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GCA Special Event: 5 October 2019

Leaflet - Song of Arms and a Man - Guildford - draft 5

The GCA is proud to be hosting The Latin Qvarter’s acclaimed production of The Song of Arms and a Man – a stunning performance of Virgil’s Aeneid – at Charterhouse on Saturday 5 October.

The Song of Arms and a Man tells the story of Aeneas’ escape from Troy, his stay with Dido and his struggle to fulfil his destiny as founder of Rome. These Latin readings from Virgil’s Aeneid are selective, but with the help of an English narration tell the whole story of the poem, rarely heard, in a unique presentation of the original verse, echoing the ancient culture of public performance of poetry.


Full-price and senior (over 65) tickets are available online.

Special concession rates are available for students, school groups and GCA Members. Please email guildfordca.office@gmail.com for details and a booking form.

GCA Summer Talk, 5 June 2019

Llewelyn Morgan

Prof. Llewelyn Morgan from Brasenose College, Oxford on

Aeneas in Italy: both Hero and Villain? 

 On Wednesday 5th June we finally held our delayed Summer Meeting. We are very grateful to Guildford High School for allowing us to use their beautiful new 2016 Hall and to their caterers, who came in specially to serve refreshments before the talk. Our thanks go, too, to Mr Andrew James and the Classics staff for making the arrangements and hosting the talk.

  The talk was well-attended both by Guildford Classical Association members and by staff and students from Guildford Hight School, who all enjoyed it very much. Our speaker was Dr Llewelyn Morgan from Brasenose College, Professor in Classical Languages and Literature at Oxford, who specialises in Roman literature and especially Virgil, Ovid and Horace. Dr Morgan gave a fascinating talk on the subject of ‘Aeneas in Italy: both hero and villain?’ He provided clear and well-evidenced insights into both the character of Aeneas and the way he will have been seen by Augustan audiences. Dr Morgan also pointed out many convincing parallels between the Roman Empire at and just before the time of Augustus and the world of Aeneas in Italy.

  This talk was a very useful precursor to a special event that the Guildford Classical Association and Charterhouse are co-hosting in the Autumn. The Latin Qvarter is coming to Charterhouse on Saturday 5th October to perform their latest production, ‘Of Arms and a Man’, a complete re-telling of the story of the Aeneid with sections of the original Latin (translation available) linked by an English narration. This is both a chance to hear Latin as it was spoken at the time of Augustus and a very powerful and evocative re-telling of the story of Aeneas. It promises to be an evening to remember.


Classical Reading Competition, 2019

On March 7th we welcomed a record number of excited candidates for our annual Classical Reading Competition, which was this year held at St. Catherine’s School in Bramley.  Students from Years 6 to 13 competed in plays, dialogues and solo readings ranging in difficulty according to how long they had been learning Latin or Greek. Numbers of entries from each school have to be limited, to keep the competition within a reasonable timescale, but this popular event regularly attracts around 100 candidates, many of whom return year after year as they progress up the school.

Four experienced judges who are past or serving Classics teachers – this year Stephen Anderson, Christine Elliott, Sarah Parnaby and Phillip Parr – heard the candidates in different sections for Round 1, then a selected few were asked to  read again in the Final round, where the judges made their decision as to order of merit.

We are grateful to St. Catherine’s School for making their premises available for the competition, and for providing tea for all the candidates and accompanying staff and organisers.  We are also indebted to the Classical Association for a grant of money to cover the book card prizes awarded to the winners.

GCSE Conference, 24 January 2019

About a hundred Year 11 students and ten accompanying staff attended the GCSE Latin Conference held at Notre Dame School, Cobham on January 24th 2019 from 2.00 – 4.30 pm. Speakers and GCA  staff were given lunch on arrival.

Our first speaker, on selected lines from Virgil’s Aeneid 4 and 6, was Professor Matthew Leigh, from St Anne’s College, Oxford, a distinguished speaker and good friend of our Association over many years. He spoke virtually without notes  for about ¾ of an hour on the love affair between Aeneas and Dido and his talk provoked many questions from the students.

Students left the theatre for a refreshment break of ¼ of an hour, and returned for a talk focussing on the quite different subjects of ‘Boudica’ and ‘The Druids’. The texts, from the Cambridge Latin Anthology, included extracts from Julius Caesar and Pliny the Elder. The speaker on this rather difficult selection was Dr Dunstan Lowe, from the University of Kent, Canterbury. He projected very interesting images of symbols from Ancient Britain, and his subject matter gripped the attention of his audience, particularly the boys. We hope we may invite Dr Lowe to speak again, which he seems very keen to do. Both speakers distributed useful handouts to the students.

It was pleasing to see so many students benefitting from the GCA’s annual GCSE Latin Conference, in which top class academics provide exam-year GCSE students with deeper insights into the topics they are studying.

6th Form Lecture, 6 November



We were delighted to welcome Prof. Tim Whitmarsh from St John’s College, Cambridge, to speak on the performance of Homer in antiquity. Evidence from The Odyssey has encouraged the view that The Iliad and The Odyssey were invariably sung to a musical accompaniment, but Prof. Whitmarsh presented compelling evidence from various sources for a much more mixed picture, in which performances were commonly given by a rhapsode, without music but with a stick and a cloak as props. The best rhapsodes were the celebrities of their day – famous and wealthy.

The many questions at the end of Prof. Whitmarsh’s talk confirmed that he had captured the interest of the sizeable audience of 6th formers and GCA members.

The GCA is grateful to Mr Ed Bush and RGS for once again providing an excellent venue and facilities, as well as refreshments.

The 2018 Schools Talk on 9 October


Dr Mary Harlow, from the University of Leicester, gave a fascinating interactive talk at Guildford High School on the Roman toga, its significance in Roman society and how it was manufactured.

Dr Harlow brought her talk to life for her audience from GHS and two visiting schools (King Edward’s, Witley and Nonsuch High, Cheam) with a suitcase-full of props, including spun and woven woollen cloth, an array of drop-spindles for children in the audience to try their hand with, a Roman tunic and, of course, a toga – much appreciated in the dressing-up session at the end.

The extraordinary amount of yarn (around 40 km) needed to make a single toga, the likely size of the loom to weave it on (perhaps 5 m) and the total effort involved (approaching 1000 hours) all raise doubts about claims that Roman women in the classical period made togas at home for their menfolk.

Many thanks to Dr Harlow for coming so far to deliver an exciting and memorable talk and for bringing such interesting exhibits. Thanks, also, to Mr Andrew James & GHS for hosting the meeting and to Mr Adam Key from Nonsuch High for bringing additional togas for staff and pupils to try.


2018/19 season gets off to a great start!


We were delighted to welcome back our President, Prof. Edith Hall from KCL, to talk to us on “Aristotle’s Ethics as a Guide to 21st Century Life” at our Opening Party, held at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford on 19 September.

Prof. Hall spoke to a lively and enthusiastic audience (many of whom would have been familiar with her numerous contributions to TV documentaries), giving an impassioned talk in support of Aristotle, whom she admires as perhaps the greatest thinker of all time. She explained his ethical views and gave examples of his wide-ranging interests and knowledge, showing his significance in his own time and demonstrating the relevance of his ethics to modern life.

Altogether an informative and enjoyable start to our 2018-19 season, helped in no small part by Mr Ed Bush and the RGS Classics Department, who hosted the event as usual and provided all refreshments.