Barnard Castle – My Final Trip!

When I applied for my work placement with the Department of Classics and Ancient History, one of the interview ‘tasks’ was to write a blog post. I did mine on The Bowes Museum, so what a coincidence then that my last trip with the department, and also the last trip of the academic year, would include a stop here!

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The ruins of Barnard Castle

Before our visit to Bowes, however, we stopped by Barnard Castle. Founded in the 12th century, the castle eventually passed into the ownership of Richard Neville. He is also known as Warwick the Kingmaker and is sure to be a familiar figure for anyone who has been on these trips! As well as offering excellent views of the town and river, the castle has also inspired many poets and authors including Walter Scott who includes it in his great work Rokeby.

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Testing out the Castle’s facilities.

After a stop for lunch, we ventured on to The Bowes Museum; located a short walk from the centre of town. Within this magnificent French chateau style great house lies a vast and varied collection of items covering textiles, paintings, archaeology, children’s toys and pottery – to name but a few. While I had visited the museum within the last few months, nevertheless there was plenty to explore including a new temporary exhibition on the life of one of the museum’s founders Josephine Bowes. This exhibition also included a silver clock which many of us expressed a desire to steal!

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The clock in question. If you look very closely you may notice each book has been given a title.

Of particular interest to the classically inclined is the silver statue of Sappho, the plaster casts of Greek statues on the first floor, the many paintings inspired by classical myth and history, and the large collection of neo-classical items which can be found dotted throughout the museum. All visitors can also definitely enjoy the Silver Swan, a 18th century automaton, which still operates today. You can see it in action every day at 2.

After we had all done being serious students there was as always time for fun. While not advertised as such, we discovered that the grounds of the museum also house one of the world’s greatest slides! The Bowes Museum would do well to include it on all of its marketing materials from here on out. Finally to finish our day out, what else but some ice cream!

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World’s Greatest Slide in action!

While I undoubtedly learnt so much about British history from this trip series and there are some stories which I am sure to never forget – from poisoned jam tarts to horses holding on to church pews – what will really stick with me is the sense of fun brought to every occasion. Whether in pouring rain, strong wind or on the rare occasion sunshine, Dr. Susanna Phillippo led us through. Over the weeks the adventure, the enjoyment and the opportunity to stop for tea never died!

Please note: the header and the slide image are borrowed from Elizabeth Cooper.

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Lindisfarne Trip Report

Cut off by the tide twice a day, Lindisfarne makes for an unforgettable trip. The island is only accessible at certain times, across an atmospheric causeway, which made it a natural fit for a solitary monastery.

The priory was founded by St. Aidan, an Irish monk, in 634AD. He was granted the island by Oswald, King of Northumbria. The remains visible today are from its later occupation in the 12th century. The original monastery comprised mainly wooden buildings. Lindisfarne is most famous as the home of St. Cuthbert whose life there was immortalised by the Venerable Bede.

The remains of the priory are undoubtedly the main site of historical interest. Understandably as they are the dictionary definition of a picturesque ruin! The still standing ‘rainbow arch’, which dates to c. 1125-50 is particularly impressive.

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The arch as photographed in 1864 by Stephen Thompson

The ruins are supported by a small but excellent museum which along with telling the story of St. Aidan and Cuthbert also explores the day to day life for a monk at the monastery. A short walk from the priory is St. Cuthbert’s Island, where he is said to have retreated for extra solitude. Be careful of the tide as you may end up having to take a paddle! If you’re lucky you may even spot one of St. Cuthbert’s famous ducks, also called Cuddy ducks, which he is said to have befriended.

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View of the priory from St. Cuthbert’s island

Aside from this, the island also sports a church where you can see replicas of the Lindisfarne Gospels, a 16th century castle (unfortunately closed for conservation work at the moment but you can still walk around the outside freely) and a small nature reserve where you can learn about the wildlife on the island.

The island boasts a selection of cafes (which we took good advantage of!), craft shops and even a winery where you can try some of the famous Lindisfarne Mead. Lindisfarne is an incredibly beautiful island and the relatively dull day of our visit only added to the atmosphere. It is worth visiting just for the drive across the causeway; on the return journey we were able to see the beginnings of the tide coming in to cover it once more. Dr. Susanna Phillippo’s warning that if we missed the bus we’d be stuck there overnight didn’t really seem much of threat!

