… rather immodest to relate, me

I had a trip to Cardiff last Friday to be presented with the 2010 Classical Association prize, which is an award given each year to the person deemed by the association’s council to have most furthered the public understanding of classics. The prize was awarded partly to recognise my books (It’s All Greek to Me and Latin Love Lessons) but also my infiltration of classics into the paper (and I really am lucky to write for a paper that recently let me write 4,000 words on Homer’s Iliad, for example). Special mention was given to this blog.

Well, I’d always been a bit snooty about awards before I’d won one (pets win prizes, etc). Now – not so much. Of course it’s small beer compared with the big literary awards, but it’s an incredible pleasure to be recognised, particularly by such a distinguished organisation. (The CA membership is composed of teachers of classics at universities and schools as well as interested others; its council is composed of ridiculously impressive people.)

Receiving the prize also meant that I had the opportunity to thank the classicists (a few hundred had foregathered for their annual conference) for their incredible generosity of spirit. I’ve always found professional classicists to be passionate about communicating the wonders of their subject and exceptionally generous with their time and ideas. Books like mine can be written only on the back of the extraordinary scholarship and erudition of the Academy. My books and blogs and articles draw on the work of classicists working at the coalface of the academic world, a world that is increasingly under pressure when a kneejerk response to university cuts can be to close down classics departments. (A move that flies in the face of the evident appetite for the classics among a wider public.)

I was also able to thank the classicists who’d either been mentors, readers, or just friends – Prof Mary Beard, Prof Paul Cartlege, Dr James Davidson, Prof Matthew Fox, Dr Tim Whitmarsh and all the folk at the Univeristy of Glasgow classics department.

The prize money helps me buy time to write my next book – which is to be on Roman Britain, for Jonathan Cape. I’ll be taking some time away from work in June and July to crack on with the research, during which time there will be an exciting guest blogger in this slot.

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