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Television historian tells the 'Story of Us'

Tuesday 27 February 2018


‌Television historian Professor Bettany Hughes
will be speaking in St Andrews as part of a UK-
wide series of events which aim to expand the teaching of classical subjects.

A well-known broadcaster, writer and ancient historian, Professor Hughes will give a public lecture called 'The Story of Us' on the power
and perils of storytelling from prehistory to
the present day.

The talk will take a particular focus on classical culture - from Helen of Troy to Empress Theodora - asking why we choose to tell the stories we do about ourselves and how we can use those narratives as a potent agent of change.

Aimed at an audience with no prior knowledge of the classical world, the illustrated talk is one of a series of events promoting the teaching and learning of classical studies.

The Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA) will be hosting an archaeological activity on the same day giving school children the opportunity to handle real ancient Greek pots and artefacts from the School of Classics’ archaeology collection.

A series of events will allow youngsters to perform in a Greek tragedy with the help of the Byre Youth Theatre, make masks and models of ancient Greek and Roman theatres, take part in a classical quiz, and play games popular in classical times.

Pupils attending will also take part in creative writing and art competitions inspired by ancient literature, art and culture.

Dr Jon Hesk of the School of Classics said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Bettany to St Andrews and thrilled to be hosting this 'advocacy and activity day' for classical studies in secondary schools. At the same time, this is a great opportunity for our own students and the general public to hear from one of the UK’s most engaging and entertaining broadcasters in person.”

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, AHRC Research Fellow in Classics Education at King’s College London, said: “As a former teacher of Classical Studies in Scotland, I have witnessed first-hand the contemporary value and relevance of teaching Classics in Scottish secondary schools. Students love exploring the rich diversity of daily life in the ancient world through the SQA qualifications (available at all levels) which include the study of literature, art, architecture, history and material culture.

“A strong humanities subject in its own right, Classical Studies confers transferable skills such as critical literacy and cultural capital, and helps cultivate Curriculum for Excellence's four capacities.”

Professor Hughes is well known on television, with her most recent television series including Eight Days that Made Rome (Channel 5), Venus Uncovered (BBC 4) and Genius of the Ancient World (BBC 4). 

Among her many acclaimed radio series and programmes are The Ideas That Make Us (BBC Radio 4), The Romans in Britain (BBC Radio 3) and The Iliad: Beauty, Brutes and Battles (BBC World Service). She is the author of Helen of Troy (2013), The Hemlock Cup (2011) and Istanbul: a Tale of Three Cities (2017).

Professor Hughes lecture 'The Story of Us' is open to the public and will take place on Saturday 3 March from 3pm to 4pm in the University’s Buchanan Lecture Theatre. Entry is free but places must be booked online.

This event is supported by the UK-wide AHRC-funded project Advocating Classical Education, whose aim is to extend classical subject teaching and qualifications across the secondary sector. The School of Classics is one of 16 regional partners in this project. After the talk there will be an opportunity to ask questions of the speaker and some prizes will be given to local competition-winners.

Notes to news editors

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Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office. Contact Fiona MacLeod on 01334 462108 / 07714 140 559 or