Dead Letter Office? Making Sense of Greek Letter Collections

A.D. Morrison

On 6 February I gave my inaugural lecture as Professor of Greek at Manchester. I used the opportunity to think about ancient letter collections (esp. those in Greek!) and what they can tell us about the changes in the discipline of Classics, as well as why they deserve more critical attention than they have sometimes had from classicists. After all, the letter collections of Greco-Roman antiquity dwarf in total size all of ancient drama or epic combined.

Part of the reason for the lack of sustained interest in Greek letter collections, at least, is that (Greek-focused) Classics long concentrated on classical Athens, that is the literature, culture and history of the fifth and fourth centuries BC (alongside important antecedents, of course, such as Homer). Many of the Greek collections which have survived from antiquity have come down to us under the names of famous figures from classical Athens, such as Themistocles, Socrates, Plato, Euripides, Aristotle, Demosthenes and so forth and while these letters were considered authentic, there was considerable interest in them, as a means for accessing the ‘private lives’ of the authors concerned (particularly seductive in the case of figures such as Socrates, who left no writings, or Plato, whose philosophical dialogues are emphatically not in the form of treatises, despite the best efforts of some of his modern interpreters). Hence we find an Aldine edition of the Greek epistolographers published at Venice in 1499, good evidence that the letters were of considerable interest in the Renaissance.

Once, however, scholars began to doubt that the letters were authentic and to suspect that they were instead the work of later writers characterised by Richard Bentley (whose Dissertation upon the Epistles of Phalaris &c. of 1697 is key in casting doubt on the authenticity of many Greek letter collections) as ‘puny sophists’ and ‘little pedants’, interest in them began to wane, with a few notable exceptions (including the Epistles of Plato), which were defended as (perhaps) authentic, at least in part. Now, of course, classicists are much more interested in periods outside the classical age of Athens, such as the Hellenistic period or Second Sophistic, in which the bulk of the Greek collections purporting to be by famous classical figures must have been produced. We’re no longer as inclined as Bentley to see such writers as ‘puny sophists’ in comparison with the giants they impersonate. This has led to much greater interest in the letters themselves as important literary products of those periods (as well as important documents of the reception of classical Athens).

Nevertheless, there remain some obstacles to full appreciation of some of these epistolary collections. One of the most important (and one which the AHRC Ancient Letter Collections Project is attempting to address) is lack of knowledge of (or misapprehensions about) the orders and arrangements of these collections. Several collections, such as those of Alciphron and Philostratus, are sometimes characterised as preserved in the manuscripts in a chaotic situation which makes the study of the collection as a coherent entity impossible. But as we’ve explored in this blog before (Aelian and Philostratus: contrasting manuscript traditions of two Greek fictional letter collections), such disorder can be exaggerated and there is good reason to think that we can establish at least some key aspects of the orders and arrangements of many letter collections, such that we can regard these collections as meaningful entities. The order of the letters in Kayser’s Family 2 of the manuscripts of Philostratus, for instance, is much more likely to be authoritative (it is tempting to say authorial!)

The letters in Family 2 are carefully arranged so as to produce an alternation in addressees between male and female, while also forming clear thematic sequences and juxtapositions, such as the long run of letters involving roses at the beginning, but also pairs of letters on similar themes, such as natural beauty, the poverty of a lover, long letters on being a foreign lover and so on. It is unlikely, I suggest, to be the creation of a later editor who has been lucky enough to stumble upon these patterns and fashioned the collection with this shape: it is much more probable that the letters were all composed with this particular arrangement in mind. But the intricate nature of this arrangement is entirely obscured in Kayser’s edition because he chooses instead to follow the arrangement in Family 1.

It’s clear that editors can make the wrong choice in selecting which order to present in their critical editions of texts such as the letters of Philostratus. In some cases, of course, editors impose an order which they find in no manuscript. But editors can’t really be blamed for this – one needs, in the final analysis, to present the letters in some order, and editors select the order they think is closest to the ancestor of the manuscripts and/or is the most convenient for modern readers. It’s important, however, to note that these editorial choices are necessarily distorting and affect the ways in which readers read and interpret the letters. It’s also clear that presenting the variation in order and arrangement that one often finds in the manuscripts of letter collections is a real challenge and one might say a blind spot for many critical editions. Discussion of different orders tends to take place only in prefaces to critical editions, if at all, and even if an editor is careful to provide an indication of the alternative position of a given letter by giving a number in brackets, that can’t really give the reader a sense of the overall effect of a differing order or arrangement. Nevertheless, the difficulty of representing these basic features of manuscripts in critical editions reminds us of the distance between the critical editions we use today to read not just letters but all ancient Greek and Latin texts and the manuscripts in which they were read by earlier generations of readers (and by extension the differences between our OCTs and Teubners and the ways in which ancient readers read these texts). Critics (not only classicists) have become increasingly interested in the paratextual material which accompanies texts – covers, titles, marginalia, blurbs, footnotes, etc. and the effect these have on interpretation. We need also to factor in the character of our critical editions and what they miss. For many ancient letter collections (and other Greek and Latin texts) one thing which is missed is the order and arrangements in which the letters were read by generations of readers.

