Latin & Greek for young and old.


Report on the JACT Greek and Latin Summer School, held at St. John’s College Durham, 23rd – 30th July 2016


The twenty third summer school at Durham was attended by 101 students, with the usual mixture of young and old (16-83) which gives this summer school its distinctive atmosphere. We enjoyed a trouble free week and the weather was suitable for both study and excursions, with just a hint of rain at Housesteads.


The College

This was our thirteenth 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 new block of 38 rooms with en suite facilities was quick to sell out again and there are already expressions of interest for next year.

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 a quiz on some of the Latin (and Greek) inscriptions. Peter Rhodes has also given us his guide to the castle in Latin.



The Beginners’ and first Intermediate groups were working from Reading Latin and Reading Greek (2nd ed.). Next year we should be using the new second edition of Reading Latin. We divided the Beginners’ Latin and Greek groups since some of the class were post beginners and were clearly able to make more rapid progress than the true beginners. We will advertise a post beginners’ group from now on. The higher Intermediate Latin group read passages from Plautus, Rudens and Symphosius, Aenigmata. The parallel Greek group used Reading Greek (2nd ed) and read Plato from the new edition of The Intellectual Revolution. There were two advanced groups for each language this year. One Greek group read Homer, Odyssey 5 and the first half of Euripides’ Hippolytus while the other read the opening scenes of Frogs and revenge stories from Herodotus. Next year texts will include Odyssey 21-22 and the second half of Hippolytus. One Latin group read selections from Lucretius and Sallust’s Catiline, and the other parts of Virgil, Georgic 4 and Livy 30.

We have been fortunate to welcome four new tutors, Terry Walsh, Emma Nicholson, Lizzie Cooper and Seb Nichols while Christy Lowe, Cate Murray, Janet Watson, Pavlina Saoulidou, Gordon Cockburn, Peter Jones, Samantha Newington and Adrian Spooner all returned. Ben George joined the team as a student teacher and shadowed Adrian. 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. Benedict Lowe, Gaby Wright and Colm O’Brien contributed to our extra afternoon sessions. We are particularly grateful to Gaby for training the musical group with her usual flair.


Besides our usual teaching we have run voluntary sessions in the afternoons. This year we devised the following programme in advance but with variations to meet students’ requests:

Each afternoon: a drop in session at 3.30 to read some Old and New Testament Greek with Sam Newington.
Sun  24th          2.00pm  Reading Latin Inscriptions, Benedict Lowe
3.00pm  Singing Medieval Latin, Gaby Wright: further sessions to be arranged.
Mon 25th         2.00pm  The easy way to read Virgil’s 4th Eclogue, 1825 style, Alan Beale
                        3.00pm  Three Medieval Lives of St Cuthbert: Texts for Comparison  Colm O’Brien
Tues 26th         1.00pm Trip to Housesteads and Chesters
Wed 27th          3.00pm Reading the Vulgate, Christy Lowe  
Passages of the Vulgate can be collected from Christy before the session.
Thurs 28th        2.00pm  Greek Grammar on Request Pavlina Saoulidou
3.00pm Reading the Gortyn Law Code (for advanced students), Gordon Cockburn.
Fri    29th        1.30pm             Great North Museum (optional Reading Latin Inscriptions) 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.

Saturday  23rd  July    Alan Beale, Back to the Olympics.
Sunday   24th July       Dr Ted Kaizer, Questions of Identity at Tadmor-Palmyra
Monday 25th               Dr Kathryn Stevens, Babylonia after Alexander.
Tuesday 26th               James McKay poetry
Wednesday 27th          Dr Joe Skinner, Foreigners in Greek Art
Thursday  28th            Dr Emma Bridges, The Homeric Penelope: a model military wife.
Friday 29th                  A musical and dramatic entertainment by members of the course
On our Tuesday trip to Hadrian’s Wall we visited Housesteads, and Chesters, for which we must thank English Heritage for free admission to both sites.

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 brought this year was as usual impressive and thoughtful.

Friday night’s entertainment by students and staff was graced by some splendid performances. A variety of music, poems, plays and monologues, serious or comic were all performed with the right degree of gravitas, humour or appropriately ridiculous incompetence (a notable feature of the staff performance of an Antigone burlesque).



Our main advertising was through our own website to which the JACT website offers a link. We owe a particular debt of thanks to the consultancy which built our website and hosts it. Without that vital help, we would have found recruitment much harder. Next year I hope we can improve our administrative systems slightly to make acknowledgement of application and payment easier. We may also need to advertise elsewhere since some applicants don’t read the information on our website carefully and we had one applicant with no access to the internet, or even a computer.
In January details of the JSST summer schools should be in the CA monthly e-newsletter. The CA’s Home Page has a news section where it is easy to sign up for the e-newsletter We would like to thank all those teachers and lecturers who encouraged their students to apply and I hope we can continue to get information to schools.

Of the 101 students, 10 were from maintained schools (significantly fewer than last year’s 18, but still more than the 6 in 2014) while a very healthy 28 came from the independent sector (1 fewer than last year). 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 university students, whether undergraduates or postgraduates. The OU remains the most significant provider of access to the languages for mature students, although since the OU timetable was changed, we have seen fewer OU students than we did in the past. 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 (Italy, Greece, Belgium, Denmark or USA). Disappointingly a potential student from Georgia was refused a visa. Many students have returned and more promise to return: feedback was very positive.


Financial Support for Bursaries

The Summer School’s bursary fund is dependent on the generous financial support of various bodies. Grants were provided by the Cromer-Murray Trust, Friends of Classics, and the Classical Association. To these we owe a deep debt of gratitude for making it possible for 9 of our students to attend the Summer School.


2017: The Summer School will be held at St. John’s College, 22nd - 29th July 2017.


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. Newcastle University Classics Department, especially Prof. Wisse, has given us considerable support. 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. Since the closure of NECLL, she has been working from home and has devoted much time and ingenuity to ensuring that our administrative systems actually worked!


                                                                        Alan Beale
                                                                        Course Director 2016

Appendix 1

Number of students                                 101
School pupils (from maintained schools)        10       
School pupils (independent schools)              28
Undergraduates                                              6
Postgraduates                                               12
Classics Teachers                                            2 + 2 potential                                             
Other                                                            41


Age range                        16-83

16-17                                      31
18-22                                      13
23-29                                        8
30-59                                      12
Over 60                                   37


Appendix 2

Teaching groups: numbers were broadly similar to previous years, although there were two groups for Beginners Greek (17) this year and Beginners Latin was also divided into 2 groups of 2 and 7. As the Summer School has grown, the Intermediate 2 and Advanced groups have expanded and we have introduced a second Advanced class in each language which has enabled us to offer a wider variety of texts. It has also increased the mobility of students who have been able to move between groups when we change texts midway through the week. The numbers for Intermediate 2 and Advanced are therefore approximate, especially where students have changed between languages half way through the week.









Intermediate 1


Intermediate 1


Intermediate 2


Intermediate 2






Total Greek












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