Introduction to Sumerian

The Classical Association of Scotland is pleased to announce the latest instalment in its Free Online Seminar Series: an Introduction to Sumerian Cuneiform!

Taking place on Saturday 23rd October (2pm-5pm) and led by Christie Carr (DPhil student, University of Oxford), these sessions will offer participants a fantastic opportunity to engage with a subject rarely found outside the walls of a limited number of higher education centres.

Cuneiform is the world’s oldest writing system. Written upon clay tablets with a reed stylus, cuneiform writing was used from its invention around 3500 BC until the early centuries AD.  Mainly found in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and eastern Syria), the cuneiform script was used to write the first written languages, Sumerian and then Akkadian. Whilst Akkadian can be connected to other Semitic languages such as Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic, Sumerian is a language unconnected to any other and still holds many mysteries and difficulties to the modern Sumerologist. Though many great and extraordinary works of Sumerian literature (as well as administrative text, laws, letters, royal inscriptions and scientific texts) survive today, they are little known, read or taught amongst the writings of the ancient world.

In these seminars, participants will be introduced to the basics of reading and translating Sumerian cuneiform across three sessions. From learning the basics of the cuneiform writing system and sign functions, we will move through how to read sentences in Sumerian, and ultimately be engaging with real Sumerian texts from the 3rd millennium BC.

Session One: An introduction to Sumerian 

This session will introduce the historical context of the Sumerian language, the cuneiform writing system and the functions of a cuneiform sign, nouns, adjectives, and noun phrases (‘the nominal chain’).

Session Two: The verbal chain 

The second session will explain the basics of the Sumerian verbal system, where we will read short sentences from real Sumerian texts.

Session Three: Reading Sumerian: Royal Inscriptions from the 3rd millennium BC

This session will give participants the opportunity to read authentic ancient texts. With guided translation, we will read royal inscriptions inscribed upon clay objects from the period of the Ur III dynasty.

As with all of our seminars, these are designed to be a friendly and low pressure environment to learn more about the rich tapestry of the ancient world. We therefore stress that no experience is necessary! We welcome any and all interested to join us on this journey!

To register on this course, please send an email to Dr Alex Imrie ( and we will ensure that you are sent the relevant Zoom information in advance of the sessions beginning. We hope to see many of you join us for this rare opportunity!

Artistic Responses to Antiquity

(Image of a Bacchant courtesy of Zofia Guertin)

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 (

Ritual and the Many Faces of Power


CAS is pleased to announce the latest in its ongoing series of free online seminars designed to offer a friendly and accessible introduction to ancient topics to a global audience. On Saturday 27th February, we will be sharing a fascinating examination of ‘power’ in antiquity. Moving beyond the self-evident constructs of violent authority or bribery, these sessions examine how ritual behaviour can achieve a mode of ‘soft power’ that we find surprisingly commonly in our own 21st century society.

Session 1: The Basics of Power (2pm-3pm)

In this session, we consider different manifestations of power. Firstly, we will set out the traditional view of power as wealth and military resources. Hereafter, we will venture into more sophisticated models of ‘soft power.’ Building on this, and using varied case studies, we will consider how more sophisticated models can allow us to appreciate the power of rituals both in antiquity and modernity.

Session 2: The Admission Ritual in the Roman World (3pm-4pm)

In this session we will explore how the admission, traditionally seen as an unimportant ceremony from the days of the Roman Republic, played an active role in the construction of imperial power and legitimacy. For example, early emperors presented themselves as ‘first among equals’ in their use of the admission, but this changed markedly in Late Antiquity, with the appearance of innovations such as bejewelled clothes and kneeling. This change prompted monarchic and divine qualities of the emperor to be emphasised which, in turn, transformed the public narrative justifying imperial power.

Session 3: Modern Rituals and their Significance (4pm-5pm)

In our final session, we will use insights gained about the significance of rituals to explore more modern ritual behaviour. While we could easily explore ceremonies connected to the British monarchy or parliament, Ritual Studies have recently moved away from seeing ritual merely as grand state events and has instead emphasised the ritual aspects of, for example, sporting matches and everyday life. Thus, attendees will be challenged to consider the significance both of large state sponsored rituals and of the small ‘rituals’ in their everyday lives. Our hope is that this will give them a better appreciation of the soft power that is constantly influencing them from numerous different sources.

The seminar will take place on Saturday 27th February 2021 (2-5pm) and will be delivered via Zoom.

