Edinburgh: a city in profile #CA16

The annual Classical Association conference ascends to Scotland this year. The city of Edinburgh plays host to delegates from around the country and beyond. Beginning a series of posts, this blog post will give an overview of the city.

Arriving at the conference

The city is served by an international airport and lies on major road and rail arteries along the East Coast. The conference takes place at the John McIntyre Conference Centre (19 Holyrood Park Road, EH16 5AY). The official accomodations are sited around the centre.

From Edinburgh International Airport you could probably take the cab to the conference centre. Otherwise, the Airlink Bus (£7.50 open return) or the tram (£8 open return) will get you to Edinburgh’s Waverley station for connecting buses (see below).

From Edinburgh Waverley Station,  you will need to locate bus stop code “NC”, which is located on North Bridge (a bridge because it crosses the railway station from above). The bridge has the Balmoral Hotel and The Scotsman on either end.

From Edinburgh Bus Station, it is best to walk through St James Shopping Centre to Princes Street and locate the North Bridge (which crosses over the station from next to the Balmoral). The North Bridge is a road bridge and on the bridge is bus stop NC. From there, follow the above instructions.

At bus stop NC, take southbound buses 14 (towards Greendykes), 30 (Musselburgh) or 33 (Gorebridge). Alight at the Royal Commonwealth Pools. Where you alight is adjacent from the pool. The area behind the pool is the conference area and, at this point, you should follow direction signs.

Getting around Edinburgh

The main bus company for the city is Lothian Bus (http://lothianbuses.com). One-way tickets within the city cost £1.50 whereas a day ticket costs £4. Please note that buses do not give change.


The Sights

Edinburgh cannot be seen in a day. So let me give you a top 3.

1. The Royal Mile

In reality, just walking down the Royal Mile will take a day if you wish to take in all that it can offer.

Begin from Edinburgh Castle. The entry to the castle is where the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo festival is based. The castle is imposing and impressive, with great view over Edinburgh. It warrants at least half a day of visit.

Near the mid-point of the Royal Mile is the High Kirk. At this point of the Royal Mile the pedestrianised street is surrounded by period buildings. In mid-August, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe gives it a carnival atmosphere.

At the very bottom end of the Royal Mile is lovely parkland. It is also the site of Holyrood House, a palace for the Stuarts. Opposite the royal seat is the democratic seat, the Santaigo Calatrava-designed Scottish Parliament, with its fascinating lines and wood paneling. Above the two seats is Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that you go up to watch sunrise. By the time you have done the whole of the Royal Mile though, it would take a energetic man to climb the mountain as well.

2. Calton Hill

But if you do have energy left, go under the railway bridge at Holyrood House and head up Calton Hill.

Edinburgh is often known as the Athens of the North. From the Hill you can see replica of the ancient Greek buildings, though only half-built. The Hill also plays host to various monuments for the Scottish Nation and a reminder of the times of the Scottish enlightenment where the Scots seek to have their own identity in the British Nation. This was much later followed by a call for devolution  which culminated in the new National Parliament at Holyrood.

3. Edinburgh New Town

Down from Calton Hill, instead of hitting upon the newly-tramwayed Princes Street, strike into the midst of the New Town and head along George Street. The Georgian New Town was built on the opposite side from the Old Town along Royal Mile as the capital of Scotland expanded. The regular street-patterns of the town makes an orderly contrast to the Old Town; the streets have fairly uniform fronts and neat walkways. It is very easy to get lost in it all.


There are many more things to see in the Scottish capital, in particular some outstanding museums of international fame. I hope you get to have a chance to see a snippet of it away from the conference.

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The learning of logic through Latin

In a recent interview for a permanent version of my own job, I was asked how I would publicise Latin in three neat benefits to students or parents. The benefits of learning Latin is manifold and, if one stands out for me (or an interested students), then that will benefit; for this reason I always find it bizarre to have to shape such answers into a tricolon (an ascending one in an interview will be beyond me).

