Life in the Ancient World

University of Cambridge
Darwin College Lecture Series 2012 - Life  Life in the Ancient World's image
"Life in the Ancient World"
Dr Michael Scott, University of Cambridge

It’s a question we have always been asking: what was life like in the ancient world? But just as interesting and important is a slightly different one: how have we, over the past centuries, chosen to examine and answer that question? This lecture will focus on the changing attitudes to telling the story of the ancient past, and particularly the weird and wonderful world of ancient Greece. It will investigate the questions we have asked, the ways in which we have gone about answering them, and the resulting pictures of life in the ancient Greek world that we have created, from the first characterizations of ancient Greece by the Romans to the latest cutting-edge 21st century scholarship. In a year when the Olympics come to Britain, and our minds turn inescapably towards the connection between the ancient Greek world and our own, there is no more important time to think about just how we know what life was like in the ancient world. By telling such a story, and by demonstrating how we are always implicated in creating the picture of our past, this lecture will argue that the question ‘what was life like in the ancient world’ tells us as much about ourselves as it does about the ancients.