Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Season’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings Panoply followers! We’re looking forward to getting properly stuck into our 2015 projects. Expect new animations in January, February, and in the summer. To keep track of what's happening, you can sign-up to the email list on this page and/or check out our brand new Facebook page: www.facebook.com/panoplyvaseanimation

Looking back at 2014, we’re pleased with the outcomes of the Every Soldier has a Story project. Over 12,000 people in 112 countries have seen Hoplites! Greeks at War already; making the Every Soldier photo-film was a lot of fun and we love all the other artwork that people made to go with it – check it out at the bottom of the project page if you haven’t seen it. A session-plan with activity sheet and PowerPoint slides is still on that page too if you fancy leading your own ancient warfare activities.

We’d like to give a big shout-out to CNET for including Panoply in their recent tech review; their positivity and enthusiasm for the animations was much appreciated. You can see the feature below (Panoply’s at 9.30 mins).

Wishing you a wonderful 2015!
Steve and Sonya x

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Museum Internships: An Interview with Gabrielle Turner

In this latest blog we're delighted to be talking with Gabrielle Turner, a 3rd year Classical Civilisation student at the University of Roehampton in West London. Gabrielle recently contributed to the Panoply project Every Soldier has a Story as part of her internship at the University of Reading’s Ure Museum. In this interview she discusses her internship, curating a temporary museum case, and studying Classical Civilisation.

1) Tell us about your internship – what did you do?
At my internship at the Ure Museum I helped out with their database by logging in artefacts, and helping out with the exhibit. The latter was a job that I carried on working on after my internship was finished.

2) You curated the Every Soldier has a Story case – what pieces did you choose and why?
I put in a lamp that depicts a ship because there is not much art in the ancient Greek world that portrays the navy. I found this interesting especially as they played such a significant role. The reason for this was because the navy was made out of the poorest citizens and the rich would not want the lower class shown on their vases.

Another vase that I put in depicts a scene of young men performing athletics. I thought this one would be interesting to go in because it will show the visitors how important citizen soldiers were to the state. They had to be trained from such a young age; this vase will give visitors an idea of the intensity of their training.

An athlete holds up a strigil, Attic skyphos-cup, c.425-400BCE, Ure Museum 39.8.1

I also chose a vase depicting hoplites in full armour, looking as if they are heading to war. I chose this one because it highlights how glorified war can be.

Hoplites on the march, Boeotian aryballos, c.600-575BCE, Ure Museum 11.10.6

3) What are you studying at Roehampton for your Classical Civilisation degree?
My current modules this term are Latin and Demosthenes and the Rhetoric of Power. I am also writing my dissertation on the character Tydeus in the ‘Thebaid.’ I have found this great to work on as I have been able to be more independent in my study and chose a subject that I have a lot of interest in.

4) How did you arrange the internship, and would you recommend the experience?
I first sent an email to the Ure Museum telling them about my interests and future career prospects and asking if I could do an internship there. I got my lecturer to double-check my email. I also attached my CV to the email. The process was amazing, it felt great to have the responsibility that I was given. I enjoyed every moment of it and I would definitely recommend this experience to fellow students.

5) Who’s your favourite ancient Greek?
This is tough! I would have to choose Diomedes, son of Tydeus. This is because I find that he is extremely underrated in the Iliad, even though he plays such a prominent role in it. I also like how wily Diomedes and Odysseus are; they work well together as a team.

Many thanks to Gabrielle for taking part in the project and for talking to us today.

The completed 'Every Soldier has a Story' case.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Teaching and Learning Ancient Religion

This week I led a session at Senate House, London, for the Teaching and Learning Ancient Religion Network (TLAR). TLAR’s aim ‘is to establish an international network interested in teaching and learning about ancient religions. This reflects a sense that there is something distinctive about this particular area, even within the broad field of classics.’ A mix of academics, doctoral candidates, and BA students joined the session.

I began by describing some of the material that’s available on the Panoply site and how that relates to the teaching and study of ancient Greek religion. Some of our animations, such as Hoplites! Greeks at War, contain religious elements (such as a hepatoscopy and the erection of a trophy) that have been incorporated into a vase scene that has no religious features. Others animate religious features that already exist in the original artwork, such as The Love of Honour, in which a man receives a wreath and recounts his sporting victories. I also discussed an animation featuring Nike and a sacrificial bull which Steve is busy making now – more on that soon!

Watching Hoplites!

Other animations act out myths, such as Heracles and Persephone and the Sirens, while others animate scenes featuring well-known mythical characters, such as Achilles and Ajax in Clash of the Dicers.

All of these animations make a great springboard into discussions of ancient myth and religion. These could be directly related to the content of the animation, by asking questions such as ‘What are the objects that the characters have in The Love of Honour?’ or ‘What is the trophy’s function in Hoplites!?’. Alternatively, they can be less directly related, with, for example, Clash of the Dicers acting as a gentle introduction to a discussion of Ajax, Achilles, or the Trojan War.

The animations can prompt a number of other sorts of activities. To some extent these are activities that can be done just with vases, but the accompaniment of the animations seems to make students (young and older) more enthusiastic about the process and can also help people to look at the vases with more attention and more creative freedom.

One great activity is virtual curating. Set your students the challenge of creating a case that expresses the theme of ancient religion. They don’t need real vases, let them loose to pick artefacts from books and online catalogues. Ask them to write text for their cabinet and get them to pick (or plan) an animation to include in their display. This is a fun activity, but it’s also challenging and it encourages students to imagine themselves in a leading role using their knowledge to help others.

Another activity is review-writing. Ask you students to pick an animation to review and analyse, paying particular attention to the representation of gods, heroes, or religious activities. Alternatively, ask them to write scripts for the animations, working in groups or on their own. As the Panoply website has so much information about ancient topics, it’s also a safe place for teachers and lecturers to leave students to explore and research. Set them a question or a topic and let them spend time on the website putting together their response. The Panoply website can also be used for the curating challenge as there are so many images and links to ancient literature.

