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Webchat with Mary Beard, Tuesday 9 October 12.30-1.30pm

(136 Posts)
PatrickMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 04-Oct-12 11:34:39

Hi everyone,

We are delighted to welcome the inimitable Mary Beard to Mumsnet for a live webchat on Tuesday 9 October between 12.30-1.30pm.

Mary Beard (who needs no introduction to many of you, we're sure!) is a Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the classics editor of the TLS. Her books include the acclaimed and best-selling Pompeii, The Roman Triumph, The Parthenon (in the Wonders of the World series of which she is general editor) and It’s A Don’s Life. She is the winner of the Wolfson Prize for History for Pompeii (Profile, 2008), writes a highly successful blog for The Times and recently presented a wonderful BBC TV series on the Romans.

Alongside fellow Classicist Emily Pillinger, Mary will be contributing to a lively 2-day Roman History course as part of the Mumsnet Academy, on 13-14 October at Faber and Faber, London. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet Mary while brushing up on the history of a society that, in many ways, shapes the way we live today. No previous knowledge of Roman History required. Sign up here.

Put 9 October in your diary or if you can't join us live, post a question to Mary in advance.

WingDefence Thu 04-Oct-12 14:51:47

Hello Mary!

You interviewed me at Newnham way back in 1994 and I was in awe of you then. I didn't make it to Cambridge in the end but I'm so glad you are still going strong in the field of Classics.

My question is:
Do you think that Classics is still a relevant degree for students to study at a time when more vocational subjects seem to be prefered because students are having to pay a lot for their courses and wish to be at their most employable once graduated?

I certainly hope so - when I studied Classics I remember seeing a statistic that showed that, apart from medicine and law, Classics graduates had the highest proportion of employability within a certain time. Not sure whether that has changed though...?

Hello Mary,

I loved your series The Romans, particularly the way you bought the stories to life using the tombstone inscriptions. My question is simply:

Do you have anymore TV programmes coming up?

Thank you.

QuaintIrene Fri 05-Oct-12 09:59:54

Hello –

I loved Latin at my (state) school and the knowledge that that period of study gave me has been useful on a daily basis. Do you have any vides on how Latin can be brought back into schools so that everyone gets a go? I've been thinking of offering a Latin club to older kids at my child's primary school – could you advise on decent and simple texts, please? (Oh, and keep up the good work!)

TheCunningStunt Fri 05-Oct-12 10:47:29

Hi Mary....
Firstly was that really you that came on a MN thread whilst your roman tv series was on???
And my actual question, when did your love for history start? What kicked it all off for you and made you realise it was a passion?

I know it's technically two questions.....well three..but two are intertwined and the first is just nosey slightly relevant.

KJH73 Fri 05-Oct-12 11:02:36

Hi Mary, as a highly successful female academic, what advice would you have for an early career academic (PhD 2008, lecturer for 4 years) on managing a research career alongside having children? I'm 6 months pregnant and already having to turn down so many funding opportunities, conferences etc. My universtity's maternity leave arrangements are excellent, but it's the longer term that worries me. Many thanks. (Incidentally I'm also a Classics graduate, although I now lecture in linguistics!)

TunipTheVegemal Fri 05-Oct-12 11:05:23

Welcome to Mumsnet again, Mary. Thank you for coming.

Quid est vestrum crustulum acceptissimum?

(not sure if I've got that right but I know you would want us to have a go!)

Nasturtiumsalad Fri 05-Oct-12 12:14:40

Salve Mary,

I'm a former student of yours and loved my time at Newnham- it shaped who I am and how I think. Thanks for all you did. smile However, ten(ish) years on, busy juggling work and a young family, I can't remember much of the actual Latin, Greek, history and philosophy I learnt then, let alone find time to argue out the questions that enthused us all then. blush

Any tips for me and others in a similar position on how to revive the interest (of the sort that can be fitted into commuting time and other small corners of the day)? Or should we just give up and wait until the kids are older? confused

Gratias tibi ago.

Firstly, thank you for the series on BBC - we loved it, learnt loads, & you are such an engaging presenter.

Any plans to do anything on the beeb for kids? We really wanted to show it to dcs, but it was just a bit tooooo sweary & rude grin.

Issy Fri 05-Oct-12 12:44:19

Salve Mary

I'd like to second Nasturtium Salad's question. I'm another Classics graduate (graduated from Oxford in '87!) who has fallen firmly off the wagon. I think I'd struggle now with the Cambridge Latin Course: Caecilius est where?!

Perhaps a week-long or weekend summer school for Lapsed Classicists. There's probably enough of us now in lucrative employment (yes you can get a good job after a Classics degree) that the course could make a profit.

:thinks wistfully about a child-free/work-free week reading Virgil:

TunipTheVegemal Fri 05-Oct-12 12:49:42

Issy I love the idea of a Lapsed Classicists course. I'd come! Maybe it could be held at Bryanston for maximum nostalgia.

Issy Fri 05-Oct-12 13:13:09

Turnip: Yes, Bryanston would be perfect. www.bryanston.co.uk

I'm sure we could find some faculty amongst current and retired classics teachers and lecturers plus super-stars like Mary.

After our summer school, perhaps some of us would be inspired to run after-school Latin clubs in schools where classics hasn't made it on to the curriculum.

MardyBra Fri 05-Oct-12 14:03:10

Hello Mary. Really enjoyed the Romans series and teenage Dd loved a recent repeat of your Pompeii programme. (As an aside, she is doing Latin at school and I can't believe Caecilius and Metella are still going strong).

My question is: What would you like to do to AA Gill if you could get your hands on him?

MardyBra Fri 05-Oct-12 14:06:48

Actually, maybe you would prefer not to sully your hands.

dottyaboutstripes Fri 05-Oct-12 14:12:13

I agree that a series for kids would be FAB! Your enthusiasm just shines out of the screen! And am chuckling at the mention of Caecilius and Metella (though don't forget Quintus, Cerberus et al smile)

I'd like to know if you've noticed more A Level students applying for Classics since your tv appearances?