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If you’re lucky you may even spot some friendly dogs!

Servi Publici in Rome: Regular or Privileged Slaves?

Three important occasions for disseminating the preliminary outcomes of the Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES) research project took place over the last few months.

Dr Franco Luciani, the SPES project Fellow, attended the International Conference ‘Romains ordinaires / Regular Romans /Romani ordinari. La fragmentation socio-économique de la plèbe romaine’, which was held in Rome at the École Française de Rome and the Academia Belgica on October, 17th-18th 2016.

His paper was entitled Les esclaves publics chez les Romains, 120 anni dopo Halkin’.

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Continue reading “Servi Publici in Rome: Regular or Privileged Slaves?”

Mabel Atkinson: Newcastle University’s Pioneering Lecturer

This year Newcastle University has been celebrating its connection with civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fifty years ago the university awarded him with an Honorary Degree; the only UK university to do so in his lifetime and at a time when, as Professor Richard Davies Pro-Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Internationalisation notes, he was becoming “an increasingly controversial figure”[1]. However this is not the only instance of Newcastle University’s pioneering spirit. Sixty-three years prior to Dr. King’s acceptance speech, in 1904, the university (then known as Armstrong College) appointed 28-year-old Mabel Atkinson to the position of Lecturer in Philosophy and Assistant Lecturer in Classics. This was at a crucial time for the University; they were in the middle of construction of the Armstrong Building which still hosts the Department of Classics and Ancient History today. It was also at a crucial time for the women’s movement.

Continue reading “Mabel Atkinson: Newcastle University’s Pioneering Lecturer”

The ‘Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES) Project: the Six-Month Secondment at the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS), University of London

A six-month secondment for the Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES) project is scheduled from April, 1st to September, 30th 2017 at the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS), which is part of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) of the University of London.

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As a Visiting Fellow at the ICS, Dr Franco Luciani will conduct a crucial part of the SPES project, i.e. the creation of a freely accessible online database. He will work under the mentorship of Dr Gabriel Bodard.

Every relevant piece of information for the study of public slaves and freedmen in Rome and in the municipalities of the Empire will be gathered and organised in the database: textual (literary, legal, and epigraphic), iconographic and archaeological sources.

Following the model of Roman Inscriptions of Britain (RIB) and Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (IRT) online, each textual source on public slaves will conform to the EpiDoc guidelines.

At the end of the project, the database will be available online for public use, hosted by the Newcastle University website, and will be linked to other existing epigraphic databases, such as EDCS, EDH, and EDR.

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Brancepeth & Hexham Trip Report

If you asked me at the start of last term what I knew of Brancepeth and Hexham my response would have been a resounding ‘not much!’ and now I find myself having too much to say for one blogpost. Brancepeth Castle and Hexham Abbey both have Anglo-Saxon origins – with Hexham Abbey even retaining its c.674 crypt – and from then on long and varied histories featuring many famous families and a fair share of notable incidents. Aside from their remarkable past they are both still actively used sites in their communities. Hexham Abbey retains its religious function while Brancepeth Castle, in stark contrast to the tales of murder and intrigue Dr. Susanna Phillippo recounted to us, was in the middle of a Christmas market at the time of our visit.

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Hexham Abbey – a suitably ominous trapdoor to the Anglo-Saxon crypt

While the castle is perhaps the most immediate association with Brancepeth, there is also a small church to St. Brandon which dates back 900 years. Sadly, the original building and its impressive woodwork burnt down in 1998. It has since been rebuilt and it does retain its original stone features including an effigy of Robert Neville the ‘peacock of the North’ whose family owned Brancepeth Castle for nearly 400 years. It was confiscated from them in 1569 as a result of their involvement in the ‘Rising of the North’. While the church is open to the public, the castle is now a private residence but due to the Christmas market we were able to look around the interior.

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Inside Brancepeth Castle – a busy Christmas market!