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The Single Life in the Roman and Later Roman World

Christian Laes

 

“What a great topic” – “I had never ever thought about it” – “There should be a book about this” –

“Let’s discuss this further, later on”. Such were almost invariably the reactions of colleagues when, during a break at a conference or in more informal meetings, I brought up my interest for the theme of single people (sometimes called ‘singletons’) and the single life in the ancient world.

So, what do you when you feel you have a good and innovative idea?

First, try to define it properly, and to find out which research questions you would really like to address. For singleness, this is not that easy. In the terminology of present-day languages the terms used to denote ‘a single person’ point to at least three different aspects: the legal fact of not being married or not being in an exclusive relationship with another person; living alone and the possible economic or emotional consequences of this loneliness; a happy-go-lucky lifestyle mostly associated with youth. It seemed like a good start to look for these aspects in the world of Antiquity, and to see how and whether such conditions were connoted under the heading of a terminology that is somewhat similar to our singleness.

Second, try to bring together as many colleagues as possible who are passionate about the new topic and – in this case – knowledgeable about family history. You obviously need a nice place to get together, to deliver presentations and to exchange thoughts and ideas. Finding such a spot was not that difficult: the Academia Belgica in Rome was the best venue we could dream of.

Third, one needs the inevitable money and funding. The History Department of the University of Antwerp generously provided funding, as did the Roman Society Research Centre (Universities of Ghent and Brussels). Above all, I was fortunate that Sabine Huebner, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Basel, shared the same interests. Without generous Swiss funding, the conference could not have taken place. At the same time, we were kindly supported by the Istituto Svizzero di Roma, the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae and the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome.

The conference was held from 28 to 30 May 2015, and it stuck in the in the minds of its participants as a most interesting event, full of engaging exchange and scholarly discussions. But after this, (academic) life goes on. Getting ready a volume out of the conference meant several years of hard work, patience, readers’ reports, revisions, proofreading. But, it was very much worth the effort. Readers will be treated by a first set of chapters that take fully into account the demographic, archaeological and socioeconomic conditions of singleness. Then follows a section on the Roman world: Augustan marriage legislation, Cicero, poets as Virgil and Catullus, or the image of procuresses in Augustan literature. Judaism is an integral part of the Roman Empire, hence contributions on Nazarite vows and celibacy, as well as the famous and intriguing question on Jesus being single. In late antique Christianity, singleness became an ideal as is witnessed in the chapters of the following section. Here, we encounter literary case studies on writers as Libanius and St. Augustine; the gendered aspect with an inquiry of virgins and their heavenly family; an exploration of early Byzantine literature – but also a minute epigraphical analysis of the inscriptions from Rome, and a papyrological chapter on widows and divorcées in the Coptic record. The volume ends with some highly needed comparative voices: celibacy and sexual abstinence in Early Islam, not being married in fifteenth and sixteenth century Flemish towns, and singleness in the Libri Animarum of nineteenth century Italy.

The last phase of proofreading was partly spent at my new workplace in the University of Manchester. And Fortuna has it that the book will appear almost at the same moment of the introduction of a brand new course on Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds at the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology. I can only hope that the volume will testify of the strong and vibrant research culture of our department. After all, in the words of late Beryl Rawson (1933-2010), who stood at the front of Roman Family studies: “Classics might be called the originally ‘multidisciplinary’ subject (…) New disciplines have evolved, and Classics has embraced some of those – Sociology, Anthropology, and, more recently, Demography (…) It is important, however, that we make the effort to engage with new developments. If we do not, there are two-way consequences: our own studies are deprived of possibly helpful and stimulating new insights, and other fields do not get input from us which would enhance their understanding and would help Classics be an integral part of the modern intellectual world”.

https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/single-life-in-the-roman-and-later-roman-world/26AB6B2D7F591CBA373B5E3EB4461C94