One of our favourite activities at Panoply is storyboarding. Storyboarding based on vases encourages people to pay close attention to the details within a vase scene and it’s a fun yet thought-provoking way for people to bring together and draw on what they’ve learned. If you’ve been covering Greek religion with a class for a few weeks, let them process some of what they’ve learned by putting together a story for an animation through a storyboard. This will really help them to make connections. By working in groups they can weigh-up different possibilities. If lots of animations are planned from the same vase, this will also help to release students from the tyranny of ‘one interpretation’ when they see the different directions their class-mates have taken their animations in. There will be an interesting discussion when the groups share and compare their work.

Towards the end of the session we created some storyboards ourselves. It was great how everybody got on board; ideas and a happy buzz soon filled the room. You can see a few here:

Monday, 10 November 2014

Every Soldier has a Story – Live Event

Hoplites! Greeks at War has had its first public showing at a celebration of the Every Soldier has a Story project. We’re delighted that Hoplites! was well-received and glad that all the different ideas and artworks generated through the project are now being shared.

Joining us at the Ure Museum for the day were pupils from the East End Classics Centre, who are based at the BSix sixth-form college in London. The pupils, aged from 16-18, got stuck into a day of ancient-world activities. They toured the University of Reading’s Classics Department and Archaeology Department, finding out what undergraduate study in those subjects includes and enjoying handling sessions with ancient vases and real human remains. They joined Sonya in the museum for a session on ancient Greek warfare, and after watching the Hoplites! trailer and studying its vase, they planned their own storyboards.

The EE Classics Centre pupils then took to the essential task of putting-up the exhibition for the evening’s launch event in anticipation of the public’s arrival. The exhibition included images of vases featuring scenes of ancient warfare, images of armour, maps, photos from the Every Soldier photo-film, a display about the Thiasos Theatre Company, one on hoplites in art after antiquity, and plenty of storyboards and artwork relating to the Hoplites! vase including work by pupils at the UCL Academy, Kelmscott School, Kids Company, and the East End Classics Centre itself. (You can see much of this material on the Every Soldier project page)

One the evening event began, guests heard an introduction to the Every Soldier has a Story project – about the concept, vase, and participants. They then enjoyed a video of the Hoplites! storyboard, accompanied by live music from composer John White and musicians MJ Coldiron and Jasmine Blundell from the Thiasos Theatre Company. Singing bowls and percussive bells created a memorable atmosphere evoking ancient Greece and the tense anticipation and excitement of combat. The Every Soldier photo-film was played next, with Thiasos accompanying and picking out themes through their magical sound-scape.

Hoplites! Greeks at War then had its chance to meet the public and it looked amazing on a full cinema-size screen. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss it! Every Soldier. After the first viewing, Sonya picked out a few details to discuss, such as the decisions made about representing formation and fighting styles, how the extra troops were created, and the use of existing vase images to guide the representation of elements such as the liver-examination and the postures of the fallen soldiers. This was followed by a second viewing of the animation, which received a warm response from the diverse audience of ancient historians, archaeologists, teachers, music-lovers, animation-lovers, and ancient world enthusiasts.

At the reception that followed, the audience enjoyed food and drink as they looked through the exhibition, visited the Ure Museum, and watched other Panoply animations on a giant TV screen. University of Roehampton student, Gabrielle Turner was on-hand to tell people how she went about curating the Every Soldier has a Story display-case (more on that here soon), and Steve explained more about his work creating the Hoplites! animation

Huge thanks to everyone who came. Special thanks to Thiasos for a wonderful performance. And very grateful thanks to our reception sponsors, the Ure Museum, the Department of Classics at Reading, and Bloomsbury Publishing. It was a wonderful evening that did justice to all the creativity that has been inspired by this wonderful artefact. Now we’re looking forward to Hoplites! Greeks at War appearing in any homes and classrooms around the world where there’s interest in ancient Greece.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Hoplites! Greeks at War - Launched

We are delighted that Hoplites! Greeks at War has finally been seen by a live audience. A big-thank you to everyone who attended the launch - we're glad you enjoyed the animation and thanks for making it a special evening. Special thanks to Thiasos for a spectacular performance.

We hope you've enjoyed watching the animation at home too. Over the next few weeks we'll be adding more to the supporting material and posting more on here. Check back soon, or follow me on Twitter (@SonyaNevin) for the latest.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Every Soldier Photo-Film

We’re delighted that the Every Soldier has a Story photo-film is now up online on the project page. Have you seen it yet? We hope you like it. Thanks to everyone who took part!

People have been very imaginative; there are ambitious hoplites, peace-loving hoplites, musician, farmer, athlete and mercenary hoplites. For grammar-lovers, there all sorts of approaches to expressing hoplite-ness too.

A big shout-out to Lifo for running a piece about the project: http://www.lifo.gr/team/evrymata/50764 We were really pleased to have hoplites arriving from Greece.

The animation itself is coming along well. The main story has been completed and it’s time for little details to be finalised. The music promises to be really special; composer John White of the Thiasos Theatre Company is putting his musical genius to work creating tracks especially for Every Soldier has a Story.

In just over a month (17th Oct) it will be time for the project’s launch event – an evening of live music, animation, and fun. This is the first music and vase-animation have been combined together for a live event – don’t miss it! See the project page for details.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Every Soldier has a Story: Your new stories and WW1 stories

A huge thank-you to everyone who has taken Every Soldier has a Story photos. It’s fascinating to see the huge variety of ideas people have had about the private lives of hoplites. We’ve included a few below to give you a better sense of what people have been doing and what the final video will be like. You still have time to contribute if you haven’t already. Download the sheet from www.panoply.org.uk/everysoldier.html, send us your hoplite photos before the end of July, and we’ll gladly include you in the video and exhibition.