MardyBra Fri 05-Oct-12 14:19:13

dotty They were even in a Dr Who episode about Pompeii! grin

SheelaNeGig Fri 05-Oct-12 16:46:53

Hi Mary.

My question - Is there room for history and/or classics in school curriculums now? Both my DDs have followed me and given up history aged 13. I have regretted it ever since and know nothing.

Also - was it really you who ce an posted on MN? (i started a thread under a previous name after your Pompeii series)

And gin, wine or beer?

thanks

EauRouge Fri 05-Oct-12 17:13:22

Mary Beard! How exciting!

Hi Mary, I loved Meet the Romans.

I have 2 daughters, the eldest is just about to turn four. What's your favourite UK historical site that's fun for children to visit?

I would also love a children's TV show and/or a book.

KarenHowdle Fri 05-Oct-12 17:17:45

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Hi Mary, we also enjoyed your Roman series and to echo EauRouge, a children's history book would be fab.

I wish my GCSE History teacher had had just an ounce of your enthusiasm and wit - she almost killed my love of history and previously being predicted for grade A/B I ended up with a D - it was that bad. Thankfully I have renewed my interest again! Any ideas on the best way to introduce history to my 4 year old son?

SheelaNeGig Fri 05-Oct-12 17:31:50

Eh?

MardyBra Fri 05-Oct-12 17:33:21

I think Karen is spamming Sheela. Have reported.

SirBoobAlot Fri 05-Oct-12 18:38:34

Hi Mary - will think of a vaguely intelligent question when I can, but wanted to mark my place more than anything else. You're such an inspiration!

I studied A level Classics and then Archaeology, and loved them both. I fell ill with a chronic health condition before I could complete either, or do anything with them, but still read my text books time and again.

Your series on the Romans was utterly superb, do so hope there will be another!

Hi Mary - I'm coming to your course in a few weeks. Studied Latin at Uni and can't wait!!

My question for you is which Roman historical figure is your favourite and why?

MaryMotherOfCheeses Fri 05-Oct-12 22:15:09

Hi Mary!

Loved your recent series on Roman people. I went to Rome two weeks after watching it (was soooo excited in the Forum when I found the board game in the stone, because I could just "see" the two Romans sat on either side.) Husband and son were of the "it's just a pile of old stones" mentality because they hadn't watched the programmes in advance, much as I had recommended them.

What interpretation do you think sites like that should have? Have they got it right or is it just too difficult to engage sweaty tourists who are thinking about where their next pizza slice is coming from? (I did eat a lot of pizza....blush )

portiathecat Fri 05-Oct-12 23:16:49

Another Classics grad here (Durham) - still SO passionate about Latin, Ancient Greek, the literature, philosphy, art, etc. I'm a management consultant (nearly a worse reputation than bankers or estate agents...!), but I use the skills I learnt on my degree course daily. I also appreciate the foundation that Latin has given me for other European languages.
My question for Mary is: how do we best communicate the benefits of a classical education to 'the powers that be'? I don't think the issue is with young people - they will study (and want to study) what they percieve as interesting. Aged 11 I was introduced to the Greek alphabet, which I found fascinating. Luckily the head of my school was a Cambridge Classics grad, so I was encouraged and supported. How do we encourage that interest in young people?

FairPhyllis Sat 06-Oct-12 04:51:13

Hi Mary

I'm a classicist (but from the Other Place) and current doctoral student. I am pretty certain I am going to leave academia after I submit because I am so utterly depressed at the state of the job market and the prospect of spending my career jumping through arbitrary hoops from various bodies and having to let considerations of gaming the never-ending REF cycle determine the kind of research I do.

Of course I knew it was like this before I started post-grad work, but I do think it has got worse even since I started.

My question is: if you were a doctoral student now (or even an undergraduate), would HE be sufficiently attractive enough for you stay in it?

And as a related follow-up, do you think that the REF/RAE system has had damaging effects on research in HE? In the sense of the constraints it imposes on the type of research you can do (particularly as a early-career researcher) and the kind of academic it produces?

<volunteers services for a lapsed classicists course because it sounds FUN>

Hi Mary, just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your series on the Romans.
My question - what's your favourite Roman site?

freerangelady Sat 06-Oct-12 18:31:58

Hi Mary,

Egyptologist by nature and training here but your Romans series reinvigorated my A - Level interest. Just wanted to declare myself another fan really and how interesting I found your series. Oh, and your book on Pompeii dictated my honeymoon - I went on about the book so much DH took me there!

My question is to add to the others already asked really; are we going to see more of you on TV or any new books in the pipeline?

SirBoobAlot Sat 06-Oct-12 20:42:27

< waves to freerangelady from behind a pile of Egyptology books >

freerangelady Sun 07-Oct-12 09:42:23

<waves back to SirBoob after raising head from new Paul Sussman book delivered yesterday...but head quickly back down as it's so good>

Issy Mon 08-Oct-12 16:10:09

I know I've already had a question, but can I ask another one?!

If so, and at the risk of an incitement to libel, would you care to match modern world "celebrities" (politicians, entertainers, world leaders etc.) to their Roman equivalents? Who are the 20th/21st century Augustus, Virgil, Caligula, Catullus, Livia Drusilla, Pliny or Messalina?

ScaryBOOAlot Mon 08-Oct-12 16:45:45

Oooh Freerange are his books good? Have heard of them but never read any.

TunipTheVegemal Mon 08-Oct-12 17:12:53

If we're asking second questions then....

Have you seen Horrible Histories and if so what do you think of their Greek/Roman sketches?

