In Memoriam: Garrett G. Fagan

In Memoriam: Garrett G. Fagan

(Submitted by Stephen Wheeler, Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, The Pennsylvania State University)

The untimely death two months ago of Garrett George Fagan (January 15, 1963 -- March 11, 2017), the Irish-American ancient historian best known for his social histories of Roman bathing and the spectacles of the Roman arena, is a great loss to the community of classical studies. A long-time member of the SCS and AIA, Garrett contributed unstintingly to the programs of the joint annual meetings and promoted a wider public understanding and appreciation of the ancient world. Fellow ancient historians have been deprived of a resourceful collaborator in research projects; students and lifelong learners, of an inspiring teacher.

Great also is the loss to the Penn State Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (CAMS) of a highly-valued colleague. With his interests in social and political history, epigraphy, imperial Latin prose, material culture, archaeology, and Assyriology, Garrett played an integral part in a department that embraced the interdisciplinary study of the civilizations of the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. During his twenty years of research, teaching, and service at Penn State, CAMS enjoyed a dynamic period of growth in majors, doctoral students, and Education Abroad students. Garrett was especially active in hosting visiting scholars and lecturers for the department and the local chapter of the AIA.

Greatest of all is Garrett's loss to his many friends and to his extended family in State College and Ireland: especially his teenaged sons, George and Emmet; his sister and brother, Linda and Mark, of Dublin; his former spouse, Katherine; and his life-partner of five years, Julia.

The cause of Garrett's death was pancreatic cancer, an aggressive and debilitating disease that evades early detection and is ruthless in its end game. In November 2016, he received the diagnosis that his cancer was late-stage and incurable. Without treatment, he would die in a matter of weeks. Or he could try chemotherapy and see whether he could prolong his life a few months. One can scarcely conceive Garrett's dismay upon hearing his death sentence, but he did not give up hope and was ready to fight the cancer with whatever weapons were available (he even added to his collection of swords a Winchester rifle). For two months, the therapy provided him with brief windows of precious time to spend with his family and friends. But the chemo also ravaged his body, causing extreme fatigue and persistent nosebleeds--adding to the discomfort of the cancer itself. Nevertheless, buoyed by the support of his family and circles of friends at home and from far and wide, Garrett kept defying expectations and reaching new milestones in his radically curtailed calendar: Christmas, New Year's Day, his 54th birthday. At the end of January to everyone's wonderment, he even satisfied the seemingly impossible desire to return to Ireland for two weeks, visiting old friends in Dublin and vacationing for the last time in Galway. When he came back to Pennsylvania, however, he learned that the chemotherapy was no longer working. Garrett commenced hospice care at home. During this time of precipitous decline, he faced the prospect of death with inner calm. He was grateful for the outpouring of sympathy and for the financial contributions in excess of $20K made to the GoFundMe campaign, which his son Emmet started to cover mounting medical costs. He made every effort to collect himself for every visitor and to make the most of his farewells, in spite of his terrible condition. Four months after his diagnosis, Garrett passed away peacefully and with dignity, thanks to palliative care, at home in the hands of his family. All the while, the malignant disease that consumed his vitality could not blot out the remembrance nor diminish the tributes to an extraordinary individual who made the most of his opportunities in life and left a lasting impression on others, both when he was hard at work and when he was the life of the party.

Garrett had a strong sense of his professional calling from his school days. To pursue his ambition, he wended his way from Dublin, Ireland, where he was born and raised, to Canada, Europe, and the U.S., before finally settling down in central Pennsylvania, where he started a family, built his first home, and became a US citizen. His career, which turned out to be more successful than he could have ever imagined, began with an unexpected swerve. It happened the summer he was twelve. As he told the story, his family had made final preparations to move into a new house, but the builders were behind schedule. There was nothing to do but wait the remaining time in makeshift quarters -- rooms conveniently located above his father's dentist office, but in a part of the city Garrett's mother deemed less than salubrious. Maire Fagan placed her Garry under a sort of house arrest to keep him from going outside. She feared that he would get beaten up by the local boys for having the wrong kind of accent. Little did she realize, she was not protecting her son from a bloody nose but giving him the reason to become a classicist. Left to his own devices, and not yet acquainted with video games, Garry spent the summer reading books about the ancient Romans and became taken with the Roman army and gladiators.