In 2014 it’s impossible to work on a project about soldiers without being conscious of the First World War centenary. The ancient world was a presence throughout WW1, as it shaped the way many people thought about warfare, duty, killing, and dying. These impressions also shaped the way that war poets expressed their experience of war, including Patrick Shaw-Stewart’s request, ‘Stand in the trench, Achilles,/ Flame-capped, and shout for me,’ and Wilfred Owen’s condemnation of ‘The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori (‘it is sweet and right to die for your country’, taken from Roman poet Horace’s Ode 3.2)

As a war on an industrial scale, the First World War was (and still is) often regarded as having had a dehumanising effect on its participants. So dire were the conditions and so large the scale of the conflict that the actions and value of the individual could be lost in the horror. As Wilfred Owen observed, this did not match the ancient idea of war as the place ‘where men win glory’ (Iliad, 4.225). Paths of Glory by painter CRW Nevinson depicts the dead not as glorious heroes, but as faceless ruins. The painting was immediately censored. Its implied criticism of the conflict was expected to damage public morale, yet it expressed a truth about the conflict and was purchased by the Imperial War Museum, who include it in their forthcoming exhibition: Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War.

War in the 6th century-BCE was not as dehumanising as the First World War. Campaigns were shorter, conflict was face-to-face, there were no explosives to contend with, and soldiers’ communities were perhaps better placed to support them psychologically. Nonetheless, it is still easy to over-simplify the lives of ancient soldiers. Important though it was to be a warrior, no one was ever just a warrior; each of them had their own families, their own interests, their own priorities, hopes, and concerns. Every Soldier has a Storyinvites you to explore this idea. Who’s your hoplite? What’s his story?

For more on these topics, see:
The Faceless Men, by Allan Little (BBC article on Nevinson's Paths of Glory)

Achilles in the Trenches by Charlotte Higgens (Guardian article on the Iliad and war poetry)

Stand in the Trench, Achilles by Elizabeth Vandiver (full-length work on classical civilisation in WW1)

The Psychology of the Athenian Hoplite by Jason Crowley (full-length work on the psychology of the hoplite in the 5th century BCE; this relates to an era after than that of the vase, but it’s still a very relevant and fascinating work).

Send your hoplites to us at the address on the project page or tweet them to us @SonyaNevin

Friday, 4 July 2014

Hoplites! Greeks at War: Work in Progress

It’s been a busy time for Panoply. In the last few weeks, Sonya gave a presentation at the University of Cambridge for Classics in Communities , giving some fantastic primary school teachers ideas for using vase animations in the classroom. A session at the UCL-Roehampton Schools’ Classics Fair at the UCL Academy saw teenagers making some inspired and inspiring storyboards based on the Every Soldier has a Story vase. Sonya’s also been teaching with vase animations as part of a classical mythology module at the University of Roehampton. The Heracles animation in particular is a great discussion piece and complements a trip to the British Museum where lots of similar scenes can be seen.

In other news, the Hoplites! Greeks at War animation is coming along nicely and looking amazing. In the early stages, Steve worked hard creating extra hoplite soldiers from the hoplites on the vase. We needed more troops, but wanted them to look similar to the existing soldiers in order to keep the original artwork as the focus. On the other hand, we didn’t want them to look identical to the soldiers on the vase, because Greeks in the 6th and 5th centuries didn’t wear uniforms – they supplied their own kit according to what they wanted and what they could afford. The solution was to copy the warriors on the vase, and then to tweak items of their clothing and kit. So the equipment is all similar, but here and there there are differences in colour, design, and combinations. The original vase painter helped in this regard by making all three fighters slightly different – so there were lots of slightly different pieces of kit to go round.

At the time of writing this, the hoplites have left home, gone off to war, and encountered the enemy. The first blows of battle are just beginning to be struck…

The animation will be completed and on show from October 17th. You can see some work-in-progress stills below, and check back for more news. If you haven’t yet sent us a hoplite, a shield design, or a storyboard, download an activity sheet today and your artwork could be included in the Every Soldier has a Story exhibition.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Scenes of Ancient Warfare: An Interview with Dr. Fernando Echeverría

Dr Echeverría is an expert on images of ancient Greek warfare. He is based at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. His publications include the well-received article ‘Hoplite and Phalanx in Archaic and Classical Greece: A Reassessment', which was published in Classical Philology volume 107.4 in 2012.
Dr Echeverría has generously agreed to talk to Panoply about ancient warfare, Greek vases, and scenes of a violent nature....

1. When do scenes of warriors start appearing on ancient Greek vases?
Painted scenes on vases are a rather old feature in Greek culture; they are already present at the very beginning of what we regard as the “historical” period of ancient Greece (ca. 750-150 BC). By the mid-eighth century BC, Greek painters started to add human figures and animals to their beautiful geometric decorations. The figures are a bit sketchy and stylized at first, but they become more and more sophisticated and detailed in the course of the following decades.

Warriors fighting on a late-geometric vase

Those first scenes represented different aspects of the life of early Greek communities, and since warriors were relevant figures in those communities we find men armed with shields, spears and swords taking part as witnesses in what seems like daily life activities, such as religious festivals or funerals. Naturally, they are also shown fighting at times, engaged in a sort of confusing melée in which it is even difficult to distinguish sides.

2. What sorts of warrior scenes seem to be popular on vases?
Greek painters practiced a wide range of topics taken from the military experience of their time. They did not represent all possible military activities though, but intentionally chose some specific episodes and apparently ignored some others, such as life in the camp or cavalry engagements. They seem to intend to depict warriors in a favourable light and thus preferred scenes that present more fashionable activities.

Fairly common warrior scenes are, for example, arming scenes, in which a group of men is shown putting on their arms and armour, or departure scenes, which represent the farewell of the warrior setting out for campaign and leaving his wife, parents and children. Warriors are also shown at times marching to combat together in a sort of column, their shields ready and their spears levelled, or carrying the bodies of their dead comrades after the fight. Combat scenes are, however, the most frequent and popular warrior scenes, commonly displaying small groups of fighters engaged in an exchange of deadly blows.

