Rediscovering Antiquity

The main purpose of ‘Applied Classics’ as we define it is to put our learning about classical antiquity to good use in the modern world. One secondary impact of many Applied Classics projects, however, is that they can get people looking at antiquity with new eyes. As we ‘deploy’ ancient material in new ways, we get to know that material differently, and this can lead to us questioning lots of long-held assumptions about e.g. Athenian democracy, ancient ideas of gender, how Roman propaganda worked, what ancient ‘expertise’ consisted of, or how poverty was experienced in different ancient societies. Applied Classics involves a two-way dialogue between ancient and modern, and both Classicists and the wider public can benefit from having our long-held ideas of antiquity stretched and disrupted.

Some of our ‘Applied Classics’ projects have relished this simply as a happy by-product of their work; others have identified ‘rediscovering antiquity’ or ‘rethinking Classics’ as one of their core aims. The Climate and Classics project, for example, saw an opportunity to change how young people who have not had any prior exposure to Classics think about the subject, while deploying ancient case studies to teach about deforestation. One of our Migration projects actively exploits the public’s curiosity about Classics to draw them in and then revolutionise how we understand ancient mobility as well as modern migration. The Hippolytus Initiative, meanwhile, directly addresses misinterpretations of ancient texts: as scholars like Donna Zuckerberg have shown, ‘correcting’ how some people have misunderstood or misappropriated ancient discourses of gender is central to addressing issues like toxic masculinity today.

In the posts below, you can explore some ‘Applied Classics’ work which either sets out to change prevailing assumptions about antiquity or reflects on the benefits of doing so, as part of broader efforts to foster productive dialogue between ancient and modern.