The Belfast Summer School is over for another year!  For almost two weeks, 33 students and 7 staff met at Queen’s University Belfast to talk about new alphabets, imperfects and aorists, datives and ablatives, subjunctives and perfects. And that was just the grammar classes. The advanced Greek and Latin classes read original texts including Demosthenes, Heraclitus, Ovid and Cicero. The final day of the summer school was taken up with translation for all classes – even those in beginners Greek were reading Aristophanes and Anacreon. In response to requests from students, beginners Greek tutor Dr Kerry Phelan assembled a number of ancient Greek insults, those found in Aristophanes’ Clouds, Eubulus and the Epistles of Phalaris. Intermediate Greek students read an unadapted section from Chariton’s novel and some adapted Herodotus while Intermediate Latin students were challenged with some Ovid.

As usual, there were other activities in addition to lessons. This year we were blessed with excellent weather and on Wednesday, our discussions of ancient texts and grammar continued in the beer garden at The Parlour Bar followed by dinner in Villa Italia. 

On Thursday, a bus trip was organised to the Thermopylae Battlefield Garden at Kilwarlin Moravian Church, Hillsborough, Co Down. We were treated to a tour of the garden which features a pond, fountain, flower beds and several odd mounds and hills.  These unusual earthworks were built to create a model of the topography of the battle of Thermopylae as it was in 480 BC. The groundworks were ordered by Rev Basil Patras Zula, a Greek native, who came to Ireland in 1828 and became minister at Kilwarlin in 1834 where he served until his untimely death 10 years later. It has been suggested that Zula, who came from a wealthy family, organised the landscaping work in order to provide employment for his parishioners who were living in poverty. Our group were shown where Zula was buried in the graveyard, and were taken inside the church. Following the tour, we were treated to refreshments provided by Kilwarlin Moravian Church. Our grateful thanks go to Rev Dr Livingstone Thompson and members of the congregation who hosted us.

Dr Raoul McLaughlin gave a lecture about retail in ancient Rome. He began by highlighting the importance of the port of Ostia and the trade routes to Rome. There were auctions for incoming goods as well as permanent markets in Rome. Goods bought and sold included perfume and ungents, clothing, precious gems for jewellers, exotic spices. Warehouses for storage were fronted by retail units: these were made of brick and so safer than normal tenement blocks so the chance of devastating fire was lesser. Ovid offered advice to young men that they should avoid certain districts lest their girlfriends demand that they be bought expensive gifts. Other writers, for example, Martial and Propertius, warn about shopping ventures. Many thanks to Raoul for his fascinating insight into shopping habits in the ancient Roman empire.

During the second week of summer school, Helen McVeigh talked about the joys to be found in the ancient Greek novels. The five extant novels are defined as fictitious stories, narrated in prose and sharing common motifs. The protagonists are a young man and young girl from distinguished families, both of exceptional beauty. They set out on a long journey, together or separately, having sworn to each other mutual pledge of fidelity. After undergoing a series of harrowing experiences including apparent death, kidnap and shipwreck, the couple are reunited and return home to live happily ever after. Choosing to focus on Callirhoe by Chariton, Helensuggested that this novel might have been serialised, given that plot summaries are regularly provided to remind the reader of what has gone before. Most interesting about Callirhoe is the large number of Homeric quotations.  Some of the plot and characterisation is drawn from the Odyssey and Iliad, for example, the characterisation of Callirhoe as a combination of Penelope (the faithful wife) and Helen (abducted to a foreign country to become the illegitimate wife of another).

CANI was delighted to receive a donation of classics books from the personal library of Dr Robert Jordan, former head of classics at Methodist College Belfast and, from 2000 until his retirement in 2004, Assistant Director of the Institute of Byzantine Studies at Queen’s University Belfast. Dr Jordan donated many Latin and Greek texts, as well as books on various aspects of Greek and Roman history. We were delighted that Dr and Mrs Jordan were able to attend the prizegiving at the end of the first week of the summer school.  Dr Jordan talked about his life as a classicist and presented certificates to those students leaving at the end of the five day course. As a token of gratitude, on behalf of CANI, Helen presented Dr Jordan with Honorary Lifetime membership of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland. The books which Dr Jordan donated were part of a book sale during the summer school and the money raised will go towards CANI funds.

On the final day of the summer school, Dr John Curran presented certificates of attendance, commending the students on their eagerness to learn these ancient languages. In past years, students have come to the summer school from all over the world. This year was no exception and along with students from Northern Ireland, there were students who had travelled from Co Donegal, Co Clare and Dublin, from England, Italy, USA, Japan, and China.

Thanks are due to many who ensure the continuing success of the summer school: Amber Taylor, Steve McCarthy, Dr Laura Pfuntner, Dr Kerry Phelan, Dr John Holton, Solomon Trimble, Dr John Curran, Dr Raoul McLaughlin, Dr Peter Crawford, Dr Robert Jordan and Rev Dr Livingstone Thompson. Thanks most of all go to the students, whose passion, enthusiasm and hard work make it all worthwhile.

To see photos of the summer school, click here. To watch the video, click here.

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