On Thursday 21st November the WCN and Dept of Classics and Ancient History at Warwick held our 2019 Warwick Classics Network Study Day entitled ‘Ancient Worlds’. We welcomed almost 1000 school children and members of the public to the campus to hear talks by authors Caroline Lawrence, Alexandra Sheppard, Emily Hauser and Natalie Haynes, as well as sessions led by our own Warwick Classics academics.
Organised through the generous support of the A. G. Leventis Foundation, the day comprised of morning sessions for KS2-KS3 pupils and afternoon sessions for KS4-KS5 (see schedule). Members of the public also attended along with Warwick students and staff. We were especially honoured to have with us Georgina Dimopoulou (below with Prof Michael Scott) of the A. G. Leventis Foundation.
Georgina Dimopoulou of the A. G. Leventis Foundation with Prof Michael Scott
Our day began with a brief introduction from our very own Prof Michael Scott (above), who welcomed the audience to Warwick and spoke about the work of the Warwick Classics Network before introducing our first guest author, the ever popular Caroline Lawrence (below).
Caroline, author of The Roman Mysteries series (amongst many other novels) gave a wonderful talk on 'Myths, Movies and Storytelling', enlightening us on what Paddington and Aeneas have in common. In a fun illustrated talk, Caroline shared how poets, storytellers and movie-makers use the same fun steps when composing their epics, giving the audience an insight into the hero's journey. The section on the sponge-on-a-stick was particularly memorable and will stay with the audience for a very long time. Caroline was around all day signing books and speaking with her many fans - old and young - in the audience.
A fan takes a selfie with Caroline and Natalie haynes (left); Caroline signing books (right)
Next up was Alexandra Sheppard (below), author of Oh My Gods who gave an entertaining and engaging talk on ‘21st Century Gods'. Alex and her eager audience explored the role of mythology in ancient Greece, then imagined a new set of gods relevant to our modern world. From the use of mythological creatures in modern big brand advertising, to the universal experience of bossy siblings, Alex brought the ancient world to life and showed how ancient myth is as relevant today as ever.
Alex signing a book for a young reader (left), and signing with Emily Hauser and Caroline Lawrence (right)
Our third session of the morning was led by author and academic Emily Hauser (below) author of the best-selling Golden Apple Trilogy who gave a fabulous talk on ‘Rewriting Ancient Greek Myths in Fiction’, exploring how we go about remaking ancient Greek myths for a modern audience, and how storytelling can open up new perspectives on the ancient Greek myths we thought we knew so well. The audience were treated to a run through of some of the greatest epic stories of ancient Greek mythology, from Troy to the Argonauts and Amazons, and given an insight into how Emily has brought these tales back to life in her own fiction.
Emily enthusing on the storytelling possibilities of the ancient world (left) and with keen readers and the Golden Apple Trilogy (right)
This was a very popular and successful morning session from our three authors. Fiction is a wonderful way into the world of classics and ancient history, and we were very glad to see how keen the pupils were to meet the authors and get their books signed, and to be playing a part in inspiring the next generation of classicists.
Following lunch was the second part of our programme, our afternoon session for KS4-5 pupils, members of the public, and students. Once again our very own Prof Michael Scott took to the floor, talking about the work of the WCN and Warwick Classics, and introducing our first speaker of the afternoon, Natalie Haynes.
Prof Michael Scott introduces the afternoon session (left) to an eager audience (right)
Author and comedian Natalie Haynes (below) author of The Amber Fury, The Children of Jocasta, A Thousand Ships and creator of BBC's Stand up for the Classics gave a fantastic laugh-out-loud talk entitled Troy Story, about all things Trojan, and which culminated in a high octane virtuoso summary of all 24 books of the Iliad in 25 minutes! Epic is the only word. This incredible talk gave an insight into the character of Achilles and the enduring appeal of these timeless stories
Natalie mid-epic-retelling of the Iliad in 25 minutes (left) and signing her latest book, A Thousand Ships (right)
Our afternoon session was dominated by our Warwick Classics Academics, who led sessions on their own interests and specialities in the Ancient World. First up was Prof Eric Csapo who spoke on ‘Stories about Achilles' birth and death’, rounding out the life of Achilles we had heard so much about in Natalie's talk.
Next, Prof Alison Cooley gave a fascinating talk entitled ‘The Stones of Pompeii tell tales’, in which she presented up to the minute research on inscriptions from Pompeii and revealed to the audience how Classics and Ancient History is not a closed book and that they too can discover new things about the Ancient World (especially through joining us here at Warwick!).
Prof Eric Csapo on all things Achilles (left) and Prof Alison Cooley inspiring the audience with new discoveries at Pompeii (right)
In our third academic session, Prof Victoria Rimell and Dr David Fearn presented an entertaining talk ‘Four Classical Poems: The Wow of Narrative’ which examined storytelling at the smaller scale, that of lyric poetry and epigrams, and revealed the power and beauty found in the detail. Martial, we learned, would have certainly been on Twitter.
Prof Victoria Rimell (left) and Dr David Fearn (right) on storytelling in Greek and Latin poetry
And finally, to round things off, we heard Prof Michael Scott (below) on ‘Heracles – he does get around’, an entertaining romp around the ancient world from Disney's Heracles to the evidence for Heracles and his legendary journeys from Spain to China, and the real journeys of his influence across the ancient word: a truly global view of an ancient globetrotter.
Michael traces Heracles legendary journeys from Spain to China (left) and enjoys a discussion with an audience member (right)
During the day, our talks were videoed and will be made available soon on the WCN website. We were especially grateful to a number of our schools who we have worked closely with here at the WCN and who agreed to be filmed as part of the day. Building strong relations with our community of schools, especially through events such as these, are what we are all about at the WCN. If you would like to find out more about the WCN and our future events and how you too can get involved, please email Dr Paul Grigsby at Paul.Grigsby@Warwick.ac.uk
Pupils from our close WCN schools enthusing on the importance and fun of studying classics and the ancient world
Finally, a massive THANK YOU to the A. G. Leventis Foundation for making days like this possible and helping us to inspire a new generation of classicists and ancient historians. With your help we are reaching even more schools and giving more pupils the chance to study this fascinating an exciting period, an opportunity they would not otherwise have. Thank you.