It is the training of logic that lit up the headmaster’s office, lifted above the intercultural learning and linguistic ability. I reasoned that the teaching of Latin is often similar to Maths – the teacher goes through and example of the rule in question by talking through it, asking for a student to talk through it, and the students are set them off to practise that language point until they master it (if you are a practitioner of the “mastery” philosophy of education). In a truly inductive method, the initial element of considering the Latin at hand gives potential for the student to attempt decoding the language. And we know that the Maths paper will test more than one mathematical point, and so a piece of Latin text will include more than one type of grammar.

The context of mathematics is that each topic should explain a bit more about the world and/or be applicable in certain situations; and so any text of Latin is a story and, from a linguistic point of view, any individual words or grammars are traditions themselves, echoing through the history of languages.

On the point of logic, the panel sitting opposite me was suitably impressed in that they have not considered Latin in this regard. And I stressed that, for each student, their reason of taking up Latin may be different. Indeed, for myself, I have always enjoyed cracking a code – the sense of satisfaction when you get it right is immense. Much of the Latin to be cracked is challenging. Furthermore, my Latin teacher in school studied Latin, Classical Civilisation and Maths for his A-Level exams. Nor did I always find the literature of Virgil and Ovid easy to get my head around as my head is buried in translation. In many cases, those who remember Latin lessons in school fondly seem to remember the structure of the language rather than the texts and culture to which the language allows accessed. However comfortable we might be with that, to underestimate the draw off logic and challenge in Latin is to underestimate a key draw for Latinists and linguists at large.

Indeed, when expanding in the benefits of Latin to other foreign languages that the school teach, I remark that the words and grammar are similar. When considering the relations of words between languages, it seems to be easier spot the patterns from Latin. It is the skill of translating texts that Latin learning focuses on, rather than the speaking, listening, reading or writing when learning modern foreign languages. I suggest that the focus on the written form allow for easier comparison across subject, though with little basis. I certainly did point out, however, that pupils are drawn to Latin because they do not have to complete an oral exam!

If the panel were to ask me how I would draw on the link between Latin and Maths to inform my teaching, I would have suggested that I should do more research on the topic. I would also consider other ways of applying mathematical activities in Latin lessons. In a cover lesson for maths I once had worksheets where students colour in different shapes in order to form a picture: the colour that one needs depends on whether the number was another form of the same fraction. Imagine doing that with tenses or cases! Any other suggestion is always welcomed.

In any event, there were no more questions. My job was soon secured for time eternal.

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The Importance of Teaching ‘High Culture’

Trivium 21c


“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” Gangsta’s Paradise: Coolio

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Psalms 23:4 King James’ Version

The other day I was working with some teachers coming to the end of their training, the conversations were rich and rewarding and I have a good deal of faith that they will become great teachers. I was opening up debate by offering some important provocations, including saying that it is important to not only teach ‘great’ work but also to help children develop a sense of what ‘great’ might be. Whilst emphasising the subjective nature to these judgements, I was arguing that children need to develop an ability to take part in the conversation and not feel excluded. One ITT suggested that this could occur from popular culture quoting the ‘Coolio’ lyric above. I pointed out that if someone did not…

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At last, here’s a crossword to test all you Latin lovers

The Latin crossword is the first to appear in The Times for 85 years

C: Ruben Castelnuovo (Wikipedia)

Article retrieved from The Times website: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/medianews/article4581933.ece

What have the Romans ever given us? To the famous list, beginning with the aqueduct, we can now add a new way to while away a Saturday.

Cruciverbalists will from today find an extra mental challenge in the form of a weekly Latin crossword. No, it is not the Kalendae Aprilis(April 1).

This has been a long time coming. In 1930, The Times published a one-off Latin crossword, a month after the first appearance of an English crossword in this newspaper.

After 85 years, and with the classics enjoying a revival, helped by the popularity of books by the likes of Mary Beard and Robert Harris, it is time to try it again with a tabula rasa (clean slate).