(Issy - what a libel trial that would be!)

ninjasquirrel Mon 08-Oct-12 18:11:34

Hi Mary

If you had to choose one lesson from classical history for today's politicians, what would it be?

whataboutbob Mon 08-Oct-12 18:24:19

Hello Mary,

Any advice to help my extremely bright 4 year old eventually get into Oxbridge- but preferably NOT classics I'd like him to get a job after he graduates. Thanks

freerangelady Mon 08-Oct-12 19:22:16

Scary - I've just finished the Labyrinth of Osiris and it's a great modern detective story written by a chap who knows his modern Eygpt and describes it well but also knows his Egyptology (he'd excavated there.) I'm partway through his first book now and it's very good - he very sadly recently died rather young so there's only 3 or 4 books I think.

I love it as a great romping read.

ScaryBOOAlot Mon 08-Oct-12 19:35:22

Talking of fiction...

Mary: Do you like historical fiction? I find some of it wonderfully enjoyable, and some woefully lacking in research.

LineRunner Mon 08-Oct-12 19:57:15

Hi Mary

Does feminism matter in the study of Roman history and Roman archaeology?

Thanks.

Pantah630 Mon 08-Oct-12 21:08:07

Hi Mary, my interest in Roman History began with Colleen McCulloughs Masters of Rome series, I loved your book on Pompeii and your TV series was fascinating, for both me, DH and DS2. My boys bought me a place on the course this weekend and I'm busy scanning books from the reading list now. DS2 is learning Latin, I'm trying to get him to teach me too so we can decipher those tombs when we finally make it to Rome.

My question is: How accurate are the historical fictions from McCullough and Lindsey Davis? I'd love for them to be mostly there.

blondieminx Mon 08-Oct-12 21:35:56

Hello Mary, welcome to MN! I loved your series. When are you next back on screen?

My mum read classics at Durham and she still teaches Latin and Greek part-time, we both think you're such a fabulous presenter smile - are you planning to do any more MN courses at a not-beginner level at all?

champagnesupernova Mon 08-Oct-12 22:03:36

Hello Mary

Thanks for coming on MN

Just echoing this question: "Do you think that Classics is still a relevant degree for students to study?"

I did Classics and I do appreciate the help that Latin gave me with learning romance languages.

BUT when I graduated 13 years ago - I very much felt that I wasn't really prepared for anything, especially up against folk with more vocational degrees

I very much flailed around in my early career - employers didn't really know what I was capable of or really what value my degree had.

Luckily I found my feet, and now work for a phenomenal company and do work which fits around my family.

While I want my 2 DSes to study the classics I don't think I would be inclined to push them any further than GCSE (or whatever they replace it with).
Am I wrong?

LineRunner Mon 08-Oct-12 22:20:28

Mary

Is it really possible to study, say, Cicero (or Catullus!) without being able to understand Latin? Some translations are incredibly editing and censorious. I would feel sad if one preferred translation were to be fossilised because no-one knew the language anymore outside of the Vatican.*

Talking of which - Jo-Ann Shelton As the Romans Did, Yes or No??

*Gove disclaimer: not a fan at all.

EvilTwins Mon 08-Oct-12 23:11:37

Hi Mary.

I was at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday and enjoyed the debate you took part in. I wish it had been longer! I didn't get to ask my question though so would be interested in your views. I graduated from a good university (Warwick) and went straight into state school teaching. I am now Head of 6th Form in a rural Gloucestershire school. I have aspirations for my students, and, according to Lord Adonis on Sunday, am the right sort of person for the job. However, my school has not sent a single student to Oxbridge for a number of years. The issue isn't that I don't have aspirations for my students, it's the culture of "not for the likes of us" which comes from home. What do you think can be done to break down these barriers? Thanks. ET.

JumpJockey Tue 09-Oct-12 09:42:26

Hello Mary, I see you around a lot as I work in one of the Cambridge institutions you frequent <cloak of mystery> grin

I think we're so lucky in Cambridge to have female academics like you and Athene Donald as figureheads for young female students, and schoolchildren, to admire and want to emulate. And of course boys, but girls in particular. How do you think we can encourage more children to consider academia as a career, valuable in its own right, at a time when the government seems to be destroying much of our capacity for our ongoing international academic success by removing so much funding (especially for non-STEM subjects) and, as FairPhyllis says, putting so much emphasis on the 'products' of research rather than the process of learning itself?

LineRunner Tue 09-Oct-12 10:09:57

I am looking forward to this.

horsebiscuit Tue 09-Oct-12 10:28:30

Hello Mary, thank you for coming to MN.
Like others on this webchat, I would like to foster a curiousity about and love of history in my children. Can you remember your childhood and what it was which particularly turned you on to history, and specifically the period which you have chosen? Was it something you were drawn to at an early age, or later?
I'm going to be starting by taking DD1 to the British Museum exhibition about Pompeii and Herculaneum next year- so excited!!

SheelaNeGig Tue 09-Oct-12 11:45:39

Have to go to bloody work but wanted to wave and say hello before I go.

<<wave, wave, hello!>>

bestemor Tue 09-Oct-12 12:16:58

Salve Mary
I loved the series, although I didn't manage to see all of it - (and to think this used to be thought of as a dry-as-dust subject!)

But I'm always intrigued by the glimpses we get of the different peoples the Romans had to contend with, and I'd love to find out more, for example, how were the Britons related to the Gauls? Were the Picts a Celtic group or something different? and what ever became of them? and so on.

So I wondered if you could recommend a book that would shed some light on all this, wwithout being too turgid!

Gratias ago.

Hello! I am very excited about this.

I would like to know: was there informal, domestic teaching of reading at any point during the periods you study? I'm really interested in how, in medieval times, it's women who teach children to read, at home. But the records are bad, so we know more details about formal education.

I find lots of books on Roman and Greek formal education (usually of boys), but were mothers teaching their daughters (or sons), too?

PatrickMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 09-Oct-12 12:28:08

Hello everyone,

We are thrilled to welcome the inimitable Mary Beard for an hour of live conversation. Mary, welcome!