3. How do vase images of warriors help you in your research?
Painted scenes are an invaluable source of information to reconstruct ancient Greek warfare. Literary works written by Greek historians and playwrights naturally offer multiple details and fairly comprehensive accounts of certain military events, but they are mostly concentrated in the Classical and Hellenistic periods of Greek culture, from the fifth to the second centuries BC. Conversely, vase painting became particularly fashionable during the previous period, the so-called Archaic age (eighth to sixth centuries BC), and several thousand vases displaying warrior scenes have been found so far, containing a wealth of information that we cannot find in the meagre literary sources of the time. This means that for this long and very important period, the Archaic age, we do not have any literary descriptions of combat, and painted scenes are basically our main (and at times only) source.

The scenes, however, are not really like photographs from ancient Greece, so we cannot just take everything displayed in them at face value. They are more like comic-book vignettes, compositions of figures that represent the way the painter conceived his world and chose to depict it. That is why we first need to understand how those painters thought and worked in order to understand the scenes themselves. Once we get an idea of their style, their values, and their interests, we can then try to figure out what is going on in the scenes and start to collect information from them. The scenes will then inform us to some extent about historical Greek military practices, but also about what ancient Greeks themselves considered important and worthy of commemoration through pictures.

4. Is there any attempt on black figure vases to distinguish between different types of fighters?
Archaic Greek painters were really skilled artists, capable of extremely detailed depictions of objects and particularly keen on the anatomy of the human body. Through a set of conventional devices, such as specific pieces of equipment or dress, Greek painters managed to represent different types of fighters, and even to emphasize differences between them. The most common and frequent type of warrior is a sort of heavy-armed infantryman, equipped with a helmet, a cuirass (a breast-plate and back-plate), a round shield called “Argive” and sometimes greaves (leg protections). This infantryman carries a long spear, which is his main offensive weapon, and a sword in its scabbard.

Heavy infantrymen engaging on an archaic vase

There are also light-armed infantrymen, throwing javelins or stones, and wearing little or no protection at all, and archers, firing a small bow and carrying a quiver full of arrows. Archers are usually represented in “Persian” costume, wearing trousers and animal hides, because ancient Greeks identified the Persians as archers and light-armed warriors. Painted scenes also show different types of horsemen, sometimes wearing full armour and other times even naked and with no weapons. Finally there are chariots, small wheeled boxes pulled by two horses and driven by charioteers wearing a tunic and a special type of shield (the so-called “Boeotian” shield) hanging at their backs.

Each kind of fighter seems to perform specific activities: heavy-armed infantrymen usually carry the weight of the fighting, always in a central position and engaging in individual combats with their peers; light-armed and archers accompany the infantrymen firing their shots from safe distance and seeking protection behind their comrades’ shields; horsemen and chariots run here and there, trying to trample the infantrymen and firing projectiles at the same time. Black-figure battlefields are really busy and crowded places.

5. Can scenes of mythical figures such as Achilles or Diomedes teach us anything about historical warfare and real people?
There is a long and heated debate among scholars on this respect, but I think that they definitely can. The main problem for historians is certainly narrative; apart from highly distinctive episodes from myth, we cannot reconstruct the internal story of most painted scenes or identify it with absolute certainty with legends known to us. We are unable to know for sure what story is being told, and as a result we are missing part of the message. In the case of the few scenes indisputably representing an episode from myth, fictitious events are displayed using fictitious figures, so the story is not likely to refer to any historical event known to us.

However, there is a brighter side. First, Greek painters consistently depicted legendary episodes in a physical setting inspired by their historical reality. It is a fairly established norm in universal art that episodes are depicted in contemporary wrappings, and Greek art is no exception. Unless proved otherwise, we can assume that objects, weapons, costumes, postures and actions were to a great extent historical, in the sense of being reminiscent of the painters’ and the audience’s own reality. Second, even legendary episodes can be based on “real” experiences, events or anecdotes, in the sense of being historically plausible, so even legendary narratives can potentially contain historical information. In this case, “fiction” cannot be taken to mean “unreal”, but would be better understood as an intentional distortion or exaggeration of reality. The deeds of the heroes can be assumed to represent overblown versions of the deeds of average people.

And third, the scenes were painted by artists living in a historical setting for an audience sharing the same culture and ideals, and as a result they represent a historical way of seeing the world. They may depict legendary episodes, but they do so according to a specific set of values, concerns, preconceptions and interests. The stories of Achilles and Diomedes eventually inform us about what the ancient Greeks thought appropriate for extremely strong, brave and skilled people. As you can see, there is so much we can learn from the painted scenes, we just need to know better where to look.

6. What ancient literature would you recommend for people interested in ancient Greek warfare?
The ancient Greeks were to a great extent a militaristic society, that is, they had norms and values taken from the military field, and for them warfare was a crucial activity. For this reason, Greek intellectuals (poets, historians, playwrights, philosophers) cared a lot about war and talked about it constantly. As a result, almost every piece of literature that they produced is somehow connected to warfare and contains interesting information. There are, however, two especially important works in Greek literature, that represent also the culmination of their respective genres.

One of them is Homer’s Iliad, an old and rather long epic poem that describes the events in the Greek camp during the mythical siege of Troy. The central topic is Achilles’ wrath over an insult to his status, which leads him to withdraw from battle in anger for a few days. Since he is the best warrior in the Greek army, his comrades suffer at the hands of the Trojans, until the death in combat of his beloved friend Patroclus brings him back to the fray. The Iliad is full of military actions described in a beautiful and poetic way, and all the diverse experiences of combat, from the glory of victory to the misery of hunger and treason, can be found in it. It is thought to illustrate Greek military concerns and practices from the early archaic period, around ca. 700 BC.

The other is Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, written by the end of the fifth century BC by this Athenian intellectual and general. It narrates the complex events of this long war fought between Sparta and Athens, at the head of their respective allies, for almost thirty years (431-404 BC), although the work is unfinished and it only covers the period to the year 411. Thucydides was a contemporary and witness of the war, and his style is rigorous and trustworthy, written in a fluent and objective prose that catches the reader’s attention. He obviously devotes great effort to describing the military events themselves, and his work offers several of the finest and most detailed accounts of battles and campaigns in the history of classical literature. Thucydides also takes great pains to inform us about the human side of the war: injustice, violence and cruelty, the sufferings of the population, and the complex emotional sphere (fear, anger, pride) in which all military actions take place.