Called O Tempora! and compiled by “Auctor”, the puzzle, which can be found today on page 83, is a mixture of straight and mildly cryptic clues, mainly in English, with all the answers in Latin. Some of the clues can be easily solved by those with a basic grounding in the language.

Nine across, for instance, requires you to find a word that means a singer and is the Latin translation of “on high” (clue: think about the voices in a choir). Others require a bit more thought. As with our cryptic crossword, it becomes easier with practice.

The name of our new crossword comes from Cicero’s exclamation against the dissolute customs in Rome in 63BC — “O Tempora! O Mores!” — memorably translated by Michael Flanders as “O Times, ODaily Mirror”.

“The Romans would have been huge fans of crosswords,” Professor Beard, a classics fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, said. “Every Roman, right the way down their social structure, loved wordplay.”

Llewelyn Morgan, an academic in Latin literature at Oxford, said: “The Romans have a reputation as solid types who liked beating up Gauls, but they were more literary and self-conscious than that. They were very keen on puns and anagrams, such as amor [love] being Roma [Rome] in reverse.”

Latin is growing in popularity. It is taught in more than 700 state schools and 450 independent schools — twice the number it was in 2000. Some 50,000 pupils start to learn it each year, of whom a quarter take it at GCSE.

“It has had a remarkable return to respectability in the last ten years,” Dr Morgan said. “There is a lot of affection for the subject again, which is having a very tangible impact on university applications.” The first Times crossword was published on February 1, 1930. It became so popular that one month later, The Times ran a crossword in Latin for those of a more “exacting intellectual standard”.

Three weeks later, thinking that our readers were still not being stretched, The Times published a crossword in Ancient Greek. Despite both attracting letters of praise — one reader said that the Greek crossword had “agreeably shortened” a long train journey — the experiment was not repeated until now.

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Community in Conference – Classics in Communities two years on

Classics in Communities celebrated its two years of work in a conference attended by many hard-working and dedicated people interested in spreading Classics. The conference, held at the Sidgwick site last Saturday (19th September), shared good practice from many organisations and individuals working in places new to Classics, Latin or Greek.


After the welcome by Mai Musié and Steve Hunt, the day’s programme opened with Arlene Holmes-Henderson outlining the accomplishment of Classics in Communities thus far. Founded to support the spread of Classics, the organisation has helped primary education practitioners with workshops that both promotes Classics in school and provide assistance to teaching – assistance that is both reassuring and useful to non-specialists teaching Latin. Classics in Communities is also engaged in collecting empirical data to make the case for the teaching of Classics, embarking on projects to collect data on the impact of Classics teaching. The organisation aims to publish its findings in the future and aims to focus its work on helping potential teachers of the subject and creating teaching material.

Within the presentation, Arlene highlighted a case study of a particular school that is mostly attended by students qualifying for free school meals, 60% of the pupils achieve a rise in literacy level beyond expectation in the first year of Latin teaching, rising to 86% in the third year. The benefit of learning Latin in terms of improving literacy is irrefutable in this case.


Hilary Hodgson of Classics for All followed in the the programme. Hilary explains the work of Classics for All as channeling funding towards organisation expanding or improvng their provision of Classics. She invites application for grants in this funding cycle – successful funding have been given in the past years to training, cover required for attendance of training course and resources. The current application round closes in January.

Tim Whitmarsh followed with a lecture to delegates on a framework to guide and assess the effort to “democratise Classics”. The conference then broke into parallel sessions where delegates were able to hear success stories of ongoing projects from Sussex to Sydney, all the while also sharing best practice. An interval of lunch was enjoyed in the impressive dining hall of St. John’s College and delegates were treated to a talk by Tom Holland on “Whores and the House of Caesar” – a topic treated in a newly published book by the historian.


The last formal item on the programme was the roundtable discussion. Questions were raised about sustaining the provision of Latin in places where it was introduced; the best way to promote Latin (should we use literacy as the primary reason for introducing Latin); the implication of the new GCSE syllabuses in Classics; and the outlook for Classical Civilisation as a subject. The delegates then decamped upstairs to the cast gallery for a well earned glass as an aid to digest all that is learnt.