The session will be led by Dr Mads Lindholmer (University of St Andrews). As with all of the CAS Online Seminars, these sessions will be free to attend, but registration will be required. To register your place on this seminar, please contact Dr Alex Imrie (

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Egyptian Hieroglyphs for Beginners

CAS is excited to announce the latest in its ongoing series of completely free-to-access online seminars, designed to make the ancient world more accessible and to demonstrate that Classics and other Ancient Studies are doable by anyone and everyone, regardless of background or ability. Following our session on Hellenistic numismatics, we are closing out January 2021 with a seminar dedicated to Egyptian hieroglyphs!

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.

The seminar will be led by Dr Angela McDonald, Senior Lecturer in Egyptology at University of Glasgow.

This set of sessions is targeted at absolute beginners, although all are welcome. We are particularly keen to hear from school pupils studying languages at Higher level and beyond (or equivalent) who might wish to take part. The seminar runs from 1.30-5pm on Saturday 30th January:

1.30pm-2.30pm  SESSION ONE: The Basics and beyond

Aimed at complete beginners, this session introduces the hieroglyphic script, the three functions of hieroglyphic signs, how words are formed and read, and introduces nouns and noun phrases.

2.30-2.40pm Break

2.40-3.40pm   SESSION TWO: People in action

This session focuses on the verbal system, introducing the key forms and how they’re negated, and provides the opportunity to practice reading sentences and short texts.

3.40-3.50pm Break

3.50-5pm   SESSION THREE: Reading practice in hieroglyphs

This session begins with a brief orientation before offering participants the choice of two breakout rooms with guided translation through different types of text:

  1. Medico-magical text – Spell to chase away night demons
  2. Religious text – the Creator God’s Apology

As with all CAS Online Seminars, these sessions are free to attend. They will all take place over Zoom. To register on the seminar, please contact Dr Alex Imrie ( PLEASE NOTE: In your email, please specify which text you think you would like to study in Session 3. 


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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 ( 

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

The Classical Association of Scotland is pleased to announce the latest in its completely free-to-access Online Seminar Series: Greek Beginnings.

Following hot on the heels of our introductory Latin SessionGreek Beginnings offers learners the chance not only to engage with Ancient Greek language from scratch, but also offers the opportunity to get to grips with the opening sections of a number of famous Greek works. The seminar is rounded out with a session looking at the study of Ancient Greek more broadly. By the end of this seminar, you should have a real appreciation of the language on its own terms and the way in which it has survived and been transmitted to us today.

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 ( PLEASE NOTE: once again, participants will need to register to receive the access codes for the Zoom live sessions.

Categories CAS

Gilbert Murray Essay Competition

The Gilbert Murray Essay Competition is an annual contest hosted by the Glasgow & West Centre of the Classical Association of Scotland. It is open to any pupils at Scottish schools from P6 through to S6. If your school teaches Classics, entries may be submitted through them, but you should not worry if your school does not offer Classics: you can still enter by yourself!

We are now open for entries in the 2020-21 competition!

Prizes will be awarded in four sections, each with their own topics (the tasks can be found below!):

a) for pupils in P6 & P7      

b) for pupils in S1 & S2              

c) for pupils in S3 & S4         

d) for pupils in S5 & S6

There will also be a special award of £50 to the most outstanding entry overall.

Conditions of Entry

Entries can be made by pupils at Scottish schools through their teacher, or can be submitted independently. Please remember the following conditions:

  1. The entrant’s own name along with the name of their school should be written on each entrant’s work.
  • (a) Entries that are submitted through schools should be accompanied by a letter from the teacher listing the name and year group of all the pupils concerned, and confirming that the work has been done independently.
  • (b) Entries submitted on an individual basis should be accompanied by a signed declaration that the work has been done independently and contact details (postal and email addresses).


For P6 – P7   Not more than 600 words

For S1 – S2     Not more than 800 words

For S3 – S4        800 – 1000 words

For S5 – S6        At least 1000 words*

(A bibliography is essential for S5/S6.)

*Advanced Higher Dissertations may not be submitted. See section (d) option 3, however, for a possible alternative.

Please note that completed work should be sent to Dr Jane Draycott, Classics, School of Humanities, 65 Oakfield Avenue, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8LP OR emailed to to arrive no later than Friday 30th April, 2021. 

Entries will be assessed by members of the Committee. One or more prizes and certificates will be awarded in each section, depending on the quality of the entries. The decision of the judges will be final.

The results will be posted on the Classical Association of Scotland website ( 

It would be helpful if staff from participating departments would include their e-mail address at school in the letter which accompanies the entries.

