This week I’ve been wandering round with my camera, recording the Empresses of South Shields.
First, a bit of local geography… Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields, North-East England, is at the top of the hill known as the Lawe, overlooking the point where the River Tyne meets the sea. The street which runs alongside the Fort is called Fort Street; parallel to that, the next street down the hill is Trajan Avenue. Then there’s Vespasian Avenue and Julian Avenue, all linked by Lawe Road running down past the park. It’s a very imperial hill.
But once upon a time, there were other names. When Lawe Road was built, in the 1880s and 90s, each section of it was named after the wife of an emperor.
The section of road which led to Julian Avenue was called Helena Terrace; the section up to Vespasian Avenue was Flavia Terrace; and the block which joined onto Trajan Avenue was Plotina Terrace. At the corner of each empress’ block was a sandstone plaque which also gave the name of their respective husbands. The plaques are still (just about) visible; walking up the hill is a mini History lesson!
These block names were not formally used for long, if at all: even the 1895 Ordnance Survey map lists the road simply as ‘Lawe Road’. So why were they put there in the first place?
Well, I don’t know for certain. But a possible answer lies in the social history of the area. The Victorian settlement on the Lawe was built as a community of pilots; nineteenth-century census records show an almost unbroken list of pilots, mariners, mates, engineers and steamboatmen living in the houses on the hill. At certain times of the year, nearly all the men across a dozen streets must have been away at sea.
At those times the hill would have become a community of women. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the women of the ancient world were so visibly represented in our street names.
This week’s classical links from around the internet
From Classical Studies Support
Encountering Ashurbanipal: a review of the British Museum Exhibition – Klara Hegedus
Taking up an archaeology placement – Frances Breen
Not the first Greek computer – Smithsonian
Cleopatra the Musical – Theater Mania
What Plato tells us about Facebook’s problems – The New York Times
A new statue of Ceres – Vermont Public Radio
The Indiana Jones of art? – BBC
Romans, trains and Coventry – Coventry Live
Uncovering Leda and the swan – Haaretz and many other news outlets
Restoring the Parthenon – Greek Reporter
Scribbling on Euripides – The Guardian
Roman forum in Yorkshire – BBC
Comment and opinion
Lessons from ancient literature – The Washington Post
Who is welcome in ‘the classical’? – Classics at the Intersections
Reception in historical fiction – Oxford Classical Dictionary
Claire Danes reads the Odyssey – Bustle
Solving a wrestling mystery – UVA Today
The glitz of the Etruscans – The History Girls
Ovid on breakups – In Media Res
Acting Greek tragedy – Institute of Classical Studies
On specialist libraries – History Affect
The impact of films – Cognitive
Greeks and robots – The Weekly Standard
Caesar on Finland (!) – Sententiae Antiquae
Plato and censorship – Aeon
The Spartans and Brasidas – The Deadliest Blogger
Suetonius’ sauce level – The History Girls
Introducing Medea – The Conversation
Only one brothel? – History Extra
A 12-hour reading of the Odyssey – Aussie Theatre
Empire of Texts – Hyperallergic
Coins and the Ptolemies – Coin Week
Staging the Penelopiad – The Medium
Blogging about Comprehensible Input – Todally Comprehensible Latin
Brexit and the polis – The Spectator
Women as catalysts of war – Feminism in India
Speaking for Aristotle – The Edithorial
Translating sexual violence in the Metamorphoses – Sewanee
Adapting the Iliad for 2019 – Neos Kosmos
Lucky sneezes – The Historian’s Hut
Becoming an emperor – Eagles and Dragons
Euripides’ life and works – Classical Wisdom Weekly
Videos, podcasts and other media
Messenger Speeches – Acting the Ancient World
Homer and Miletus – The Corbett Lecture 2018
Expedition – Domitian’s Rule – Penn Museum
Leonidas and the 300 – Barry Strauss
Talking about Horace – In Our Time
Battle after battle – The Partial Historians
Roman Tribunes – Ancient History Guy
Unconventional military tactics – The History Network
Restoring ancient Babylon – National Public Radio
The Greek Lottery – Retropod
Edith Hall on Aristotle – Tbilisi State University
… and on The Barbarian – King’s College London
Introducing Gods and Robots – Princeton University Press
Germanicus the manicus – Ancient History Fangirl
Egypt and Mycenae – The History of Egypt Podcast
The Babylonian War – The Hellenistic Age Podcast
Ancient Magic podcast – School of Advanced Study
Animating the Iliad – Oxford Classics
Routledge Archaeology free access for 2 weeks – Taylor & Francis Online
Download a free copy of a monograph on Roman Britain, AD 410 – Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies
Legonium’s December calendar – Legonium
Classical socks – Flaroh
4 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Hidden Empresses”
I love reading this every Friday, I get wrong for spending ages following all the links, how I envied Frances Breen on her placement to Pompeii, to walk around in Pompeii in silence and peace, what a dream! ( I went on a free Public Holiday!!!) Classical studies support really takes me out of myself, don’t stop!!!!!!
Thanks, Neil: I’m never sure if there’s anyone out there who’s actually reading these posts!
Yes, an out-of-hours Pompeii is the stuff that classicist dreams are made of…!
ACADEMIC TRANSLATOR *chortle*
If you missed this you must scroll up to the image, zoom in, and read it; it’s just above ‘vdeo, podcasts and other media’! Hilarious! And all too true :-\
Thought you might like that…!