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.

September 2018 Newsletter

Dear Members and Colleagues,

In the year which, eheu, seems likely to see the UK leaving the EU, the GCA at least has a post-Brexit plan. So it gives me great pleasure to enclose it herewith,  in the form of this year’s programme card. It contains details of our pre and post-Brexit events for the upcoming year, all designed to support and enrich our teaching and the learning of our pupils, whilst at the same time promoting and celebrating the brilliant and varied vibrancy of Classics. This term’s events feature some great speakers, offering different ways of thinking about the Classical world, and are hosted in Guildford alternately by RGS and GHS, both of whom we thank in advance for their generosity.

At the Opening Party, our guest speaker will be our very own president, Edith Hall, whom the USA should immediately swap for theirs, and who is one of the country’s most charismatic, eminent and prominent Classicists. She will be telling us how Aristotle’s ethics can guide us through 21st century life.  RGS Guildford, Wednesday 19th September, 7.30 for 8.00 pm.

At our Schools Talk (intended primarily, but not exclusively, for younger students) Dr Mary Harlow from Leicester University will be taking us into the heart of Roman life by (literally) “Unravelling the Roman Toga”. So that GHS can prepare the right number of their legendary cookies, please let Sheila Conway know if you intend to bring a group to this popular event [b.conway1234@gmail.com]. Guildford High School, Tuesday 9th October, 4.30 for 5pm.

At our Sixth Form Lecture, Professor Tim Whitmarsh from Cambridge University will show us how Homer was performed in antiquity, a subject which goes to the heart of Greek, and Classical Civilisation A Levels. Royal Grammar School, Guildford, Tuesday 6th November, 5.30 – 7pm.

At this term’s ‘Teach Meet’ Mark Willmore, Head of Classics at Wimbledon High School, will share his vast experience of teaching Classical Civilisation A Level with us, with a particular focus on the new “World of the Hero” paper. Guildford High School, Guildford Tuesday 13th November, 5.30  – 7pm.

Next term’s events to get into your school and personal calendars asap are:

  • C.S.E. Conference, featuring Prof Matthew Leigh, St Anne’s College, Oxford, speaking on Virgil: Aeneid 4 and 6, and Dr Dunstan Lowe, University of Kent: speaking on ‘Boudica’ and ‘the Druids’. Notre Dame School, Cobham, KT11 1HA, Thursday 24th January, 1.45 – 4.30pm
  • Latin and Greek Reading Competition: St Catherine’s School, Bramley, GU5 0DF Tuesday 7th March, 2.00 – 5.15pm. ** Entry forms will be included in the January mailing **

Details of this year’s programme are also available on our web presence at: https://guildfordca.wordpress.com.

Finally, I would like to ask any members who have moved schools to make sure they contact Marian Wernham, our membership secretary [marianwernham@hotmail.com], to ensure she has a current address. Your membership subscriptions fund the free events and the printing costs et al. of running and promoting the association and all its events. Please pay your subscription by 31st October, and please complete a gift aid form, should you be eligible to do so, if you are in any doubt whether you  have completed one before, to ensure that we have up-to-date records of members able and willing to gift aid their subscriptions. As you know, this significantly enhances the value of your subscription. Please accept our thanks in advance.

I look forward to seeing you at as many of these events as possible. Please do communicate your views on them to me or any committee members (contact details on the programme card and online).

With best wishes to you all,

Yours sincerely,

Ian Peel

GCA Chairman,

Head of Classics, Sir William Perkins’s School, Chertsey