The second Classics in Communites conference was a great occasion. A delegate commented on how nice it was to see so many academics and teachers in the same building. It was a genuine forum for sharing best practice in teaching and spreading the Classical subjects. Perhaps the conference would be better with more parallel sessions; fundamentally there was already a great deal of information and practice shared at the conference. The real shame, perhaps, is that it is not an annual occurence.

But to focus on the frequency of conference would be to neglect the fact that Classics in Communities is run by dedicated Classicists and, in most cases, this work is extra to what they do as part of the day job. The fifteen minutes allocated in the conference was never going to be sufficient to appreciate the impact of Classics in Communities in places where, three years ago, Classicists have never though of reaching. Like any birthdays, it is the children who celebrates their achievements and anniversaries and like any birthdays, we should really thank those who brought this energetic and smart offspring into the world.

For a twitter summary of the event see Cressida Ryan’s Storify summary of the event.

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leo agitatus – a tribute to lions

Neither Cyril nor leo. (C) Sarmale / Olga Shared under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Neither Cyril nor leo. (C) Sarmale / Olga

One of my favourite story of the Cambridge Latin Course is pastor et leo. The last story of page 8 is an odd story in many ways, in a way that pleasantly surprises.

It is to this story that my mind turns when I hear of the fall of Cyril the lion. The mighty lion was lured out of its protected environment and harmed by protectors-turn-poacher. Immediate was not death, but the slow torture and agony was endured by many who heard that between the wound and its death, fourty hours have passed.

Growing up the first memorable movie was the Lion King. For me, a lion symbolises authority, but a relaxed authority. It is serious when it needs to hunt (or deal with family feuds and treason, as per the film), but it will always lie down belly-first on a rock. The lion king is a bulwark: it cares, but it won’t be obvious that it cares. It harms, but only when necessary.

And it certainly does not harm when it has a thorn in its paw. “olim pastor in silva ambulabat.” Once upon a time the shepherd was walking in the forest. He was very astonished to see a lion and prepared for the worst. The shepherd expected to be eaten, instead the lion was crying. It cries and it bristles, but it still has a thorn in its paws! The shepherd was scared, nonetheless he removed the thorn from its paws. The lion roared. The lion fled.

The bravery and the honesty of men is to be lauded, although it would be an entirely different cautionary tale had it ended differently. The shepherd is surely to be lauded because he recognises that even beastly animals can be afflicted by issues that it cannot solve. On the other hand it is more difficult to pin down for what reason the lion flees. Indeed it is perhaps less imaginable that it is crying. But in leaving the scene and situation where it was made better, the lion must have recognised that it was helped not by a kinsman. It would normally expect to attack a human being; the lion did not wish to repay its saviour in this way. At a loss of what to do but no longer inhibited, it flees.

Time elapsed and we next meet the shepherd in the arena. It turns out that he was a Christian and was arrested by the Romans. “leones”, “lupos”, all types of animals present every sort of danger to the man. But lo and behold – the shepherd recognises the lion. It was the lion from whose paws he removed a thorn! The lion roared – the repetition of “fremuit” must have been more considered than just restricting the list of vocabulary exposed to a Latin beginner. The lion roared and carried the shepherd out of the arena.

This myth has many key ingredients of a fable, though the lion does not talk. Nor should it – the lack of speech highlights the animalistic nature of the beast. Read in that light the reader is even more surprised by its pain and it repaying the debt of gratitude (and the good-nature and anguish of the shepherd) in the respective halves of the story. The lion may only roar and cry, but within it understands sadness, anguish, gratitude and unfairness – what can often be easily termed human qualities.

The shepherd, then, must be the model human in this fable-like tale. He reaches out to an expected foal without any expectations of reward, but is significantly vitally rewarded.

What the story rightly gloss over – because it is not central to its moral message – is the role of the captors of Christians. They may be conformists of the archetype of ancient-day McCarthyism. They may not be. It doesn’t matter because a moralistic story will always be selective in its content to maximise its message. It is unlikely to explain why a lion may be a risk to human either by listing what food a lion normally eats.