WingDefence Tue 09-Oct-12 12:28:51

Hi Mary!grin
biscuit

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:30:06

WingDefence

Hello Mary!

You interviewed me at Newnham way back in 1994 and I was in awe of you then. I didn't make it to Cambridge in the end but I'm so glad you are still going strong in the field of Classics.

My question is:
Do you think that Classics is still a relevant degree for students to study at a time when more vocational subjects seem to be prefered because students are having to pay a lot for their courses and wish to be at their most employable once graduated?

I certainly hope so - when I studied Classics I remember seeing a statistic that showed that, apart from medicine and law, Classics graduates had the highest proportion of employability within a certain time. Not sure whether that has changed though...?

Hi nice to hear from you again (hope the course you did was good.. great that there are syill loads of good departments!). On the question... I do worry that fees will put of students who THINK that Classics is not vocational. It isnt in a strict sense of course, but employability is still very hgh. I think I am right that it has the best arts and humanities recird of within 6 months employment at my uni.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:32:17

LRDtheFeministDragon

Hello! I am very excited about this.

I would like to know: was there informal, domestic teaching of reading at any point during the periods you study? I'm really interested in how, in medieval times, it's women who teach children to read, at home. But the records are bad, so we know more details about formal education.

I find lots of books on Roman and Greek formal education (usually of boys), but were mothers teaching their daughters (or sons), too?

That's a really good one. We think that there must have been a lot of domestic teaching. Some people have argued fow very low literacy rates in the Roman world, because there were so few formal schools.. but we mustnt forget that you can learn to read at Mum or Dad's knee. And more women than we often imagine could read in ancient Rome. There are some great pics in Pompeii for example of women reading.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:35:15

bestemor

Salve Mary
I loved the series, although I didn't manage to see all of it - (and to think this used to be thought of as a dry-as-dust subject!)

But I'm always intrigued by the glimpses we get of the different peoples the Romans had to contend with, and I'd love to find out more, for example, how were the Britons related to the Gauls? Were the Picts a Celtic group or something different? and what ever became of them? and so on.

So I wondered if you could recommend a book that would shed some light on all this, wwithout being too turgid!

Gratias ago.

The whole issue of the other populations of the Roman empire is a really fascinating one -- including the relationships between the different 'tribal' groups. There have been all kinds of fierce arguments about what the ethnicity of the early Brit's was... were they from the continent...

Most things I have read are (whoops) a bit turgid.. but I have something in the back of my mind. Send me an email (it's on the Cambridge Classics website) and I will dig it out.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:35:43

SheelaNeGig

Have to go to bloody work but wanted to wave and say hello before I go.

<<wave, wave, hello!>>

Wave wave back!

Thanks! I shall look out the pictures.

So (if you have time for follow up questions later) ... how do you think it would affect how people read, and what they thought about reading, if they learned at home, as compared to schools?

I'm thinking as well about the way we're often encouraged to see 'the Classics' as such male-dominated texts, because they've often been taught to boys rather than girls. I'd love to know if little Roman girls were reading Latin poems just like their brothers, or if there was perhaps more literature that doesn't survive, because it was 'read to death' or - being female-oriented - not respected so well and so not kept so carefully?

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:37:03

horsebiscuit

Hello Mary, thank you for coming to MN.
Like others on this webchat, I would like to foster a curiousity about and love of history in my children. Can you remember your childhood and what it was which particularly turned you on to history, and specifically the period which you have chosen? Was it something you were drawn to at an early age, or later?
I'm going to be starting by taking DD1 to the British Museum exhibition about Pompeii and Herculaneum next year- so excited!!

It was going t see the "Elgin Marbles" at the BM when I was 5 that did it for me.. I had never imagined that people such a long time ago could be so brilliant at making things (I'd almost imagined people in the past were less clever than us)

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:38:53

JumpJockey

Hello Mary, I see you around a lot as I work in one of the Cambridge institutions you frequent <cloak of mystery> grin

I think we're so lucky in Cambridge to have female academics like you and Athene Donald as figureheads for young female students, and schoolchildren, to admire and want to emulate. And of course boys, but girls in particular. How do you think we can encourage more children to consider academia as a career, valuable in its own right, at a time when the government seems to be destroying much of our capacity for our ongoing international academic success by removing so much funding (especially for non-STEM subjects) and, as FairPhyllis says, putting so much emphasis on the 'products' of research rather than the process of learning itself?

I think that probably more of us should get out there and show that academics aren't just absent minded professor types.. but we also have to stand up to the governemnt and argue again and again that education isnt just about products. It's about LEARNING TO LEARN

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:41:19

EvilTwins

Hi Mary.

I was at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday and enjoyed the debate you took part in. I wish it had been longer! I didn't get to ask my question though so would be interested in your views. I graduated from a good university (Warwick) and went straight into state school teaching. I am now Head of 6th Form in a rural Gloucestershire school. I have aspirations for my students, and, according to Lord Adonis on Sunday, am the right sort of person for the job. However, my school has not sent a single student to Oxbridge for a number of years. The issue isn't that I don't have aspirations for my students, it's the culture of "not for the likes of us" which comes from home. What do you think can be done to break down these barriers? Thanks. ET.

I think that we just have to go on trying to get the message out there and not give up. Part of the problem is that we want to see very quick results... but we're talking of overcoming generations of ingrained attitudes on all side.

Why not bring some of your students over here.. sometime a tailor made day makes a real difference.

As I said on Sunday, we've made huge strides in gender (among undergraduates at least)... things can change.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:42:51

LineRunner

Mary

Is it really possible to study, say, Cicero (or Catullus!) without being able to understand Latin? Some translations are incredibly editing and censorious. I would feel sad if one preferred translation were to be fossilised because no-one knew the language anymore outside of the Vatican.*

Talking of which - Jo-Ann Shelton As the Romans Did, Yes or No??

