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Summer School Roundup - Week 1

This week has been a huge success for everyone at Academus. We delivered 70 hours of teaching to a group of 41 students across our two Summer School programmes where they explored the languages and cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean. Our diverse curriculums have resulted in students looking at unique areas not generally covered on exam board specifications including: “Witchcraft in Ancient Greek Literature”, “Hellenistic City States” and “Lucan and the Principate”.

The students have made wonderful progress in their language studies. Many of our students came into our programme having never studied a language before, let alone an Ancient one! Our students have now left us with a solid grasp on a case system, a different alphabet (for those studying Greek) and the ability to conjugate verbs in the present tense.

The engagement in our literature classes has exceeded expectations with many students going above and beyond the required readings. They developed their own questions, carried out their own independent research and many have now found their own areas of passion within Greek and Latin Literature.

In our Ancient History modules, students have been able to engage with both literary and material culture to gain a great understanding of Ancient Greece and Rome. Greek students have studied Lekythos, the Olympian Gods and the writings of Thucydides and Herodotus to gain an insight into life in Ancient Greece. Meanwhile, those doing Roman History have studied letters from Oxyrhinchus and Vindolanda; coins and roads across the Roman Empire; and Cults in Ancient Rome.


Student Highlights:

Zoe – Sessions on Greek Lyric Poetry and Greek Tragedy

Heven – Meg’s specialism on Alexander the Great

Marina – variety on offer within the syllabus and talks

Daisy: ‘It’s amazing!! Thanks for making Classics accessible and especially topics that are outside the typical subject’

Charlie:‘This summer school has really inspired me and pushed me towards pursuing a degree in Classics when I finish my A-Levels


Tutor Feedback

One of our Advanced Educators Chloe said:

“This first week of teaching with Academus has been such a joy! I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to work with such amazing students and further open their minds to the classical world. Straight away the students I taught engaged and gave an excellent analysis of primary sources, as well as being really lovely and fun to spend an hour with virtually! I think the breadth of subjects and way the modules have been set out have really allowed us not only to cover important basics but to delve further into areas that the students would not have come across in traditional education. A highlight for me was the first class I taught on Catullus; it was SO enjoyable to introduce this poet to the class, and so many students came up with really insightful interpretations of his poetry! We discussed him as a human being and poet rather than simply a far-off historical figure and breathing life into classical works in this way is so invaluable.

Everyone’s hard work is really paying off, and I’m even more excited to carry on and do it all over again next week!”


Beyond our classes, we have had a wide range of outside speakers. This was kicked off on Monday with Emer O'Hanlon's insightful talk on Art in Ancient Greek and Rome. This talk was delivered from the Institute of Classical Studies Library and went beyond just discussing the beautiful marble statues of Ancient Greece or the wall paintings of Pompeii to depictions of Greco-Buddhist art in Gandhara. On Tuesday, we heard from Meg Finlayson on the topic of Alexander the Great. She led the students in a discussion of the different ways Alexander is represented by various ancient historians, which allowed for plenty of thought-provoking comments from our students. This was followed by a talk on Ancient Medicine given by Henriette Willberg. She distinguished the scientific ideology of modern medicine from the socio-cultural ancient thought. Covering a great expanse of history from Hippocrates to Galen, from the divine intervention to Humoral Theory, she emphasised the Hellenocentrism of surviving manuscripts on medicine and that many treaties on mortal health from across the world had been lost.

Thursday’s talk was given by Chloe Griggs, on the topic of Judaism and Christianity in the Ancient World. This meme filled talk informed students of the power structures in Ancient religions and the differences between polytheistic and monotheistic religions. They also learnt about early Christianity, and how it gained prominence. Last, but by no means least, on Friday we heard from Emma Bentley on the topic Representations of Hephaestus. She commented on the perception of disability in the ancient world through different portrayals of Hephaestus. Emma also discussed the epithets of Hephaestus, his intelligence and his skill as a craftsman.


For our students, the day concludes with a talk from an esteemed classical scholar. Monday’s talk was given by Dr Rosie Wyles. Her talk on the power of the ballot box in Ancient Athens led to questions about citizenship and the modern inheritance of classical ideas, such as politicians playing on people’s strong emotions to deepen their beliefs. On Tuesday our students heard from Dr Micheal Loy, the Assistant Director of the British School at Athens, on his journey into classics. His talk promoted one of the students to say ‘Cambridge has always felt very far away from Yorkshire, but not anymore!’

Wednesday’s Talk was given by Justine Ryan and really showcased what can be done with a Classics degree. The topic was the Antarctic in the Ancient World and was informed by her work as a polar historian. Who would have thought there was such a connection between Plato and Penguins! On Thursday we heard from Associate Professor Fiachra Mac Góráin on the topic of the death of the young in the Aeneid. This topic included some mature themes which our students dealt with very well, such as the aestheticisation of death. Moreover, students thrived upon the discussion as to whether Homer of Virgil was the superior epic writer and it was fantastic to see so many of them sharing their personal thoughts on poetry. The week concluded with a talk from Caroline Lawrence, the highly regarded author of the Roman Mysteries series.


Finally some closing thoughts from our own students showcasing the level of thought that we have experienced this past week

In the Alexander Specialism, Zoe said: ‘Alexander’s own preferred narrative is similar to Diodorus’ who suggests that the Macedonians had to destroy and loot the Capitol as they had so much wealth. It’s like he’s trying to distract people from Alexander’s greed by saying those that lived in the capitol were worse.’

During the Specialism on Ancient Christianity and Judaism, Marina suggested that the libertarian nature of Greek and Roman Religion makes it harder for the general population to follow than the more law-based rules of Judaism. Lily also suggested that the personal motivations of the followers of various Ancient Religions differed with Greeks and Romans alike worshipping the pantheon for personal gain where Christians and Jews strived to improve society as a whole.

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