We are very happy to announce that AMPRAW 2012 will be held at…

The University of Birmingham

For more information on the 2012 meeting, contact ampraw2012@gmail.com.

I would like to start with a special thanks to all those who attended and spoke at AMPRAW last month and made the event such a success.

The next important stage is to receive your feedback – both about how this conference went/what improvements would you suggest and about what the direction of the conference should take in the future.

In the closing discussion Jenny and Tassos set out that we plan to open up next years conference for bids from other Universities (AMPRAW 2011 was technically hosted collaboratively by the University of London but we would like to move towards a host institution model of the AMPAL/AMPAH type) who may be interested in hosting.  This process will take place in Febuary/March this year.  Again, we would be interested in your feedback on this.

Once again thanks to all who attended and we are looking forward to seeing you next time.  Please continue to use this blog to post comments and thoughts.

Once again we would like to thank the contributors who made AMPRAW 2011 possible:

The Classical Association
The Institute of Classical Studies
University College London

And we would like to thank

Charles Martindale
Lorna Hardwick
Miriam Leonard
Maria Wyke
Fiona Macintosh

For attending and contributing.

Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space: The Fantastika and the Classical World. A Science Fiction Foundation Conference

29 June – 1 July 2013

At The Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool

Guests of Honour/Plenary Speakers: Edith Hall, Nick Lowe, and Catherynne M. Valente



Call for papers

The culture of the Classical world continues to shape that of the modern West. Those studying the Fantastika (science fiction, fantasy and horror) know that it has its roots in the literature of the Graeco-Roman world (Homer’s Odyssey, Lucian’s True History). At the same time, scholars of Classical Reception are increasingly investigating all aspects of popular culture, and have begun looking at science fiction. However, scholars of the one are not often enough in contact with scholars of the other. This conference aims to bridge the divide, and provide a forum in which SF and Classical Reception scholars can meet and exchange ideas.

We invite proposals for papers (20 minutes plus discussion) or themed panels of three or four papers from a wide range of disciplines (including Science Fiction, Classical Reception and Literature), from academics, students, fans, and anyone else interested, on any aspect of the interaction between the Classical world of Greece and Rome and science fiction, fantasy and horror. We are looking for papers on Classical elements in modern (post-1800) examples of the Fantastika, and on science fictional or fantastic elements in Classical literature. We are particularly interested in papers addressing literary science fiction or fantasy, where we feel investigations of the interaction with the ancient world are relatively rare. But we also welcome papers on film, television, radio, comics, games, or fan culture.

Please send proposals to conferences@sf-foundation.org, to arrive by 30 September 2012. Paper proposals should be no more than 300 words. Themed panels should also include an introduction to the panel, of no more than 300 words. Please include the name of the author/panel convener, and contact details.

Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space is organised by the Science Fiction Foundation, with the co- operation of the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool.

On Friday morning we are going to ask ‘What is Classical Reception?’ (as opposed to just reception in general)

We are thrilled to have with us the programmers and course-runner for the first two taught MAs in Classical Reception, within the Department of Greek and Latin at UCL (Miriam Leonard) and within the Department of Classics at Oxford (Fiona Macintosh). After hearing their definitions, and a brief presentation of the carefully-chosen scope and emphases of these year-long programs (as well as about other initiatives eg at the OU, Bristol, or the new Classical Receptions journal) discussion will be opened up.

Can we assume some basic theoretical observations and positions as by now, ‘givens’ – or indeed, as the founding assumptions of the field? (As one might, for example, for Gender Studies, Film Studies, or Comparative Literature). If so, what would these be? As Classical Reception grads, are there basic issues on which we would all expect to agree, or basic knowledge we all might expect each other to have? (For example, that the very word ‘Classical’ is highly loaded, and why…we will all have our own list of these…) Are there some founding texts which all those working in Classical Reception might be expected to have read?

Are there some essential areas of inquiry which most Classical reception students would know about – eg:

the invention of the canon
Roman identity in relation to Greece
the advent of ‘public-ation’ (‘literature’ a relatively recent concept)
the impact of Christianity
the association of classics with class
the co-option of antiquity in the nationalisms of Germany, Britain, France, the United States and later Italy and the Third Reich
the post-colonial reaction to the symbolic meanings of classical antiquity as the symbol of the (male) establishment, the past, the West…

What for you is the most important thing about Classical Reception as an emerging field? What are the imbalances it redresses, or the most apposite reminders it makes, or the most useful theoretical questions it raises?

Who out there has come across the problem of not yet clearly-defined parameters and secondary literature (ie authorising and contextualising scholarship) so that  work on Classical Reception topics can be fairly marked by those outside the field? Tell us your stories, anxieties, caveats….