Essay Subjects 2020/21 

(NB only one option should be entered by each pupil.)

Section a) P6-P7

1. Draw a picture of a monster from classical mythology.

2. Imagine you are a soldier based in Vindolanda. Write a letter home with the latest news.

Section b) S1–S2

1. Draw a cartoon-strip which retells the story of Romulus and Remus.

2. Imagine you are a travel agent in ancient Greece. Design a brochure advertising the Olympic Games.

3. Retell the story of Theseus and the Minotaur from Ariadne’s perspective.

Section c) S3-S4

1.  Generally we know little about the lives of gladiators except what is on their tombstones. Look at this inscription and the accompanying translation, then write a possible life-story for Diodorus.

Diodorus, gladiator (left) and opponent Demetrius.

‘Here I lie victorious, Diodorus the wretched. After breaking my opponent Demetrius, I did not kill him immediately. But murderous Fate and the cunning treachery of the summa rudis (the referee) killed me, and leaving the light I have gone to Hades. I lie in the land of the original inhabitants. A good friend buried me here because of his piety.’

For more about the inscription and story, see the website below:

2.  You are organising a party. Who from the classical world would you invite and why?

3.  Why are films, games and other entertainments based on the classical world so appealing today?

Section d) S5-S6

1. Should statues of Julius Caesar be removed in response to concerns being raised about his violation of human rights in Gaul?

2. Re-imagine a piece of classical art or literature for the modern age, e.g. a sculpture, mosaic, piece of drama etc.

3. Take an aspect of your dissertation and explain why you find it interesting. (Note: you should stick to the recommended length for S5/S6 essays.)

Once again, please note that completed work should be sent to:

Dr Jane Draycott
Classics, School of Humanities,
65 Oakfield Avenue
University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8LP
Emailed to to arrive no later than Friday 30th April, 2021. 

Gilbert Murray, Professor of Greek at University of Glasgow (1889-99)

Stories in Stone: CAS Online Seminar Series

CAS is delighted to announce the first of its free Online Seminar Series.

Stories in Stone: Breaking the Code

Saturday 29th August 2020

Live Seminars via Zoom

Stories in Stone: Breaking the Code is the first in our series of sessions loosely centred around the theme of ‘Beginnings’. In this set of three seminars, participants will start with a consideration of the Latin and other classical allusions that permeate our daily lives in modern-day Scotland before contemplating the history and influences that brought us to this point. It is divided into three hour-long classes that participant are welcome to pick and choose from, but which are designed to build on one another. The focuses of this session are:

  1. Latin language and epigraphy*
  2. Classical Reception of the ancient word in a Scottish context

(*While there will be a number of original texts and inscriptions considered, this session is designed with beginners in Latin in mind. Indeed, no previous experience of the language is necessary, since material-aids will be provided. That said, we hope that post-beginners or those with more experience in the language will find something of interest in the wider discussions, too!)

The sessions will be divided as follows:


Session One: The Past in our Present

‘What did the Romans (and Greeks!) ever do for us?’ While the daily lives of those living in the ancient world might seem very remote from the lives we live today, our present is still shaped (consciously and unconsciously) by our classical ancestors. In this session we will look at how we have used Latin and Greek mottos, inscriptions, and iconography to shape our identity and city-scapes here in Scotland. We will reflect upon where these traditions ‘began’ and how they impact our present. By introducing approaches to classical reception, this session seeks to introduce some of the ideological concerns associated with epigraphy, which we will explore further in the classical context in the following sessions.

Session Two: Cracking the Code 

Getting to grips with some Latin! This session will introduce students to Latin and focus on language and translation, using short inscriptions as accessible example texts. Students will be provided with a decoding toolkit to enable then to start translating and using Latin straight away.

Session Three: Monumental Messages

In this session, the students will consider the meaning and significance of inscriptions – what influences their wording and creation, and can they tell us more than just what’s written? Here we will be thinking about context and stories/message transmitted with the aim of enabling a greater degree of interaction, encouraging students to explore the inscriptions in more depth. The examples for the first half of this session will focus on ancient Roman funeral inscriptions before two case studies focusing on more modern examples.

These sessions will be run by: Alison Greer (University of Glasgow); Alice Rae (University of Edinburgh) and Sarah Wolstencroft (University of Glasgow), with additional input from Hardeep Dhindsa (King’s College London) and Alex Imrie (University of Edinburgh).


To sign up, or for more information, please contact Dr Alex Imrie ( 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.

Categories CAS