La Trobe Classics in the City 2021

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Monsters, Ghosts and Witches: The Scary and the Supernatural in Ancient Greece and Rome

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Thursday 30 September 2021 until Thursday 25 November 2021 (Add to calendar)
Gillian Shepherd
Presented by:
La Trobe University
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Dare to encounter the scariest and spookiest beings of antiquity in the company of La Trobe University’s experts in the ancient world.

Join us Online via Zoom, in collaboration with Melbourne City Library. This is a free event but bookings are essential.

Further information and the booking link can be found here

Still Out There…

Date: 30 September - 6pm
Presented by: Heather Sebo

In the mythic universe of ancient Greece, monsters are the lethal hybrids spawned in the violent cosmic time of origins. They inhabit all the wild places and have a horrifying capacity to poison, devour and petrify the unwary. Most Greek heroes are monster-slayers who rid the world of Hydras, Gorgons, Harpies, and cannibal giants to make way for order and civilisation. But Odysseus is an emphatic exception: he never manages to kill any of the monsters he encounters, but devises various ingenious means of escape. His closest call is with the Sirens, those dangerously enchanting beings whose island is littered with the bone heaps of those who have been charmed by their song. Odysseus survives, but they are still out there… the Sirens and all the others, waiting in the unexpected spaces where the sky meets the sea.

The Belching Madness of Volcanic Monsters

Date: 14 October - 6pm
Presented by: Leah O’Hearn

Workshops of Hephaistos, agents of divine punishment, portents of dire events, and gateways to the underworld, volcanoes attracted many stories to explain the terrible sights, sounds, and smells of fiery eruptions and other kinds of volcanic activity. These ‘crazy mountains’, which were often said to ‘belch fires from their jaws’, were also thought to be prisons for monsters long trapped beneath. Monsters like Typhon and Enceladus assaulted the Olympian sky with their explosions of rage. Other monsters like the Cyclops and Polyphemus lived and worked around volcanoes, harnessing their elemental forces—when they weren’t eating unsuspecting travellers. Who were these monsters? Why were some of them trapped beneath these mountains? How did their restless tossing and turning explain volcanic phenomena?

Ghastly Ghosts & Grotesque Ghouls: The Monstrous Undead

Date: 28 October - 6pm
Presented by: Leanne McNamara

Vampires, werewolves, ghosts with rattling chains! Witches raising the dead from their graves by night!! Underworld demons who kidnap babies!!! Many of the ghosts and ghouls of ancient Greece and Rome could have top billing in a modern B-grade horror movie.  But did this range of maleficent undead beings have anything in common with each other, and what characteristics do they share with the ghosts and ghouls that currently populate our books and screens?  Were these ancient stories simply spinechilling entertainment, or did the ancients really believe in these ghastly creatures? And if so, how did they put their monstrous undead to rest?

Witches and Witchcraft in Ancient Rome

Date: 11 November - 6pm
Presented by: Rhiannon Evans

Do you think of witches as products of the medieval period or Disney films? Think again! Ancient Romans told cautionary tales of sorcerers who could turn a man to straw, bend another to their will, and mix up deadly potions. And rather than being figures of fantasy, they operated very much in the real world, with several members of the imperial family falling victim to such concoctions. Depicted as horrific, hag-like creatures – and stereotypically women – they screeched out their spells and inspired terror in Rome, just as much as their modern horror movie counterparts.

Not Safe to Go Back in the Water: Sea Monsters of Antiquity

Date: 25 November - 6pm
Presented by: Gillian Shepherd

Shipwrecks and pirates were well known dangers of seafaring in antiquity, but nothing struck so much fear into the heart of the ancient mariner as the most deadly peril of them all: the sea monsters. These terrifying creatures abounded in mythology, but they were by no means confined to mere stories: the ancient Greeks and Romans were quite sure that sea monsters prowled the oceans in search of unsuspecting vessels. Eyewitness accounts described their appearance and attacks, so there could be no doubt – and to prove it, dead sea monsters were put on public display. Wild imaginings? Elaborate hoaxes? Or… do sea monsters lurk beneath the waves?

Speaker Bios

Dr Rhiannon Evans is Associate Professor in Classics and Ancient History at La Trobe University, where she teaches Latin and Ancient Roman culture. Rhiannon is interested in Roman literature of the first centuries BCE and CE and is currently working on Julius Caesar’s account of the conquest of Gaul. She has published a book on the Golden Age and Utopianism in Roman literature.

Dr Leanne McNamara is a sessional lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at La Trobe University where she teaches ancient languages, and Greek and Roman culture. She completed her PhD in Classics in the area of ancient medicine at the University of Melbourne.  Her current interests include the intersections between science, medicine, magic, religion and philosophy in the ancient Graeco-Roman world.

Dr Leah O’Hearn is an adjunct research fellow and sessional tutor at La Trobe University. Her research interests include the late republican Roman poet Catullus and ancient Greek and Roman erotic poetry, as well as representations of the emotions, self, and the natural environment in antiquity. She is currently working on a book derived from her doctoral research on Catullus, self-control, and weakness of will.

Dr Heather Sebo completed her PhD on mythic subtexts in Euripides’ Helen at the University of Melbourne. She is an ancient Greek drama consultant for the Complete Works Theatre Company, and is well known as a guest lecturer in venues such as the Red Stitch Theatre and NGV, and for performance presentations of the Iliad and the Odyssey for the Stork Theatre Literary Digs Series

Dr Gillian Shepherd is the Director of the AD Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies and also Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at La Trobe University. Her research interests in classical archaeology include the ancient Greek colonisation of Sicily and Italy, burial customs, ethnicity and childhood in antiquity.



26th Jan 2022 7:54pm

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