I’ll start this week’s post by apologising for missing last week! As you’ll know if you receive regular updates from this blog, last week was International Lego Classicism Day, so preparing for that kept me pretty busy (and of course I’ve been standing on rogue Lego bricks ever since!).
Quite apart from the building, photographing and graphic design (oh, and writing the whole story in verse – I have no idea how that happened!), it was fascinating to research. The more I read about the early excavations of Arbeia Roman Fort, the more fascinated I became with the life and work of Robert Blair, who was behind the campaign to rescue the site from building work, and whose collection of Roman antiquities went to the Hancock (now the Great North Museum) on his death.
Blair became well-known in local archaeological circles in the late nineteenth century; he worked with the famous antiquarian John Collingwood Bruce on his Handbook to the Roman Wall, and was Secretary to the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries for forty years. But most interesting to me was the fact that he was born just down the street from my house, in 1844. Back in those days, my hill was occupied by a community of pilots who worked on the river; it was a highly respected profession, and it seems to have been a very tight-knit community. Blair came from a long line of pilots – but somehow he ended up training as a solicitor and setting up an office in the town centre on King Street, about 10 minutes’ walk away. I can’t help wondering how well that went down with his family! But he did well for himself (I think his marriage to the daughter of a ship-owner might have helped!), and moved away from the town centre to a big house in Harton, where he lived for the rest of his life. He’s buried (with his first wife AND his second wife!) in the churchyard directly opposite where his house once stood. My great-grandmother is buried in the same churchyard.
So learning about Robert Blair involved finding out all about my own neighbourhood in the mid-1800s, and finding lots of places where his life intersected with my own family history. It was fascinating – and there’s a lot more still to investigate! In particular, I would like to take a look at his scrapbook, in which his drawings and notes were collected. It was left to the town on his death, and is still held at the local library. If I can get into the library to take a look, you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about Robert Blair over the coming months!
This week, you may also have noticed that my Comfort Classics interviews have been covering a wider variety of sources than usual. That’s because I’ve been making an effort to see beyond Greece and Rome, and think about the ancient world more broadly. It’s difficult, to be honest, because I’m very entrenched in quite a narrow world of traditional ‘Classics’ teaching! But I can’t help thinking that I’m missing a lot. When I interviewed Peter Frankopan last week, he said, ‘I don’t really know what Classics means. I don’t really have a concept of the past that divides into periods or into regions’, and that struck me as something to aspire to. So from now on I’m going to try to present a more open view of the ancient world, where I can, by reaching out to people from related disciplines as well as people who specialise in Greece and Rome. Hopefully it’ll be fun!
This week from around the Classical Internet
Pompeii’s controversial new director – The Guardian
Comment and opinion
A new document on the accession of Tiberius – Georgy Kantor’s blog
Classics and schools – Society for Classical Studies
Going underground in Rome – Classicalstudiesman
January issue of ‘New Classicists’ – New Classicists
The Greeks and fake news [not sure about this one!] – The Conversation
An interview with Suzanne Lye – Society for Classical Studies
Classics in crisis? – Rogue Classicism
Changing “Classics”: a clarification – Classics at the Intersections
The Ballad of Robert Blair – Classical Studies Support
Cleopatra and literacy – from Pippa Steele at the CREWS Project
Why Lego is good for archaeologists – Abigail Graham
Behind the scenes of the Alphabet animation (see below!) – Philip Boyes at the CREWS Project
New website – The Lego Classicists Family
Podcasts, video and other media
Homeric heroism and Achilles’ heel – Ancient Geek
Agrippina the Younger – The Ancients
Ovid’s Artists – Myth Dynamite
Marcus Aurelius – In Our Time
The Odyssey Escape Room Challenge – Actors of Dionysus
Culture and Society at Lullingstone Roman Villa (11 March, free), with Caroline K. Mackenzie – Archaeopress
Virtual Course for Schoolteachers (15-26 April, free) – British School at Athens
Difficult Conversations in Classics (20 March, free) – Res Difficiles 2.0