Online lecture series about man and nature in antiquity

With a series of four online lectures about people and nature in antiquity, the Week of the Classics brings a number of renowned scientists from home and abroad into your home or office. Participating in this international online lecture series are: Dr. Maeve McHugh (University of Birmingham), Dr. Roel Konijnendijk (Oxford University), Dr. Carolyn Willekes (Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada) and Prof. Jason König (University of St Andrews , Scotland).

  • dates: Friday 5, Sunday 7, Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 April 2024
  • time: 20:00 – 21:00 (14 April: 15:00 – 16:00)
  • location: online broadcast
  • costs: free
  • main language of lectures: English

This online lecture series is held in the context of the Week of the Classics (4 to 14 April 2024).


Friday 5 April 2024

Lecture by Dr. Maeve McHugh (University of Birmingham) on agriculture in ancient Greece

Sunday 7 April 2024

Lecture by Dr. Roel Konijnendijk (Oxford University) about the use of nature and the environment in ancient battles

Saturday 13 April 2024

Lecture by Dr. Carolyn Willekes (Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada) on horses in the ancient world

Sunday 14 April 2024

Lecture by Prof. Jason König (University of St Andrews, Scotland) on the history of mountains in ancient times.

Everyone can follow this lecture series at home for free. You do not need to download or install any additional programs on your computer. After registering, you will receive a link with which you can follow the lecture via the browser on your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The broadcast will be online fifteen minutes before the start. The link will remain valid for two weeks, so you can look back.

Friday 5 April: Dr. Maeve McHugh

Aesop’s Fables as Agricultural Wisdom in Classical Greece (time 20:00)

In this lecture, you will be introduced to the central role of food production in the lives of Classical Greek communities, before looking at examples of how fables helped rural communities make sense of their world and the necessity of work to survive through sharing stories and anecdotes featuring anthropomorphic animals within dangerous natural environments. The lecture will conclude by illustrating how shared popular wisdom stresses the interconnectedness of the household and the agricultural landscape. It will ultimately show the importance of understanding how farmers made sense of their world through sharing stories encouraging hard work and detailing the dire consequences of laziness and greed.

Dr. Maeve McHugh is an Assistant Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on the archaeology and cultural history of Greek rural communities from the Archaic to Classical periods in the Greek mainland. She has been an active field archaeologist in Greece since 2014 and is the intensive survey co-director of the Bays of East Attica Regional Survey.

Sunday 7 April: Dr. Roel Konijnendijk

Geography and Greek Warfare (time 20:00)

The rugged terrain of the Mediterranean makes land warfare difficult. Mountains are everywhere, passes and plains are narrow, fresh water is hard to find. Steep, rocky ridges and island strongholds favour the defender. How did this harsh environment shape the way the Greeks fought their wars against each other? And how did this people of mountain and sea develop a reputation as fighters of great pitched battles in open ground?

Dr. Roel Konijnendijk is a Dutch historian who researches classical Greek warfare and military thinking. He is best known as the author of the book Classical Greek Tactics (2017).

Saturday 13 April: Dr. Carolyn Willekes

A Transformative Partnership: Humans and Horses in the Classical World (time 20:00)

It has been said that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a human, and there is a long-standing truth to this statement. Humans have been drawn to the horse for tens of thousands of years. The domestication of the horse and subsequent discovery that they could be used for riding and driving had far reaching implications for trade, travel, warfare, entertainment, and agriculture, connecting horses and humans together in a profound partnership. This presentation will explore the deep significance of the horse in the Classical world by exploring the many different ways they worked their way into the lives, stories, and art of the Greeks and Romans.

Dr. Carolyn Willekes is an Assistant Professor in the Department of General Education at Mount Royal University. She received her Ph.D. in Greek and Roman Studies from the University of Calgary in 2013. Her research focuses on the horse-human relationship in antiquity, and its influence on social and cultural identities. She has been involved with numerous public education programs on the history of the horse, and is past-President of the Equine History Collective.

Sunday 14 April: Prof. Jason König

The Folds of Olympus: Humans and Mountains in Ancient Greek and Roman Culture (time 20:00)

What role did mountains play in ancient Greek and Roman culture? How were they represented in ancient literature? The history of ancient Greek and Roman responses to mountains has been largely invisible both in classical scholarship, with its tendency to focus on urban contexts. This lecture aims to change that by bringing to life the central role of mountains in ancient religious, economic, civic and military culture, and in a wide range of different genres of ancient literature – from the epic poems of archaic Greece to the early Christian saints’ lives and pilgrimage literature of late antiquity, from Mount Olympus to Mount Sinai. It also addresses a series of broader questions about how looking at human-environment relations in antiquity can give us new resources for our responses to the environmental crises of the present.

Prof Jason König is Professor of Classics at the University of St Andrews. His work has focused especially on the Greek literature and culture of the Roman empire, and more recently on ancient representations of landscape and human-environment relations. He was Principal Investigator on a project funded by the Leverhulme Trust on Mountains in ancient literature and culture and their postclassical reception (2017-2023).

Monument Leuctra lezingenserie

The victory monument of the Thebans in Leuctra (see lecture Sunday 7 April | photo: Wikipedia)