Weekend Reading: Lego and Authority

This week’s been a busy one, with all kinds of classical stuff (both serious and silly) going on.

On Wednesday it was International Lego Classicism Day, organised by Liam Jensen of the Lego Classicists. I was out and about in sunny South Shields, working (I use the word loosely!) on a Lego back-story to the tombstone of Regina. You can read it here.

Other people were coming up with some fantastic things. Highlights include Philip Boyes’ Lego version of the first Ugaritic text to be discovered, and the CREWS Project reproducing Mycenean scribes and archives using Lego.


Minimus lego


Then on Thursday and Friday I went along to the Authority and Contemporary Narratives about the Classics Conference in Newcastle. It was my first paper in many years: but I was surrounded by friendly faces! My sister, Lilah Grace Canevaro, came down from Edinburgh University to keep me company; and one-by-one, a whole bunch of Open University students appeared for my talk. They sat at the back and made some helpful comments – and they all refrained from heckling me, which I appreciated…!


An OU student gang at the conference

There were some great papers from speakers – both in the room and connecting from other continents by Skype – all talking about how our changing world is altering what people perceive (or should perceive) as ‘authority’ in Classics. The invited speakers were Rebecca Futo Kennedy from Denison University in the USA and Neville Morley from the University of Exeter, both of whom often feature in my Weekend Reading lists – so it was a pleasure to put faces to names!

Rebecca was talking about ‘Western Civilization’. She showed how claims that Classics deals with the ‘foundation of Western Civilization’ are used in educational contexts to justify the study of Classics, but are also used as a defense of nationalism and racism in the media and in politics. She invited us to re-evaluate the use of ‘Western Civilization’, as a term that has historically been used to contrast the white West with cultures and races which were presented, from the 1920s onwards, as less developed or civilized.

Neville was talking about Twitter and Thucydides, and his Twitter Thucydiocy Bot, by means of which he seeks out and corrects misattributed quotations. He looked at the ways in which fake quotations propagate through the internet like a virus, and also at the ways in which Thucydides references or quotations are used online as authoritative arguments or as a component of an authoritative identity. As a case study, it illustrated a lot about the role and status of expertise online.

There was a range of other great topics, looking at Classics in popular fiction, historical writing, online forums and blogs, and linking the Iliad with Game of Thrones, and Greek myth with American Gods. The question of authority was much-debated: who speaks for Classics, and what are they saying?

By that point I was feeling quite attached to my Lego Barates figure, so I brought him along. Here he is, being suave at the conference…





This week’s non-Lego links from around the internet



Ancient sites and Caesar’s murder – CTV News 

Divers discover Roman artefacts – Yeovil Express 

Trying to buy Roman coins – BBC News

Download the first edition of ‘New Classicists’ for free – New Classicists



Comment and opinion

Ancient pizza – Eidolon

Ancient pepper – Eidolon 

Studying food – Eidolon

Plato, philosopher of the month – OUP Blog

Crediting digital humanities – Hyperallergic

Greek sport and art – Barney Spender 

Should archaeologists learn Latin and Greek? – Aegean Prehistory 

Aristotle on not being obscure – Aeon 

The lifespan of civilisations – BBC Future 

Decolonizing myth – Sententiae Antiquae 

Translating the untranslatable – Neos Kosmos 

Imperial assassinations – The History Girls 

The Pompeians who escaped – Forbes 

The most famous epigram of all time? – Kiwi Hellenist 




Podcasts, video and other media

Rome’s auxiliaries – The History Network

The life and career of Augustus – The Partial Historians 

Balas and Parthia – The Ancient World 

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