February 12, 2024, by bbztlg

Exploring the epic legacy: a journey into the Ancient Greek world

Hello there! My name is Abigail Spanner, and I am currently a second-year PhD student at the University of Nottingham, studying Classics. My overall thesis is on the theme of blindness (literal and metaphorical) in Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica (a 14-book Greek epic poem from roughly AD 200-300).

For my first year I was completely self-funded (sad times) but for this year I managed to get half my fees covered by working a little as a Research Associate for the Digital Transformations Hub (Faculty of Arts students/staff, go check it out!). But, I still couldn’t afford to go travelling. I saw a call for papers for a conference at the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS) in London entitled ‘Allies of Troy: The Concept of the Ally in Ancient Greek Literature’.

“This” I thought, “Will be the perfect place to get my name out, share my ideas, and meet people to potentially work with in the future!”

I sent my proposal. The organisers (Prof. Fiona McHardy and Prof. Marco Fantuzzi) liked it and they invited me to come and speak. The ICS is a nationally and internationally recognised organisation in the field of Classics, and I was presenting alongside some big names (for example, Professor Jonathan Burgess and Professor Casey Dué Hackney). No pressure!

“Great!” I thought. “Now what?”

Let’s face it. London is bloomin’ expensive, trains are bloomin’ expensive, and I was just about managing to pay my tuition fees. I asked if the conference organisers had any help/advice, but they had only just manged to fund the conference itself. So, I applied for the Researcher Academy Conference, Travel and Training Fund.

I’m very grateful that I got the financial support I needed and I’m thankful to all the staff members who helped me sort out travel, accommodation, and stuff. It was a little stressful but worked out in the end! For those interested, I presented a paper entitled, “Penthesileia: The Successful or Unsuccessful Ally”. Basically, Penthesileia is an Amazon warrior from ancient Greek mythology – if any of you have ever seen the Wonder Woman movie, Penthesileia is just as badass. Sadly, as is the case with tragic heroes and heroines in ancient mythologies, Penthesileia becomes a symbol of hope and despair as she promises victory for the Trojans but ultimately fails when she is killed by Achilles. My paper centred around her role as an ally and what exactly makes a good or successful ally.

Anyway, I had everything written, booked, packed and sorted…and then I caught a cold! Thankfully, it wasn’t Covid, but it sure sucked. I also had the bright idea to go ice skating before my trip to London (sometimes, my genius is almost frightening). I fell over and sprained my knee. Things were not too bad. I got the train to London St Pancras on the 11th of December, with throat sweets, masks, and tissues galore! My knee was alright in the end (kept it elevated when I could and did some gentle physio), but the cold was…to put it mildly, rough. But I powered through – I ain’t gonna miss this opportunity!

On the 12th of December, I managed to present my paper without spluttering or sneezing and I was so relieved when it was done. Everyone congratulated me and I got some interesting discussions out of it. People were also extra nice to me during the whole event (I think because I was ill). We went out for an Indian curry in the evening and I did my best to have an early night. Despite feeling under the weather, it was an excellent time away and I am very thankful to the Researcher Academy for helping me get there! I even got some positive emails after the event.

And on that note, thank you for reading this (if you got to the end!) and feel free to email me at abigail.spanner@nottingham.ac.uk if you have any questions, common interests or you just want someone to chat to 🙂

Posted in Researcher AcademyResearcher MobilityResearcher Mobility Funding