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.

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

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"Motion and Migrancy in the Formation of Roman Literature"

Joy Connolly, Interim President and Distinguished Professor of Classics, Graduate Center CUNY

8th Floor Faculty/Staff Dining Room, Hunter West Building
SW Lexington Ave & 68th St.
 
Friday, May 17th, 2019
  • 4:30 - 5:00 Pre-Lecture Reception
  • 5:00 - 5:30 Student Award Ceremony
  • 5:30 - 6:30 Lecture
  • 6:30 - 7:00 Post-Lecture Reception

This lecture is free and open to the public.

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(Photo: "Empty Boardroom" by Reynermedia, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 05/14/2019 - 2:09pm by Erik Shell.
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The Digital Latin Library has published a blog post detailing new its new website, upcoming text releases, and other new features.

You can read the blog post here: https://digitallatin.org/blog/updates-ldlt

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(Photo: “Switch!" by Andrew Hart, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 05/13/2019 - 9:15am by Erik Shell.

This month, we spotlight the graduate research of Dr. Vivian A. Laughlin, who recently defended her dissertation on the Roman imperial appropriation of Serapis this spring.

While excavating at Hadrian’s Villa in 2015 with Columbia University I noticed that there were various architectural designs and material culture that appeared to be influenced by Egyptian culture. Then when roaming through various parts of the city of Rome, I began to see similar aesthetic references to Egyptian iconography in many places from Augustus’ House on the Palatine to Roman imperial works within various museums throughout the city. I questioned the Egyptian iconography I saw and why the visual references were being made. The more I questioned it, the more it created a burgeoning reason to investigate further and to better understand the relationship between Rome and Egypt. It was almost as if the material culture was speaking to my soul.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/10/2019 - 6:40am by Vivian A. Laughlin.

The SCS is proud to announce that it is now hosting the newest version of Joy Connolly's "Going on the Market...and What Comes Before," a detailed and practical guide to preparation for the academic job market.

The text is hosted on the SCS website here, and can be found on the Placement Service toolbar.

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:13am by Erik Shell.

CfP: The spatial turn in Roman studies

Auckland, January 22-24 2020
Durham, June 10-12 2020

Organised by Amy Russell and Maxine Lewis

We write to announce two international conferences plus a year-long programme of events in Durham on the theme ‘The spatial turn in Roman studies’. This is the call for papers for the Auckland conference, 22-24 January 2020. A call for papers for the Durham conference will follow.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:03am by Erik Shell.

By Urmila Mohan and Courtney O’Dell-Chaib

Scholars of religion have developed a framework for exploration of interactions between religion and tangible objects called "material religion." Over the past two decades, the focus within the study of material religion has emphasised object agency, aesthetics and networks. Disseminated in part by the journal Material Religion, a materialised study of religion explores religiosity as inseparable from a matrix of components including people, divine forces, institutions, things, places and communities. However, what still remains to be unpacked is a focus on the way material religion takes place globally. That is not merely editing case studies from different parts of the world based on theory generated in the West, but trying to see how vectors of bodies, affect, objects and ecologies might generate new theoretical approaches and data based on close cultural or ethnographic analyses.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/02/2019 - 4:47pm by .

(From the University of Mississippi's website)

Former University of Mississippi professor Lucy Turnbull will always be remembered as a beloved educator who could make her curriculum both easy to understand and infinitely interesting to her students, a mentor and a champion of civil rights at Ole Miss.

Her enthusiasm for the classics was contagious, which propelled her students to success in her art history, archaeology, mythology and classical civilization courses. Turnbull, 87, of Oxford, joined the university faculty in 1961 and taught until 1990. She died Sunday (April 21).

Dewey Knight, recently retired UM associate director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, was one of Turnbull’s friends. He entered the university as a freshman in 1966 and found himself in one of her classes that year.

“She walked into the classroom that first day,” Knight said. “There were about 25 of us, and we were immediately very afraid of Professor Turnbull. She was incredibly intelligent. She could read Greek like we read English.

“We all were in fear of her, but we had the ultimate respect for her, because it was very obvious she was brilliant.”

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 05/02/2019 - 8:39am by Erik Shell.
"The Limits of Exactitude"

Università degli Studi di Bari “Aldo Moro”
19th-20th December 2019

Keynote speaker: Prof. Therese Fuhrer (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

Exactitude is the third of the Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino (Cambridge MA, 1988). According to Calvino ‘exactitude’ is a «well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question; an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable images [...]; a language as precise as possible both in the choice of words and in the expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination». The aim of Prolepsis’ 4th International Conference is to reflect on Calvino’s definition applying it to the Classical, Late-Antique and Medieval Worlds. This year the conference will be particularly keen on – but not limited to – the following topics:

- Accuratio vel ambiguitas in speech, argumentation and narration.

- Ambiguous, inaccurate and disconcerting communication from the author, and potential reader response.

- Metrical and musical exactitude and its limits.

- Exactitude in treatises (scientific, rhetorical, grammatical).

- Quoting, misquoting and misplacing.

- Accurate and inaccurate titles, and their transmission.

- Limits in the material evidence (manuscripts, papyri, inscriptions, formation of corpora, mise en page, stichometry).

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 05/01/2019 - 1:39pm by Erik Shell.

Destructions, Survival, and Recovery in Ancient Greece

May 16-18 American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Organizers: Sylvian Fachard and Edward M. Harris

From the Trojan War to the sack of Rome by Alaric, from the fall of Constantinople to the bombing of European cities in World War II and now the devastation of Syrian towns lmed by drones, the destruction of cities and the slaughter of civilian populations are among the most dramatic events in world history.

Sources documenting destruction and slaughter in the Greek World are plentiful. The fear of being attacked, ruined or annihilated was so real that almost all poleis increasingly built city-walls to protect their populations and economic assets. In spite of the deterrent potential of forti cations and their real force, however, the ancient historians report that ancient Greek cities continued to be besieged, stormed, “looted,” “destroyed,” “annihilated” and “razed to the ground.” For instance, Herodotus (6.101.3) states that the Persians burned down the sanctuaries of Eretria in 490 BC and took away all its citizens as slaves. According to Livy (45.34.1-6) in 167 BC, the Romans destroyed 70 towns and enslaved 150,000 people in Epeiros, an act of destruction with few parallels in the ancient world.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 05/01/2019 - 12:01pm by Erik Shell.

(From the Cornell Chronicle)

Classics scholar David Mankin, beloved by Cornell students for his inspiring and idiosyncratic teaching style, compassionate mentorship and the signature black sunglasses he wore to class, died April 24 after a brief illness. He was 61.

Mankin, associate professor emeritus of classics, was the longtime instructor of Greek Mythology, a perennially oversubscribed course with an enthusiastic following. Many students described it as one of the most memorable and meaningful courses of their Cornell careers.

He was a scholar of Latin prose and poetry, with publications including commentaries on the “Epodes of Horace” (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and on the concluding book of Cicero’s “On the Orator” (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

“Dave Mankin’s knowledge of Latin authors and scholarship was superb, and he was strongly committed to undergraduate teaching; students took his classes in droves, and recommended them to their friends,” said Hunter R. Rawlings III, Cornell president emeritus and professor emeritus of classics. “In this era of declining enrollments in humanities courses, Dave Mankin countered the trend with remarkable success.”

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 3:11pm by Erik Shell.

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