By Prof. Edith Hall
Welcome to the Inaugural Blog from the ACE project! On Saturday 30th September we held our equally Inaugural first Public Partnership Event at Kent University’s lovely campus in Canterbury. Hosted by Dr Rosie Wyles, and attended by teachers and secondary-level students from all over the county, the entertainments on offer included our favourite Celebrity Classicist Natalie Haynes, who delivered a hilarious but highly informative talk on what Aristotle’s analysis of Sophocles’ Oedipus could tell us about how soap operas are written. First rule: Aristotle’s ‘Unity of Place’ explains why most of them are named after the locations in which they are set: the East End, Coronation Street, Emmerdale.
One of the most famous ancient objects in the local Roman Museum is a figurine of the Dea Nutrix, or Nursing Goddess, and Rosie asked everyone to suggest a caption for a photo of the deity, expressing what she is thinking as she breastfeeds two babies simultaneously. First prize went to Vicky Stone from Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School for the witty one-liner, ‘The third triplet’s under my chair’. The fun continued with the movie recorded by teacher Paul Found’s students at Norton Knatchbull School. They had made an episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show in which Orestes had a shouting match with the Furies over whether he had been entitled to kill his mum Clytemnestra. It made the scene of Orestes’ trial in Aeschylus’ Eumenides look like a vicarage tea party.
But the hilarity was balanced by two moving talks. Kent Uni lecturer Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens recounted how it was only the study of Classical Civilisation which had rescued him during a very tough adolescence. He went on to learn ancient languages at University and now is flourishing in his permanent academic post. And Caroline Ball’s discovery of the Greeks & Romans through Classical Civilisation at her comprehensive led to her winning a place to study at Oxford.
Comic and serious by turns, the day covered archaeology, philosophy, literature, history, and languages; it was enhanced by excellent biscuits. Thank you, Kent partners, for your marvellous hospitality and good luck with growing Classical Civilisation in the beautiful Garden of England. We will certainly be back!