Cyril the lion is much loved by those… interested in such creatures and matters because it is approachable to human. This love must be amplified both by the ferocity and the prowess of a lion and the sense of responsibility and duty that lions seem to have from its portrayal. The shepherd in the story must have been in awe of the lion even as he thought he was staring death in the mane in that road outside the city. The sense of responsibility must be that both Cyril and the fabled lion could have taken the easy option of acting on their aggression. Neither did.

Whatever the message of the story of pastor et leo it is hard to explore, because it is such a rich story for year 7s and 8s. Is it karma? But the image of the boastful Belimicus left soaking in the boat-race is a far more oarsome exemplar (sorry). It sits after a series of story in in arena where animals are hunted around the arena and men fight each other in and out of the arena, so does it counteracts the violent dispositions of these stories? But then it is often left out because all teachers are pushed for time to deliver their syllabus. Does it seek to highlight religious intolerance? But then it is too understated for the younger learners and very unlike Simon in stage 29, the Jew who delivered his own end in triumph. Does it seek to highlight the loyalty and moralistic qualities of animals? But then the small cat’s scratching of Eutychus in the street of the glass-maker is arguably the most memorable act of a cat in all books, especially taking into account that pastor et leo is often not considered for teaching by the time-conscious. Unlike the feles sacra, the big cat did not save Clemens after all – the story of the shepherd is not essential for the story’s progression.

But it is a great story for the unsimple morals it simply portray, made greater by the fact that it is often left unstudied. And it will always be my favorite story.

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Why Do Greek Plays have Latin Titles?

It’s all Latin to me…

Katherine McDonald

Chorus of Agamemnon, The Cambridge Greek Play 2010

One of the most famous Greek tragedies is called Oedipus Rex. Well, sort of. Its original Greek title is Oidípous Týrannos, but usually everyone calls it by its Latin name. Even the English title Oedipus the King is heard much more rarely. And it’s not just this play that’s the problem. Ancient Greek plays are called by all sorts of names – the system is a hotch-potch of naming conventions, and it can be off-puttingly complicated to understand when you first start studying.

In some cases, the various possible names are so similar that there’s no issue. Lysistrata by Aristophanes is just the name of the play’s leading character, and would be the same in any language. Similarly, Aeschylus wrote a play called Pérsai (in Greek), Persae (in Latin) or Persians in English – those names are not going…

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Collective Refresh

Classics Collective is having a slight make over!

It has been three years since Classics Collective has been bringing news about Classics to your Twitter feeds and we have gradually began to spread Classics news through Facebook, Google+, Flipboard and Scoop.it.

I still remember the first days of the Twitter feed: trawling around for established accounts to follow, scouring the internet for websites rich with Classics news and still not knowing what the account should provide and who it should serve. I wonder whether we have quite achieved a perfect mix of articles and event notifications for the wider world of Classicists?

There really is not a dearth of content-sharing Facebook pages or social media accounts available. Classics Collective has the benefit of being “edited” but the disadvantage of requiring a committed editor. It has been a busy year personally and in an ideal world tweets would be more frequent and, by responding more immediately to any published articles immediately, more comprehensive.

Some things remain the same – we tweet most Sunday mornings and evenings and we have still tweeted from every Classical Association conferences. Other things change – job and conference adverts every morning are simply impossible with a day job involved.

Things will change too. We hope to have a new logo coming soon.

We hope you keep enjoying what we provide on the accounts.

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#CA15 at Bristol

It’s that time of the year again – the time where Classicists get together in the annual CA. Bristol is playing host to this year’s conference and I will add my own welcome to all the delegates and virtual attendees to this fantastic place – a place that I also call my hometown.

The official conference website gives much detail in terms of programme, round tables, meals, excursions and all and sundries. Unlike previous year there will be no digest of it on this blog and we trust you will be amply supplied with information on that website, if not via email. Nonetheless, to keep updated via social media, please use and follow the hashtag #CA15; the official twitter account of the conference is #CAConf2015. You may also wish to be refreshed with the guidelines for live-tweeting at conference.