7. Who’s your favourite ancient Greek warrior?
Well, the list is rather long, there are many legendary and historical figures that seem interesting for different reasons. Among the almost endless catalogue of warriors starring in Homer’s Iliad, I would single out the astonishing Pylaemenes, killed in combat in book 5 of the poem and alive again much later in book 13 (no doubt because of a narrative confusion), and also the remarkable Asteropaios , who was ambidextrous, the only case in the whole history of Greek literature as far as I know. There is also Stentor, whose voice was, according to Homer, “as powerful as fifty voices of other men” ( 5.785-86). They are all peculiar in different ways, and help make the story more attractive to the audience. Their military skills, however, were far from outstanding.

Among the historical figures, the soldier-poet Archilochus, living in the second half of the seventh century BC, is particularly interesting, since he left dozens of fragments of poetry in which he described his thoughts and activities, and represented himself as a freethinker and a sort of devoted warrior who built his reputation and fortune on his spear.

This monument is thought to have been erected to Archilochus in the late 6th century.
Note the shield and cuirass hanging behind him

The philosopher Socrates also had also military experience during the Peloponnesian War. Socrates was fighting when he was in his forties, and according to some literary reports of his performance (such as Plato’s) he was a very brave fighter, capable of keeping a cool head in dangerous situations. I particularly like the bold and sophisticated command of the Athenian Demosthenes (nothing to do with the fourth-century orator of the same name). He was a general during the first half of the Peloponnesian War, an innovator and a remarkable and rather successful army leader who brought some of the few Athenian victories during the war. His dramatic death at the end of the disastrous Athenian expedition against Syracuse adds even more historical appeal to his outstanding military career and his thrilling life.

Many thanks to Dr Echeverría for a fascinating look into warrior iconography.
If you’d like to find out more about ancient warfare, visit the Combat page and the Every Soldier has a Story page

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Classical Association 2014 and Beyond the Phalanx

April is conference season for classical studies. Panoply joined in by giving presentations at two fantastic conferences, the Classical Association Annual Conference and Beyond the Phalanx.

This year’s CA was held at the University of Nottingham. I had a chance to pop into the archaeological museum on campus, and was rewarded by the sight of a fine set of Samian ware pottery that was excavated in the UK. You can visit the collection site here: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/museum/samian.php

I was speaking on a joint panel about eLearning in classical studies, organised by Dr Bartolo Natoli of the University of Texas.

Bartolo’s paper, ‘Grounding Classics Pedagogy in the Theory of eLearning’, urged us all to put pedagogy first to make sure that eLearning is used to its full potential. Simon Mahony of University College London presented ‘Open Educational Resources and their Place in Teaching and Research for Classics.’ He talked about the digital resources that are available for classics teaching; you can find out more by looking at what’s going on at the Centre for Digital Humanities: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dh/

Mair Lloyd and James Robson of the Open University discussed trends in eLearning and Ancient Languages in UK Universities. The Open University are long term advocates of eLearning; they have astonishing amounts of material available for the public as well as for their students. One of Panoply’s earliest animations, The Cheat, was made for an Open University eLearning module, The Ancient Olympics: Bridging Past and Present

My own paper, ‘Animating Ancient Vases', looked at the many different ways that Panoply’s vase animations can be used in teaching. This moved from using the animations as a basis for creative activities based on vases to using the animations as a springboard for discussions of classical topics. One thing I stressed was their adaptability, and the possibilities of using them for teaching at every level, from primary through to higher education, and community learning.

These are the slides from my talk (with a few annotations for clarity) here

This week I attended Beyond the Phalanx: Ways Forward in the Study of Ancient Greek Warfare. This conference was held at the Institute of Classical Studies in London, organised by Cezary Kucewicz and Roel Konijnendijk, doctoral candidates at University College London. The conference brought together the latest research in the varied field of ancient Greek warfare, looking at the ideology and practice of war, as well as its social and political implications on the wider Greek world. For me, highlights of the conference were a paper by Dr Fernando Echeverria of Madrid on recent trends and future directions in the study of the iconography of Greek warfare on Archaic vases, and Prof. Hans van Wees’ questioning of the uniqueness of Greek hoplites in a world where Lydians, Carians, Assyrians and Egyptians all knew a thing or two about heavy infantry. Expect some sparks to fly from forthcoming publications on that topic!

My own paper, ‘Animating Ancient Warfare’, looked at some of the decisions we’ve made in creating Hoplites! Greeks at War. I began with my inclusion of the Hoplites! vase in ‘Citizenship’ when I was designing that case as a volunteer during the refit of the Ure Museum in 2004. I included it there primarily so that warfare and fitness would be seen as part of a citizens’ duty. I moved on to talk about the vase itself and the way that it combines athletics and fighting. I described how that aspect of the vase influenced our decision to include a training scene in the animation. I talked about fighting style, and how we will have fighters using both overarm and underarm spear thrusts, just as the fighters on the vase use both. I also drew attention to the fighters’ swords. Although they are primarily spear-fighters, they all have swords, so swords will play at least some part in the Hoplites! battle.

You can see the slides from this talk here

A final word is a big Thank-You to the organisers of these conferences and panels for all their hard work and for asking us to take part. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Horses in Antiquity - An Interview with Dr. Thomas Donaghy.

Dr Donaghy is an expert on horses in antiquity. His new book, Horse Breeds and Breeding in the Greco-Persian World: 1st and 2nd Millennium BC came out this year. It has chapters on the origins of horse-riding, the development and use of chariots, and the evolution of horses and their many breeds. Dr Donaghy has kindly agreed to talk to Panoply about ancient horses, Greek vases, and riding without a saddle....

