Thursday, 6 November 2014

The killing sand may return to the Colosseum

In July 2014, Professor Daniele Manacorda made the proposition that the floor should be returned to the world famous Flavian Amphitheatre.  The floor has been absent since its removal in the 19th century, when it was removed during excavations.  Since then, the Amphitheatre has been missing its floor (and sand) and the exposed innards of the hypogeum have been an iconic part for visitors to the attraction and experts.

This was all a very nice idea in principle, until last week when the Italian Minister for Culture, Dario Franceschini, reignited the debate by suggesting that it was one of the main ideas he was proposing for his scheme to boost tourism to Rome. 

The Flavian Amphitheatre was inextricably linked with gladiatorial combat, despite there also being beast hunts, executions, chariot races, animal hunt and reports that the arena was flooded for the infamous naumachia.  Gladiators have seen a resurgence in popular media in the past few decades with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), and more recently with the television series Spartacus (2010). 

However, this news has not recieved unanimous approval.  Dr Salvatore Settis, a Professor of classical archaeology and former head of Italy's cultural heritage council, argues that whilst Italy is suffering from economic troubles and financial stringencies, the idea of refitting the floor to the Colosseum is ridiculous.  “We are living a dramatic moment for cultural patrimony. In this situation, I do not think that giving the Colosseum back its floor is a priority.”

If you are interested in reading more about the Flavian Amphitheatre or about gladiators, then we suggest the following from our catalogue: -

·         Gladiators : violence and spectacle in ancient Rome
Dunkle, Roger.
Harlow ; New York : Pearson/Longman, c2008.

Classmark: 152F DUN

·         The gladiators : history's most deadly sport
Meijer, Fik.
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, c2005.

Classmark: 152F Copy 2 MEI

·         The Colosseum
Hopkins, Keith, 1934-2004.
London : Profile Books, c2005.

Classmark: 113M HOP

·         Colosseum : Rome's arena of death
Connolly, Peter, 1935-2012.
London : BBC Books, c2003.

Classmark: 113M CON

·         The Colosseum
Los Angeles : J. Paul Getty Museum, c2001.

Classmark: X 113M COA

Monday, 3 November 2014

Electra returns to the Old Vic theatre with Frank McGuinness’ adaptation of Sophocles’ play


Kristin Scott Thomas and director Ian Rickson reunite to bring Sophocles’ tragedy to The Old Vic in the round. Frank McGuinness delivers a charged adaptation of this classic tale of power and revenge.

Electra is bound by grief following the murder of her father Agamemnon, unwilling to forgive and consumed by a desire for revenge, her anger builds. On the return of her brother Orestes, Electra’s fury explodes without mercy, leading to a bloody and terrifying conclusion.

Interested in Electra or want to know more about Sophocles?  Then check out section 94.11E in the library next time you're in.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Amphipolis Tomb... Who Lies Within?

The great thing about a new discovery is that moments when all the experts around the world put their two-penny worth in and begin to make predictions regarding what the new discovery actually is.  This is precisely what is happening now with the Amphipolis (or Kasta) tomb. 

Sadly, looters seem to have taken the treasures that it once contained, but experts are convinced that much can still be learnt from what remains.  The Caryatid Marbles alone could be described as the find of the decade.

Suggestions of who the tomb once contained vary, but most theories centre on the followers of the Macedonian King Alexander the Great.  The rumour mills on twitter this morning has it firmly set as the final resting home of Alexander’s mother Olympia, whilst others have suggested Alexander's son by Roxana.

So who does this tomb belong to?  If you have any thoughts, let us know!  Answers on a postcard.  Or failing that, you can leave your ideas in the suggestion box below or email me at .

Friday, 19 September 2014

On the 19th September 86 A.D., the Emperor Antoninus Pius was born in Nemausus.  Born the son of Titus Aurelius Fulvus and later adopted by his predecessor Emperor Hadrian, Pius has been remembered for having a rather uneventful spell as emperor.  However, he did manage to enact extremely important legal reforms throughout the empire based on fairness and equality rather than the word of law.  Pius died in his seventy-fourth year.

If you are interested in reading about the Emperor, then we recommend you have a look at Cassius Dio’s, Roman History, Book 70 and the Historia Augusta, The Life of Antoninus Pius.

Happy Birthday Antoninus Pius!


Monday, 15 September 2014

The Furies - the Oxford Greek Play (2014)

Who would do right, fearing nothing?

Following Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, The Oxford Greek Play presents The Furies.

