Weekend Reading: No Escape from Football!

There’s a bit of a theme emerging from this week’s links – it seems that people are having trouble resisting the urge to connect football to the ancient world. But I’m made of sterner stuff; no football-related posts from me!


What caught my eye this week

This week I’ve been thinking about teaching and Classics. I was putting together, rather belatedly, the obligatory ‘About Me’ me page for the website (here) and I dug out some old press clippings about my Latin courses to include as a ‘Media Gallery’. I still have some things to upload, so it’s a work in progress; but feel free to take a look.

Anyway, as I was doing so I came across a news story about four-year-old Prince George, who will apparently be learning Latin from September. For some reason this has so far only been picked up by the French media (7sur7 and Soirmag), although the English press made a fuss about the Prince learning to count in Spanish last year.

Latin is still perceived as elitist, either as the language of the rich and the nobility (who could afford the posh schools) or as the language of the intellectual elite (from the time when it was reserved for the top sets in grammar schools). But is that a bad thing, and should it be addressed?

I would argue, perhaps controversially, that it isn’t bad at all, and that it can be used as an advantage in some surprising ways.

Nearly 20 years ago I was running my Latin after-school clubs in some really deprived areas of North East England, and teenagers flocked to sign up because it was an elitist subject. There was a sense of the forbidden about it; they were getting the chance to study something that their parents and grandparents hadn’t been allowed to study. It also gave the kids an ego boost; when they told friends and family that they were learning Latin, it won them a sort of grudging respect. Then there was the element of challenge; however you approach it, Latin is tough to learn, and if that’s presented in the right way it becomes a selling point.

I did a lot of work with Gifted and Talented groups, because teachers wanted something that would stretch the most able pupils. But then I started, rather tentatively, to work with pupils at risk of exclusion because of behavioural problems; and that opened my eyes to what Latin could really do. The children in that group didn’t learn a great deal of Latin; the pace was slow and the objectives cautious. But the fact that they were deemed worthy and capable of learning Latin meant a great deal to them. They actually looked different when they left the class; they held their heads higher, they looked at people and not at the floor, they even smiled more.

The elitist tag gives Latin significance; and I think we should aim to use that, not to change it. So a big thank you to little Prince George; he’s doing his bit for classical outreach!


From Classical Studies Support

There will be a couple of results-related posts over the next week, since we’re coming to that time; but I don’t want to depress people by posting my lecture on Failure too early!

From the archives:

OU Classics in verse – Classical Studies Support 

Classics and parenthood – Classical Studies Support



Oldest record of the Odyssey? – Guardian 

…Possibly not – Kiwi Hellenist 

New Latin inscription in Thrace – Archaeology in Bulgaria 

Roman fridges good for beer – The Local 

Did Romans have a whaling industry? – Guardian 

…Possibly not – Guardian 


Comment and opinion

On writing Roman mysteries – Eidolon 

Remembering the Good Old Days of Classics – A Don’s Life 

On gloom and pessimism in the interpretation of Roman history – OUP 

Antiquity, hatred and the far right – New Statesman 

Romans Go Home: on ethnicity, inclusiveness and Monty Python – Eidolon 

How football is like the Elgin Marbles – Archaeodeath 

… and more football [for Latin geeks] – Res Gerendae 

… and more football, with a focus on morality and democracy – The Conversation 

…and more football, from a Roman perspective – Society for Classical Studies 

…and more football, from Mary Beard’s trip to Northumbria University – A Don’s Life 



Like theory? Check out these annotated bibliographies – Cognitive Classics 


Podcasts, videos and other media

Michael Scott on the Greeks (next episode on Thursday) – BBC 

Murder and maths in Alexandria – BBC 

Cardboard chariot race – Huish College 


Kindle book bargains

A Classical Education: The Stuff you wish you’d been taught at school – £0.99

24 Hours in Ancient Rome: a day in the life of the people who lived there – £0.99


Off our beat

For the book collectors – BBC 


And finally…

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

― T.H. White, The Once and Future King


2 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: No Escape from Football!

  1. I have to admit, I did consider a blog post about Roman ball games, but during my research I realised it had been literally done to death! So not wanting to be a sheep and follow the crowd I decided against it, although some of the sources are quite interesting.

    Also, I know you are dubious about TV documentaries but Michael Scott’s ‘Who were the Greeks’ was actually really interesting! It was a bit grim when it came to issues of infanticide, which is a popularised notion when people talk about Ancient Greece, particularly Sparta, but other than that it was an easy watch.



  2. Oh dear – am I that predictable?! I’m afraid I did link to the Greeks programme without actually watching it – but I do plan to watch it.

    Some day.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s