Empedocles in Dublin

The_Death_of_Empedocles_by_Salvator_Rosa

Salvator Rosa, ‘The Death of Empedocles’, c. 1665 – 1670, Oil on canvas, 135 x 99 cm, Private collection (Helen Langdon, Salvator Rosa – Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2010, p. 213). According to Helen Langdon, the real theme of the work is ‘man’s desire to lose himself in the immensity and violence of natural forces’. [ Public domain image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Empedocles#/media/File:The_Death_of_Empedocles_by_Salvator_Rosa.jpg ]

Jenny Bryan

 

At the end of October 2018, I followed in to the footsteps of two of my colleagues, Alison Sharrock and Peter Liddel, in travelling to Trinity College Dublin to give the 2018 W. B. Stanford Memorial Lectures. The Stanford Lectures were established in honour of Professor William Bedel Stanford who was Regius Professor of Greek at Trinity College between 1940 and 1980 and it was a privilege to be invited. I used this as an opportunity to try out, across three lectures, some of the material I have been working on for my ongoing project on the early Greek philosopher Empedocles. Empedocles has long been one of my favourite philosophers and I am particularly interested in the relationship between the form and content of his philosophical teachings. Like his predecessors, Xenophanes and Parmenides, Empedocles’ philosophy is presented in hexameter verse of which only parts survive, almost exclusively as quotations in later authors. The primary focus of my project is on the role and nature of knowledge, wisdom and perception in Empedocles’ poem. This topic demands a consideration not only of what he has to say about how perception works or what kind of knowledge we can achieve, but also of the kind of knowledge and authority Empedocles himself claims in communicating his teachings in verse.

My first lecture sought to get to grips with the implications of the various labels we use to discuss both Empedocles and other early Greek philosophers and their teachings: ‘poet’, ‘philosopher’, ‘poet-philosopher’, ‘science’, ‘philosophy’, ‘religion’ etc. My worry is that, in applying such terms, we are categorizing Empedocles’ thought in ways that are not always justifiable on the basis of the evidence. Such labels encourage us to construct and impose illegitimate distinctions in our discussions of the evidence. However, it is also fair to say that it is almost impossible to talk about early Greek thinkers without using such labels and distinctions. So what are we to do? My suggestion is that we can make a useful start from Empedocles’ claims of authority. He makes various such claims in different ways which touch on and combine many of the aspects of his thought to which we are likely to apply labels. In asserting the value and truth of his teachings, he sometimes appeals to the Muse, sometimes to empirical evidence and sometimes even to his own divinity. We need to think about the implications of these claims and their relationship to one another. In doing so, we may find a more robust and inclusive context in which to consider his teachings as a whole.

My second lecture focused on fragment B23, in which Empedocles appears to liken the creation of the world to the creation of painted images. Just as painters mix a limited number of pigments to produce a whole range of images, so the cosmic ‘forces’ of Love and Strife mix together four physical principles (earth, aether, fire and water) to produce everything in the cosmos. Scholars generally focus on what this fragment implies about the physical process of creation, asking whether it means that Love and Strife cooperate and what sort of mixture or blending of physical principles the analogy might imply. For me, what is interesting is that Empedocles uses an everyday example of creation to explain cosmic processes. In this way, he is pointing to our experience to ratify his teachings. In the final lines of the fragment, however, he insists on the authority of his teaching on the basis that he is divine (‘know these things clearly, having heard the story from a god’). The question here is what sense we can make of the relation between an appeal to the authority of experience (which seems to ask to be judged on its own terms) and an appeal to divine authority (which seems to be independent of the evidence)

My final lecture discussed B129, a fragment that describes ‘a man of exceptional knowledge’, someone who has achieved a great ‘wealth’ of knowledge. Scholars have often followed ancient commentators in assuming this fragment to be about Pythagoras, particularly because of what appears to be a reference to remembering past lives in the final lines. In fact, however, the fragment does not name Pythagoras, nor does it actually state that the wise man is wise as a result of remembering the experience of past lives. I am particularly interested in the possibility and implications of reading this fragment as suggesting that access to the experience of multiple lives is a consequence of wisdom, rather than its cause.

I am immensely grateful to the staff and students of TCD for their enormously kind invitation to give the Stanford lectures, for their hospitality and, especially, for the stimulating and helpful discussions they offered for each of my lectures. I have plenty of work to do in developing these lectures further and expanding my discussion, but it was a privilege to be able to take some first steps with the help of such a receptive audience.

