Latin & Greek for young and old.


Report on the JACT Greek and Latin Summer School, held at St. John’s College Durham, 22nd – 29th July 2017

The twenty fourth summer school at Durham was attended by 111 students, with the usual mixture of young and old (16-84) which gives this summer school its distinctive atmosphere. We enjoyed a trouble free week and the weather was suitable for both study (it was not hot) and excursions, with the trip to Hadrian’s Wall enjoying near perfect conditions.


The College

This was our fourteenth 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 college were particularly helpful in allocating us a variety of rooms for our teaching sessions, not an easy task with on-going building work to create a new study centre.The catering staff deserve special thanks for keeping us so well fed. The 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. This year Terry Walsh took a party to the cathedral to read the inscriptions.



The Beginners’ and first Intermediate groups were working from Reading Latin (2nd ed.) and Reading Greek (2nd ed.). Last year we divided the Beginners’ Latin group since some of the class were post beginners and were clearly able to make more rapid progress than the true beginners. We therefore advertised a post-beginners’ group for the first time this year and had a small but viable group for each language. The higher Intermediate Latin group read passages from Petronius, Satyricon. The parallel Greek group used Reading Greek (2nd ed) and read extracts from Xenophon’s Anabasis. There were two advanced groups for each language this year. One Greek group read Homer, Odyssey 21-2 in The Triumph of Odysseus (CUP) and the second half half of Euripides’ Hippolytus while the other read a selection of sympotic literature. Next year texts will include Odyssey 11 and Thesmophoriazusae. One Latin group read selections from Seneca’s Letters and Sulpicia, and the other Heroides 1 and 7, and Livy 1.

We have been fortunate to welcome back the four new tutors who joined us last year, Terry Walsh, Emma Nicholson, Lizzie Cooper and Seb Nichols while Christy Lowe, Janet Watson, Pavlina Saoulidou, Gordon Cockburn, Peter Jones, Samantha Newington and Adrian Spooner 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. Benedict Lowe, Gaby Wright and Andrew Hodgson contributed to our extra afternoon sessions. Andrew came from Oxford to talk about the Oxford Greek play. We are particularly grateful to Gaby for training the musical group with her usual flair. Kate Baylis will be taking on a more permanent role from next year as Co-Director of the Summer School and will be assisted by James McKay. Kate shadowed colleagues this year to gain an idea of what the role involves.

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:

Sun  23rd          2.00pm            Reading Latin Inscriptions, Benedict Lowe
                                                The Hippocratic Oath, Lizzie Cooper
3.00pm            How to scan, Seb Nichols
Mon 24th         2.00pm            Latin in the Cathedral, Terry Walsh
                        3.00pm            Four Small Slices of PIE, Gordon Cockburn
            Singing Medieval Latin, Gaby Wright: further sessions to be arranged.
Tues 25th         1.00pm            Trip to Housesteads and Chesters
                        2.00pm            Animal utopia in Greek& Biblical Traditions, Sam Newington                     
Wed 26th          2.00pm            Greek Grammar clinic, Pavlina Saoulidou
3.00pm            Reading the Vulgate, Christy Lowe   
Thurs 27th       1.45pm            Bacchae: the Oxford Greek Play, Andrew Hodgson
3.00pm            Greek Verse composition, James McKay.
Fri    28th         1.30pm                        Great North Museum (optional Reading Latin Inscriptions)
and 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  22nd July     Alan Beale and Samantha Newington, Ceci n’est pas un symposium.
Sunday   23rd               Eleanor Dickey, Learning Latin the Ancient Way.
Monday 24th               Judith Mossman, Talking Animals from Homer to Bishop Hippolytus.
Tuesday 25th               James McKay poetry
Wednesday 26th          Justine Wolfenden, Lucretius & Roman epic.
Thursday  27th            Simon Corcoran, “The men who stare at goatskins”: the transmission and survival of Greek and Latin texts.
Friday 28th                  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 as usual).



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 were able to 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 111 students, 7 were from maintained schools (fewer than last year’s 10, but still more than the 6 in 2014) while a very healthy 29 came from the independent sector (1 more than last year). We would like to encourage all sixth form students to apply, whatever their background. We continue to see a good 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 such as Latin at the Lit&Phil in Newcastle, and providers such as Madingley Hall and City Lit. There may well be a market for increased provision for dedicated mature students if a suitable venue for a residential course during the year can be found. 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, Spain, Denmark, France, Australia and USA). 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.


2018: The Summer School will be held at St. John’s College, 21st - 28th July 2018.

Finally we 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 Sunderland’s Centre for Lifelong Learning, she has been working from home and has devoted much time and ingenuity to ensuring that our administrative systems actually worked! As indicated above, Kate Baylis will be sharing the role of director in 2018, after which she will take over with James Mckay and I will be retiring from the post after 25 years.

                                                                        Alan Beale
                                                                        Course Director 2017

Appendix 1

Number of students                                              111
School pupils (from maintained schools)                    7         
School pupils (independent schools)                          29
Undergraduates                                                       12
Postgraduates                                                         13
Classics Teachers                                                  3 + 2 PGCE                                     
Other                                                                      45

Age range                              16-84

16-17                                      33
18-22                                      11
23-29                                      10
30-59                                      16
Over 60                                   41


Appendix 2 Teaching

Numbers were broadly similar to previous years, although we now have groups for post-beginners in both languages. 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, enabling us to offer a wider variety of texts. It has also increased the mobility of students who have been able to move between both Latin and Greek groups when we change texts midway through the week. The numbers in the table below for Intermediate 2 and Advanced are therefore approximate. We would like to increase the number of intermediate classes and if numbers continue to grow, this will become a viable option.




Latin and Greek





Post beginners




Intermediate 1




Intermediate 2




Advanced (2 groups)















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