1. When did people in ancient Greece first begin domesticating horses?
After the last ice age, wild horses had been pushed almost into extinction throughout the world. With the exception of a few minor spots the last great habitat of the wild horse was the Eurasian steppe. It was here they were first domesticated around 3,000 – 4000 BC. Once they were domesticated, it wasn’t long before horses began to spread to the rest of the ancient world. Excavated remains indicate that horses had already reached Anatolia (roughly modern-day Turkey) by the 3rd Millennium BC and they were well established there early in the 2nd millennium BC. Horse burials dating to the 18th-19th century BC have been uncovered in Cappadocia in Turkey, while Hittite texts of the 18th century mention the use of chariots in war. Not long after this, the horse also reached Troy in western Asia Minor. Huge quantities of horse bones have been found in the later phases of Troy VI (1700 – 1250 BC).

Given the proximity of Greece it would seem probable that once the horse reached Troy it wouldn’t have been long before it arrived in mainland Greece. Pottery from the Greek mainland began to appear in Troy as early as circa 1600 BC and it’s been suggested that horses may have been one of the commodities imported into Greece in return. But it shouldn’t be assumed that this was the only route for the horse’s arrival into Greece. Around the same time horses also likely filtered into the peninsula from the north, via Macedon and Thrace, which opened onto the vast steppe lands north of the Danube. Indeed the myth of the centaur, which is so closely associated with Thessaly (in northern Greece) may well have been derived from garbled tales of the first sightings of horses and their riders.

2. Would many ancient Greeks have owned horses?
In general the Greek landscape is not ideal for breeding large numbers of horses. The terrain is largely mountainous, although the mountains are interspaced by small and fertile river valleys and plains. Horses could be successfully bred on a relatively large scale in only a small number of regions. These included Arcadia, Lakonia and Messenia, Elis, the Argolid, and Boeotia. The situation was different to the north (such as in Thessaly) where the land was more suited to cavalry use.

All this meant that the horse was a luxury item for most Greeks and one which was expensive to produce and maintain. As such, horse-breeding was mostly the preserve of rich aristocrats. Their wealth gave them the means to raise horses and the raising of horses gave them prestige and status. Even the wealthiest Greeks, however, wouldn’t have possessed vast numbers. Even a member of one of the rich aristocratic Athenian families, such as Cimon of the Philaid family, had to compete in three successive Olympic Games with the same team of four horses.

It would have been the sons of the richer families who formed the cavalry forces of the Greek city-states as it was only they who could afford the purchase and upkeep of a horse. Greek cavalrymen owned horses but usually no more than one. Indeed in the early 5th century BC, Athens introduced the state institution of katastasis (establishment money). This was a state loan received by a cavalry trooper upon his formal enrolment into service. The money was used to purchase a mount and it had to be repaid upon the trooper’s retirement.

3. Are horses common in ancient vase scenes? Yes they are very common. You find horses represented in all kinds of contexts throughout many different time periods. From as early as the 14th century BC they’re depicted pulling chariots on Mycenaean vases and from about 700BC scenes of the horse and rider become common. From the late 6th century BC the cavalry horse is shown in all its various roles of war – as scout and skirmisher, javelin and lance wielder, pursuing fleeing troops, and trampling fallen enemy infantry.

Alongside scenes of warfare we also see depictions of racehorses and chariot racehorses. Two-horse chariots had been raced since remote antiquity and appear on Mycenaean vases. The four-horse chariot race was introduced into the Olympic Games in 648BC and it was around that time that such scenes begin to appear on late Geometric vases.

Scenes of a mythological nature also heavily feature horses – the chariot horses of the Trojan War, the man-eating horses of King Diomedes of Thrace, and Pegasus, the famous winged mount of Theseus, to name but a few. Vases also depict scenes of the everyday regarding horses – grooms tending to their needs, horses grazing in the pastures, being fed in stables, scenes of breeding, and training, and young Greeks being taught how to ride by grizzled instructors.

4. You’re a specialist in horse breeds; is any attempt made on ancient vases to distinguish between different types of horse?
In general the majority of vases show only horses of the ‘Greek Horse’ breed, as most scenes as being depicted are focused on Greece and Greeks – heroes of Greek myth, Greek races, Greek warfare (even if the warfare is Greeks against non-Greeks the latter are rarely mounted) and everyday Greek life. On occasion you do see different breeds, which are made distinguishable by the painter, such as the slightly coarser and less elegantly proportioned Scythian horses.

There is a general consistency in the accuracy and realistic manner in which horses are depicted by Greek vase painters. From representations we can see that the typical Greek horse had fine, slender legs, a small and refined head, a shaggy mane, a small body, and a well set-on tail. It seems possible that this breed may have been the result of a cross between a ‘northern-type’ Scythian pony and a ‘finer’ breed perhaps deriving from Anatolia and the Near East.

5. How do vase images of horses help you in your research?
Imagery from vases is greatly important in researching the ancient horse for it provides an abundance of different and interesting information. The excellent rendering of a horse’s conformation and skilled depictions of hooves and muscles shows how great an understanding ancient Greeks had of the horse’s biology. Vase paintings can help us to trace the development of various uses of the horse and when such uses became more common. For example, the development and use of chariot horses and cavalry, the types of weapons and equipment used, tactics employed in battle, and so forth.

Scenes of training and grooming also provide information about the level of equestrian knowledge possessed by ancient Greeks. There is a lovely black-figure fragment (of unknown date) which shows a groom trying to prevent a horse drinking from a large wine bowl. Is this just a humorous scene or a nod that perhaps wine was occasionally fed to horses? Some racehorse trainers today like to feed stout to their horses as a post-race pick me up!
Even a fragment of an image can tell a tale or suggest something you may not have considered before.

