Equality in death?

by YPU Admin on December 23, 2013. Tags: Classics, PhD, and Research

Introduction

My name is Leo and I’m a first year PhD candidate in Classics & Ancient History, at the University of Manchester.  I also did my BA, in Classics & English Language, and then my MA, in Classics & Ancient History, here at Manchester, so it feels as if I’ve been here forever now. Actually, I grew up in High Wycombe, near London, where I worked for a while as a teaching assistant in a busy primary school. Besides my PhD, my main interests lie in teaching and in affecting educational policy for Classics in schools.

In my research, I am interested primarily in death, particularly in the Roman Empire. This is an important area of research, not least because of the universality of death, which removes (to a certain extent) social barriers between the rich and the poor – everybody dies. Also, the study of death is useful as a portal into the study of wider areas, including religion, archaeology, status issues and many others.



In Depth

My PhD is currently entitled ‘Burial Societies in the Roman Empire’, which is a little misleading. I am actually looking at lots of different kinds of ‘societies’ and examining the various ways in which non-elite people used these ‘societies’ to give themselves a feeling of ‘status’. Upper class people in the Roman World already had a high status because they had lots of money and came from important families, who engaged in politics or important businesses. That does not mean though, that all of the lower classes were necessarily ‘low status’ individuals. Rather, the lower classes were able to join ‘societies’ or clubs, through which they could rise in importance and feel good about themselves. These clubs also supported their members in death, by providing free funerals and holding feasts in their honour, which is how they tie into my overall interests in death.

Why do I care about death? I know, I know, this seems like SUCH a morbid thing to be studying not to mention being, frankly, depressing! In fact, studying death is an incredibly interesting and, believe it or not, lively pursuit! Philosophy on death and, particularly, the afterlife features in every society and religion throughout both history and the world and the study of these beliefs can be incredibly useful. For example, modern religions are, in many ways, more alike than people often think: the Abrahamic religions (that is, Christianity, Islam and Judaism) all believe in an afterlife of different realms, one of Paradise and the other of Hell. Dharmic religions on the other hand (Sikhism, Buddhism and Hinduism), believe more in the reincarnation of souls. I am particularly interested in where these various beliefs came from and how they have since diverged into more individual beliefs. Looking at religion in the Ancient World is a great way of going about this!

The great thing about studying Classics & Ancient History is that you get to study a very wide range of topics (including literature, history, politics, religion, art, etc) and that is exactly what I am doing in this research – which involves looking at philosophy and religion, archaeology, history, demography, status psychology and politics.

Going Further

The CLAH Department at Manchester is one of the best in the country and its student run magazine is full of fun things to do with Classics. Remember, it’s not just Latin! Click here to read the magazine.

If you’re still unsure about what CLAH is or the benefits in studying it, check out this article from The Guardian.

The Iris Project is a great programme, designed to reintroduce Latin into State schools. There is an enormous benefit in studying Latin, in that, weirdly, it teaches you all about how English works!

This is an interesting website for anybody who is interested in teaching Classics or learning more about the overall subject.

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