In April, for our final lecture of the 2015-16 programme, we welcomed Professor Edith Hall of Kings College London to the Association. I’m a huge fan of Edith’s work, especially her definitive guide to Greek Tragedy and her extensive research about the conception of ‘barbarian identity’ in 5th century Athenian culture, so it was very exciting to meet her in person.
Edith has had a fascinating career so far: she completed her DPhil at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, when she was taken under the wing of Prof. Paul Cartledge after the untimely death of her supervisor, and she taught classics at the University of Durham before moving to Royal Holloway in 2006 where she led a public campaign to keep open the Classics Department. She has founded and chaired the Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome and is the Consultant Director of the APGRD project; she has lectured internationally, is a chairman of the Gilbert Murray trust and an elected member of the Academy of Europe.
Edith promised to talk to us about the Ancient Greeks’ relationship with the sea in light of her latest book ‘Introducing the Ancient Greeks’ and we were treated to an excellent lecture which allowed us to enter the Greek psyche. It is very easy when reading ancient literature, visiting sites and immersing ourselves in contemporary politics and history to forget both the essential differences and similarities between our cultures and mindsets. Some may find it difficult now to imagine the Navy as a source of intense national pride or even as a means of civic self-definition, but a Briton who had witnessed victory at Trafalgar or the repelling of the Spanish Armada would have shared many of the same feelings as those Athenians who rejoiced in Themistocles’ victorious navy in 480BC when they repelled the Persian invasion and were victorious at Salamis. We are of course both island nations and a common love of fish (battered or not!) proves that we are still maritime folk!
As a keen historian with a particular interest in the labour and suffrage movements of the nineteenth century, I’m really looking forward to Edith’s forthcoming publication on ‘Classics and Class in Britain, 1789-1917’ in which she and Henry Stead explore the cultural reception of the ancient world beyond the elite sphere. Edith is one of the few scholars and authors who tries to make her work accessible to everyone by providing free pdfs and preprints of many of her books: take a look here!
Edith was really generous with her time, answering questions, signing books and meeting some of our student members. We were really pleased to welcome Lytham St Annes High School at this lecture as educational members of the Association and look forward to seeing them and their teachers again in September.
Edith also spent a few hours in Preston on her way to Lytham where she visited the Harris Museum and discovered a hidden gem in the stained glass window by Henry Holiday: afterwards, she produced a great blog which you can read here. As you can see, she’s still on the lookout for a good picture of the top section and perhaps even some more research on the window – I’m sure she’d love to hear from you if you can help!