Orestes has murdered his own mother, Clytemnestra. In revenge, she has sent the Furies: terrifying infernal spirits who spread poison and madness across the earth. Their vengeance is simple: kill and be killed.

But things are changing. In Athens, a criminal court has been established to end this cycle of murder and Orestes is its first defendant.

Performed by University of Oxford students, The Oxford Greek Play is a rare opportunity to experience classical drama in its original language. Depicting the first murder trial ever held, AeschylusThe Furies challenges the core of our own legal system. Can guilt be judged? Can justice be wrong? Are victims still victims when the case is closed?

Wednesday 15th to Saturday 18th October 2014.
Venue: Oxford Playhouse


The metamorphosis Project

An eclectic group of contemporary artists provide a fresh take on Ovid’s ancient tales.

Enter a world of lust, gruesome deaths and staggering transformations at this engaging art exhibition which is at the heart of an innovative project to improve accessibility to the classics.

Free entry 11am-6pm daily (except Friday close 8pm, Saturday 4:30pm)

This project is kindly funded by UCL Greek & Latin Department and The Classical Association.

Open to: Academic | Alumni | Public | Student
Admission: FREE
Ticketing: Open

Monday, 8 September 2014

An Ancient Pottery Masterclass

Emeritus Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Sydney, J Richard Green, gives a masterclass on Ancient Pottery at Paphos.

Prof.Green is also Research Fellow here at the Institute.  He is also working on the definitive publication of his excavations at the site of the theatre in Paphos, the ancient capital of Cyprus. His recent publications include a 300-page survey of recent work on ancient theatre production in Lustrum vol. 50 and a full catalogue of the Logie Collection of antiquities in the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Closing Today!

Just to remind our readers that we're closing today until September the 1st- if you have books you need to return or collect please do so before 6pm.

If anyone needs to return books during our closed period then we would like to remind them not to simply leave them at the desk- they must be returned via post.

Many thanks.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Library Disruption 15th August

During our annual closure period (16th August- September 1st) there will be some re-arrangement of the library space.

Owing to this it is necessary for us to re-position the reader desks in the main Archaeology reading room on the afternoon of Friday the 15th of August to make room for the installation of additional mobile shelving units.

Whilst this will not affect travel around the library, or access to the shelves in this room, it does mean that all desks in this area will not be available for use on Friday afternoon.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.



Friday, 18 July 2014

Vale Photocopier*!

Readers should be aware that once the library re-opens on September 1st the old photocopier will have been removed. Please ensure that all units remaining on your photocopy cards have been used up by that point as we will be unable to refund any unspent credit.
From September onwards all copying is to be done on the new Zeta scanner which staff will be more than happy to help you use. Scans can either be printed or saved to a USB stick.
If you have any queries do not hesitate to contact us at

* suggestions for translating 'Photocopier' into Latin are welcome!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Guest Post: Small Change Big Games

Greetings from sunny (yes, I said sunny and no it isn’t a typo) Glasgow. We’ve hijacked the ICS blog for one day only to bring you news about an exciting project we are working on up north. You may have seen our poster up in the library, some of you may even have followed us on twitter (thank you) or had a look at our website, but for those of you who have no idea who we are or what we are doing, never fear, we will give you a quick summary now. 

Here in Glasgow we are pretty excited about the upcoming Commonwealth Games, and we were especially excited to discover that the Royal Mint have commissioned a special 50p to mark the occasion. The 50p features some sporting imagery, as you might expect, but as well as the cyclist and runner, it also has a saltire, a symbol of Scottish national identity, and the writing is done in the style of famous Glaswegian artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 

Image courtesy of the Royal Mint:
This coin, with its sporting imagery and symbols of civic and national identity got us thinking about Roman coins, and how much they have in common with the Glasgow 2014 50p. Luckily for us The Hunterian has one of the best ancient coin collections in the UK*, so we applied to the Hunterian Associates Programme, and Small Change Big Games was born. 

Coin from The Hunterian, Glasgow (catalogue number 21182).

Our project will take the form of an online exhibition on our webpage. Using the Glasgow 50p as a springboard for thinking about coins minted to commemorate games, we have chosen a selection of Roman coins to feature in this exhibition. We have divided the coins into four broad themes: history, politics, religion and sport. Each topic has an introductory video featuring either us or a special guest, as well as some information and images of the coins. We are also planning a number of events which will take place during the commonwealth games, and which we hope will be of interest to a wide audience. 

The Small Change Big Games team are also known as Jenny and Sarah, two PhD students at Glasgow, you can contact them at, @smallchange2014 or

* For the five volume collection 'Roman imperial coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow' go to X136H.2 in the library!

