Classics day 2018: Faith, belief and religion in the Classical world

In partnership with the British Museum and University College London

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us at Classics day 2018 and made this year's event such a resounding success. With the lecture hall buzzing and at full capacity, the audience were treated to fantastic lectures from experts in the foeld, illuminating such topics as the cult of divine heroes, rituals and places of worship, and the spread of different faiths across the ancient empire.

Check back over the summer for the first details of Classics day 2019!

Further resources

Notes and presentations from Classics day 2018 will be uploaded soon - watch this space!



Welcome and introduction.

10:45-11:30: The Elizabeth Teller lecture - Myth and religion in Ancient Egypt

Lorna Oakes, City Lit

Explore the ways in which the cycles of Nature, the nature of kingship and beliefs in the Afterlife are represented in Ancient Egyptian myth. Understand the roles of temples and royal tombs in Ancient Egyptian life, and glimpse the religious attitudes of private citizens as part of an examination of the craftsmen’s village of Deir el-Medina.


Refreshment provided in the foyer.

12:00-12:45: Alexander the Great: kingship ideology and divine honours at the edge of the 'world'

James Ryan, City Lit

Understand the boundaries between ancient kingship and divinity by exploring Alexander the Great's journey to Siwah and his consultation with the oracle of Ammon. This talk will focus on the Alexander's engagement with the gods, his supposed divine paternity, and the ideological traditions in which he was following.


Lunch break.

13:45-14:30: Journeys and the divine in Roman society and literature

Gesine Manuwald, UCL

The description of divinely provoked journeys is a major theme in classical epic. By looking at some examples from Greek and Roman literature, this lecture will explore the different kinds of links between divine prompts and human journeys as depicted in a variety of epic texts.


Break - café open.

15:00-15:45: Transition from pagan to Christian

William Sterling, British Museum and City Lit

Using objects from the British Museum such as the Hinton St Mary mosaic, the Esquiline Treasure, the Mildenhall Treasure, the Hoxne hoard, the Lullingstone villa, the Uley temple of Mercury and the Jonah sarcophagus, examine how the transition from paganism to Christianity was blurred by the continuing use of pagan gods and the honouring of pagan forbears.

15:45-16:30: Religion and belief in Roman Britain

Richard Hobbs, British Museum

A fascinating insight into the belief systems, both pagan and Christian, of Roman Britain using objects from the British Museum.

Programme may be subject to change. This page will always display the most up-to-date details available.


Lorna Oakes worked for many years as a Special Assistant at the British Museum and frequently gave Gallery Talks on the history and culture of Ancient Egypt and the Near East. She now teaches these subjects at City Lit and U3A.

James Ryan is a Visiting Research Associate at King's College London and has taught on the ancient world at the City Lit for the past four years. His doctoral thesis was on kingship ideology in the ancient world, drawing comparisons between the Gilgamesh tradition and the Alexander the Great narratives.

Gesine Manuwald is Professor of Latin and Head of Department in the Department of Greek and Latin at University College London (UCL). Her research interests include Roman epic, Roman drama, Roman oratory and the reception of classical antiquity, especially in Latin literature of the Renaissance; she has published widely on all those areas.

William Sterling has lectured in Adult Education for 20 years and has a wide range of interests from the Classical World through the Anglo-Saxons to the Enlightenment. He runs regular one day courses at City Lit covering various aspects of the British Museum’s collections.

Richard Hobbs is the Weston Curator of Roman Britain. He specialises in the material culture of Roman Britain and has also published on the coinage of the British Iron Age and Pompeii. Most recently he published a landmark book on the Mildenhall treasure, the magnificent set of late Roman dining silver discovered in Suffolk in 1942.


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