Hexham also has a number of interesting buildings including the Old Gaol and the Moot Hall. The undisputed highlight however is Hexham Abbey, a stunning building which dominates the town centre. It is worth visiting for aesthetic reasons alone!  Inside there are many points of interest which speak to its extensive history. Beside the ‘Night Stairs’ (c. 13th century in origin) which once led to the canons’ dormitories sits a Roman gravestone to the standard-bearer Flavinus which was discovered in the foundations of the cloister in the 19th century. While in the onsite museum there is a series of remarkable wooden 16th century ‘Passion Paintings’ whose vibrant colours are still visible today. These are just a few of the remarkable items viewable at the abbey.

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A roman cavalryman and a unfortunate ‘barbarian’

So far, the trip series has really given me an appreciation for the rich history of Northumbria.  My only real association with Newcastle before moving here was Hadrian’s Wall, but as I have seen and learnt there is so much more than that to explore! Hexham and Brancepeth are both a short trip from Newcastle city centre and are easily accessible by public transport.

 

The ‘Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES) Project

  1. Who and When?

The Servi Publici: Everybody’s Slaves’ (SPES) research project started on October, 1st 2016. It is supported by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship (H2020-MSCA-IF-2015), with the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (SHCA) of the Newcastle University as host institution.

Dr Franco Luciani is the Fellow, Dr Federico Santangelo is the Principal Investigator. The duration of the project is two years.

A six-month secondment is scheduled from April, 1st to September, 30th 2017 at the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS), which is part of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) of the University of London, under the mentorship of Dr Gabriel Bodard.

 

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2. What?

The SPES project sets out to provide a full-scale reconsideration of the position of public slaves in the Roman society through a multidisciplinary and comparative study. Its main objectives are:

a) to gather and organize in an on-line database all the available sources (literary, epigraphic and archaeological documents) concerning public slavery in the Roman World;

b) to cross-fertilize the historiography of ancient and modern slavery in order to thoroughly understand the predicament and historical significance of the slaves owned by a community, both in antiquity and in the modern age.

cil_vi_2329A detail from a Latin inscription from Rome (CIL VI, 2329), which mentions Philippus Rustianus, a public slave in service as a custodian of a shrine dedicated to a deified Emperor

3. Public Slaves: Who Were They?

Slavery played a fundamental role in the Roman economy and society: slaves performed all kinds of manual labour and domestic services, and some of them even carried out highly skilled professions.

Besides private slaves, owned by private masters, and imperial slaves, who were the property of the emperors, there were the so-called public slaves (servi publici): they were non-free individuals owned not by a private person, but by a community, such as the Roman people as a whole or the citizen body of a municipality.

Public slaves were considered as state chattel, much in the same way as it was the case in ancient Greece and in some modern slave-owning societies.

In 5th century BCE Athens, public slaves (dēmósioi) were employed for a variety of lowly, but fundamental administrative tasks and public works.

In the 16th century, Christian and Muslim states in the Mediterranean area used prisoners of war as galley-slaves or public workers.

Analogously, during the 18th and 19th century, in some African and Caribbean regions the so-called ‘government slaves’ were employed on rural estates or as labourers in the various public department.

In the city of Rome, public slaves were under the authority of the Roman Senate. They were mostly employed as attendants of priests and magistrates. Other servi publici also worked as custodians of public buildings (archives, temples, basilicae, and libraries) or carried out generic public works.

In the cities of Italy and the provinces, public slaves were under the power of the local councillors. They were employed for very similar tasks as the ones described for Rome, i.e. as attendants of local magistrates, treasurers, transactors, and archivists. In some cities of the Empire servi publici were entrusted with the task of maintaining the public baths, as well as of producing lead-pipes and bricks.

During the Late Roman Republic and the first three centuries of the Empire (II century BCE – III century CE), a public slave in Rome could be manumitted by a magistrate’s ruling, with the prior authorization of the Roman Senate. After his manumission, a Roman public freedman assumed the name Publicius as a token of his former status (Publicius derives from publicus/-a), or the same name as the magistrate who affranchised him.

In the Italian and provincial cities, public slaves could be freed by the local councillors, by request of one of the magistrates that were elected on a yearly basis. After their manumission, cities public freedmen and freedwomen also assumed the name Publicius or another one derived from the toponym of their city (e.g. Ostiensis, from Ostia).

Roman public slaves, freedmen and freedwomen are mostly attested by epigraphic, juridical and literary sources.