The flowering of his classical interests in the summer of 1975 may appear accidental, and perhaps it was, but as Lucretius would say--not an author Garrett was in the habit of quoting (he preferred the epigrams of Martial), nothing comes from nothing. The seeds had already been planted in his first year of Latin at the renowned secondary school Belvedere College, S.J., in Dublin. Belvedere is proud of its commitment to the tradition of a liberal education, which it advertises, with a touch of irony, in a blurb about its Classics program: "when the Jesuits were unable to obtain the services of a lay Catholic teacher to teach the Classics in the 1830s, they took the unusual step of employing a Protestant teacher to do so, so earnestly did they wish to maintain Latin and Ancient Greek." The experience of taking Latin (from Jesuits?) had initially terrified the young Garry, but he quite liked it and took to it. By the end of his summer under his mother's lock and key, he had filled countless copy books with notes and written and illustrated his own history in two booklets, thirty pages each, called The Romans, Volume I and II (source 1, 2, 3, 4). After summer vacation, the teaching staff at Belvedere College became aware of Garry's opus aestivum when he attempted to hand in the booklets instead of a required English essay. His attempt to gain credit for work not done did not quite work out the way he expected. Credit was denied by the English teacher, and subsequently Garry's Latin class received an ominous visit from the headmaster, an event usually associated with punishment for some misbehavior. The headmaster reassured the murmuring class that he was there to award a prize, a prize to recognize a student in the class for excellent work in the Classics. To Garry's astonishment, it was he who received the prize. On his next vacation, his father took him to Rome, a trip that confirmed his calling. They spent two weeks together, getting up at dawn to do all the ancient sites and museums. Garry was blown away and told his father on that trip, "I don't know how it is people make a living at this. But this is what I want to do." Cecil Fagan said, "Sure. I'll support you in that."

Garry went on to Trinity College, Dublin, to earn an honors B.A. (1985) in the areas of Ancient History and Archaeology and Biblical Studies, and qualified for an M.Litt. in Classics (1987) with a thesis on "The Roman Imperial Succession Under the Julian-Claudians" -- a subject that engaged his historical imagination throughout his life and was the focus of his last book project The Political Purge: Origins, Mechanics, and Aftermath, which he was writing under contract for Johns Hopkins Press before he received his diagnosis. At the age of 24, twelve years after the summer spent over his father's offices, Garrett left his patria to enter the Ph.D. program in Roman Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His supervisor was Richard Talbert, who oversaw the production of a patiently researched dissertation on a hitherto unexplored area: the origins, growth, and social aspects of Roman public bathing. Talbert also facilitated a year's research visit by Garrett to UNC at Chapel Hill, where he made contacts with classicists and ancient historians in the U.S. Garrett completed his McMaster doctorate in 1993 and was appointed a visiting professor at Davidson College (1993-1994). He then received a Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of British Columbia for the year 1995-1996. Penn State offered Garrett a visiting appointment in 1996 and the following year a tenure-track position as an assistant professor. Garrett's promotion to associate professor with tenure came in 2002; he became full professor in 2011 and assumed the title Professor of Ancient History. During his tenure at Penn State, Garrett also spent two years abroad: he held an Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellowship at the University of Cologne (2003-2004) and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies. (2015-2016).

Garrett made and secured his name as a Roman social historian through two substantial and influential monographs: Bathing in Public in the Roman World (University of Michigan Press, 1999; reprinted in a corrected paperback edition in 2002), and The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and the Crowd at the Roman Games (Cambridge University Press, 2011).  He also co-authored with Paul Murgatroyd the textbook From Augustus to Nero: An Intermediate Latin Reader (Cambridge University Press, 2006).  Throughout his career, he was active in multiple networks of scholars and profited from working work collaboratively with his contacts at home and abroad. He especially liked being involved in the program of the joint annual meetings of the APA and AIA (in the case of the latter, he was a member and chair of the program committee for a number of years). He had a knack for parleying the joint APA/AIA sessions he proposed and organized into book publications, especially when the annual meeting took place in San Diego every sixth year from 1995 to 2007. In 1995, he made his inaugural splash in San Diego by organizing the joint APA/AIA session, "Roman Baths and Bathing Culture," at which he shared the dais with the most eminent scholars of his subfield and aired material from his dissertation that was destined for publication in his first monograph. Six years later, in 2001, San Diego was again the site for Garrett's next self-organized mega- joint APA/AIA session "Interpreting Roman Spectacles," which was a preliminary to the publication of his second monograph a decade later. Six years later, at the 2007 San Diego meeting, Garrett mounted his third joint APA/AIA session, "New Perspectives in Ancient Warfare," which became the volume of the same title he co-edited with Matthew Trundle for Brill's Ancient Warfare Series (2010). Six years later, in 2013, the APA/AIA did not meet in San Diego, but coasted up to Seattle. For this occasion, Garrett varied his modus operandi: he co-organized with Paul Christesen the APA Outreach Panel "Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World," which was a preview of A Companion to Sport and Spectacle in Greek and Roman Antiquity, edited by Paul Christesen and Donald Kyle (Wiley, 2014), to which he contributed a chapter on gladiatorial combat.

