Classics and Irish Politics

Mon Jun 20, 2016

Royal Irish Academy and Trinity College Dublin


This conference addresses for the first time, in an academic context, how models from Greek and Roman antiquity have permeated Irish political discourse over the last century. The 1916 Easter Rising, when Irish nationalists rose up against British imperial forces, became almost instantly mythologized in Irish political memory as a key turning point in the nation’s history which paved the way for an independent Irish Republic. Its centenary provides a natural point for reflection on Irish politics, and the aim of this conference is to highlight an under-appreciated element in Irish political discourse, namely its frequent reliance on and reference to classical Greek and Roman models.

Irish engagement with classical models is complex. Rome, for example, could easily serve as a model for imperial domination, and thus could represent Britain in Irish thought. The issue is complicated, however, by the power and influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, the use of ecclesiastical Latin, and the popularity of certain classical Roman authors like Virgil among Irish readers of Latin. Greek resistance to Persian invasions could represent resistance to empire, and parallels were drawn between Greece and Ireland by authors like Patrick Pearse and W.B. Yeats. Nevertheless, a tension existed in Irish political thought between seeking inspiration in Greek models and creating an independent national Irish identity. Much work has been done in recent years on the tensions associated with the exploitation of classical models in post-colonial societies, where the classical, which normally represents the colonizer, is re-appropriated and re-purposed for a nationalist agenda. Ireland very rarely features in such discussions and indeed Ireland is a unique case in this context, since the Irish (unlike other colonized peoples) were very well versed in Greek and Latin before ever the British plantations began in the 16th century. For the Irish, then, classical sources are essentially indigenous to the people and are not models appropriated from the colonizer.

Twenty-six speakers from Ireland, Britain, continental Europe, and North America will address the conference theme from a range of perspectives including the immediate context of 1916, tensions between classical and celtic mythologies, classical models of political expression, twentieth century classicists and Irish politics, the politics of narrative and performance, the politics of gender and sexuality, the influence of Greek material culture, classical models and political poetry, and comparative perspectives from ancient Rome. Keynote lectures will be given by Terry Eagleton, Edith Hall, and Declan Kiberd. For a schedule of events, see the programme. For information on topics and speakers, see abstracts and bios. Registration for the conference is free but required. The conference will be part of the three week 2016 Notre Dame Irish Seminar. For details of the full Irish Seminar see and for further information please contact Isabelle Torrance at

This conference is generously supported by the Henkels Lecture Fund, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame; the Global Collaboration Initiative at Notre Dame International in partnership with Trinity College Dublin’s Department of Classics; the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies; the Nanovic Institute for European Studies; Notre Dame Research; Notre Dame’s Department of Classics.

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Andrew Shearn

Classicist and Future Doctor

I love Classics not only because it is an interesting subject to study, but also because the influence is timeless and evident everywhere still today.
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Philip Allen

Classicist and Future Doctor

I am a Biology and Classics double major and have been studying Latin since middle school. I will be matriculating to medical school in the Fall of 2016. Classics is a huge part of my life, and I highly suggest studying it. Read More



Kristina Techar

Science Pre-Professional and Classics Major

"I love classics because it is such a versatile subject and I have found a surprisingly large number of similarities between my science and classics studies." Read More



Ann Gallagher

Classics, PLS Double Major and World Traveler

Ann Gallagher is a junior Classics and PLS double major who has had some amazing experiences abroad Read More



Glynn Scholar Awarded Fulbright for Summer Archaeology Program

Livvie May, Classics and English Major

Notre Dame sophomore Olivia May has been interested in classical cultures for a long time. This summer, she was able to experience one in a new way—by physically sifting through its remains. Read More



Tom Hite

Senior Classics Major

Tom spent eight months in Europe on three different ventures all funded and accessed through the University of Notre Dame and the Department of Classics. Find out how you can too! Read More



Samantha Burr

Senior Classics Major

Sami is a double major in Classics and theology who is interested in the intricacies Greek and Latin theologians found  to describe the mysteries of theology. Read More


Ally Kwun

Ally Kwun

Greek and Roman Civ Alumna

Winner of an Helen Hritzu and Jewell Erickson Award for Excellence in Classical Studies Read More



Brian Credo

Classics Alumnus

This year's winner of The Robert D. Nuner Award went to Brian Credo.  Read More



Tori Roeck

Classics Alumna

From Epic Literature to Epic Travels, Tori has had a legendary experience majoring in Classics Read More



