Hellenic Bookservice is moving up the road and holding a party

This is from our good friend Monica:


You are cordially invited to the launch of The Hellenic Bookservice’s new shop, 100 metres from our current address, on Thursday May 22nd 2008, between 5PM and 9PM. Christopher Somerville will be reading extracts from his book ‘The Golden Step: A Walk Through the Heart of Crete’ – various other authors will also be in attendance, and refreshments will be served. The new shop, which is approximately 25% larger than our current premises, will be located at 49-51 Fortess Road, London NW5 1AD, our e-mail, fax and phone numbers will remain as they are now.

We hope to see you there. If you can make it, please reply to info@hellenicbookservice.com





The Hellenic Bookservice. 91, Fortess Road, London, NW5 1AG, England, UK.

: +44 (0)20 7267 9499 Fax: +44 (0)20 7267 9498


Monica Williams
The Hellenic Bookservice
91, Fortess Road
England, UK
Tel: +44 (0)207 267 9499
Fax: +44 (0)207 267 9498

CICERO competition in Malvern

A slideshow from Malvern (notes on the pics follow)

  1. Introduction to competition and videoconferencing with other countries
  2. Boris Johnson inspires and enthuses competitors, telling them how important it is for all young people in Europe to gain a sense of their common Classical heritage by eg. learning to translate Virgil.
  3. The competition : in strict test conditions invigilated by a Principal Examiner for Classical Civilisation A level!
  4. Some visiting students show their enthusiasm for Classics by the logo on the back of their T shirts!
  5. This one is actually from the very beginning – being told about things like fire exits!
  6. Relaxation and refreshments in between tests (in a different room).
  7. Relaxation and refreshments in between tests (in a different room).
  8. Display of prizes – prizewinners won't be known until all scripts have been marked. (NB Although this is called a competition, in reality it is a fiendishly difficult examination : a translation from Latin and questions on mythology : students in the different countries all participating, with both national and international prizes).

CICERO competition – report on the Spanish section

The CICERO experience on April 18th was truly wonderful and even though there were some last-minute technical hitches – like the main video-conferencing program suddenly being blocked by the Education Authority's Firewall in some places! – there was a great feeling of European unity between the students in all our countries. Mutual messages of support and encouragement were relayed everywhere even though we might not have all seen it happening live.

Here are photos of the competition in Spain, where four students took part. We have received permission to use these images. The two teachers are Cristina and Milagros, and Delia was the student who was awarded the Spanish edition of a Falco novel which was very kindly supplied by the author Lindsey Davis. You can also see the special CICERO T-shirts which were awarded to the candidates.

From Anne Dicks

Roma – my airport novel

My two holiday books during my 8 days in Germany were Lark Rise to Candleford, 537 pages of sheer delight, and Roma by Steven Saylor, 663 pages of mixed fascination and irritation.

The fascination came, first, with discovering how skilfully Saylor selects moments in the thousand years BC that he chooses to cover, so as to give the reader a sense of what was important to people in the growing city state. Livy is Saylor's hero in historiography – the book is dedicated to his shade – though Saylor goes several steps further than Livy when he describes his own work work as a novel. Thus he absolves himself of the duty of being historically complete, even though he clearly strives to be historically accurate.

The second cause of fascination was to find out how a 21st century writer deals with legend and with religion. Hercules and Cacus get a whole chapter to themselves, and one of the two fictional families, whose fortunes are followed throughout the book, springs from one or other of the two – the Greek hero or the local bully. Clearly Saylor is making a point about the formative influences on the growing city. What is more, both characters are presented as real people, and I think on the whole just about believably. Romulus and Remus are local toughs, and their story is told in a way that brings it nearer to fact than myth. Some of the best loved Livy tales, of Horatius and Gaius Mucius for instance, are omitted, and others referred back to by later characters. Religion is given the all-pervading importance that it almost certainly had, and the tension between state religious ritual and private belief is well managed.

With such a vast canvas to fill, it is inevitable that some characters come alive where others remain cardboard. (Pardon the mixed metaphors!) Julius Caesar and the young Octavian are, at times, more than cardboard.

