Ancient Popular Culture in 60 seconds

I had to record a 60 second piece to video this morning, as part of Edinburgh University’s plan to promote the research interests of its staff online, initially via  ‘research in a nutshell’ website. With 60 seconds only this is what I came up with:

We think we know what today’s popular culture looks like – X Factor, Big Brother, football chants, booze culture, but what about popular culture in the ancient world? That is what I am investigating at the moment. I’m an ancient historian, a “classicist”. People tend to think that Classics is about “classics” – great authors like Homer and Virgil and gleaming marble sculpture. But of course the ancient world had its 99% alongside its elite –even if  the culture of this 99% has been consistently ignored by classical scholars. I am looking to change this.  Currently I am putting together the work of a group of international scholars looking at different aspects of ancient popular culture: from x-rated puppet shows, to joke books, from the banter of the barber shop, to the politics of the street. I’m looking to show what this culture looked like, how it made up the identity of the non-elite. I also want  to investigate how far the people had their own culture, rather than the dregs, trickled down, to use a common phrase, from elite culture. Ultimately, I would like to change the way we see ancient culture, and even, perhaps, our own.


About lgrig

Lecturer in Classics at the University of Edinburgh, in search of popular culture in the ancient world
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