Comfort Classics: Francesca Grilli

The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.

Today’s interview is with Francesca Grilli

Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?

I always tell people that Delphi is my happy place and I find it a very spiritual location to visit. I have been numerous times over the past 18 years and always visit early morning when the sanctuary is most quiet (ironically an experience totally at odds with that of Ancient Delphi!). After spending time out on the site itself, I have found myself drawn time and time again to the wonderful original bronze statue of the Delphi Charioteer in the archaeological museum.

When did you first come across this statue?

I first came across this statue when I was studying for my A Level in Classical Civilisation back in 2002. My Classics teacher, Julia Clayton (check out her blog was the person who ignited my love of Greek sculpture and I was lucky enough to taken on a tour of mainland Greece that same year, with one of our stops being Delphi. I have now come full circle as a Classics teacher myself and end up visiting the site every two years with my own students.

Can you tell me a bit about the statue and its context?

The Delphi Charioteer represents the victory of a Sicilian charioteer, Polyzalos of Gela in the Pythian games of either 478 or 474BC.  It was originally part of a much larger group, which included a chariot, horses and slave boy attendant and is a wonderful example of how bronze as a medium facilitated such rapid progress for sculptors in this early part of the Classical period, as well as an important example of the connection between athletics and religion in the ancient world.

What is it about this statue that appeals to you most?

Firstly it is important to remember that he is one of only a small number of ancient bronze statues in the world to survive to the modern day. However, the statue itself is also incredibly impressive with careful attention paid to every single part of the anatomy, including his finger nails and toes and the individual locks of hair which have been cast separately and attached to the statue.  The eyes have been even angled towards the ground as a sign of humility and reference to the sacred nature of the Pythian Games.  

And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?

I find keeping active really important for having a clear head and switching off from work. I have attended weekly yoga classes for the past decade and in a non-COVID world, also complete Park Runs and play netball. I also enjoy cooking and catching up with friends over dinner and a nice glass of red!

Francesca Grilli has been Course Leader for Classics at Runshaw College in Leyland, Lancashire since 2012 when the course was first set up. Today over 100 students study A Level Classical Civilisation, many of whom have never encountered the Ancient World before. Francesca studied for a BA Hons in Classical Civilisation at the University of Nottingham during 2003-6 before completing her MA in Classical Studies via the Open University in 2015-17 alongside her position at Runshaw. Her particular interest areas are Greek Art and Greek Religion.




Francesca (left) and colleague Rosie Tootell.

Catch up with all the Comfort Classics interviews here.

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