In the annals of the AIA, it will also be remembered that Garrett organized for the 2002 meeting in Philadelphia a workshop on the controversial subject of pseudoarchaeology, in which he gathered archaeological authorities to think about pseudoscience as a social phenomenon. This event resulted in his edited collection of papers Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public (Routledge, 2006). In retrospect, this book turned out to be prescient of the hegemony of alternate facts in a post-truth era.

At the end of 2013, Garrett was invited to be a guest blogger when the APA rebranded itself SCS; his brief was to comment as a classicist on contemporary issues. He wrote three blog-pieces that are still relevant:

·      Bombing Syria and the “Logic of Empire" (11/5/2013)

·      Classics and the "Crisis" in the Humanities (12/12/2013)

·      Climate Change and the End of Civilization(s) (1/27/2014)

Garrett's most recent research project was to co-edit with Werner Riess The Topography of Violence in Classical Antiquity (University of Michigan Press, 2016), for which he wrote two chapters, one on urban violence, the other on the manipulation of space in the arena.  At the time of his death, he was carrying out his duties as co-editor of The Cambridge World History of Violence, taking responsibility for vol. 1: Prehistory and the Ancient World.

Garrett's skills as a public lecturer were always much in demand. He was an expert consultant and on-screen contributor for several television series, including NOVA's "Secret of Lost Empires" and The History Channel's "Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire." He also recorded 108 video lectures for three series in "The Great Courses" program.  He had also been a national speaker for the AIA since 2007 (and long-standing President of its Central Pennsylvania chapter). Nowhere, however, was he in better form as a presenter of antiquity than at an archaeological site in the Mediterranean. He was a co-founder of Penn State's education abroad program in Rome and a veteran of its Athens program. He also enjoyed accompanying and guiding passengers of Mediterranean cruises on their port calls to the rich remains of classical antiquity.

At Penn State, Garrett taught Latin at all levels (his favorite author was Tacitus), Roman history and civilization, and signature courses such as "Ancient Warfare" in the ancient Mediterranean world, which students filled to capacity. He was also the doctoral supervisor of Andrea Gatzke, whose dissertation "Language and Identity in Roman Anatolia: A Study in the Use and Role of Latin in Asia Minor," was approved in 2013. She accepted a tenure-track position in History at SUNY-New Paltz in the same year.

In sketching the life and achievements of Garrett G. Fagan by way of tribute, I cannot but feel inadequate to the task, knowing how much there was of him that I cannot capture in words.  Some will be better able to assess the significance of his scholarly work that began by extending Roman social history into the bathing complexes described by classical archaeology; and that continued more recently by applying psychological and sociological theory to his historical interpretation of spectacles of violence.  Others will appreciate his gift of making the ancient world more accessible and relevant to the present:

To learn about the people of antiquity is to examine the foundations of how we live today. They are at once alien and familiar, an image of ourselves glimpsed in a distant mirror. (source)

Garrett's scholarship, teaching, and career was never about himself, but about sharing the experience of contemplating the past with colleagues and students. This meant that he did not indulge in obscurantism or "mind-numbing overspecialization," as my Assyriologist-colleague, Gonzalo Rubio, observes elsewhere. Garrett was a breath of fresh air not only in the current academic climate, but also thirty years ago at a time when the air had been sucked out of the room by the last generation of traditionalists. Given Garrett's conviction about recovering the past, one may wonder what image he glimpsed of himself in the distant mirror of the Romans. To judge from his actions in his professional life, he recognized the benefits of hard work (industria) and the importance of mutual trust (fides) in friendship, politics, and battle.  Like the Romans, Garrett also observed the strict division of the day and week into time for business (negotium) and time for play (otium). He managed his day efficiently so that he enjoyed both. What he did or said in his leisure never impinged on what he did or said when he worked. Public and private life were completely separate. The joy of Garrett's life was that his negotium was another kind of otium.  Every day he got up and, with the assent of his father, aptly named after Caecilius, he went to work with the Romans.