What irritated me? Strange how a tiny thing can itch. One word came far too often – atop – atop a horse, atop the Capitol. Perhaps it's a common American word, but I mentally substituted 'on', or occasionally 'on top of.' Much more serious is the dialogue. It is not believable. Here is Tiberius Gracchus on the day of his murder, addressing his supporters:

But if I should perceive an immediate threat, and require a ring of brave men around me, I may not be able to cry out to you.

Oh dear! Living speech might take a few more words, but what a difference it would have made. Or here is Plautus, in informal conversation 'amid the din of hammering' after the news of Cannae has reached Rome;

Like everyone else, in the light of the crisis, I had assumed that the plays would be cancelled.

You get the picture. I don't think Saylor tries out his dialogue, either aloud or even in his head. Both the examples I have quoted sound as though they come from a scripted chairman's address to a meeting of shareholders.

But if you can cope with that, and the filling in of large chunks of history by the device of getting a boy to recite his lessons, then do read the book. There is enough good content to make up for the style.

Roma, the epic novel of ancient Rome by Steven Saylor

Pub. Robinson, £7.99 paperback
ISBN 978-184529-566-0

The Romans at Stonehenge

Under the provocative title 'Is Stonehenge Roman?', Current Archaeology reports on a Time Team dig which really has found Roman stuff there. An interesting read.

In view of the review about truth posted earlier today on this blog, the following excerpt, which seems to put wishful thinking at the centre, should make us shudder:

So we now have two major research projects being undertaken in the Stonehenge area, both driven by very different research agenda. Tim Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright believe that the bluestones have healing powers, and they would like to see them arriving at Stonehenge as early as possible. Mike Parker-Pearson however, at Durrington, sees such sites being divided between areas of the living and areas of the dead. Stonehenge, he would like to believe, is an area of the dead, whereas Durrington is an area of the living where the workers lived who built Stonehenge. There are two very different sets of ideas: will they produce different sets of results? Watch out in the future; and if the results ‘prove’ that ‘Stonehenge was a place of healing’ , or ‘another Lourdes’, be just a teeny weeny little bit suspicious. . .

Liverpool University drive to 'get students more interested in ancient history of languages'

From LX News. Thanks to Rogue Classicism for the link.

Latin, Ancient Greek and other subjects with their focus mainly in the B.C are up for a fresh lot of scholars with the help of writers who have built their careers on the antiquated worlds.

This is down to a new scheme at the University of Liverpool, which is being initiated by top authors Robert Harris and Tom Holland in an attempt to get students more interested in ancient history of languages.

Author Robert Harris, who penned the historical novel Enigma as well as numerous other books based on the ancient city of Pompeii, will launch the ‘Classics 08’ programme alongside fellow writer Tom Holland whose works include Rubicon (based on the late Roman republic) and Persian Fire (about the Persian Wars).

Classics lecturer at the university Eugenie Fernandes puts the renewed interest in ancient cultures down to blockbusters such as Gladiator and Alexander the Great. “The study of Classics and in particular classical languages has attracted renewed interest in recent years” she said recently. “Both languages have shown to help students improve reading, comprehension, vocabulary and grammar. As part of the initiative we have set up a ‘Classics Club’, held on Saturdays for students over the age of 14, which is proving highly popular. We cover topics such as ancient art and drama, local architecture and archaeology and we also arrange trips to museums and theatres across the country.”

Does truth matter in the Classics?

Thanks to Rogue Classicism for reprinting a Wall Street Journal review of History Lesson
by Mary Lefkowitz.

We have read about persecution of academics for speaking or writing politically incorrect findings. We get the impression that this is less common in the UK than the USA, though student bodies here have managed to silence speakers whose views they reject. Shame on them.

In the Classics world the book Black Athena established itself as politically correct. Mary Lefkowitz showed that its successor was factually incorrect. She suffered for this.

Read the whole review if you can. This from its final paragraph gives food for thought for those who haven't the time for the whole (not too long) review:

Though much of academia is still lost in postmodern theory and relativism, Ms. Lefkowitz insists on what we might call a counternarrative: Teachers owe it to themselves and their students to get as close as possible to the truth. The academy has still not firmly answered the central question of “History Lesson”: What should the university do when a professor insists on teaching demonstrable untruths?