Classics and Ancient History is proud to have been awarded a Bronze Award on the Gender Equality Charter Mark (GEM) trial run conducted by the Equality Challenge Unit.


Research events play an important role in our active research culture. Academic staff from the University and other institutions come together with students to share and debate the latest ideas and developments.

WhenTimeDescriptionAdd to your calendar
21 March 201817:00

Prof. Patrick Finglass (Bristol) A new papyrus of Sophocles

Sophocles fr. 583, from his Tereus, is one of the most moving passages of extant Greek tragedy; delivered by Procne, it explores the sorrow of marriage as seen from a woman’s perspective. The publication in June 2016 of an ancient papyrus manuscript from the early second century, P.Oxy. 5292, which overlaps with this quotation, is therefore a major event in Sophoclean scholarship. The papyrus allows us to locate Procne’s speech within the play, to infer how much she knows about her sister’s fate when she speaks the lines, and to see how Sophocles prepared for the dramatic meeting between the two sisters. This paper demonstrates how the papyrus transforms our knowledge of this fragmentary drama, and sets the play alongside others that feature unhappily married women, bringing out relevant similarities and differences, and thereby assisting our understanding of the presentation of women in Greek tragedy. Full details
Add event
28 March 201815:00

Dr Francesca Middleton (Cambridge) After cento: analysing works of difficult authorship

Recent years have encouraged classicists to no longer use ‘cento’ as a pejorative term, limiting its use to the description of poetry which follows the strict, formal method of re-ordering extant verses into a new narrative. This better reflects the use of ‘cento’ as a term in antiquity, but it nonetheless encourages us to ignore the lessons we may learn from those who, even if in bad faith, have used the term ‘cento’ to describe a broader range of literary practice. One example of a work dismissed as cento in the twentieth century is Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica. Writing in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, Bernard Knox describes this poem as follows: ‘14 books of hexameter verse as full of Homeric formulas and reminiscences as they are empty of inspiration – a leaden echo of the great voice of his original … a kind of Homeric cento on a vast scale.’ In this paper, I salvage insight from such remarks by discussing why it might be useful to appreciate cento as a phenomenon which reaches beyond the strict centonic method. I argue that the principles of cento allow us to better analyse all works which in their response to earlier compositions avoid the traditional line-of-succession model constructed, paradigmatically, by the canonical epic tradition. All three of the major cento poets – Proba, Ausonius and Eudocia – construct identities for themselves which may be measured against their epic predecessors. Homer and Virgil are praised, and Ausonius for one marks the tension between Virgil and himself, writing in his prefatory letter that his cento is de alieno nostrum: ‘from another, [but] mine’. This difficult and double image of authorship imagines what we might recognise as the double horizon of expectations present in cento poetry: one developed by the poetry’s verses and another developed by the framing narrative, whether that follows the tropes of epithalamion (Ausonius) or the Christian gospels (Eudocia). This is a striking poetic method, which disrupts our understanding of readerly reception, which since Jauss we have understood as the reader’s engagement with a single horizon of expectations, constructed through the mechanism of genre. Acknowledging these principles of cento’s poetic method, we may change the questions we ask in relation to notionally centonic, notionally derivative works such as the Posthomerica. Rather than analysing these works on the basis of traditional reception theory – asking how Quintus manipulates or else deviates from the horizon of expectations set by the Homeric epics – we may ask what new horizon is constructed to compete with that of Homeric epic. In this paper, I suggest that the Posthomerica’s opening and the preponderance of similes throughout the poem encourage us to understand the poem’s heroic narrative against a story about the power of the physical world, and following the steps of this analysis will articulate a method which is beneficial for the discussion of all works of indiscrete authorship. Full details
Add event
2 May 201817:00

Dr Jonathan Prag (Oxford) Rams and Warships: bronze rostra from the final battle of the First Punic War

This paper will present the spectacular finds from the underwater survey being undertaken off western Sicily by the Soprintendenza del Mare of Sicily. Principal among these is the very rare find of 12 bronze rams from warships which sank during the final battle of the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage, in 241 BC. At least 8 of the rams are inscribed (7 Latin, 1 Punic) and the rams and their inscriptions not only provide new information on warships and institutions in the period, but also create significant problems for our current understanding of naval warfare at this date. CA Southwest Lecture, in association with the Roman Society. Full details
Add event
9 May 201815:00

Prof. David Scourfield (Maynooth) Title TBC

Classics and Ancient History Research Seminar. Full details
Add event
23 May 201815:00

Dr Emma Nicholson (Exeter) Title TBC

Classics and Ancient History research seminar. Full details
Add event
30 May 201815:00

Dr Anna Judson (Cambridge) Title TBC

Classics and Ancient History research seminar. Full details
Add event