---

(Photo: "Candle" by Shawn Carpenter, licensed under CC BY 2.0)   

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Four fragments of pottery with different marks on each. Beneath each photo of a pottery sherd is a drawing of that sherd. From left to right, the sherds are labeled Geometric Mark, Complex Mark, Script Sign, and Multi-sign.

Today we take our saturation in a graphic world for granted. When we see baseball caps with logos or nonsense writing on graphic t-shirts, we don’t immediately recognize them as evidence for writing. But in the case of the Late Bronze Age script of Cyprus (ca. 1600–1000 BCE), the undeciphered Cypro-Minoan script, we have more baseball caps and t-shirts than longer texts. Multi-sign texts with two or more contiguous signs, likely to represent words, number around 250. Most of these multi-sign texts are quite short, consisting of only one or two words.

The baseball caps in this analogy most often take the form of what are called Cypro-Minoan “potmarks,” mercantile vessels bearing single-sign texts. The potmarks contain both Cypro-Minoan script and non-script marks without equivalents in the Cypro-Minoan script. The single-sign text potmarks number over 1000. Like a Yankees cap or a graphic tee, the potmarks employ recognizable and non-recognizable elements of writing. But should they be taken as evidence for literacy?

This is the question at the heart of my dissertation. If the single-sign text potmarks were made by literate individuals, then Cypro-Minoan is not a meagerly attested script, but a mercantile script in wide use within Cyprus and, less widely, outside of it. Significantly, it would be one of the few scripts in the region that survive the Late Bronze Age collapse, and the only one that would be well-documented during this transitional period.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 06/06/2022 - 12:47pm by .

Call for Papers: AMPRAW (Annual Meeting for Postgraduates in the Reception of the Ancient World)

AMPRAW is an annual conference that is designed to bring together early-career researchers in the field of classical reception studies, and will be held for the tenth year. It aims to contribute to the growth of an international network of PhDs working on classical reception(s), as well as to strengthen relationships between early career researchers and established academics.

AMPRAW 2022 will be held at Yale University from Thursday 3rd November to Saturday 5th November 2022, with the generous support of the Department of Classics at Yale University, the ARCHAIA program, and the Whitney Humanities Centre.

We anticipate holding this conference in a hybrid format. We hope that participants will be able to join us in person in New Haven, but will also allow remote access for both speakers and audience members.

This year’s theme is “Islands”. Possible topics may include, but need not be limited to, the following:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 06/06/2022 - 9:26am by .

posted on behalf of the conference organizers

Classical Studies and the Americas

CIUDAD DE MÉXICO 1-5 / AGOSTO / 2022

The upcoming triannual Congress of FIEC will be a virtual conference, hosted in Mexico City.

Click Here to Register for virtual attendance

Visit the conference website (English and Spanish versions)

The FIEC International Congress for Classical Studies returns to this side of the Atlantic Ocean searching to arouse a plurality of voices. 

Contact for questions and more information: fiec_mexico2022@unam.mx

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Fri, 06/03/2022 - 9:51am by .
A dinner spread atop a mosaic-printed tablecloth. Two small glasses of red wine, a round bread loaf sliced into eighths, a terracotta bowl of green olives, and a bowl of pesto with a wooden spoon.

In the latest issue of the CADW magazine, the organ of Wales’ official heritage body, the discussion of the Roman fort at Caerleon was accompanied by a graphic designed for children on the subject of Roman dining. With a Horrible Histories-type tone, the cartoon features a boy asking his mother if his friend can stay for dinner. “I thought we’d go Italian,” says his mother, but it’s not the demanded “Pasta? Pizza? ICE CREAM?”; rather, “Rich Romans had things like…Parrot heads or…dormice…and … sea urchins maybe” (to which the boy says “I feel sick”). But the “lush” counteroffer of fast food “meat patties in bread” — “Roman burgers” — is quickly scotched by the obligatory “fermented fish gut sauce”: the dog says, “Not even I’m eating that!” The closing reference to garum here, seen as undeniably negative, underscores the complex nature of our response to research on ancient foodways; one wonders what would happen if Worcestershire sauce, as standard in Welsh rarebit, were revealed to readers as similarly derived from fermented fish.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 06/02/2022 - 11:15am by .

