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The School of Classics' podcast series introduces recent research within the School, across a wide range of subject areas. Many podcasts are tied to recent or forthcoming book publications. Some are connected with ongoing research projects. 

Oros: Mountains in Ancient Greek and Roman Culture

Professor Jason König

‌On 4th November 2015, Professor Jason König presented his Inaugural lecture entitled Oros: Mountains in Ancient Greek and Roman Culture to a packed audience. Deputy Principal Professor Garry Taylor introduced the lecture with some remarks on Jason’s world-leading scholarship to date and his exemplary leadership as the School’s Director of Research in the period of the last REF. Jason treated the audience to a thought-provoking examination of the role and representation of Greek and Roman mountains in ancient writers (such as Pausanias) and 19th century travellers (such as Edward Dodwell). These writers reveal that views of mountains in the ancient and modern imagination are varied and often contested. Archaeological and topographic evidence was also canvassed to reveal that Greek and Roman mountains were seen as places of memory, as having military functions, as objects of contemplation, as inspirational and as enigmatic. The lecture was beautifully illustrated and the event was a happy celebration of Professor König’s work.


Morality, Politics and Religion in Euripidean Tragedy

Jon Hesk

In this lecture Jon Hesk argues that Euripides’ plays are not, as is sometimes thought, radical critiques of religious practice and belief.  Rather, they stage the difficulty of moral, social and political decision-making in a world where external forces are ineluctable (and yet often hard to detect), stakes are high (and yet not always easily perceived as such), and humans have the capacity to reason between courses of action (and yet find themselves in dilemmas fuelled by emotion and conflicting moral imperatives).   At the end of the lecture, the audience asked Jon lots of excellent questions and you are likely to learn as much from that discussion as from the lecture itself!

Additional Materials



Politics and gender conflict in Greek drama

Dr Jon Hesk

In this recording of a lecture, Jon Hesk discusses Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Euripides’ Medea and Sophocles’ Antigone.  He shows how these plays’  representations of their female protagonists provided Athenian men with important food for thought concerning their own roles and responsibilities within the city and the household.  In the case of Aristophanes, however, we have to distinguish between some of Lysistrata’s more serious remarks and the tenor of the play as a whole.

Accompanying materials: 


Plato and Conversation

Dr Alex Long

Alex Long talks about Plato's dialogues and their representation of philosophy. In Plato's dialogues Socrates engages his interlocutors (sophists, philosophers and his young admirers) in exchanges of short questions and answers. Plato considers why this interpersonal exchange is advantageous in inquiry and in teaching, and how it can be adapted in order to persuade others, but he also introduces an alternative to it: self-questioning or ‘internal’ dialogue. Alex Long discusses what this shows about the importance of conversation in Platonic philosophy, a question explored further in Conversation and Self-Sufficiency in Plato (forthcoming with Oxford University Press).


Symposium literature in the Roman Empire

Dr Jason König

Jason König discusses his new book Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2012). He talks about a series of imperial Greek and early Christian texts which reshape the tradition of intellectual conversation in drinking-party settings—a tradition which stretches back to classical texts like Plato's Symposium—focusing especially on Plutarch's Sympotic Questions. He also discusses the changing uses of scenes of grotesque eating and drinking in both Greco-Roman and early Christian narrative.


Frontinus: Roman author and statesman

Dr Alice König

Alice König introduces the book she is writing on the Roman author and statesman Sextus Julius Frontinus – with a little help from the crime novelist Lindsey Davis. Her book, "Frontinus’ 'Technical' Treatises in Close-up and in Context" is due to be published by CUP, and her research is being supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship.

Some of her other publications on Frontinus include: A. König (2007), ‘Knowledge and power in Frontinus’ On Aqueducts’, in J. König and T. Whitmarsh (ed.), Ordering Knowledge in the Roman Empire (Cambridge): 177-205; A. König (2013) ‘Frontinus’ Cameo Role in Tacitus’ Agricola’, Classical Quarterly (forthcoming); A. König (forthcoming), ‘Authorial presence and absence in Frontinus’ Strategemata’ (to be published in J. König and G. Woolf (ed.) Expertise and Authority in the Roman World).