Letters of a Roman Emperor

A.D. Morrison, Antonia Sarri

One of the most interesting Greek letter collections surviving from antiquity is that of the Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus (331–63 C.E.), usually known as ‘Julian the Apostate’, because of his conversion to paganism, despite being brought up a Christian. In fact, however, ‘collection’ is somewhat misleading, since the manuscripts transmit smaller collections of Julian’s letters, often (partly) overlapping, in various combinations. The largest ms collection is transmitted by Laurentianus pl. 58.16 (15th c.), which contains 43 letters, but the total number of letters preserved across the different collections is 85.

Standardly this larger number of letters is collected into a single group and read as one collection (though this does not reflect the way in which the letters are preserved in the mss). The number of letters so collected has grown over time, as more ms groups were discovered: the editio princeps (the Aldine, 1499) included only 48 aggregated letters, Hercher’s (1873) edition 78 letters, Hertlein’s (1875) edition 79 letters, Wright’s (1923) edition 85 letters. The extraordinary number of 207 letters in Bidez-Cumont’s edition (1922) is formed by including letters extracted from other sources, such as Byzantine historians and the Suda.

If one turns to the ms groups of letters one can see that there remains a lot of work to be done to untangle the ordering principles visible in those groups, which are obscured in modern editions, since these generally aggregate the distinct ms collections and re-order them chronologically (as in Bidez-Cumont and Wright, for instance). The two main ms groups are those headed by Vossianus 77 (12th c.) and Ambrosianus B 4 sup. (10th c.), respectively. There seems to be clear evidence of thematic arrangement in these groups: in Vossianus 77, the first group of letters (26, 7, 50, 6, 9, 23; we employ the numbering of Hertlein 1875, since it is closest to the orders in the mss) concern the administration of Egypt, while there is another group of letters (14-19), in which literary or philosophical themes are prominent and which praise the rhetorical ability of the addressee.

In the case of Ambrosianus B 4 sup. we seem to be dealing with a selection of letters representative of his life and beliefs. The two first letters (75, 3) are pairs of letters, 75 to Basil with the latter’s reply and 3 to Libanius’ with the latter’s reply. The next letter (14) is also to Libanius, referring to a speech that Libanius has sent to Julian and may have been been placed there on purpose, since in the previous letter (3) Julian asked Libanius to send him a discourse. In 64 and 13 Julian’s pagan religious beliefs are displayed. Letters 65, 178 and 157 seem to be extracts from historians or excerpts from longer Julian’s letters brought together.

Tell Nabasha: The City of the Snake Goddess

Nicky Nielsen

In 2014 during work in the North-eastern Nile Delta, I and two colleagues had the opportunity to visit the site of Tell Nabasha. Tell Nabasha (also known as Tell Fara’un) consists of a series of tells (hillocks of decomposed mudbrick from ancient settlements) surrounded by modern occupation. The site was initially explored in 1886 by the British archaeologist Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) and since 1906 by successive rescue excavations conducted by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. In ancient times, the site was known as Imet, a regional capital and the cult centre of the snake goddess Wadjet who was worshipped in association with the fertility god Min and the Young Horus (or Harpocrates in later times).

When we arrived at the site we saw evidence of looting as well as damage to the archaeological area by modern construction activity. This led to a decision to organise a survey of the site with three overarching aims: (a) to create the first topographic map of the archaeological area, (b) to conduct limited excavations to gauge the depth and type of archaeological deposits with a view to determining the most efficient non-invasive surveying techniques to use at the site in future and (c) document the looting of archaeological materials from the site.

The Wainwright Fund kindly agreed to sponsor the first season of work which began in late 2015. After putting down an initial sondage in an area of the eastern tell with scatters of Late Period and Ptolemaic pottery, we uncovered mudbrick walls less than 0.1m under the surface. We expanded the sondage to a grid square and over the next weeks uncovered a series of walls and hearths dating to end of the Late Period (664-332 BCE).

During the excavation we recorded more than 300 small finds and thousands of pottery sherds. Among the small finds was faience in the form of vessel-fragments and amulets, but also two dozen fragmentary and whole ceramic figurines and a sculptor’s model showing the face of the god Harpocrates in profile.

After the end of the excavation we established a cooperation with Dr Hannah Pethen of the British Museum to conduct a remote-sensing survey of the site using a multi-spectral bundle of satellite images. The survey not only revealed extensive mudbrick architecture on the eastern tell but also the possible remains of a large temenos wall and a limestone pylon on the western edge of the site.

