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Classics Day IV an opportunity for immersion into ancient world

Barry McNamara
09/24/2018
Monmouth classics professor Bob Simmons (left) addresses the audience at a Classics Day event in 2016.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – Visitors who attend Monmouth College’s Classics Day IV on Sept. 29 might feel they’ve traveled back in time by about 2,000 years.

“Classics Day is an immersion into times and places that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to be immersed in,” said Associate Professor of Classics Bob Simmons, who has organized all four Classics Days held at Monmouth. “This is a chance for people to transport themselves into times and places where they just can’t go anymore.”

Free and open to the public, the event will be held from 1-4 p.m. on the Campus Quad. The rain site is the Huff Athletic Center.

Monmouth’s Classics Day is one of two known classics days held at U.S. colleges and universities. The other is at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, which Simmons started before joining the Monmouth faculty.

Classics Day IV activities

Monmouth’s Classics Day IV activities will include booths and demonstrations of the militaries of Greek city-states and Rome. Other events will include: demonstration of weaving and grain-grinding from the ancient world; an exhibit showing the steps for achieving entry into the afterlife in ancient Egypt, including authentic-looking Canopic jars; and several Olympic events, including a race in armor and the ways ancients threw a javelin and made a long jump.

This year’s Classics Day was also assisted by a crowdfunding initiative that raised more than $8,000 during last April’s Scots Day of Giving.

“We’re able to showcase a much more authentic classical world, based on the things we were able to buy,” said Simmons.

Some of those items include Roman shields and Spartan and Macedonian helmets, all made using materials identical to those that would have been used in the classical world.

“We have a weighted loom, Canopic jars, javelins ... all sorts of things that will make this a much more authentic immersion into the ancient world than it previously was, thanks to the generosity of our donors,” said Simmons.

The event’s staged military battles should be especially interesting.

“We will have soldiers representing ancient Sparta, ancient Macedonia, ancient Rome, each with their particular sorts of equipment and their particular styles of battle,” said Simmons. “And then we’ll match them up – of course, very gently, in a non-harmful way – and have them use their different imitation weapons against one another to see how they would fare against one another given the ways that they did things and the advantages and disadvantages of the weaponry they had.”

A unique way for students to learn

Simmons’s production team includes students in his Classics Day leadership class.

“It’s a real leadership opportunity for these students to have the chance to put together this event and take responsibility for certain aspects of it,” he said. “They’ll take part in some of the publicity of it, communicate with people to get them to be where they’re supposed to be, contribute their ideas, get their hands dirty by making the sorts of things that need to be made to make this event work – for them, it’s a real professional skill-building opportunity.”

Classics Day IV figures to draw a large crowd, boosted by more than 100 high school students and teachers, many of whom will attend the Illinois Junior Classical League South meeting that day at Monmouth-Roseville High School.

Classics Day provides a unique learning opportunity for students and visitors.

“This is a learning experience for students that is difficult to replicate in any other way,” he said. “The way students demonstrate and explain elements of life in ancient times and help other people learn to do the things that they learned makes for a really deep learning experience.”

Several other events are scheduled leading up to Classics Day. All of them are free of charge, except for the Sept. 29 Greek meal:

• Sept. 24: “The History of Latin Education in Warren County,” presented by Brian Tibbets, Jackie Urban, and Chris Ayers – 7 p.m. Warren County History Museum, 238 S. Sunny Lane.
• Sept. 25: The Disney movie Hercules – 3:30 p.m., Warren County Public Library, 62 Public Square.
• Sept. 27: “Clothing in the Ancient World, or How to Dress for Success in 200 BCE,” presented by master seamstress Rose Katsenes – 7:30 p.m., Pattee Auditorium, College’s Center for Science and Business.
• Sept. 28: The movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – 7:30 p.m., Buchanan Center for the Arts’ Pattee Plaza, Public Square. The film is co-sponsored by the Buchanan Center, Midwest Bank and Security Savings Bank.
• Sept. 29: Greek meal featuring souvlaki pitas with grilled chicken and vegetables, plus tzatziki sauce; Greek salad; spanakopita (a crispy pastry dish with eggs and spinach); baklava (a sweet, crispy pastry with honey and walnuts); and beverages – 11:30 a.m., Campus Quad (rain location: Huff Center). Prices are $12 for ages 18 and up, $8 for ages 13-17, $6 for ages 5-12 and free for children 4 and under.