This summer, thanks to the research grant awarded by Manchester Metropolitan University , I was able to travel to Syracuse, Italy.
The purpose of my trip was to study the ancient Greek language with other students and professors of classics. This year the focus was on the Euthyphro, a Platonic dialogue dealing with morality of murder. It was our job, as students, to translate the original Greek into English whilst discussing the etymology and grammatical anomalies we found in the text. The course lasted for a fortnight, so I got the chance to visit a few ancient Greek sites on the island of Ortigia and around Sicily.
I found the archaeological museum particularly interest as it stored archaeological material from a wide variety of ancient cultures, including ancient Greece. The island of Ortigia is also the site of the famously failed Athenian invasion of Syracuse which we find in the work of Thucydides. While on the course I improved my knowledge of ancient Greek and my ability to translate it in original form greatly. I also enjoyed spending time with other students in my field and discussing a whole range of classics related issues.
The reason I attended this ancient Greek course was so that I am able to translate the extant ancient Greek evidence. This skill is important not only in writing my thesis, but also in securing an academic position in the future. I am focusing on the lived experience of impairment in classical Athens and part of reconstructing that lived experience will rely on evidence written in ancient Greek.
There are English translations for most of the Greek corpus, but these tend to be over a hundred years old. They, therefore, are influenced by an understanding of disability that is derived from the medical model of disability studies. The problem is that this model, the traditional approach to disability, has received a great deal of criticism both from disabled people and scholars alike.
They feel that the model focuses too intently on the medical causes of disability and not enough on the social causes. By personally translating the relevant texts, I will be able to apply a newer, more comprehensive understanding of disability that takes into account not only the effects of impairment but also the effects of Athenian society on the lived experience of impairment in classical Athens.
My project, therefore, will present a more modern understanding of this lived experience that is free from the reductionist tendencies found within other scholarship on this topic. This scholarship frequently presents more a reflection of the present, than an accurate portrayal of the past.
Consequently, the lived experience of impairment in ancient societies is often presented in an overly negative fashion. My thesis, relying on the skills I acquired with the help of the research grant, will seek to challenge this dogma and instead present a radically different view of the relatively seamless integration many impaired citizens enjoyed in classical Athens.
Rob received a Research Support Award to help fund his field work in Italy. To find out more about Research Support Awards, visit the Funding section in Moodle.