*Gove disclaimer: not a fan at all.

I thnk that you can get huge amounts out of translations.... I think you get more out of the original, but it is stupid to say that to read in Latin is the only way of enjoying the classical world (Shakespeare read in translation after all!)
Shelton.. quite good I think

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:46:22

champagnesupernova

Hello Mary

Thanks for coming on MN

Just echoing this question: "Do you think that Classics is still a relevant degree for students to study?"

I did Classics and I do appreciate the help that Latin gave me with learning romance languages.

BUT when I graduated 13 years ago - I very much felt that I wasn't really prepared for anything, especially up against folk with more vocational degrees

I very much flailed around in my early career - employers didn't really know what I was capable of or really what value my degree had.

Luckily I found my feet, and now work for a phenomenal company and do work which fits around my family.

While I want my 2 DSes to study the classics I don't think I would be inclined to push them any further than GCSE (or whatever they replace it with).
Am I wrong?

I think that Classics is (oK an old fashioned view) but a great training for thinking, and intellectual adaptibility. Sometime my students go for interviews and the people interviewing them say... so what is the use of Classics then. They explain.. and often (not always!) it works a treat, as the interviewing panel really didnt know what classics entailed..
On the DSes I think it is great to expose them to Latin.. then if they choose to continue, that's good.. if not, it will always be with them. (At Cheltenham at the weekend.. we had people reasing Latin who hadnt touched it for 30 years)

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:47:29

blondieminx

Hello Mary, welcome to MN! I loved your series. When are you next back on screen?

My mum read classics at Durham and she still teaches Latin and Greek part-time, we both think you're such a fabulous presenter smile - are you planning to do any more MN courses at a not-beginner level at all?

Thanks. I HOPE we'll be doing a little something next year. So glad you enjoyed.
I'll pass on the MN courses request!

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:50:05

Pantah630

Hi Mary, my interest in Roman History began with Colleen McCulloughs Masters of Rome series, I loved your book on Pompeii and your TV series was fascinating, for both me, DH and DS2. My boys bought me a place on the course this weekend and I'm busy scanning books from the reading list now. DS2 is learning Latin, I'm trying to get him to teach me too so we can decipher those tombs when we finally make it to Rome.

My question is: How accurate are the historical fictions from McCullough and Lindsey Davis? I'd love for them to be mostly there.

I know L Davis books very well.. and they are pretty good on the day to day accuracy (she takes quite a lot of trouble on that.. have seen her researching in Rome). Of course the whole plot line and the character of the tec is fanstasy. But the backgroubd pretty good.
Have only read one Coleen M ages ago.. but she is supposed to have a team to make sure she is right (and I think she has sponsored some classics research with her cash).

S Saylor quite good too,

I am so glad to hear that people don't lose their Latin for not practising it! I use Latin pretty much every day (but I'm not a Classicist, so I suppose there is are jobs out there ...). But it's nice to think the Greek I thought had atrophied might be possible to get back.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:51:41

LineRunner

Hi Mary

Does feminism matter in the study of Roman history and Roman archaeology?

Thanks.

Yes indeed. What has changed over my career is that most historians and archaeologists now remember that the other 50% of the Roman human race existed and that is a change.
I think also feminsit theory has influenced Classics like many other humanities disciplines

PatrickMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 09-Oct-12 12:52:07

Hi blondieminx,

We'll definitely look into doing more Academy courses (for all levels!) Hopefully we can persuade Mary to come back and do some more teaching for us too! In case you missed it, check out the course on Roman History this weekend.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:53:02

ScaryBOOAlot

Talking of fiction...

Mary: Do you like historical fiction? I find some of it wonderfully enjoyable, and some woefully lacking in research.

I love L Davis... and I like I Claudius too , but the truth is that I preferred the BBC series (sorry!)

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:54:01

freerangelady

Scary - I've just finished the Labyrinth of Osiris and it's a great modern detective story written by a chap who knows his modern Eygpt and describes it well but also knows his Egyptology (he'd excavated there.) I'm partway through his first book now and it's very good - he very sadly recently died rather young so there's only 3 or 4 books I think.

I love it as a great romping read.

Gosh never read that.. but now on the list

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:55:52

whataboutbob

Hello Mary,

Any advice to help my extremely bright 4 year old eventually get into Oxbridge- but preferably NOT classics I'd like him to get a job after he graduates. Thanks

Dont worry about Classics .. it has a great employment record.

Two bits of advice: let any kid expand their learning horizons beyond the 'target culture'

Then.. remember that there are happily loads of great uni's in the country not just Oxford and Cambridge.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:57:09

ninjasquirrel

Hi Mary

If you had to choose one lesson from classical history for today's politicians, what would it be?

That if you ignore the will of the people things go to the bad.. even if it may take a while!

Hello Mary, I really enjoyed your series on the Romans, although my 20 month old DD was not too keen on my diverting attention away from her!
Are you pleased to see more women presenting the sciences on TV? If I think back to my childhood it was all old, fusty men. Are we likely to get a greater uptake of women studying history and other topics because they're encouraged by you? I hope so!

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:57:55

ninjasquirrel

Hi Mary

If you had to choose one lesson from classical history for today's politicians, what would it be?

and PS.. that private contracting for public services is disastrous

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 12:59:32

TunipTheVegemal

If we're asking second questions then....

Have you seen Horrible Histories and if so what do you think of their Greek/Roman sketches?

(Issy - what a libel trial that would be!)

Seen bits.. but not the Greek and Roman ones... made by the same production company as Meet the Romans so maybe I'm biased.

Someone said (I think kindly) that Meet the Romans was Horrble Histories for Grown ups.

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:00:40

Hi Mary, I have been trying to make sense of the transition from the Roman Empire to the Holy Roman one, when centurions disappeared off, and popes came on the scene, as I have it all very muddled in my head. So far I have read Gibbons, but I am wondering if there are other useful things I could read about this period that might help be get a better understanding.

