Lorna Robinson announces the next edition of 'iris'

Dear all,

The fifth issue of Iris magazine is out this month. The magazine is part of the Iris project, an educational charity promoting Classics in state schools, and half of all copies printed are sent free to state schools which don't offer any Classical subjects. The magazine includes articles, interviews, news, artwork, fiction, reviews, outreach schemes and ideas, all presented in exciting, modern and eclectic ways. This issue's contents are based on the theme of poetry and craft, and include:

  • Two Ticks for Ovid and Horace: poet Maureen Almond reworks the classics
  • What Not To Weave: fashions and fabric in the ancient world
  • Greeks bearing gifts: the place of pottery in classical society
  • Don't Look Back: Poetry and the tale of Orpheus
  • Ancient magicians: instructions on classical wizardry
  • chat with author Caroline Lawrence: the new 'Roman Mysteries' TV series
  • Exploring Tunisia: travelogue in North Africa

… as well as all the usual features and pieces. If you'd like to order copies or support the project in any other way, please get in touch through the website.

Thanks and best wishes


The Iris Project – http://www.irismagazine.org
Registered Charity No. 1121868

Dr Lorna Robinson
4 Franklin Road

New novel about Catullus reviewed – twice

The Telegraph reviews Counting the Stars by Helen Dunmore, a novel about Catullus and Lesbia/Clodia.

Helen Dunmore was also on the Radio 4 book programme yesterday. (Listen again) She is aware of the scholarly doubts about constructing history from the poems, but chooses to do that all the same – as we all do when teaching Catullus to Year 11, I suspect.

The opening of the first Telegraph piece:

The heroine of this unusual novel is a busy woman. She has “friends to meet, books to read, poetry to write, bets to lay, massages and hair treatments to be fitted in”. Who is she, you might wonder – a modern-day It Girl? In fact, Clodia is a loose-lipped, loose-hipped Roman seductress, living in the unsettled times of Pompey and Julius Caesar.

Both she and the narrator of this novel, the poet Catullus, tend to speak as if they're talking to camera in a soap opera. “When women haven't got their make-up on, they'll look sideways, or down, as if to hide themselves,” he muses.

The modern speech of Helen Dunmore's Romans is irritating at first, but it as the novel progresses it makes for a good contrast to the carmine and colonnades of her classical backdrop. Reading the opening pages is like the good old days of Latin O-level, with the obligatory references to baths, feasts, orgies and people with pompous-sounding names (Manlius, Ipsitilla, Lucius, Metellus), who speak as if they're slumped semi-comatose in a London beer garden: “The poem! That f***ing poem went the rounds,” says the fabulously named Fabullus.

The other review is unfavourable. Example:

Strangely for a writer of successful psychological thrillers, she seems to have lost her narrative drive. In the first 80 pages, the lovers meet twice, and Catullus falls ill. Page turner it is not.

The love affair waxes and (mostly) wanes without much heat. Catullus vacillates and Clodia cannot fill the shoes of her raunchy real-life character.

A slow build could work if the atmosphere were more compelling, but the old whore Rome never really stirs into life. Although various illustrious but offstage Romans are mentioned, and the odd gladiator wanders on, it doesn't add up to the real thing.

Half-term history fun at Corinium Museum

Have a sneaky peek at anything from history and hairy beasts to shiny shoes this half term when the Corinium Museum hosts a range of fun events for children.

The Park Street museum will hold historical sessions from February 18th-22nd, which will shed light on the Stone Age, the Romans and the Tudors, while another hands-on event for youngsters is all about ‘Sparkly Shoes’.

The first activity to take place during the school break is part of the Museum’s ‘Archaeology Seminars’, and will look at the Romans in the Cotswolds. It is aimed at 9-12 year olds and will allow children an up-close look at Roman artefacts. This event is being held on Wednesday February 20th, from 10am-11.30am.


Guardian lukewarm about Asterix film


The third live action film of the series has the plucky Gaul villagers sallying forth to compete at the Olympics, and has been zippily updated to reflect some unlikely 50BC concerns: organizers fret about chariot bombs and the Gauls' magic potion contravenes doping rules. But despite its sterling cast, this is not as fun as the last one, Mission Cleopatra. Scene after scene of cheating Romans and chariot racing wears thin, leaving the biff-bang-ouch humour to carry the extravagant effects. However at €78m, the most expensive French language film ever buys in some fancy cameos, with Michael Schumacher showing up in a shiny red chariot and Zinédine Zidane trussed up in a skirt and Egyptian eye-makeup.