34th Biennial Conference of the Classical Association of South Africa

Order and Chaos

22 - 25 November 2023

University of Cape Town

FIRST CALL FOR PAPERS

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Thu, 06/02/2022 - 7:53am by .
The University of Turin and the De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Philosophy (Leuven) are glad to invite you to the conference "Providence and free will from the post-Hellenistic age to the Middle ages" that will take place in Turin on June 8th-10th
 
The conference will be held in person, but a connection will be made available for those who wish to attend online. To register, please write to filosofia.antica.to@gmail.com by Monday 6th
 
View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Thu, 06/02/2022 - 7:21am by .
A stone sculpture of Sabina's head from the front. She has a subtle smile and wears a fillet on her hair, which is styled into an updo.

The portraits of Sabina represent a shift in the representation of imperial women in the Roman Empire. Sabina is the first empress to appear as the obverse portrait of a continuous coin production at Rome and the first woman to appear on all of the main denominations at the central mint. Her portraiture is also more varied than that of any previous empress. She is represented on imperial coinage with five different portrait types—i.e., modes of representation—most easily distinguished by hairstyle, all of which are depicted below. This is matched by an increased presence of Sabina’s portraits in provincial coinage and sculpture. This greater visual prominence for the Empress set a new standard that was followed by subsequent administrations, making the portraits of Sabina an integral corpus in the history of Roman imperial portraiture.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 05/31/2022 - 10:45am by .

Posted on behalf of the conference oraganizers

We are organizing an international e-conference entitled “Archaeology of Izmir-Smyrna” that will take place on November 17-18, 2022 on Zoom.us. We warmly invite contributions by scholars and graduate students from a variety of disciplines of ancient studies related to these objects. The video conference is free of charge. We would be delighted, if you could consider contributing to our e-conference and contact us with the required information before September 9, 2022. Our e-mail address is: alevcetingoz@gmail.com

We kindly request that you alert any persons within your research community who would be interested in participating at this e-conference, either by forwarding our e-mail through Academia, Researchgate, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other similar social media, or by printing this circular or poster and displaying it in your institution. We hope that you will be able to join us on Zoom, and look forward to seeing you in May 2022!

Click Here for the full description and requirements:
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View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 05/31/2022 - 9:29am by .
A pink flyer titled "A Conversation with Luis Alfaro." Shows a hand holding up an illustration of a theater, with images of theater lights behind it.

I first met Luis Alfaro at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies, where he delivered a deeply moving keynote address in which he discussed his adaptations of Greek tragedies and how his plays have brought reimagined ancient stories to new audiences, to provoke social change. This profoundly important event was made possible by a partnership with my former employer, the Onassis Foundation USA, the Classics and Social Justice affiliated group, and the SCS. As many of us will recall, this conference was also marred by the ugliness of racism, which reared its awful head amid an already tense, ongoing conversation about the state and future of our field that has since spilled into the wider public discourse, perhaps for the worse. But there is hope, and I sincerely believe that Alfaro’s work can be one of those mechanisms of change, if only our field would embrace it.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/27/2022 - 12:36pm by Young Richard Kim.
CANE logo showing New England state and green wreath

Monday, July 11 through Saturday, July 16, 2022

This year, the CANE Summer Institute will run simultaneously in two modes: in person at Brown University and virtually via CANE Zoom

  • Mini-courses will be offered separately for in-person and virtual participants
  • Professional development workshops and Greek & Latin reading groups will be shared by all participants
  • Lectures will be free and open to the public, both in person and via livestream on Zoom

Sponsored by: Classical Association of New England, Brown University Department of Classics, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN
Register online by clicking here

See the full program and learn about the mini-courses

Regular registration runs through June 1
Late registrations accepted through June 15

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 05/25/2022 - 10:42am by Helen Cullyer.

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