One of the great things about Classical Reception is that it is receptive to new thinking from left field, inspired by the bringing together of things which have traditionally been kept apart – eg English and Classics, Greek and Roman, visual and textual, popular and scholarly, practice and theory, history and theory. But the danger is that it is seen as just ‘everything’ that falls somewhere between Classics and English, or worse, as ‘Classics Lite’ (ie without thorough knowledge, or the languages). Tell us your stories here, too…

Does anyone think Reception in general reconceives the study of all cultures and literatures as a fundamentally comparative practice? (A subject reading another subject who is reading another subject who is reading another …)? How is Classical Reception more than just another another way of saying ‘everything is intertextual’? Or ‘all art is about other art’?

Has Classical reception always been happening, but just called by a different name? (Eg Literary Theory, Comparative Literature, Historiography, Cultural Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Translation Studies, History of Classics, the Classical Tradition…etc). What are the advantages of it being its own, new, ‘thing’?


We will be discussing these issues on Friday morning and hopefully this blog can serve as a place for these discussions to continue after the conference.

At the end of the century the whole Platonic corpus was available in Greek and in translation. Between the Council of Florence in 1439 and the Cardinal Bessarion’s In Calumniatorem Platonis (ICP) in 1469 a controversy raged over the respective merits and understanding of Plato and Aristotle.The paper will examine the impact of Bessarion’s advocacy of Platonic thought in fifteenth century Italy. It will argue that the cultural and religious context heavily influenced interpretation of the philosopher.

In 1397 Leonardo Bruni wrote that for seven hundred years no one in Italy had been able to read Greek. By 1439 there were still few texts of Plato available in Latin translation: the Timaeus, partially translated by Calcidius in the fourth century, Henricus Aristippus’ twelfth century translation of the Meno and Phaedo, William of Moerbeke’s partial rendering of the Parmendies. Bruni’s translations of the Phaedo, Gorgias, Apology, Crito and Phaedrusappeared only shortly before 1439. Uberto Decembrio produced a crude translation of the Republic before 1402 which was retranslated by his son, Pier Candido, in 1439.

Bessarion moved from Byzantium to Rome in 1443 where he had become a papal diplomat. He was a scholar steeped in Platonic thought. He made it his mission to make Plato’s teachings better known and to demonstrate the convergence of Plato and Aristotle. In the opening chapter of ICP he wrote that Plato’s teachings were little known in Italy.

Bessarion faced three challenges, ignorance in Italy of the Greek language and of Plato, suspicion in the church of pagan literature in general and of Plato in particular, and the entrenched position of Aristotle in the teaching of theology and philosophy accompanied with a conviction of the incompatibility of Plato and Aristotle.

In Calumniatorem Platonis, published in 1469, is a defence of Plato against the anti-Platonic work of George of Trebizond, Comparatio Philosophorum Aristotelis et Platonis (1458). Bessarion sets out to defend the compatibility of Platonic philosophy with Christian orthodoxy. Conservative church circles objected to the obscurity and ambiguity of the dialogues which contrasted unfavourably with Aristotle’s text book style; some of Plato’s teachings were repugnant to Christians, particularly his belief in pre-existence of souls, creation by the demiurge from pre-existent matter and his tolerance or even approval of homosexuality and wives held in common.

This paper will argue that Bessarion interpreted Plato through a theological and moral filter by applying a neo-Platonic interpretation which he had imbibed as a student of Gemistus Plethon. It will assess the work still to be done on Bessarion’s influence and relationship to Ficino and other Florentine humanists.

In Rome in 1468 a monumental scandal broke when Pope Paul II arrested Pomponio Laeto, Bartolommeo Platina and their colleagues. Cast into the Castel Sant’Angelo and tortured, they were accused of plotting to overthrow the Curia to restore the Roman Republic. In this paper I would like to look at the hostility towards the revival of classical Antiquity during the Renaissance. This conspiracy provides a platform to consider the lack of sympathy certain powerful men felt for this humanist agenda.

Humanists in Rome in the mid-fifteenth century gravitated towards two academies: that of Pomponio and one established around the figure of Cardinal Bessarion. These were loose organisations in which scholarly men gathered to discuss classical literature and philosophy. Pomponio’s group became more extreme, adopting Roman names and appointing a Pontifex Maximus. They may have revived certain pagan practices.

Pomponio’s Roman academy was accused of immorality, in particular sodomy and blasphemy. The humanist model whereby classical literature provided the examples of a lifestyle and political ideal was viewed by some as morally depraved. These issues were being raised at the same time with regard to printing – critics of the new technology gave hysterical rants about the spread of corrupting texts such as works by Ovid.