Cameron Pywell

Classic Alum Excels in Medical School

Latin has been useful for anatomy especially, and Greek has come up more in other coursework. Read More



Michael Kipp


Studying Classics, like traveling abroad, lends new perspective to the way you view your native culture. As a Classics major at Notre Dame, I’ve had the privilege of participating in both of those enlightening endeavors. Read More



Senior Theses

Congratulations to the Classics and Arabic Senior Theses Writers

Check out this year's Classics and Arabic Theses. Topics ranged from Tertullian, Buddhism, Football and everything in between. Read More



Classics Majors Find Their Future in the Past

How to Succeed

Ever gotten quizzical looks when you tell people you're a Classics major? Or have people caution you that you won't find a job? Katharine Brooks' recent article reveals the extreme benefits Classics majors receive in future endeavors, whether those be graduate, medical, legal or business school. Majoring in Classics may just be the best kept secret to success. Read More



Tracy Jennings


I did not come to Notre Dame intending to major in Classics, yet the decision to do so was one of the most formative choices in my life.  The opportunities provided by this department are outstanding. Read More



Lieutenant Colonel Zacchea

Alumnus and Veteran

Like many other veterans, Michael Zacchea ’90 returned from service in the Iraq War after an injury and struggled at times to readjust to life outside of the military. Now, he is helping other disabled American troops on the same return journey to civilian life. Read More



Molly Herber


Being an Arabic major has led me to learn a rich language, giving me the opportunity to encounter new people and ideas about the world in places I never would have expected to find myself Read More



Peggy Garvey

PhD in Literature

Peggy was the winner of both a Nanovic summer research grant for archival research in the National Library of France in Paris and of the Paul Tobin Dissertation Fellowship for 2011-12. Read More



Robin Rhodes

Associate Professor, Departments of Classics and Art, Art History, and Design

Robin Rhodes is an archaeologist and historian of classical art and architecture and has recently been awarded a multi-year NEH Collaborative Research Grant for his work as Principal Investigator of the Greek Stone Architecture at the Corinth Excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Read More



Blake Leyerle

Associate Professor of Theology

Blake Leyerle's scholarly specialization lies in the social and cultural history of early Christianity. Read More



Michael Wagner


Studying in city of Classical importance – such as Rome, Athens, or Cairo – is absolutely essential for a Classics major at Notre Dame or any other university. It brings the history to life and it is essential to gaining a full appreciation for Classical Studies. As a student and as a person, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Read More



Elizabeth Mazurek

Associate Professor

Mazurek’s interests include Latin literature, Roman epigraphy, Roman history, and women and gender in classical antiquity. Read More



Michael Mercurio


Congratulations to Michael for being selected as The Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures November Spotlight! Read More



Mary Claire O'Donnell


I truly believe that my study of ancient cultures enhances my understanding of modern culture.  My study of Classics here allows me to view the world in a new, more fulfilling way. Read More



David Hernandez

Assistant Professor

David Hernandez is an archaeologist of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean. Having directed large-scale field projects at Butrint and Amantia, he has extensive knowledge of excavation methods and complex urban stratigraphy. Read More



Li Guo


Guo’s areas of interest are Arabic language and literature, medieval Arabic historiography and popular culture. Read More



Hildegund Müller

Associate Professor

Hildegund Müller is a specialist of late antique Latin literature, both poetry and prose, especially the Latin Church Fathers. Her favorite classical authors are Cicero and Horace. Read More



Joseph P. Amar


Dr Joseph P. Amar is a linguist trained in ancient and modern Semitic languages and in the histories, religions, and cultures of the Middle East. He specializes in Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic literary culture and in early interactions between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Read More



Christopher A. Baron

Associate Professor

Professor Baron’s interests include Greek and Roman historiography, the history of the Hellenistic period, Greek epigraphy, and the ethnic identity in the ancient world. Read More



W. Martin Bloomer


Bloomer’s chief areas of research lie in Latin literature, ancient rhetoric, and ancient education. Read More



Tadeusz Mazurek

Associate Professional Specialist

Professor Mazurek researches the literature and cultural history of Republican Rome, with a particular interest in Roman law, religion and self-rule. Read More



Catherine Schlegel

Associate Professor

Professor Schlegel’s research interests include Latin and Greek poetry and issues involving violence as a tool for identity formation. Read More