Olympics in the Roman Empire

Dr Jason König

Jason König discusses the ancient Olympics in the wider context of the Greek athletics of the Roman Empire. For more, see Dr König's blog 'Ancient and Modern Olympics' (updated monthly); also his books Athletics and Literature in the Roman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Greek Athletics (Edinburgh University Press, 2010; in paperback from 2013).


Trajan's column

Trajan's column: Introduction

Dr Jon Coulston

Jon Coulston presents the first in a series of podcasts featuring his research on Trajan’s Column in Rome (dedicated in AD 113). This monument’s remarkable state of preservation may be ascribed to its architectural design, its placement on solid ground (rather than on the alluvium of the Flavian Amphitheatre or the Column of Marcus Aurelius), the splendour of its sculptures, and the value of its viewing balcony as a money-making asset in the pilgrim/tourist trade. The Column pedestal bore reliefs of 600 items of captured barbarian equipment, and the dedicatory inscription which is accounted the finest manifestation of Roman epigraphic art. Sculptures depicting Trajan’s Dacian Wars on a helical frieze running up the Column shaft include 2650 human figures in fantastically minute detail, down to belt-buckles and finger-nails. These features have been recorded and spatially plotted to reveal the practicalities of planning, composition and execution. Together, the architectural design and triumphal sculptural display mark Trajan’s Column as one of the most magnificent monuments to survive from Antiquity, one which has cast a long shadow across the modern world. The podcasts introduce the subject in conjunction with a forthcoming monograph publication and the soon to be launched Trajan’s Column Online Project.


Literary interactions under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian

Dr Alice König

Alice König outlines her British Academy/Leverhulme-funded research project on Literary Interactions under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian . She sets out the various authors and issues that the project will examine, and some of the ways in which different contributors will get involved. She also gives a flavour of what the project is designed to achieve by sketching some literary interactions between the Roman author Frontinus and some of his contemporary writers. The research project will result in at least one edited volume and a series of Working Papers will also be published regularly on the project’s website. For more on Frontinus specifically, see A. König (2013), Frontinus’ Cameo Role in Tacitus’ Agricola, Classical Quarterly and A. König (forthcoming), Frontinus’ ‘Technical’ Treatises in Close-up and in Context.


Lies and Broken Promises in Classical Athens and Modern Democracies

Dr Jon Hesk

Jon Hesk discusses the ways in which the Athenian democracy was able to bring its politicians and officials to account for telling lies or going back on their promises.  It turns out that procedure and practice were two very different things and the question of whether we should apply Athenian procedures and sanctions to modern democratic politics is more complex than is often assumed. For more, see Dr Hesk's book Deception and Democracy in Classical Athens (Cambridge University Press 2000).


Ethnography in the ancient world

Professor Greg Woolf

Greg Woolf discusses his book, Tales of the Barbarians: Ethnography and Empire in the Roman West (Blackwell 2011). He talks about how the encounters between Greeks, Romans and  local populations created an entirely new mythology of empire in the Roman Wild West. Travelling scholars teaching Greek to local chiefs or moving in the retinues of Roman generals, bilingual soldiers campaigning in Darkest Europe or the Atlas Mountains, native scholars discovering classical literature for the first time, all played a part. The new myths of origin they created cannibalised stories from the Homeric poems, military reports, eye-witness accounts of strange monuments and bizarre meteorological phenomena.They supported hypotheses that seem bizarre to us from the evidence of place-names and the physical appearances of different peoples, and from complex theories about the relationship between physical environment and national character. Greek science gave these ideas a shape,  Roman power presided over their creation: but it was the locals who stood to gain the most from the new identities these tales gave them.


External resources

Members of the School contribute to many other resources including BBC programmes, external podcast series and publishers' YouTube channels. 

BBC Radio 4 series: 'In Our Time'

Hosted by Melvyn Bragg

Oxford Academic (OUP)