Work on material from Tell Nabasha, both the material found during our season and the older material recovered by Petrie and kept in the British Museum, continues. We hope to return to Tell Nabasha soon where our primary goal will be to ground-truth the results of the satellite survey to gain a broader understanding of this fascinating ancient site.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1: A satellite view of the archaeological site of Tell Nabasha and the nearby town of el-Hosayneya.

Fig. 3

Fig. 3: View from the eastern edge of the site looking due west.

Fig. 4

Fig. 4: Top plan of Trench 1 at the end of the 2015 excavation season.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5: A Late Period cooking pot found in situ standing in a bed of charcoal.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6: Three faience amulets found during the 2015 excavations season, two wadjet eyes and an amulet depicting the ibis-headed god Thoth.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2: A topographic map of the eastern tell area showing the location of the excavated grid square.

Fig. 7

Fig. 7: A sculptor’s model showing the god Harpocrates in profile.

 

Aelian and Philostratus: contrasting manuscript traditions of two Greek fictional letter collections

by A.D. Morrison and Antonia Sarri

There is a striking difference in the degree of order one finds in two Greek fictional letter collections which are often read alongside one another, the letters of Aelian and Philostratus. The order of the letters of Aelian is stable, but the mss of Philostratus present two competing orders. As we shall see, the order in which the letters of the latter are read most commonly today turns out to be an order with a problematic claim to authoritativeness. The critical consequences are far from negligible.

Aelian’s twenty letters are transmitted in the mss under the title ἐκ τῶν Αἰλιανοῦ ἀγροικικῶν ἐπιστολῶν and have traditionally been ascribed to the Roman sophist Claudius Aelianus, which would put them in the late second or early third century A.D. (Philostratus refers to Aelian in his Lives of the Sophists 624–5). The order of the letters is 1–20 in all three of the earliest mss that preserve the letters of Aelian, which is the order (naturally enough) adopted in printed editions. (The mss relevant are Ambrosianus B 4 sup. (= Martini-Bassi 1906, no 81), Matritensis 4693, and Vallicelianus gr. 182 (=92 All.).

This stability in the mss and printed editions contrasts sharply with the situation for the letters of Philostratus. The critical consensus is that the author of these letters is Philostratus II ‘of Athens’, born in the latter part of the second century A.D., that is the same author as the author of the Lives of the Sophists and the Life of Apollonius of Tyana. There are a total of 73 letters: no MS preserves all of these. Most are erotic in character, and have anonymous addressees, but not all. The order in which the letters are usually read today reflects one of the main manuscript families identified by Kayser in his 1844 edition of the works of Philostratus (and also reflected in his 1870 Teubner). His ‘Family 1’ contains 58 letters, ordered (for the most part) in the sequence in which we usually read the letters today, though not all of the manuscripts preserve all 58 of these letters.  Kayser’s ‘Family 2’, on the other hand, preserves 53 letters (1-39, 46-7, 50, 54-64) in a quite different order:  3, 54, 1, 2, 46, 20, 9, 55, 17, 63, 4, 21, 27, 22, 5, 47, 6, 7, 23, 8, 28, 11, 50, 10, 12, 56, 29, 24, 25, 57, 26, 30, 13, 31, 58, 59, 15, 60, 33, 32, 16, 61, 34, 62, 14, 35, 36, 37, 18, 38, 19, 39, 64.

Of the forty-seven letters  shared between these two families (all of which are erotic in content, and all to unnamed addressees), twenty are found in abbreviated form in Family 1 (7-8, 10, 12-13, 15, 18-19, 21-22, 25-9, 33-4, 36, 38-9). Letters 65-72 are found in independent manuscript f (Laurentianus 59.30) and 73 in M (Matritensis 4693) and Parisinus 2775. These letters are different in content from the erotic letters, since they are written to named addressees and concern a variety of topics.

Why did Kayser prefer the order of Family 1? It appears that he thought the abbreviated versions of the shared letters as the work of a mature Philostratus revising his earlier work (Kayser 1844: i). But in fact (as Raïos has pointed out),  there is in fact no evidence to support this hypothesis of two Philostratean editions of the letters, and good reasons for thinking that the shorter versions must be alterations of the longer. Letter 19, for example, clearly shows not only abbreviation, but also a change of addressee (from male to female) and some alteration of pronouns, with the omission of material which identified the addressee as male, to produce the shorter version. There remains much work to be done (not least on the letters not preserved in Family 2, esp. the non-erotic letters 65-73), but we can provisionally conclude that for the letters of Family 2, the order preserved in those manuscripts is likely to be more authoritative, and that we should read the letters in that order, not in the order used by Kayser and most editions since. Happily, the order of Family 2 is the one used by Kai Brodersen in his recent (2017) text and translation of the letters of Philostratus (Erotische Briefe / Erotikai Epistolai, Wiesbaden).

