Artistic Responses to Antiquity

Artistic Responses to Antiquity

Saturday 3rd April 2021 (2-5pm)

The ancient world is a dazzling place full of different languages, cultures, faiths and population groups. It is something that is altogether familiar and yet incredibly detached from our daily existence in the twenty-first century. While some groups have historically claimed ownership of the classical past, the real beauty of Classics is that it is no one group’s sole inheritance. In being familiar-yet-different, the ancient world has provoked an array of literary and artistic responses. From the opulent imagery of Neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David, or the Romanticism of Laurence Alma-Tadema – Greece, Rome and other ancient civilisations have informed and inspired artists for centuries.

In more recent times a new wave of artists is arising, individuals who respond to classical imagery in their own personal way and channel antiquity in new and exciting projects: Marian Maguire’s Goddesses (2019), for instance, reimagined female Greek deities through a feminist lens; Webtoon series Punderworld (Linda Šejić) and Lore Olympus (Rachel Smythe) have mainstreamed Greek myths into weekly webcomics; the University of Edinburgh’s Aeclanum project was recently the subject of an exhibition in Cambridge’s Museum of Classical Archaeology for its use of comic art to build a public engagement strategy created by artist and public archaeologist Zofia Guertin.

This seminar will give participants the opportunity to hear from a selection of artistic classicists, before being challenged to create their own classically-inspired work of art in only one hour’s time!

In this hour we guide attendees in creating their own classically-inspired masterpiece!

Session I:

This session will provide an overview of how classically-inspired artwork has developed over time, and how this fits into the wider theory of Classical Reception. The session will demonstrate how artwork has been an important aspect in the evolution of Classics, and how it continually evolves still. This section will be divided between two presentations, with plenty time for Q&A.

Session II:

This session moves participants on from the wider theory and history underpinning artistic responses to antiquity, and offers the chance to hear from three artists who create works inspired by the ancient world. Each artist will take time to explain their personal relationship with the ancient world, how this has impacted on their subsequent creations,

Session III:

In this session, we hand over to the participants. Within the hour, we guide attendees in creating their own classically-inspired masterpiece! Our artistic experts will be on-hand for the duration of the session to field questions and enquiries while we help each other create pieces that chart our own relationships with the ancient world. We will ask people to take pictures of their creations so that we can create a ‘virtual gallery’ on the Classical Association of Scotland website, and we will be sharing a hashtag so that our creations can be shared on social media, too!

Prior to the seminar, Zoom links and a package of images will be sent out to all registered participants. You do not need to purchase anything specific prior to the sessions, only have to hand anything that you will want to create your piece of art!

This session brings together an exciting group of classicists and artists:

Dr Briana King (University of St Andrews)

Zofia Guertin (PhD Candidate – University of St Andrews) @ZofiaAstrid

Dr Maria Haley (University of Leeds/University of Manchester) @marianuncsum

Flora Kirk (MA, University of Durham) @flaroh

As with all of our sessions, it is absolutely free to attend, but registration is required. To sign up or for more information, please contact Dr Alex Imrie ([email protected])

Ritual and the Many Faces of Power

Whether it is in the Hollywood renditions of the Roman World or simply an enduring image in the popular mindset, we are forgiven for thinking that power in the ancient world was wielded via the twin pillars of money and soldiers. While the more violent aspects of Roman rule are inescapable, this is only part of the picture. There are other, more subtle, expressions of ritual and power that can be discovered, some of which have a surprisingly contemporary relevance.

In this seminar, participants will be encouraged to think about how rituals, big and small, combine into a relationship where power exists. The first session will introduce the concept of power in the ancient world, while the second will look more at the subtle ritual of the admission ceremony (where people sought access to high-ranking individuals up to and including the emperor). The final session challenges participants to think about the importance of ritual behaviour in our everyday lives, from our dealings with the Monarchy in the UK through to public behaviour at football matches etc.


Egyptian Hieroglyphs for Beginners

While the magnificent remains of Pharaonic Egypt were well-known even in antiquity to Greeks, Romans and others alike, knowledge of the written script of this period, hieroglyphs, was eventually lost for centuries. It was only with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone that scholars were eventually able to decipher the language in the 18th Century. Despite its popular allure, however, the subject is not widely taught.

In this seminar, participants will be given the chance to get to grips with hieroglyphs in a fun and accessible way. Across three sessions, we will move from the very basics of how hieroglyphs function, through to forming sentences in the language. The final session will see participants engaging with authentic ancient texts, either a magical spell to chase demons away or a religious text known as the Creator God’s Apology.

This seminar will take place on Saturday 30th January (1.30-5pm). To register on these sessions, please contact Dr Alex Imrie ([email protected])

Money in a New World: Introduction to Hellenistic Coinage

CAS is pleased to announce the next in its ongoing series of seminars designed to demystify the ancient world and to provide a friendly and accessible gateway into classical topics for learners of any background or ability. Starting off our series in 2021 will be a seminar on Hellenistic coinage!

The figure of Alexander the Great understandably casts a long shadow: his ruthless conquest of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, his claims to divinity and his early death all combine to make Alexander a true celebrity of the ancient world. Outside of academic circles, the period following Alexander’s demise is less well known. It is, however, a period well worth finding out more about. From almost the moment of Alexander’s death, it was clear that his trusted commanders could not be relied upon to maintain any degree of harmony, and soon afterwards they were fighting among themselves to carve out the largest pieces of their dead king’s massive empire. These so-called Successor Kingdoms would be contentious neighbours and rivals for centuries, the new Hellenistic era only truly ending with the death of Cleopatra in 30 BCE.