If anyone else is interested in submitting a guest post for our blog then contact us at It doesn't have to be formal or directly related to the library. As long as it involves Classics in general we're happy to give our readers a chance to advertise, explain and vent!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Bank Holiday Closure

The library will be closed this Saturday for the Bank Holiday weekend. We will re-open at 9.30 am on Tuesday 27th May.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Greg Woolf Welcomed as New Director of the Institute

The School of Advanced Studies has just announced that Greg Woolf has been appointed as the new Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, taking over from our current acting Director John North in January. The staff at the library, and we know the readers, would like to express our thanks to Professor North for all his work for the Institute and to congratulate Professor Woolf on his appointment.

You can see the official announcement here and details of Greg Woolf's academic career and publications here

Monday, 19 May 2014

Exclusus Lector no Longer!

No longer must our readers ask assistance to use complicated combination locks- we have finally got keys! Lovely, simple keys. Additionally no pound is required although there is a £10.00 fine for any lost keys.

As a disenchanted member of staff put it, when this trial began:

Through the windows the faeries throw
Lockers which made us feel so low
May a faery strong and kind
Find us the keys for which we’ve pined

 After Easter, may our dreams be
Forever after locker-free
And may our readers dance a conga
When combinations are no longer

All the library staff would like to both apologise for the disruption, and to thank our readers for their patience during this time. Hopefully now full friendly service can resume. Conga lines are optional but discretely encouraged.

Keys, of course, are an ancient concept; the earliest surviving examples coming from Egypt in the form of Pin Tumbler locks. The Romans improved these by replacing the traditional wood with metal and inventing smaller, wearable keys. Types of locks outlined by Manning include latch-lifters, lift-keys, slide keys, lever-locks and barb-spring padlocks as shown below:

From Manning, 1985

Anyone interesting in discovering more about the history of locks (who wouldn't be?!) can begin with the list below:

Birley, Andrew, The small finds. Fasc. 2, Security: the keys and locks : including an outline report on the results of the excavations to date, Hexham, Vindolanda Trust, c1997. Library: X116D VIN

 De Vries, Marc J; Cross, N. & Grant, D.P. (Eds.) Design Methodology and Relationships with Science: Proceedings of the NATO ARW, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, September 29-October 2, 1992, Springer, 1993

Manning,  W.H., Catalogue of the Romano-British iron tools, fittings and weapons in the British Museum, London , British Museum Publications, c1985. Library: X135E LON

Friday, 2 May 2014

Adopt a Book!

See the below poster on how you can support the library with our Adopt a Book scheme. Through it we can get more books professionally repaired and bound which keeps them in good condition for our readers. Getting one dedicated for someone else is also a great way to escape not knowing what gift to buy them!

Friday, 21 March 2014

New Scanner (it's actually here!)

At the risk of becoming technologically advanced the Joint Library is delighted to announce that our new Zeta scanner has been installed and will be ready for use on Monday.

The scanner gives the option either for black and white printing (10 pence per page) or saving to USB (5 pence per page). Re-usable cards can be purchased for a pound and topped up with credit at the desk. 

It's living in the photocopy room and if you need any assistance feel free to ask a member of staff- we cannot guarantee they'll be entirely competent to begin with...

Monday, 17 March 2014

New Lockers!

To finally end the days of pound swaps and key hunts, the Joint Library of the Hellenic and Roman Societies will be having new lockers installed the week beginning 24th March. The new lockers will work by having a code programmed in so start thinking up something memorable!

All lockers will need to be emptied by 8.00 pm on Tuesday 25th March so the existing lockers can be removed. It is not permitted to use lockers for overnight storage, so any items not removed will be disposed of by Library staff.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Early Closure March 11th

Please note there will be no evening opening on Tuesday March 11th as the library will be closing at 6pm for a private event.
Apologies for any inconvenience this causes.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

New Sappho

Breaking news in the Classics world today is centred around the discovery of two new Sappho poems held in an anonymous private collection in London. The preliminary article by Dirk Obbink can be read here and an official discussion blog has been created.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Senate House Protests

During the planned protests on January 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 28th and 29th the library will remain open as usual. In the event of this changing we will notify readers every way we can. If you are uncertain then feel free to email, telephone or check the website. If you are unable to access the library during this time please do NOT leave your books with the security staff downstairs- it is better if you take them home and send us an email explaining what’s happened so we can make sure you do not get late fines. If you live further away we recommend posting any returns to prevent a wasted journey.