From Philoctetes to Justinian and beyond: CAHA students at Velika

by Maria Kopsacheili

In August 2018, three undergraduate CAHA students had the fascinating opportunity to participate – fully-funded by SALC- in the excavation project of Kastro Velikas in the northeast part of Thessaly in Greece. Kastro Velikas is a fortified site on a low hill on the north-east slopes of Mount Kissavos and just at 500 m from the sea-side. In Late Antiquity, it saw its heyday in the time of Justinian, as an affluent commercial and military post. The site, however, is one of the strongest candidates as the location of the city of Melivoia – a key station in the defence system of Thessaly in the Classical and Hellenistic periods located on the coastal path that linked Thessaly with Macedon to the north.

1

Kastro Velikas. View to the East from the area of the Building by the Southern Gate.

In the summer of 2017 the Larisa Ephorate of Antiquities (EFALAR, http://larisa.culture.gr/ ) and the Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford (https://www.classics.ox.ac.uk/ ) commenced a collaboration led by Drs Stavroula Sdrolia and Maria Stamatopoulou. A year later, the team grew with the participation of three students from Manchester under my supervision. The project draws on the results of the previous research done at the site by the EFALAR and the University of Thessaly, which had revealed buildings of military and commercial character as well as a basilica of the 6th c. CE. Amongst the finds were abundant pottery sherds of the Classical period, the visible remains of a pre-Justinian phase of the fortification wall, and a dedicatory inscription to Zeus Akraios (Zeus “Of the Peaks”) indicating the existence of an important earlier settlement at the site. The current project aims at examining the extent and nature of the earlier city and ultimately at contributing to the understanding of the historical topography of the region and Melivoia’s location. Melivoia is mentioned in the Iliad (B717) as a city in the kingdom of the Homeric hero Philoctetes.

We have so far revealed earlier phases of Byzantine structures adjacent or very close to the wall that had been previously located- such as the ‘Building by the Southern Gate’. We also identified concentrations of Classical black-glazed pottery in the backfills created for the construction of the Byzantine buildings. Such have been found in all the trenches we opened. New pottery findings have reinforced the theory that the site had particularly strong trading links with the Black Sea in the proto-Byzantine period and that it survived well into the 7th and 8th centuries CE. At the same time, large concentrations of metal objects point to the use of specific rooms as units for storage of military gear and perhaps as workshops.

2

Manchester students Jessica Charlesworth and Elena Marian at work in one of the excavation trenches

The students from Manchester worked in small groups alongside experienced postgraduates and familiarised themselves with a broad range of skills that are essential in archaeological fieldwork, such as topographical survey, excavation, photography in the field, plans and section drawing, processing and recording artefacts.[1] They also had the opportunity to learn about the material culture of the Justinian period and northeast Thessaly – topics which are not mainstream in the taught syllabi of most UK institutions – and by doing so to place their own knowledge into a broader context. This became possible not only by working on site, but also through a series of museum tours and visits to other sites of the region organised by the EFALAR and the Municipality of Agia.[2] This field season closed with a public lecture attended by local stakeholders, where we presented both the new findings and the value of the project for student-training.

3

Post-excavation work: sorting and recording pottery (PGR, PGT and UG students from Oxford and Manchester)

The Late Antique and Byzantine deposits at the site are several metres deep and there is no doubt that we are only at the beginning of our efforts to expose the Classical city. Work is expected to resume in the summer of 2019 and the prospect of applying non-intrusive archaeological methods alongside excavation is being examined.

4

Members of the excavation team, Kastro Velikas 2018

[1] The CAHA students were Jessica Charlesworth (Level 1, Ancient History), Isabel Turnbull (Level 2, Ancient History), Elena Marian (Level 2, Archaeology & Anthropology) —as in 2017/8.

[2] Our department is immensely grateful to the two institutions  — the EFALAR and the University of Oxford —which were willing to add our team from Manchester to the project. In addition, the Municipality of Agia http://www.dimosagias.gr/  provided free-of-charge accommodation for staff and students, storage rooms for the finds as well as support staff who took care of subsistence and we are deeply grateful for their support.