It’s fair to say that I’m not much of a political animal. It’s not that I’m not interested in politics; it’s more that I have a tremendous dislike of politicians, and a built-in distrust of political parties. I don’t even feel disappointed when something awful happens, because I don’t expect any better. Maybe I spent too much time with Tacitus in my formative years.
So you won’t ever see any party politics or political campaigning from me. I pick my battles, and that’s one I choose to stay away from.
But political issues tend to filter down, and then they bother me. On a university level, there are political manoeuvrings which have a direct effect on the quality and accessibility of the teaching that is done in this country. Having spent the last 20 years trying to make education more accessible to everyone, I find it very difficult to watch the destruction of excellent departments by university management – and that’s what is happening now. There are two archaeology departments in the UK – Chester and Sheffield – which are currently being threatened with redundancies and closure, despite being high-performing departments with superb initiatives, and they may well turn out to be the first of many.
This bothers me on a personal level, not because I know the people involved, but because I know what it’s like to receive ‘at risk’ notices of redundancy – I get them every year, and every year I have to make my back-up plans. After all these years it still doesn’t get any easier, and it’s not a situation I would wish on anybody.
So this week I’d like to ask you a favour. If you’re comfortable with it, and can spare a couple of minutes, would you consider adding your name to the petitions below? The more public support these departments can attract, the more likely it is that their universities might think again. It’s certainly worth a try!
Chester open letter – Archaeology Chester
Save Sheffield archaeology: resources – Save Sheffield Archaeology
Stonehenge research at risk if Sheffield department closes – The Guardian
Sheffield set up to fail – The Tab
Finally, just a quick thank-you to Pam for the flowers which have cheered me up every day this week, and to John in Singapore for the unexpected delivery of lovely wine, which will power me through a weekend of much work. I really do have the nicest readers!
This week from around the classical Internet
Roman artefacts sell for £185,000 – BBC
Novel of prostitutes in Pompeii – The Daily Mail
Nero exhibition and fake news – Sunday World
Stolen Pompeian frescoes returned – The Guardian
Comment and opinion
How did Athens get its name? – The Collector
The Great Philosophers: Aristotle – The Independent
Classics Listserv racism – Mixed Up In Classics
Souvenirs of Nero – A Don’s Life
Animal sentience law and Plutarch – The Spectator
Napoleon and stolen art – Hyperallergic
Greeks, Romans and football – Antigone
Greek Literature and Frederick Douglass – Antigone
Palimpsests – Antigone
Podcasts, videos and other media
The Achaemenid Empire and the Mediterranean – Ithaca Bound
The Great Kings – The Ancient World
Lyric and lyre of Greece and Rome – The British School at Rome
Suetonius on the buildings of Rome – The British School at Rome