6. Greek warfare is known for its heavy infantry – were horses important too?
Yes. Horses were a very important element in Greek warfare. It’s generally accepted that the chariot was an important aspect of warfare in the Near East during the 2nd millennium BC and more people are coming to accept that the situation was no different in Mycenaean Greece. While some scholars might still argue against this position due to the ruggedness of the Greek terrain, the evidence to the contrary speaks for itself. In classical times, large-scale battles generally took place in a limited number of locations due to their suitability for manoeuvres and I’ve no doubt that the situation was similar in earlier times. It’s plausible that certain locations were repeatedly utilized for chariot battle and that on occasion other areas were made suitable. The Mycenaeans also possessed extensive and impressive road networks which would have facilitated the movement of chariots to such sites. Numerous tablets uncovered at the Mycenaean palaces also indicate the presence of a vast bureaucracy involved in the production of chariots, the maintenance of a vast reserve of spare parts, and the production of arrows for the chariot archers. It appears that the palaces of Pylos and Knossos could each maintain hundreds of chariots. Such a vast undertaking wouldn’t make sense if these chariots weren’t seen to be a vital component in Mycenaean warfare.

Horses were also very important in later times as cavalry. Figurines of mounted warriors have been discovered dating from as early as the 14th century BC when they likely provided an important scouting role for Mycenaean armies. Riders on horseback become increasingly common on vase paintings from around 700 BC and by the late 6th century BC we see depictions of proper cavalry forces being used against infantry. Although no southern city-state ever developed an army orientated more towards cavalry than infantry this was more due to the unsuitability of Greece for breeding large numbers of horses than to any perceived doubt about the advantage of their use in war. The Greeks well knew how effective cavalry could be when used in surprise attacks against the rear and flanks of a hoplite force or in the pursuit and harassment of a routed army.

I should probably mention here the question of Greek saddles or the ‘lack of’ should I say? Some people seem determined to suggest that just because Greeks didn’t use saddles their cavalry forces couldn’t have been effective. I would guess the main reason this is brought up is that when people think of cavalry they generally revert to thinking of what we constantly see on film – the medieval knight, in heavy armour, fixed in a high backed saddle with a lance couched under his arm. This didn’t happen in Greek warfare. Greek cavalry were equipped with javelins and lances which were either thrown or used in a downward thrusting motion from overhead. With tactics of that sort, a saddle which constricted movement would have only lessened their effectiveness. The lack of a saddle would have actually benefitted a skilled rider as the extra close contact between the legs and the horse allows for a much more subtle control as any bareback rider today would happily attest.

7. What ancient literature would you recommend for people interested in horses?
I would say there are two essential texts which should be read by anyone interested in ancient horsemanship – The Kikkuli Text and Xenophon’s On Horsemanship.

The Kikkuli Text is the earliest proper horse training text to survive and it describes the training of horses for chariot warfare. It was discovered at Hattusa, the capital of the Hittite Empire. It’s been attributed to a writer called Kikkuli who came from the Mittannian Empire in what is modern-day Iran. A number of copies survive, the most complete being a Hittite version dating to the middle of the 14th century BC. The text details an extensive training regime which extends over ¬¬a period of roughly six or seven months and contains detailed instructions for the stabling, feeding, watering, and exercising of the horses involved. Kikkuli seems to have been a highly skilled horse trainer with very perceptive insight. When the Kikkuli training regime was put into practice in the early 1990’s (for endurance horses, eventers, racehorses, and standardbreds) it was found to be highly effective and extremely scientific.

Xenophon was one of the Ten Thousand Greeks who followed the Persian prince Cyrus in his revolt against his brother Artaxerxes. When Cyrus was killed at Cunaxa in 401BC, Xenophon was one of the generals chosen to lead the stranded Greeks back home. During this time spent in Persia he learnt a lot about Persian horsemanship (he both fought alongside and against Persian cavalry) and this influence can be seen in a number of places throughout his writings. The majority of the information on training methods which Xenophon provides is contained in his treatise On Horsemanship. The text also offers advice on purchasing, stabling, grooming, and handling horses. He wrote this treatise in order to “explain to our younger friends what we believe to be the correct method of dealing with horses”.

8. Who’s your favourite ancient horse?
I would have to say I have a fondness for Achilles’s horse Pedasus. It may not be a name many are familiar with but he was plucky chap! Achilles is said to have had two immortal horses pulling his chariot. These were Xanthus and Balius who were born to the Harpy Podarge and the West Wind. These immortals were beautiful and fleet of foot and always performed wondrous feats for their master. Yet in the side traces, alongside these immortal beasts, was Pedasus – a mortal horse which Achilles had taken from the city of Eetion in the Troad. When speaking of Pedasus Homer simply says “and he, being but mortal, kept pace” (Iliad 16.154).

Our thanks to Dr Donaghy for a fascinating interview. You can see horses in the Panoply animation The Cheat: http://www.panoply.org.uk/the-cheat.html#

Monday, 31 March 2014

Panoply at the UCL Classics Fair

Today we’re busy getting ready to host a stall at tomorrow’s Classics Fair, which will be hosted by University College London in partnership with the Iris Project. The fair looks to educate and entertain London-based secondary-school students in response to the inspiring resurgence of interest in classics and classical studies. Around thirty academics, postgraduate students, actors, curators, and alumni are contributing with talks, performances and creative activities. The fair is intended to convey the vibrancy and importance of the classics to a new generation of state school pupils who attend institutions where classics and classical civilisation are not taught as part of the ordinary curriculum. The event forms part of a larger, growing classical outreach movement across London and the UK.

At the Panoply stall we’ll be showing our animations to pupils and teachers. We’ll be encouraging teachers to try the animations out in the classroom and giving tips on how to include them. Pupils and teachers will also be getting involved in the Every Soldier has a Story project: creating characters, designing shield decorations, and being filmed and photographed with their hoplites. Should be fun!

