The Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE is one of world history’s unjustly neglected events. It decisively ended the threat of a Persian conquest of Greece. For the Spartans, the driving force behind the Greek victory, the battle was sweet vengeance for their defeat at Thermopylae the year before. Cartledge masterfully exposes the Athenian/Spartan rivalry that ‘rewrote the history books’.
The poet introduces readings from his new play, which premières at the Manchester Royal Exchange in May. He is joined by the production’s director, his Helen of Troy and his Patroclus. ‘The Iliad is tense and intriguing, with moments of great tragedy and breathtaking humility. Everything we have come to expect of the great myths.’
The classicist introduces his translation of the first work of history, a work that tells us much of what we know about the ancient world. Herodotus was an endlessly curious man, and gathered information about the world around him from as many people and places as he could investigate. Whether it was the pyramids of Egypt, the cannabis habit of the Scythians, the flora and fauna of Arabia or the table dancing of the Athenian aristocracy, he was fascinated by them all. His accounts of the great battles of Marathon and Thermopylae, of Salamis and Plataea, retain to this day a matchless epic quality.
The oracle and sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo at Delphi were known as the omphalos – the centre or navel – of the ancient world for more than a thousand years. Individuals, city leaders and kings came from all over the Mediterranean and beyond to consult Delphi’s oracular priestess; to set up monuments to the gods in gold, ivory, bronze, marble and stone; and to take part in athletic and musical competitions.
A classicist and a neuroscientist explore the Ancient Greek words Liberty, Comedy, Charisma, Xenia, Wisdom and Peace and travel both forwards and backwards in time, investigating how these ideas have been moulded by history and have made an impact on history and the human experience. Hughes is the author of Helen of Troy – Goddess, Whore and The Hemlock Cup. Critchlow is named as a British Council's Top 100 UK Scientist for her work in communication.
We celebrate the republication of Renault’s fabulous Greek historical novels – The Bull from the Sea, The King Must Die, Fire From Heaven, Funeral Games, Lion in the Gateway and The Persian Boy. Chaired by Stephanie Merritt.
For centuries the ancient Greeks experimented with ways of representing the human body, both as an object of beauty and a bearer of meaning. The remarkable works of art in the British Museum’s blockbuster exhibition range from the abstract simplicity of prehistoric figurines to breathtaking realism in the age of Alexander the Great. The exhibition’s curator introduces the images and sculptures, with co-curator Celeste Farge.
In the age of Charlemagne, Rome gained a prominent position in the cultural memory of the Frankish elites. This city was not just associated with the glory of classical and late antique empire, but above all with an authentic Christianity represented by the apostles and the martyrs. North of the Alps, rulers and aristocrats created a virtual Rome by importing relics as well as liturgical practices that were thought of as typically Roman. Chaired by Claire Armitstead.
Rome was first ruled by kings, then became a republic. But in the end, after conquering the world, the republic collapsed. So terrible were the civil wars that the Roman people finally came to welcome the rule of an autocrat who could give them peace. Augustus, their new master, called himself “the divinely favoured one”. The lurid glamour of the dynasty founded by Augustus has never faded. No other family can compare for sheer unsettling fascination with its gallery of leading characters. Tiberius, the great general who ended up a bitter recluse, notorious for his perversions; Caligula, the master of cruelty and humiliation who rode his chariot across the sea; Agrippina, mother of Nero, manoeuvring to bring to power the son who would end up having her murdered; Nero himself, racing in the Olympics, marrying a eunuch, and building a pleasure palace over the fire-gutted centre of his capital.
The classics super-prof explores the myths surrounding ancient and modern concepts of democracy, from its Athenian origins to the tests of Rome and the Middle Ages, and from its rebirth in C17th Britain all the way to the current state of the European Union.
Beneath the waters of Abukir Bay, at the edge of the Nile Delta, lie the submerged remains of the ancient Egyptian cities Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion, which sank more than a thousand years ago. They were dramatically rediscovered in the C20th and brought to the surface by marine archaeologists in the 1990s. The wealth of ancient artefacts from these excavations are now exhibited in the British Museum’s landmark exhibition. The curator tells the story of how two iconic ancient civilisations, Egypt and Greece, interacted in the late first millennium BC.
Long before the Enlightenment sowed the seeds of disbelief in a deeply Christian Europe, atheism was a matter of serious public debate in the Greek world. But history is written by those who prevail, and the Age of Faith mostly suppressed the lively, free-thinking voices of antiquity. The A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge brings to life the fascinating ideas of Diagoras of Melos, perhaps the first self-professed atheist; Democritus, the first materialist; and Epicurus and his followers. He shows how the early Christians came to define themselves against atheism, and so suppress the philosophy of disbelief.
Sophocles stands as one of the greatest dramatists of all time, and one of the most influential on artists and thinkers over the centuries. Taplin has translated the four great tragedies in which he portrays the extremes of human suffering and emotion. Oedipus the King follows Oedipus, the “man of sorrow”, who has unwittingly chosen to enact his prophesied course by murdering his father and marrying his mother. In Aias, the great warrior confronts the harrowing humiliation inflicted upon him, while Philoctetes sees a once-noble hero nursing his resentment after ten years of marooned isolation. In Oedipus at Colonus the blind Oedipus, who has wandered far and wide as a beggar, finally meets his mysterious death. The great classicist, Oliver Taplin discusses the plays with Tim Whitmarsh, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University.