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040611Feature_ClassicalStudiesA Roman army took possession of Foust Park Saturday afternoon, leaving the grounds littered with “barbarian” casualties.

It was a tactics demonstration at Classical Studies’ Classical Day 2011: Clash of the Spartans.

Before the attack, assistant professor of Classical Studies Dr. Jonathan Zarecki had explained to the crowd about the techniques and the armaments. He wore a helmet, armored breastplate and tunic. The students had made their costuming, the demonstration spears and shields.

Next, much of the crowd moved to see an excerpt from Euripides’ “Bacchae.” As the Classical Society’s advisor Dr. Robert Simmons set the scene, 10 actors in masks assembled behind him. A flautist and drummer prepared for the Chorus’ opening chant.

Meanwhile, Tyrone Johnson, a sophomore Classical Studies major, manned the Sink the Sirens booth. The game was a fundraiser for the charity Groceries on Wheels.

In other parts of Foust Park, several students worked the Archaeology and Stratigraphy tables. While some made pottery, junior Alexandra Creola, a Classical Studies and Archaeology double major, used colored sand art to show some of the principles of archeaological excavation.

In a while, the Classical Society president, Sara Warsing, determined it was time for the Olympic games demonstration. (As opposed to the ancient games, the participants would be fully clothed.) “Where’s our bard?” she asked other students. Soon the bard called all those interested to the games – with a discus demonstration using a frisbee and a foot race with participants carrying shields.

Simmons looked on, his small sons underfoot. Asked about the day, he remarked on the great weather, the crowd and the fruition of perhaps thousands of hours of students’ work. Fifty or 60 students contributed and volunteered for the day, 25 or so comprising a particularly committed core, he noted. He thought something would have had a hitch; nothing had.

Zarecki, who is teaching a course this semester on ancient warfare, continued to talk with students and onlookers about the ancient armies and techniques. Among some of his answers:

  • Yes, the swords needed to be light.
  • The Roman soldiers were allowed to modify their weapons – by the end of campaign, everyone’s weapons would look a bit different, through wear and tear and through customization.
  • The discus was heavy – it was the size of a hubcap. “You’d dislocate your shoulder.”
  • And the Romans throwing it were relatively short – perhaps 5’5″ or 5’6″, not nearly as tall as the Gauls.

Zarecki and Dr. Maura Heyn will lead the UNCG in Rome program in the summer of 2012.

Zarecki was impressed with the students’ initiative. Lots of hours of work, simply for the love of all things classical.

And how was that reading of Homer’s “Odyssey” going? Readers took turns in the Homer-A-Thon under the watchful eye of Minerva. At 3 p.m., Kristen Welch was reciting it in Latin. On a nearby bench, the society’s secretary, Samantha Bardarik explained that she herself had chosen to recite it in the ancient Greek. The majority had read it in English. A look at the book showed that the reading was about half over.

By Mike Harris
Photograph by Mike Harris
Visual of Dr. Jonathan Zarecki in military attire

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