Paul II represents the ambiguity of attitudes towards the revival of classical antiquity. He was very supportive of archaeological projects and his collection of classical medals was renowned. But his opposition to the humanist movement, and in particular the growth of neo-platonism, was more significant than mere personal preference. I will demonstrate in this paper that his conservatism and aggression masked a fear that the revival of Antiquity was a threat to the fundamental nature of the papacy and thus to Christianity. It was as much his duty to resist its incursions as it was to rescue Christendom from the Turkish infidel.

Back in the 1970’s the BBC’s I Claudius used a fictionalised representation of Roman history to push the boundaries of what was acceptable to contemporary viewers in terms of sex and violence on television.  In the twenty-first century these boundaries were pushed further, first by HBO’s Rome and then by the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, boasting graphic violence and full frontal nudity.  Polarised reactions to theses series have sprung up on web forums and fan sites, with viewers not only writing about the series because they love them, but also because they hate them, whether this is because of the sex and violence, the storylines and characterisation or the (lack of) historical accuracy.  Like Ien Ang’s early viewer study, published in English in 1985, Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination , where Dutch viewers wrote in to explain why they loved or hated Dallas, strong reactions from viewers provide a useful opportunity for researchers.  Reviews from fans of films and television series are easy to obtain, but material from viewers who are less disposed towards the subject are not so readily available, and help to provide a more balanced study of viewer reactions .   Using online material created by viewers I will discuss how viewers are engaging with the classical world via Rome and Spartacus; Blood and Sand, and whether the strong reactions the series invokes are linked to the ancient setting of the series.  In order to illustrate the dialogic nature of viewer research I will be experimenting with using the voices of colleagues throughout my paper.

The ancient Maya temples rising out of the mists and the rainforests of Central America have long intrigued many. Recently, popular culture and media have used this curiosity as a product to generate income. Movies, such as 2012 (2009), and music videos, such as Jay Sean’s 2012 (It Ain’t The End), both signify how the concept of the Maya “apocalypse” on the 21st of December 2012 has become embedded in popular thought and understanding. However, within scholarship, this 2012 date is not one of ending, but of beginning. The great Maya calendar is a series of great cycles, and in December 2012 one of these will simply reset, and begin anew, rather than signify the end of the world in fiery destruction. As such, this paper aims to explore how and why the ancient Maya culture has been employed in films and music videos as a source of entertainment, with specific reference to the phenomenon of 2012. This research stems from the recent Maya Meetings conference on 2012, where scholars, particularly Dr. Reese-Taylor, called for experts to verse themselves on popular interpretations of the Maya, rather than dismiss them as inaccurate. Sociologically, the interest in the Maya by the media needs deeper understanding, and this paper stands as one of the first studies of this nature. By exploring music videos and films, and their interpretations of the 2012 event, I will explore how the producers have imposed their own cultural expectations on the Maya, in order to access the ancient peoples to successfully present them to a wider audience.

Arnold Wycombe Gomme, the son of a suffragette, is famous for publishing an article in 1925 that critiqued what he regarded as the current paradigm on the issue of the ‘position’ of classical Athenian women, and offered a rebuttal, utilising ancient and modern texts and works of scholarship. Gomme argued that previous scholars had misread the ancient evidence and fostered an unnecessarily bleak view of the Athenian male’s attitude towards women by taking expressions of misogyny too seriously and ignoring evidence of women being honoured in Athens. This article has been widely accepted as constituting a radical break in the discourse on the lives and ‘status’ of women in classical Athens, and spawned several positive responses in the decades that followed. However, while the importance of this article has been duly noted, it has attracted little interest as a site for the study of classical receptions, and as a complex and fragmented text in its own right, a response to the anxiety of the extended franchise and the discovery of new non-classical civilisations, such as Minoan Crete, that seemed to offer more ‘modern’, freer female figures. The essay itself is the site of multiple receptions: of Greek literature and art, of nineteenth-century texts and of contemporary scholarship, and was itself received and continually sited by the peers of Gomme who applauded his approach to the topic. Gomme explores Attic tragedy, comedy, sculpture, pottery and historiography, and compares the attitudes found therein with those seen in nineteenth-century novels, as well as excerpting passages from classicists writing on Athenian women and critiquing them. In my paper I will discuss the content and impact of the article, concentrating on its interest for scholars of historiography as a site for multivalent and conflicting receptions, and as an expression of anxiety and dis-ease at a time of intense social change. I will draw attention to the impressive number of texts appealed to and cited by Gomme, which range from Menander and Aischylos to Jane Austen and Phyllis Bottome. Most importantly, I will analyse the shifting and uneasy relationship of the figures of the ancient and modern woman in Gomme’s text, remarking upon the ways in which these two constructions continue to haunt historiography today.