School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

Classics Department Hosts Visiting UNISA Professor

Professor Richard Evans of UNISA with staff and students from UKZN’s Classics department.

The Classics Department within the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) recently hosted visiting lecturer from the University of South Africa (UNISA), Professor Richard Evans.

Evans spent a full week engaging with staff and consulting with students, while also presenting lectures and seminars on various topics.

His public lecture focused on: Propaganda on Ancient Coinage, examining the origin of ancient Greek coinage with illustrations of coins from Sardis, Ephesus and Pergamum, and also addressed the question of the significance of the contribution to a monetary culture of this region of Asia Minor (ancient Turkey).

The lecture examined the remarkable coins issued by the eunuch Philetarios who controlled the fortress at Pergamum and whose family continued to rule this area during the Roman Empire.

Evans’ first seminar titled: Re-dating the Foundation of Syracuse led to a critical analysis of the literary evidence comprising Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Diodorus Siculus.

His discussion indicated that the city of Syracuse traditionally considered, on the basis of Thucydides, to have been founded in the 730s BC, was actually to be re-dated to between 670 and 650 BC.

In another seminar, Evans spoke about Tacitus’s Histories and the Deaths of Three Roman Rulers. ‘The surviving four books of Tacitus’s first extended historical account relates to the upheaval that occurred in the aftermath of Nero’s suicide in June AD 68. The Roman Empire was affected by a lengthy spell of civil war and this instability was also felt in Rome itself where urban unrest occurred for the first time since the 80s BC,’ he said. 

Evans debated the accuracy of the descriptions of their deaths and to what extent the narrative was influenced by topical elements related to the ‘demise of tyrants or heroes’.

His final seminar for the week was on: Herodotus on the Battle of Marathon: Myth or History?, during which Evans examined the text of Herodotus History Book 6, revealing interesting and complex evidence. ‘When measured against the local topography and geography, it calls into question the historian’s understanding of this episode and hence his accuracy in covering this seminal event in the Greco-Persian conflict.’