By the way I am a university lecturer in education not a million miles from you, and thought you did a cracking job on Jamie's School given what you had to work with.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:01:00

NotGeoffVader

Hello Mary, I really enjoyed your series on the Romans, although my 20 month old DD was not too keen on my diverting attention away from her!
Are you pleased to see more women presenting the sciences on TV? If I think back to my childhood it was all old, fusty men. Are we likely to get a greater uptake of women studying history and other topics because they're encouraged by you? I hope so!

I think it is great to see more women doing science .. and especially women who really know something, not just 'presenting'. I think these are really important factors in the whole role model thing

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:02:44

BoffinMum

Hi Mary, I have been trying to make sense of the transition from the Roman Empire to the Holy Roman one, when centurions disappeared off, and popes came on the scene, as I have it all very muddled in my head. So far I have read Gibbons, but I am wondering if there are other useful things I could read about this period that might help be get a better understanding.

By the way I am a university lecturer in education not a million miles from you, and thought you did a cracking job on Jamie's School given what you had to work with.

I think recognising one's limitations was the key on Jamie.

There are good things on later antiquity now.. try Bryan Ward Perkind, Peter Heather, Averil Cameron.. all good starts

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:03:29

LRDtheFeministDragon

I am so glad to hear that people don't lose their Latin for not practising it! I use Latin pretty much every day (but I'm not a Classicist, so I suppose there is are jobs out there ...). But it's nice to think the Greek I thought had atrophied might be possible to get back.

Its a bit like riding a bike!

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:05:17

Issy

I know I've already had a question, but can I ask another one?!

If so, and at the risk of an incitement to libel, would you care to match modern world "celebrities" (politicians, entertainers, world leaders etc.) to their Roman equivalents? Who are the 20th/21st century Augustus, Virgil, Caligula, Catullus, Livia Drusilla, Pliny or Messalina?

Nick Clegg had better make sure he doesnt end up like Germanicus.. golden boy, but nasty end

Good to know! smile

(I'm assuming you don't mean, it involves jumping red lights at the corner by Sidgwick Avenue ...)

ScaryBOOAlot Tue 09-Oct-12 13:07:22

Off to spend way too much money on books now grin

I love Christian Jacq for Egyptian historical fiction, but you have to be prepared to take half of it with a pinch of salt.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:08:33

MardyBra

Hello Mary. Really enjoyed the Romans series and teenage Dd loved a recent repeat of your Pompeii programme. (As an aside, she is doing Latin at school and I can't believe Caecilius and Metella are still going strong).

My question is: What would you like to do to AA Gill if you could get your hands on him?

Well I would get him to take him out to lunch at a very nice place, I would have half a bottle of wine at his expense, and I would give him a nice but firm supervision on women careers (esp re tv).

The whole thing was very odd.. but in the end quite reassuring for me. I mean, it was a bit of a slap in the face, but I soon realised it was silly.. and it really did mark the kind of remark that most people seemed to think was silly, out of order and off the point .. and they said so. Phew.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 09-Oct-12 13:08:36

smile I think Horrible Histories is so universally loved that comparing Meet The Romans to it is almost certainly meant as a compliment.
Clearly that must be a very good tv production company and I hope they make lots more of both!

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:09:45

GsyPotatoPieEyed

Hello Mary,

I loved your series The Romans, particularly the way you bought the stories to life using the tombstone inscriptions. My question is simply:

Do you have anymore TV programmes coming up?

Thank you.

Yes.. we hope to have something next year... have to get my book finished first (it's on Roman Laughter)

I'm sure you could get more than half a bottle of wine out of him. It might go sour under his influence, though.

WingDefence Tue 09-Oct-12 13:10:34

Thanks for answering my question Mary thanks

I'd like to echo the post far, far above about having a refresher course for ex-Classicists. I still have all my old texts, and more besides, but using my old lexicon to decypher NT greek on the odd occasion is the nearest I get to it now!

I've just realised, has anyone asked The Biscuit Question? biscuit blush

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:11:28

Thanks Mary. I am going to be naughty and venture another question:

How did one city become so powerful ahead of its rivals? I am aware that noble families that were not from Rome basically became adopted by Rome so they could be officially Roman, and play a part in civic life. So how did Rome manage to get itself into a position of such power and influence given its apparent geographical disadvantages?

NettleTea Tue 09-Oct-12 13:11:36

can you ever forgive the Romans for burning down the library at Alexandria? How do you think the world might have been different if this knowledge hadnt been lost for centuries?

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:11:56

QuaintIrene

Hello ?

I loved Latin at my (state) school and the knowledge that that period of study gave me has been useful on a daily basis. Do you have any vides on how Latin can be brought back into schools so that everyone gets a go? I've been thinking of offering a Latin club to older kids at my child's primary school ? could you advise on decent and simple texts, please? (Oh, and keep up the good work!)

That would be a great idea. The best intro book to use is Minimus by Barbara Bell. Friend of the Classis (run by P Jones and Jeannie Cohen) can help with set up and sometime books

TunipTheVegemal Tue 09-Oct-12 13:12:03

It was great that the Gill thing turned out to be a golden opportunity for hundreds of people, men and women, to say 'well actually we want woman presenters who actually know stuff, we're not that bothered what they look like'.

I think they need to film you kindly but firmly educating A.A. Gill. It would make good tv. Like Jamie's Dream School but with minor celebrities instead of teenagers.

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:12:39

I think we should have an adapted biscuit question and ask Mary what her preferred Roman coffee time snack of choice would be, and also which Roman she would prefer to share it with?

TunipTheVegemal Tue 09-Oct-12 13:13:36

WingDefence I attempted to ask the biscuit q IN LATIN but clearly my Latin is so crap these days it was incomprehensible grin

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:13:55

NettleTea

can you ever forgive the Romans for burning down the library at Alexandria? How do you think the world might have been different if this knowledge hadnt been lost for centuries?