A photographic update - here's the Panoply stall, with Amazon playing in the background. Our thanks to UCL and the Iris Project for inviting us along, and thanks to all the brilliant people who checked out the stall and played the Every Soldier hoplite game.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Every Soldier Has a Story

This week sees the launch of our latest project, Every Soldier has a Story. Every Soldier aims to add a dose of individuality and creativity to learning about the ancient Greeks, their warfare, and their pottery.
The animation for the project will be called Hoplites! Greeks at War. It will feature major episodes in a hoplite’s life, based on this vase that shows scenes of hoplites training:

(Eubean lekanis vase, Ure Museum, 56.8.8)

A short film will accompany the animation and everyone has a chance to be in it. Based on the idea that the hoplite in the animation represents an ‘every-soldier’, people are invited to imagine who their version of the hoplite is: who he lives with, what he likes to do, what he thinks of the war he’s fighting in – whatever you want. A collection of one-line responses will be brought together in the short film and will form part of an exhibition at the Ure Museum this autumn, celebrating the release of the Hoplites! animation.

To make your Every Soldier contribution, download the activity sheet from the Every Soldier page: http://www.panoply.org.uk/everysoldier.html. It’s fun and easy and takes as long as you like – from 5 minutes to 50. The project page has all the info you’ll need, along with further drawing and story-boarding activities.

We’ll be taking the Every Soldier activities to all sorts of groups and organisations over the next few months to get them involved and get them thinking. Contact us if you’re in the London area and would like to arrange a workshop. In the meantime, download the activity sheet and start creating your hoplite’s story.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Pottery, Animation, and Music

This week we’re pleased to say that we recently met with the lovely people at Thiasos about their involvement in the animation currently under development. Thiasos are ancient theatre specialists who emphasise music and performance. You can find out more about their work on their site: http://www.thiasos.co.uk/index.html

You may recall that music from Thiasos, written by composer Jamie Masters, featured on two previous Panoply animations: Pelops and Eros & Aphrodite. We hope that for the new animation, Thiasos music will form the soundtrack and that they will perform live at its launch in the Ure Museum this Autumn. More on that as it develops.

The animation itself is coming along well. The figures are being prepared (or in some cases re-prepared) so that they can be animated. That means, for example, creating sections of torso so that when the figures lift their arms, there is body behind rather than a blank space. The added sections are modelled on (and in most cases made from) the rest of the figure.

The animation has a name now: Hoplites! Greeks at War. Hoplites! exists within a wider project called Every Soldier Has a Story. Both are funded by the AHRC-funded Communicating Ancient Greece and Rome programme run by the Archive for Performances of Greek and Roman Drama. More soon on Every Soldier Has a Story and how you can get involved!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Hoplites in Space: The Style of Star Wars

Work on the current hoplite animation continues well, and all this staring at close-ups of hoplite helmets has prompted me to reflect on a) how stylish they are, and b) how stylish the hoplite style helmets in the Star Wars universe are.
You’ve probably noticed the influence yourself. Let’s have close-up look at it now. The influence of the classic Corinthian style hoplite helmet is most clearly seen in the helmet worn by legendary bounty-hunter Boba Fett:

The bounty-hunter’s helmet shares the hoplite helmet’s full-face design, with the distinctive horizontal eye-strip and narrow vertical gap between cheek pieces. This offers extensive protection, while the anonymity of the piece is also appropriately intimidating. The space helmet adds to this effect by including blacked-out sections where the hoplite helmet would have gaps – a difference no doubt influenced by the different atmospheres of space and planet.

Boba Fett inherited his kit from his bounty-hunter ‘father’, Jango Fett. While the two bounty-hunters made the armour famous, the Clone Wars animated series revealed that the distinctive panoply was actually a customised version of the typical traditional military wear worn on the planet Mandalore. We can see the helmets of Mandalorian soldiers here:

Unlike ancient Greeks, the Mandalorians include female soldiers in their ranks. This Mandalorian (right) demonstrates the female form of body armour. There’s a subtle difference in the helmet too – the female helmet includes a nose piece coming down vertically from between the eyes – a feature that makes it even closer to the hoplite helmet. Greeks often wore plumes on their helmets; senior Mandalorians have the option of attaching plumes too.
Female Mandalorian

In another difference from the Greek panoply, the Mandalorians sport armoured trouser legs rather than the re-enforced kilts of the hoplites. Consideration for the demands of space rather than the heat of Greece probably made the trouser leg style more appealing.

Like classical hoplites, Mandalorian soldiers have a sense of their own individuality despite working in groups. This makes them different from the specially bred clone troopers who were created to serve the Republic. As such, it’s appropriate that they look different. The helmets of the clone troopers also owe something to the hoplite helmet; the full face with eye holes style is there, but there is a mouth-shaped ventilation point that is very un-hoplite. Clone troopers wear trousers rather than kilts, but nonetheless, we sometimes see an over-kilt for ceremonial occasions – a welcome nod to hoplite style.
Late Republican Clone Trooper's Helmet

As Republic turns to Empire, the clone troopers are re-equipped. The new helmets are much more rounded – much less like hoplite kit. Dark times indeed. Darth Vadar had to look different from both Mandalorians and clones. His helmet is truly individual; with its wide flare curving out at the base, it owes more to Samurai style than Greek.

For a little something on the classical themes in Star Wars, have a look at Edith Hall’s blog post on the Return of the Jedi and Greek tragedy: http://edithorial.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/may-force-of-greek-storytelling-be-with.html

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Year, New Animation

Happy New Year!

2014 looks to be an interesting year for us at Panoply. Work has begun on the animation we’re making for the ‘Communicating Ancient Greece and Rome’ project (CAGR) run by the University of Oxford’s Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama: http://www.apgrd.ox.ac.uk/.

The animation is being made in collaboration with the Ure Museum, using their superb Euboean lekanis. The protagonist is one of the vase’s hoplites. As he’s originally shown with his helmet pulled down over his face, we’ve been experimenting with facial reconstruction for the few scenes that will show him helmet-free. The vase shows wisps of beard poking out from beneath the helmet, so we knew he had to be bearded. A beard from a contemporary vase acted as a template to build the new one – you can see the steps below. We hope you’ll agree that he looks very dashing!

This image of the vase shows strands of hair and beard poking out

Here he is sporting a beard from a different vase

And here with new beard and hair in place!
We'll keep you posted on his progress as the animation develops.