Mary Beard is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge. Her most recent book is SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. (August 2016)


Which Side of Roman Britain Are You On?

A relief from a pediment to a temple in Bath, England, thought to show a gorgon’s head, late first century CE

The Real Lives of Roman Britain

by Guy de la Bédoyère

The Edge of the Empire: A Journey to Britannia: From the Heart of Rome to Hadrian’s Wall

by Bronwen Riley
Sometime around 90 CE, a young slave girl by the name of Fortunata (“Lucky”) was sold in London by her owner, Albicianus. Originally from northern Gaul, guaranteed to be of good health and not liable to abscond, she was bought by one Vegetus for the hefty sum of six hundred …

How Stoical Was Seneca?

Peter Paul Rubens: The Death of Seneca, 1612–1613

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero

by James Romm

Hardship and Happiness

by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, translated from the Latin by Elaine Fantham, Harry M. Hine, James Ker, and Gareth D. Williams
The contradictions in Seneca’s career troubled many ancient observers, just as they have troubled many later ones. Part of this is the question of how to reconcile Seneca’s intimate involvement in the brutal power politics of the Roman court with the high-minded philosophical ethics he professed.

The Latest Scheme for the Parthenon

The central scene of the east frieze of the Parthenon. ‘The traditional reading of the frieze,’ writes Mary Beard, interprets it as ‘the presentation of a newly woven robe (peplos) to Athena,’ the high point of a festival celebrating the goddess. Joan Breton Connelly, in The Parthenon Enigma, instead argues that the frieze depicts a scene from early Athenian myth, in which King Erechtheus, as Beard writes, ‘has been told by an oracle that in order to save Athens from invasion he must sacrifice one of his daughters,’ and is not receiving the peplos but rather handing the material over to his youngest daughter, who will wear it as her shroud.

The Parthenon Enigma

by Joan Breton Connelly
There is one basic rule about the “Elgin Marble Controversy”: it is not straightforward (if it were, it would have been solved decades ago). There are bad arguments and woeful oversimplifications on both sides, and the whole question raises some of the biggest dilemmas of heritage and cultural property. It pits the desirable notion of the Universal Museum against the desirable aim of seeing a coherent ensemble of sculpture (whether or not united by the Erechtheus theme) put together again.


Britain Lurches

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage celebrating local election results, South Benfleet, Essex, United Kingdom, May 23, 2014

The real danger of the UK Independence Party in EU and local elections is not the party’s own policies, but the reaction it draws from politicians and supporters of the other parties. On the one hand, there is a tendency to brush its success aside, as merely a fairly insignificant protest vote. On the other hand, there is also a dangerous overreaction by the main political parties—and a drift toward an increasingly rigid policy on immigration, even if their heart is not really in it.

How to Win the Election (Without Super PACs)

A Scene from the HBO series Rome (2005)

Roman elections were all a matter of personal connections, charisma, and favor, not of manifestos and paid-up party loyalty. No patron would have a houseful of clients if he only offered to help those whom he knew he really could. That’s a different claim from a modern political view that you promise anything you like to get elected. In fact, in other ways too, the twenty-first-century relationship between the political hopeful and his voters and “clients” is the mirror image of the ancient one. But the modern clients, in the shape of Super PACs and the like, call the political tune to an extent that most of the supporters of the ancient would-be consul could not.

The Hero Pose

I am one of a team that has been redesigning the Greek and Roman Galleries in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. We’ve finished—and a couple of weeks ago the new display opened to the public. This is nothing on the scale of the new Greek and Roman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of course. But, after the British Museum and the Ashmolean in Oxford (also recently “re-hung”), the Fitz has the best collection of classical antiquities in the UK—thanks to generous donations since the mid-nineteenth century from professors and alumni of the University.

Are Classics Classy? The Roman View

What is a “classic”? Is it simply (as Frank Kermode, I think, once put it) an old book that we still read? Or is there something a bit more sinister to the whole idea? An old book you feel you ought to have read? Or is it more casually serendipitous: An old book you have rediscovered and want to share with the world? And what does a “classicist” (in the Greek-and-Latin sense of the word) have to contribute to the debate?