That's a real cracker.. and a mystery. I wish we knew who was REALLY guilty (I like t think that there are other suspects).
Looking on the brightside (I know that's hard in this case!), I like to think that we would have been a bit swamped by all that knowledge. Maybe it was better to lose it and rediscover some of it?? Though I would love to have all of Tacitus and Ovid!

WingDefence Tue 09-Oct-12 13:14:07

As a complete aside, I finally made it to Pompeii this spring with my husband and 3 year-old son in tow. They loved it but I really adored it. I even got a picture of me taken outside a house owned by a Caecilius!

I think it was really the only thing on my bucket list grin

SkippyYourFriendEverTrue Tue 09-Oct-12 13:14:17

Hi.

From what I've seen Classics has fewer applicants per place than most Cambridge subjects.

Does this mean that the calibre of Cambridge Classics undergraduates is less than that of Cambridge students more generally?

tunip, you need to translate Boffin's longer question into Latin. Come on now, it can't be that hard! wink

(No, I've no clue either.)

WingDefence Tue 09-Oct-12 13:16:03

Oh Turnip that's what 'crustulum' was!!

MNHQ can you please direct Mary to the thread about classical MN? It was brilliant.

Pantah630 Tue 09-Oct-12 13:16:51

Thanks Mary, I shall add some Saylor to my next book order. Ive spent the morning at work reading Livy it's raining and quiet, don't tell the boss about the foundation of Rome. The translation by de Salincourt is very readable, I'm hoping by note taking it will stay in smile

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:17:30

KJH73

Hi Mary, as a highly successful female academic, what advice would you have for an early career academic (PhD 2008, lecturer for 4 years) on managing a research career alongside having children? I'm 6 months pregnant and already having to turn down so many funding opportunities, conferences etc. My universtity's maternity leave arrangements are excellent, but it's the longer term that worries me. Many thanks. (Incidentally I'm also a Classics graduate, although I now lecture in linguistics!)

Hi I think it is really tough. For years I struggled, and people said .. gosh look at her, such potential, but her career is going nowhere.
Best advice I think is to hang on in there, dont imagine that with small kids you can right big books.. and make sure you keep on people's intellectual agendas.. punchy review, short article.

The key is that they shouldnt forget you exist.

Jammother Tue 09-Oct-12 13:18:19

Hi Mary

Do you think that studying Classics at an advanced level (PhD) is still worth pursuing as so many young academics can only gain short term temporary employment for many years thus making financial security, domestic stability and being able to have a family almost impossible?

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:19:11

TheCunningStunt

Hi Mary....
Firstly was that really you that came on a MN thread whilst your roman tv series was on???
And my actual question, when did your love for history start? What kicked it all off for you and made you realise it was a passion?

I know it's technically two questions.....well three..but two are intertwined and the first is just nosey slightly relevant.

WEll it started when I was young.. back in the British Museum.
But I LOVED archaeology when I was a teenager...not just for the academic side, I confess.
I remember going off on these great digs.. you excavated hard all day, and partied by night (and your parent thought you had a highbrow hobby)

Many thanks for answering my question. I shall be looking forward to the new series, and the book! I'm currently working on being a 'scientist' - doing a masters in ecology-related topic, but when that's done, may well pursue history and literature. Anything but working (joke)!

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:19:41

Festina lente, puellae. Maria districtata.

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:21:38

Jammother

Hi Mary

Do you think that studying Classics at an advanced level (PhD) is still worth pursuing as so many young academics can only gain short term temporary employment for many years thus making financial security, domestic stability and being able to have a family almost impossible?

The academic job market is not great right now, and it is awful just going from short term job, to short term job.
More people do get a permanent position than we imagine, but I still say to may would be PhD students.. yo have to want to do this badly enough that if you dont get a job directly out of it, it will still seem worth it.
Some of my Phd students and friends have gone on to all kinds of different careers.. many are pleased to have done the PhD

NettleTea Tue 09-Oct-12 13:22:28

thanks for answering my question, and Im buzzing that it was considered a cracker!!
we have the remains of a Roman bloomery site on our farm - would you like to come and have a nose about????

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:23:35

SkippyYourFriendEverTrue

Hi.

From what I've seen Classics has fewer applicants per place than most Cambridge subjects.

Does this mean that the calibre of Cambridge Classics undergraduates is less than that of Cambridge students more generally?

That is true, there are fewer applicants per place.. but we say (and I believe it to be true) that they are highly self selected. It is often the brightest kids in a school that choose to do Latin... certainly Cambridge college dont find the classicists thicker than the norm. Far from it!

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:25:18

Nettle, what is a bloomery site??

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:26:29

BoffinMum

I think we should have an adapted biscuit question and ask Mary what her preferred Roman coffee time snack of choice would be, and also which Roman she would prefer to share it with?

Let me answer the Biscuitq... formicae (that I think is the Latin for Garibaldi).

For coffe I shall choose a nice glass of Falernian, and the companion...?Difficult.. Livia would be a bit terrifying, Julia a bit too much like Samantha Brick (so hard being pretty)... I fear I might settle for a scholarly chat with Emperor Claudius

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:27:04

TunipTheVegemal

Welcome to Mumsnet again, Mary. Thank you for coming.

Quid est vestrum crustulum acceptissimum?

(not sure if I've got that right but I know you would want us to have a go!)

Better than I could do

NettleTea Tue 09-Oct-12 13:27:57

Its for Iron production. the weald was one of the most industrialised areas once the Romans came - they undertook massive deforestation and replanting to supply iron to the rest of the empire. We have quarries and our woodland was probably planted by them too, given the tree species.

