Hay gears up for Greek marathon

Herodotus  Credit: Michailk via Creative Commons

Herodotus Credit: Michailk via Creative Commons

Following a successful talk at Hay in 2010, Professor Paul Cartledge will be playing a major part in a series of 10 discussions on Ancient Greece at this year’s festival, alongside Cambridge’s own regular programme.

It shows how Cambridge, Classics, outreach and impact are just bubbling at the moment."

—Paul Cartledge

Ancient Greece is all the rage this year as the UK gears up for Olympic fever and this year’s Hay Festival [ www.hayfestival.com ] is no exception. It is putting on a series of debates on classical Greece covering everything from Plato to heroisation and sex.

The idea for the series came after Professor Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, gave a very popular talk at Hay 2010 on how the Greeks would view contemporary democracy. He will be taking part in three of the 10 Greek Classics sessions this year.

On 7th June he will speak on the first panel on Herodotus, described in the Festival programme as "the Father of History, who pioneered the systems of ’inquiry’ and holds a mirror up to our own concerns about East and West". His fellow panellist is author and Cambridge alumnus Tom Holland.

The two are collaborating on a new hardback translation of Herodotus for Penguin so at least part of the focus of their session will be the translation process. "Tom is not a classicist. His degree was in English," says Professor Cartledge, "but he has turned himself into a master historian and translator."

Tom’s books include Persian Fire, the first world empire, battle for the West which draws extensively on Herodotus.

The new translation, which will be completed by the time the Hay Festival begins, will be printed on high quality paper and will only be out in hardback. There could be an e-version as well, which  would be the first digital version of Herodotus.

Later that day Professor Cartledge will also be speaking at a session entitled the Greek Idea. This will cover the aspirations and concepts of civilisation, democracy, drama, virtue, victory, liberty and xenia, and discuss what the study of Classics has meant in the wider world.

The panel consists of Tom Holland, popular historian Bettany Hughes, University of Warwick philosopher and former Cambridge alumna Angela Hobbs and Professor Cartledge and the session is based on a proposal which Professor Cartledge and Bettany Hughes are putting forward for a 15-part BBC Radio Four series. This will be consist of 15 minute programmes on Greek ideas that have had a major impact down the ages.

The third session he is taking part in on 8th June is on Plato with Angela Hobbs, a Plato specialist and a former pupil of Professor Cartledge and Bettany Hughes who has a book out on Socrates, Plato’s mentor. Professor Cartledge has also written a chapter on Socrates in his book, Ancient Greek Political Thought in Practice. The panellists will consider the influence and impact of The Republic and The Symposium.

Professor Cartledge is a veteran of the Cambridge series at the Hay Festival - now in its fourth year – and last year he was in a discussion with Guardian journalist and author Charlotte Higgins which drew an audience of around 400 people.

"It shows how Cambridge, Classics, outreach and impact are just bubbling at the moment. It’s terrific publicity and I’m very thrilled to be taking part," he says.

He has also written the introduction to The Sites of Ancient Greece, a book of aerial photos of Greece published by Phaidon which will be launched on 3rd May at Heffers and he will be on the Today programme talking about it this week. "There’s a huge buzz about ancient Greece right now thanks to the Olympics," he says.

Next year, the Hay Festival will run a series on Rome which will be organised by Professor Mary Beard.

For the full line-up of the Cambridge series at the Hay Festival, click here. Tickets can be booked through the Hay Festival site.