Bristol and Classics

Bristol has a long association with the study of Classics from the level of Minimus to megala biblia.

A look at the staff list of the Department of Classics reveal many luminaries of our age on topics from Latin love poetry to Greek lyric poetry, historiography to reception studies. The department is situated uphill (though for many travelling from the hotel to the conference venue it may be hard to imagine a place higher) at Woodland Road, a leafy street of university departments which afford good views of the City Centre and the Great Hall of Bristol Grammar School.

The university received its Royal Charter in 1907. It received much financial support from Henry Overton Wills. Wills, the first chancellor of the University, was part of the family that prospered in its control of Imperial Tobacco, the warehouses of which can still be seen at the Gorge-end of Bristol’s floating harbour. The significance of Wills is highlighted in that the centrepiece and physical symbol of the university, The Wills Memorial Building and Tower, is named after him – this building will house many events related to the conference.

For many Classicists Bristol will be most the place where those orange and blue volumes appear. In fact Bristol Classics Press was an imprint of the larger Gerald Duckworth and has recently been acquired by Bloomsbury Academic. The imprint has a long catalogue of manuals and editions and it is still growing though nowadays its connection with Bristol is (I believe – do correct me otherwise) minimal.

Though not minimal is the contribution of Minimus to the Classical scene. Barbara Bell, its fons et origo, developed the course far south of the Hadrian’s Wall while teaching at Clifton High School. The series has provided primary students with a course more suited to their needs and is used in many schools.

Bristol in brief

Once the second city of England thanks to its (very tidal) port, today Bristol is a vibrant and cultural city. At the moment it is also the European Green Capital 2015. It is famous for its Georgian architecture, association with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Banksy.

Visitors to the city can wander around the harbour or its graffiti-filled streets – graffiti that draws visitors and artists with spray cans from around the world. A good prospect of the city can be viewed from Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill or the Clifton Suspension Bridge; a good prospect of Brunel’s Suspension Bridge, prominent in adverts such as that of Lloyd’s Bank, can be found from the Clifton Observatory. Brunel has also contributed the fine train station, compared to a cathedrals for trains, at Bristol Temple Meads.

The maritime heritage of the city can be explored by the locks of Cumberland Basin. At the end of the floating harbour one can consider how the harbour used to be tidal (as it still is beyond the locks) and the degree of success Brunel’s floating harbour (which provides the same water level throughout the day) had in keeping the trade in the city. Now the major ports are at Avonmouth – the mouth of River Avon which flows through the floating harbour and a new cut. The harbour can also be viewed from the Royal York Crescent, sitting majestically at Clifton Village. The contribution of the city to Atlantic exploration can be explored from The Matthew, the replica of its namesake which sailed to Newfoundland in the 15th century; the Steam Ship Great Britain of Brunel sits on the harbour as a fantastic museum.

If you are more inclined on experiencing Bristol, try out its accent, smile and local and don’t be perturbed if you are called a “luvver”. Try some cider or pear cider and have a pie from Bristol-based Pieminister, or visit the largest buffet restaurant by the harbour. Fans of Only Fools and Horses may also wish to find pseudo-Peckham. Whatever you choose to do in Bristol, you will be sure to be welcomed.

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Augustus digest #Aug2K

Today is exactly 2000 years after day on which Augustus died. To mark the day there are many articles and events, the links to which have been collected below.

A conference is ongoing at the moment in Leeds entitled Commemorating Augustus. The blog to the conference contains a wealth of interesting articles and information collected together by Penny Goodman: http://augustus2014.com/. Tweets and other links, as well as update from the conference, can be gathered from the hashtag #Aug2K on various social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. For Spanish coverage, the hashtag #Augusto2014 may be more fruitful.

The following posts, a mixture of Twitter and Facebook links, will appear with the most recent first (last updated 14:05, 20th August).

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