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:28:24

Mary, by the way, I just wanted to say that I recently had to spend two days in Portcullis House at something, including a local overnight, as a bf mother, lugging a refrigerated bag of expressed breast milk around with me, and the fact that you had been on the radio talking about your own management of breastfeeding whilst trying to cope with badly timed academic meetings was a great source of inspiration and succour. So thanks for that. [flowers]

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:29:58

Falernian sounds jolly nice. grin

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:30:28

thanks is what I meant to type in the other post

TunipTheVegemal Tue 09-Oct-12 13:30:30

' formicae (that I think is the Latin for Garibaldi).'

You mean the Romans thought of them as squashed ant biscuits instead of squashed fly biscuits?

PatrickMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 09-Oct-12 13:30:48

Last question for Mary please...

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:31:24

Nasturtiumsalad

Salve Mary,

I'm a former student of yours and loved my time at Newnham- it shaped who I am and how I think. Thanks for all you did. smile However, ten(ish) years on, busy juggling work and a young family, I can't remember much of the actual Latin, Greek, history and philosophy I learnt then, let alone find time to argue out the questions that enthused us all then. blush

Any tips for me and others in a similar position on how to revive the interest (of the sort that can be fitted into commuting time and other small corners of the day)? Or should we just give up and wait until the kids are older? confused

Gratias tibi ago.

Hi and Salve...
It does come back very quickly... I would kick start it with a session such as we did at Cheltenham Literary festival on Sunday...we did i hour reading some Juvenal. And we (same team, me, Peter Stothard and Llew Morgan) will be doing a London hour next yeat at the British Museum reading a bit of Virgil.

If you inject an hour like that, then go back to a Loeb.. and see if you find what interests again.. and explore all tose byways you didnt get to

BoffinMum Tue 09-Oct-12 13:32:52

Thank you, Mary, for coming on and being such fun. grin

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:33:17

MirandaGoshawk

Hi Mary, just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your series on the Romans.
My question - what's your favourite Roman site?

I have a great soft spot for Wroxeter in UK (partly sentimental, I dug there).. and otherwise has to be Pompeii

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:35:08

Issy

Salve Mary

I'd like to second Nasturtium Salad's question. I'm another Classics graduate (graduated from Oxford in '87!) who has fallen firmly off the wagon. I think I'd struggle now with the Cambridge Latin Course: Caecilius est where?!

Perhaps a week-long or weekend summer school for Lapsed Classicists. There's probably enough of us now in lucrative employment (yes you can get a good job after a Classics degree) that the course could make a profit.

:thinks wistfully about a child-free/work-free week reading Virgil:

That is great .. ask the MN Academy. Think it could be great actually!

marybeard Tue 09-Oct-12 13:38:36

Thanks everyone... really enjoyed that. Sorry if I couldnt get to every question (though I THINK we covered all topics).

If you want more, we have a MN Academy weekend on Roman History in London. Check out the website. It will be a ball.. (a pilum, I mean)

freerangelady Tue 09-Oct-12 13:38:50

Huge thanks to Mary for answering all these questions - I've found it really interesting and am looking forwards even more to this weekend now!

I'm also a bit overexcited that you may read a book little ol me recommended!

Thanks again.

PatrickMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 09-Oct-12 13:39:28

Mary, thank you for taking the time to answer all our questions! Looking forward to seeing you this weekend at the Roman History course.

ScaryBOOAlot Tue 09-Oct-12 13:39:29

A mumsnet weekend, child free, reading classics and drinking wine - now that would be awesome.

Thank you so much Mary!

TunipTheVegemal Tue 09-Oct-12 13:40:02

Thank you very much Mary, nice to see you here again! thanks

WingDefence Tue 09-Oct-12 13:40:19

Thank you so much Mary! Looking forward to the lapse-classicists MN Academy course already wink

BettySuarez Tue 09-Oct-12 13:45:09

Hello Mary, looking forward to meeting you on Saturday.

One very quick question if I could squeeze this in - what are your views on the Elgin Marbles? Do you think that they should be returned to Athens?

BettySuarez Tue 09-Oct-12 13:46:02

Darn it - missed you! Will try to not stalk you on Saturday grin

Issy Tue 09-Oct-12 13:53:40

"A mumsnet weekend, child free, reading classics and drinking wine - now that would be awesome."

Wouldn't it just. If Mnet Academy don't want to do it, perhaps we should suggest it to Friends of Classics?

ScaryBOOAlot Tue 09-Oct-12 14:02:03

Completely agree, Issy!!

vesela Tue 09-Oct-12 14:04:01

Have enjoyed following this - thanks to Mary and to the people who asked interesting questions. Waving at other lapsed classicists - maybe we should start a thread (in the History Club section? or Books?) where we can post links to poems, photos, philosophy etc. to share in odd moments.

Interesting to hear about Mary's early encounter with the Elgin Marbles. For me it was the feeling of immediacy on reading Catullus (aged older than 5, obv!) that led me to do Classics. This is why I'm not so keen on the Horrible Histories - I worry that they present history to children in too cartoon-y a way and they don't then get that same thrill of direct contact that you get from photos or the real thing. HH makes it all too removed. That might be just me, though - I didn't like retellings of Greek myths when I was little, either (but ended up doing the Homer paper!)

TheCunningStunt Tue 09-Oct-12 14:36:10

grin

JumpJockey Tue 09-Oct-12 15:42:01

Thanks very much Mary! I shall make sure I have a packet of garibaldi about my person so I can slip you one next time you're in my building, like a secret handshake grin

MardyBra Tue 09-Oct-12 16:08:37

I missed the webchat (was working) but thanks for answering my question.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 09-Oct-12 16:48:34

Here you are puellae, I've started a Lapsed Classicists thread here

zamantha Tue 09-Oct-12 17:16:18

I'm being dim I know - but where do I find Mary beard's answers?

TunipTheVegemal Tue 09-Oct-12 17:20:52

Just scroll down the thread, they're highlighted in yellow.

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