Latin & Greek for young and old.


Report on the Durham Greek & Latin Summer School, St. John’s College

Durham, 20th – 27th July 2013

The twentieth summer school at Durham was attended by a record number of 94 students, with the usual mixture of young and old which gives this summer school its distinctive atmosphere. After all the alarums last year caused mainly by the road closures, we enjoyed a virtually trouble free week with excellent weather for study and excursions.


The College

This was our tenth year at St. John’s College and we were given the usual very warm welcome. The conference assistants were, as always, extremely helpful. We are most grateful to all St John’s staff for their contribution to the success of the week. The catering staff deserve special thanks for keeping us so well fed.  

The college had completed its major refurbishment this year and we enjoyed the space created by the extension to the dining room and the new block of 38 new rooms, all with en suite facilities. The new accommodation was much appreciated, although at times the sun did heat the upper floor rather too well.

Students are encouraged to visit the magnificent cathedral which is very close to St John’s and we have a guide to the building in Latin and quiz on some of the Latin (and Greek) inscriptions. This year a student managed to find a Greek inscription (‘Death the final enemy is abolished’), only the second we’ve identified among all the Latin.



The Beginners and first Intermediate groups were working from Reading Latin and Reading Greek (2nd ed.). The higher Intermediate Latin group read extensive passages from Sallust’s Jugurtha while finding time to practise some English into Latin. The parallel Greek group used Reading Greek (2nd ed) and the opening of Plato’s Apology and some Herodotus. Advanced groups read selections from Tacitus, Agricola and Juvenal Satires 1+3, Homer, Iliad 8 and Euripides’ Andromache.

We have been fortunate again to be able to field an unchanged team of tutors. Gordon Cockburn, Viv Ellis, Peter Jones, Samantha Newington, Adrian Spooner, James McKay and Gaby Wright and Jane Hornblower all returned. To all the tutors I am immensely grateful. They are always prepared to help students and, indeed, to turn their hand to almost anything. Through their enthusiasm, experience and willingness to support each other, they are the driving force that makes the Summer School a success.

Besides our usual teaching we have run voluntary sessions in the afternoons. This year we made a programme in advance:

Sun  21st          3.00pm Medieval Latin: extracts from the Fleury Visitatio Sepulcri, with Gaby Wright
Mon 22nd            1.30pm Greek Elegiac/Lyric Poetry, with Sam Newington
                        3.00pm Learn all Latin verbs in one hour
Tues 23rd         1.00pm Trip to Housesteads and Corbridge
Wed 24th          1.30pm An Introduction to Greek prose composition with Jane Hornblower.
                        3.00pm Accidents with Accidence: some Oddities in Greek and Latin Grammar with Gordon                                 Cockburn
Thurs 25th       3.00pm            An Introduction to Latin prose composition with James McKay.
Fri    26th        1.30pm             Reading Latin Inscriptions in the Great North Museum and the 5 orders of neo-classical architecture in Newcastle


Lectures and Other Activities

We also owe a great debt of thanks to our lecturers, all of whom were inspirational. It was particularly
pleasing to welcome back Fiona Noble who had been a student with us nine years ago and is just about to
complete her PhD.     

Sunday  21st July        Jeremy Paterson, Romans, Christians, and Jews: a question of authority
Monday 22nd              Fiona Noble, Who really won the Battle of Vercellae?
Tuesday 23rd               James McKay performing poetry
Wednesday 24th          Amy Russell, Experiencing ancient architecture in Rome
Thursday   25th           Syrithe Pugh, Epic and Romance
On our Tuesday trip to Hadrian’s Wall we visited Housesteads, and Corbridge where Frances McIntosh kindly talked to us about some of the exhibits and on Friday a small party visited the Great North Museum in Newcastle to see the Roman and Greek collections and to read some of the Roman inscriptions. We must thank English Heritage for free admission to Housesteads and Corbridge.

On Wednesday the Hellenic Bookservice made their usual visit. They are a regular and very popular feature of the week and we are most grateful for their efficiency in supplying all our book requirements and students’ orders. The range of stock they bring is always impressive and thoughtful.

Friday night’s entertainment by students and staff was graced by some splendid performances. Medieval music, a variety of poems, plays and monologues, serious or comic were all performed with the right degree of gravitas, humour or appropriately ridiculous incompetence (no suspension of disbelief for the staff version of the unmasking - if that’s the right word – of Mnesilochus). Special mention must be made of the Beginners’ Greek play which they scripted themselves (with some help from more advanced students) in Greek and performed with remarkable fluency.


Our main advertising is through JACT, with an enclosure in the January copy of JCT and details on the JACT website. We are most grateful for JACT’s continuing support and we would like to thank all those teachers and lecturers who encouraged their students to apply.

Of the 94 students, only 6 were from maintained schools (a disappointing reduction from last year’s eleven) while a very healthy 30 came from the independent sector. We would like to encourage all sixth form students to apply, whatever their background. We continue to see a steady increase in the number of undergraduates and postgraduates. The OU remains the most significant provider of access to the languages for mature students, but beyond the OU there are autodidacts, voluntary courses, and providers such as Madingley Hall and City Lit. There may well be a market for increased provision for dedicated mature students and some have expressed a wish to see another residential course during the year. This was a well balanced group and although age groups (see appendix) tended not to mingle socially, the mixture of ages worked well in class and other group activities. Students came from far and wide, some from abroad (Denmark, USA and Japan).
Many students have returned and more promise to return. Several teachers came this year too and they found that the intensive week of study was very helpful for developing their language skills. Appreciative comments included numerous variations on ‘wonderful experience’ and almost all of the feedback was very positive.

Financial Support

The Summer School is dependent on the generous financial support of various bodies. Grants were provided by the Cromer-Murray Trust, Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, PACT, JACT Greek Project, and especially the Classical Association. JACT supported us with advertising in JCT. To these we owe a deep debt of gratitude for making the Summer School possible. 8 students were helped with bursaries, many of which were substantial. Both the lecture programme and the field trip to Hadrian’s Wall were also supported by the grants we received, but we have had to invite all our speakers from the local area to reduce costs.



The Summer School will be held at St. John’s College, 19th -26th July 2014.
On May 20 the University of Sunderland announced the closure of the NE Centre for Lifelong Learning which has been our home since our inception. This leaves us temporarily without office support, but we will have found a way to manage the Summer School by November. We hope the current level of interest will continue and we intend therefore to expand the number of classes by adding an Advanced 2 class for both languages to give more choice of texts/grammatical work and to reduce class sizes.

Finally I would like to thank the many friends and supporters of the summer school who have helped to make everything run smoothly. Peter Jones has raised funds and has given advice and encouragement throughout the year. The staff from the North East Centre for Lifelong Learning in Sunderland University shouldered most of the burdens of organisation with their usual patience and good humour. Jane Gilhespie deserves particular thanks for her hard work designing application forms, creating spreadsheets, answering the many enquiries and attending to all the administrative details. Her help and expertise is much appreciated.

                                                                        Alan Beale
                                                                        Course Director 2013


Appendix 1

Number of students                                                 94
School pupils (from maintained schools)                     6       
School pupils (independent schools)                          30
Undergraduates                                                           14
Postgraduates                                                               7
Classics Teachers                                                          4                                           
OU students                                                                 4
Other                                                                           29


Age range                                16-79

16-18                                       37
19-22                                       10
23-30                                         6
31-60                                       16
Over 60                                   25


Appendix 2

Teaching groups: numbers include all students who participated in each group, and as several students changed groups at the halfway point in the week, the total is higher than 94.










Intermediate 1


Intermediate 1


Intermediate 2


Intermediate 2








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