Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Ancient world frozen in time

We recently completed the abroad filming on my new BBC 2 series Who Were the Greeks (couple of UK filming days to come in British Museum/ Ashmolean and at the University of Warwick).

The final day's filming was in Sicily in and around Segesta and Selinus. It brought home to me what a fantastic place Sicily is to see and understand Greek art and architecture. The theatres and temples not only have often survived in much better condition - see the photos of the temple and theatre at Segesta below - but are so much bigger than what you find in Greece. Greek architecture on steroids as one passer by put it (see the photo of temple G at Selinous below)!

No wonder that schools are more and more often sending students to Sicily to help AS and A2 students get to grips with Classical Civilisation studies. I have started thinking about teaching a module at Warwick that would require a trip to Sicily... watch this space!

The gem though was the Cave di Cusa 10 km from Selinous. The Cusa Quarries - abandoned over night when the Carthaginians invaded the area in 409 BC. The workers literally dropped tools and never returned. They left a world frozen in time.

What you see as a result (see the linked photo) is gigantic columns cut out of the rock and ready for transportation to the building site to become part of a temple (see photo below), and columns already half on their way abandoned by the roadside.

The immediacy and emotion of the place is jaw dropping - something I will never forget. If you have a chance to go - don't miss out.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Filming Who Were the Greeks

Am currently on a new filming project for BBC 2 - entitled Who Were the Greeks. Its a 2 part series looking at what made the ancient Greek world tick. Am working with a great team

We are half way through the filming - and currently in Tripoli in the Peloponnese. Its been a whirlwind collection of filming days up to now (see my twitter account @drmichaelcscott for some daily updates). But what has struck me more than anything is the wondrous variety of research being carried out on ancient Greek society at the moment. We have been lucky enough to catch up with a range of contributors for the programme from Prof Sherry Fox at the American School of Classical Studies looking at what the bones of ancient Greeks can tell us; to Dr Paul Millett and Prof Paul Cartledge from Cambridge examining literary + archaeological approaches to slavery and philosophy in ancient Greece. In addition we have met with several groups involved either in practical archaeology projects looking to re-create some of the experiences and creations of this extra-ordinary society or with those still continuing the traditions of ancient Greece as part of modern society. Last week we met with the Koryvantes - an Association of Greek hoplites - and the modern Greek Pankration team, and this week with Gustav Deutsch, who has built a panoramic camera obscura on the island of Aegina, whose history of development traces back from the Italian Renaissance to the 9th century Arab world and from there to Aristotle and even further back to 5th century BC China.

What I find so fascinating is not only the incredible creativity of ancient Greek society and power of its legacy, but also the way in which ancient Greece fits into a wider picture of human discovery + progress in different societies across the world over time. Its something often missing from the way history is taught which tends to focus on particular 'moments' (often key dates) in world history rather than offering a wider picture of the relative development across different societies + the ways they connect together.