Back to the Greeks, Romans and New Zealanders

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From Hollywood to homegrown theatre, Ancient Greece and Rome have captured people’s imagination for centuries with tales and myths of sex, violence, dysfunctional families, cruel gods and corrupt politics.

Classical Studies scholars at Massey University have recently launched a website to showcase how the Ancient World has inspired New Zealanders working in a variety of media.

And they want more artists, writers, musicians, craftspeople and educators influenced by the classical world myths as well as its poets, philosophers, artists and mathematicians to share their ideas and work.

Renowned actor, director and playwright Michael Hurst is among the first to be featured on the new website, Classical World New Zealand.

Created by Classical Studies Lecturer Dr Anastasia Bakogianni, the website was launched at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies held in Wellington on February 3, 2017.

The relevance

Michael Hurst in the TV series ‘Hercules, The Legendary Journeys’Greek national Dr Bakogianni, who came to Auckland from Britain last year to lecture at Massey’s School of Humanities in Auckland hopes that the website will foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of Classical Studies and its relevance to New Zealanders.

“Classical World New Zealand website demonstrates the modern world’s ongoing dialogue with ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt and highlights New Zealand’s contribution to this conversation. The culture of the classical world remains a rich vein of creativity tapped by countless living artists. Their art in turn helps us to connect to the Ancient World,” she said.

Michael Hurst, who has taken Classical Studies through Massey, describes his love of the literature and drama of the Ancient World as a cornerstone of his career.

He told Dr Bakogianni during an interview that his work involved in adapting Greek plays for the New Zealand stage.

Mr Hurst is best known as Iolaus from the television series Hercules, in ‘The Legendary Journeys’ (1995-1999) and its sequel Zena, the Warrior Princess (1995-2001).

Sword & Sandal

On the rise in popularity of Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian stories depicted in ‘sword and sandal’ sagas in film and television, he said, “We have a desire for heroes as well as a need to see real human conflicts portrayed against an exotic background of Gods and monsters. We see ourselves in the kings, queens, priests, priestesses, villains and heroes of these myths, these tales of great figures stalking the past.”

Interviews with filmmaker Vicky Yiannoutsos and artist Raemon Rolfe are featured, with more to be added under music, literature and visual arts headings.

The website will offer an accessible, useful and up-to-date resource to students of Classical Studies throughout New Zealand schools and universities, as well as to anyone with an interest in the topic.

It will house news on cultural events, resources and scholarship on the Ancient World.

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