In this two-hour seminar, participants will be introduced to the history of this dynamic period, and will be given an introduction to studying ancient coinage (and how it compares to modern output). The seminar uses Hellenistic coinage to illustrate how these regimes sought to define and legitimise themselves. After these presentations, participants will get to grips with some ancient examples themselves, working in small groups to analyse some ancient coins and discover how much information can be extracted even from the smallest pieces of metal.

As with all our seminars, this session is entirely *free*, although registration will be required. To sign up, please contact Dr Alex Imrie ([email protected]

This session is being offered in conjunction with the Edinburgh University Classics Society. It has been designed by Jenny Shearer, an undergraduate student in Classics with a special interest in the period, with input from faculty members at the university. She will be assisted by a number of her colleagues in the society. This is an exciting opportunity to learn more about a less commonly publicised subject from antiquity, and to see a group of exciting young classicists demonstrating that the ancient world is far from inaccessible!

Greek Beginnings

These sessions take place on Saturday 5th December 2020, and are open to all. Obviously the first session is targeted explicitly at those with no previous knowledge of Ancient Greek, but everyone is welcome. By that same token, absolute beginners will certainly be able to take something from the subsequent sessions on the day! In keeping with the rest of the seminar series, these sessions are *completely free*, although registration will be required to access the Zoom links:

Session One: This session, designed for beginners, introduces you to the Greek language. We’ll look at Greek words in English and how they work in a Greek sentence. By the end of the session, you’ll have an understanding of how a basic Greek sentence is constructed and translated.

Session Two: This is open to anyone interested in learning more about the study of ancient Greek, from absolute beginner to intermediate level. We’ll look at ‘beginnings’ in classical literature and focus on the defining opening words of famous works. We will discuss our reactions to these words and think about their role in shaping literary narrative and tradition.

Session Three: The final session is open to anyone interested in learning more about the study of ancient Greek. We will look at defining words from Greek literature in their wider cultural and historical context. We will think about changes in meaning and modern uses of terms alongside their ancient uses in literature.

Sessions will be led by Drs Ann-Sophie Schoess and Michael Carroll (University of St Andrews), and will run between 1.30-5pm (Session I: 1.30-2.30; Session II: 2.45-3.45; Session III: 4-5). 

To sign up, or for more information, please contact Dr Alex Imrie ([email protected]). PLEASE NOTE: once again, participants will need to register to receive the access codes for the Zoom live sessions.

Latin for Beginners

Sessions are open to all, but we are particularly interested to hear from students taking other languages at SQA Higher level and beyond (or equivalent).

Session 1: Absolute beginners introduction to Latin. Following the Cambridge Latin Course, students will be introduced to the rudiments of Latin syntax and read some basic Latin prose passages which illustrate everyday life in the Roman town of Pompeii.

Session 2: Near beginners introduction to reading Latin literature. By reading simplified versions of extracts from the letters of Pliny the Younger, students will develop their Latin reading skill and consolidate their understanding of rudimentary Latin; and at the same time appreciate the artistry and value of Pliny’s eyewitness testimony of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79CE.

Session 3: Wider discussion of Latin in context. Students will be introduced to the funerary inscription to Regina found in South Shields (RIB 1065). This session will look at the wider use of Latin in the Roman world, and will touch upon questions of history, language and culture. The personal story raised by the funerary inscription will also be considered.

These sessions will be led by: Andy McKellar (The Glasgow Academy) and Sam Newington (University of Aberdeen). Between them, they have decades of experience in teaching ancient language to learners of all ages!

The sessions will all take place on Saturday 21st November 2020. Sessions will run from 2.15-5.30pm (Session I: 2.15-3.15; Session II: 3.30-4.30; Session III: 4.30-5.30)

To sign up, or for more information, please contact Dr Alex Imrie ([email protected]). PLEASE NOTE: participants will need to register to receive the access codes for the Zoom live sessions. Some materials will be pre-circulated to attendees and/or will be made available on this website.

Stories in Stone: Breaking the Code (CAS Online Seminar Series) 

29th August 2020: Stories in Stone: Breaking the Code (CAS Online Seminar Series) 

The CAS Online Seminar Series will commence with a triptych of sessions that combines the study of ancient Latin epigraphy with a consideration of the classical influences and iconography that we see around ourselves every day in modern Scotland.


Led by scholars from Glasgow and Edinburgh universities, participants will be offered the chance to get to grips with original inscriptions from both ancient and modern settings, not only analysing the text as-written, but also considering the meaning and importance to be found between the lines. An important element of these sessions is the exploration of why Latin and wider classical language and motifs continue to resonate with modern viewers; why such themes are exploited far from their original context, and why these modern receptions of antiquity continue to be problematic in some ways.


Sessions will be led mainly by Alison Greer, Alice Rae and Sarah Wolstencroft who, between them, combine years of experience in teaching Latin language and the study of Classical Reception in different forms. We are also pleased to announce our collaboration with Hardeep Dhindsa (King’s College London). Hardeep graduated in History of Art at Edinburgh College of Art before moving to Classics at Edinburgh for his postgraduate Masters. He combines his areas of research interest with a prominent and authoritative voice in the campaign to decolonise the discipline, and thus offers a keen insight into the deployment of the ancient world in the modern era.


More information on the seminar can be found here.