Martin Forrest, Modernising the Classics (Exeter, 1996), p.16.

Given the proposed merger now, perhaps one could reach two conclusions – that the CA has taken up the mantel of promoting teaching of Classics in school and so this function, which JACT has performed valiantly recently, can be done collaboratively, and; there is no threat to Classical teaching and indeed it is very healthy.

Classics, on feeling, is not doing too badly in secondary education but can it still do better? Can the jobs of Classics teachers be made easier still? The inset days that JACT organises have been beneficial but does it seek other way of allowing idea sharing or crowdsourcing between teachers? It must be noted that in a world with organisations such as the Classics Library for sharing ideas, Classics for All for promoting Classics in general and in schools, The Iris Project for introducing Classics to schools that do not offer any Classical subjects beforehand, Oxford’s outreach effort for outreach effort (seemingly across the whole of United Kingdom) to existing school Classics department and the Classics in Communities project for advice and encouragement in increasing uptake of Classics at primary level, the Joint Association of Classical Teachers is slightly hidden in their midst.

Yet there must be a role for an organisation to Classical Teachers. It should be noted that last year Classics PGCE was almost left off the list of subjects for which bursary will be given to trainee teachers; now trainee teachers is set to gain the top tier of support as supposed to the second tier current trainees enjoy. In times where curriculum is frequently altered, a professional organisation such as this should be there to ensure that it is changed for the better. It could be argued that Gove was inherently interested in having Latin, Greek and Ancient History in the list of subjects measured by EBACC, but what about Classical Civilisation? What of the consultation to introduce an element of Englist-to-Latin composition at GCSE?

Which brings me back to the small world of Classics. I have recently attended some inset days for teachers and conferences for the academia. It is easy to recognised that there are different circles that Classicists move in, circles that are dictated by shared interests or aims. Classics teachers are often busy, but call an inset day with advice on teaching and they come together. The outlook of Classics teachers is different to that of the academics and the questions at inset days are more pragmatic than those of Classical conferences, reflecting their teaching needs.

In the recent eGreek and iLatin conference organised by the Open University (see Storify of the conference here) there were a lot of academics teaching ancient languages keen to share their eIdeas (or iIdeas?). Interestingly, there were a few attendees from the world of secondary education too. James Robson from the Open University was able to present on OU’s e-learning platform and it was useful to know, but there are also a lot of other projects based on existing websites and e-learning environment that was useful to share. In amongst the conversations, there have been some talk for collaboration – why don’t all the university collaborate their efforts and experience? There would be obstacle, of course – unique selling-point for the university which developed it, hard to get funding – but it is for the benefit of those who work within the Classics circle.

Indeed, should there not be collaboration at a school level too? The event, which was aimed at higher education, attracted professionals from the secondary education. This shows there are demands for such events aimed at secondary education too. It is also inherently the case that secondary education, with its set exam curriculum, generally different course books and time demand, has different realities to the pedagogy in higher education. The question is who will take up the mantel for organising such events? Not only on e-learning, but on informing formal curriculum, bringing alive Greek Art and Architecture through museums and web sources, teaching using TPRS or the inductive method, maximising school trips.

To do that,  we need a facilitator, a facilitator to make the world of Classicists and specifically of Classics teachers even smaller. At the moment, the Classics Library seems to perform that role best. Perhaps it is in this guise that JACT must decide whether it wishes to boldly take up a mantel to make the work of Classics Teachers lighter, or to quietly lie hidden in the big tent of the Classical Association. But let’s be clear – even if the latter path is chosen, the needs of Classical teachers will not vanish.