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)   

Categories

Follow SCS News for information about the SCS and all things classical.

Use this field to search SCS News
Select a category from this list to limit the content on this page.
front face of restored Harry Wilks Study Center at Villa Vergiliana

Would you like to direct a tour or workshop for the Vergilian Society in 2024? 

Vergilian Society tours are designed to appeal to a wide range of travelers interested in the ancient Mediterranean.  Our programs welcome college students, instructors and nonprofessionals.

For 2024, we are particularly interested in tours of the ancient Mediterranean or study programs (such as Latin workshops) that are based at the Villa Vergiliana, a study center in the Bay of Naples, Italy. 

If you have any questions about proposal submissions, please contact the Chair of the Villa Management Committee, John Wonder, at jwwonder@sfsu.edu 

You'll find previous tour details at https://www.vergiliansociety.org/previous-tours/

View full article. | Posted in Organizations on Fri, 02/18/2022 - 11:50am by Helen Cullyer.

Homer in Sicily: An Academic Conference and Tour of Ancient Sites

Exedra Mediterranean Center

October 5-8, 2022 [and post-conference tour October 9-10, 2022]

Homeric Thrinacia – our Sicily – is the legendary home of the Cattle of the Sun, the Cyclops, the Laestrygonians, Aeolus, and close neighbor of Skylla and Charybdis. Samuel Butler, in the nineteenth century, memorably theorized that the Odyssey’s author was a young Sicilian woman, glimpsed in the figure of Nausicaa. Otherwise, surprisingly few scholars have explored Sicily’s association with the Homeric epics, the Odyssey in particular. The goal of this conference is to bring scholars from a variety of disciplines to Siracusa to discuss Homer’s epic vision and to visit the archaeological traces of the mythic places and beings of the Odyssey.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 02/17/2022 - 4:04pm by .

(From Haverford College Communications)

Daniel Gillis, a member of the classics faculty for almost 40 years, died Dec. 3. He was 86. 

Gillis earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University before joining the Haverford faculty in September 1966. He was promoted to associate professor of classics in 1968 and full professor in 1976. 

He taught classes on Latin language and literature, Roman social history, and other courses outside the Department of Classics, such as “Fiction of the Holocaust.” He published numerous books including two volumes on German composer and conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler–1965’s Furtwängler Recalled and 1970’s Furtwängler and America– and a collection of largely autobiographical poems, 1979’s Vita. His other books included Collaboration with the Persians (1979), Measure of a Man (1982), and Eros and Death in the Aeneid (1983). In 1992, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland in recognition of his establishment of an institute for Scottish Highland Studies in Prince Edward Island.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 02/17/2022 - 3:49pm by .
The top half of a page from a Greek-English dictionary containing the entry for logos.

The Cambridge Greek Lexicon (CGL) set out to replace the Middle Liddell, a goal whose overwhelming success cannot be in doubt. Indeed, it puts the field of classical studies in the awkward position of having a student dictionary that is on sounder footing than its chief scholarly dictionary, and it seems likely that CGL will be the go-to resource not just for undergraduates but for grad students and scholars when reading classical Greek literature.

Yet the words “classical” and “literature” in the previous sentence carry a good deal of weight. In order for the dictionary to be completed in a reasonable amount of time, and at a size and cost that will be manageable for students, CGL excluded quite a bit of material. Its coverage “extends from Homer to the early second century AD (ending with Plutarch’s Lives)” (CGL 1: vii), but it covers this material selectively, and the focus is clearly on poetry from Homer to the Hellenistic period and on literary prose down to Aristotle. There is very little coverage of Roman-era works, religious works, technical works, and documentary works.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 02/15/2022 - 10:01am by .

The deadline for the next round of applications for the Ancient World, Modern Communities Initiative (formerly Classics Everywhere) is February 28, 2022.

We invite applications from individuals, organizations, and/or communities to apply to the “Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities” committee for mini-grants of up to $2,000 to support works that engage individuals, groups, and communities in critical discussion of and creative expression related to the ancient Mediterranean, the global reception of Greek and Roman culture, and the history of teaching and scholarship in the field of classical studies. Examples of successful projects include but are not limited to: public lectures; readings; discussion groups; performances; summer, after-school and weekend programs for school-age children; visual arts exhibits and installations; podcasts; and videos.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 02/09/2022 - 6:16pm by .

AIA/SCS Career Development Seminars 

Wednesday Feb 16, 2022 (4pm EST) and Thursday, March, 17, 2022 (4pm EST)

February 16, 4:00-5:00pm Eastern: Laura Surtees on libarianship. Laura is a Research and Instruction Librarian and coordinator of the specialty Rhys Carpenter Library at Bryn Mawr College. You can read Laura's biography and sign up at https://forms.gle/DMd298Rb5UJ2Ax3N9 .

The Career Development Seminar scheduled for Thursday, January 20, from 4:00-5:00pm  Eastern has been rescheduled for Thursday March 17, 4:00-5:00pm Eastern. It will feature Nathalie Roy and Michael Posey, talking about K-12 teaching. You can sign up for this seminar here: https://forms.gle/nJSMwGew5yWUmMAXA .

You can find more information about the AIA/SCS Career Development Seminars here: https://classicalstudies.org/placement/career-development-seminars .

Please email info@classicalstudies.org if you have any questions or concerns.

---

View full article. | Posted in General Announcements on Wed, 02/09/2022 - 9:52am by .

We are pleased to announce that Volume III, Issue I of The Haley Classical Journal is now live! 

In this issue of The Haley, explore topics ranging from Roman spolia to re-examinations of grief in the Iliad. You may read the full issue here, as well as our previous issues.

Our submission period for Volume III, Issue II (with publication in June of 2022) is now also open. We will be receiving papers until March 11, 2022. We encourage any students who will be undergraduates next semester to submit their work here, including those who have submitted work to us before!

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 02/08/2022 - 3:16pm by .
A woodcut of a black and white manuscript page with Latin text at the bottom. Above the text is an image of a woman covered in feathers with the wings and feet of a bird, thebreasts and face of a human woman, and long hair. A banner above her reads "FAMA"

In Plautus’s Mercator, the senex Demipho, the archetypal lecherous old man, attempts to justify to his son his purported decision not to purchase the puella Pasicompsa as a maid for their household. While the audience understands Demipho’s dissimulation — he will, as we know, purchase the girl to satiate his lascivious desires — the old man must trot out a believable excuse to the lovelorn adulescens, whose own parallel obsession with Pasicompsa motivates the plot of the play. Rather than appeal to expediency or even to economics, Demipho argues that the presence of the girl in their household would bring shame to the family and harm their reputation:

Because there would be a scandal if a woman of her appearance were to follow the mother of a household; were she to walk through the streets, everybody would stare at her, ogle her, nod to her, wink at her, whistle at her, pinch her, call after her, and be a nuisance. People would serenade mockingly at our door. With their pieces of charcoal the door would be filled with little ditties. And, given what crooked gossipers people are nowadays, they would disapprove of my wife and myself on the grounds that we were keeping a brothel. What on earth is that necessary for?

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 02/07/2022 - 10:22am by .

Several affiliated groups have extended their deadlines in their calls for abstracts for the 2023 Annual Meeting:

American Classical League, Teaching Students to Read Latin: What does that mean?, February 10, 2022

Vergilian Society, Green Vergil: Nature and the Environment in Vergil and the Vergilian Tradition, February 11, 2022

Society for Late Antiquity, Slow and Fast Violence in Late Antiquity, February 15, 2022

View full article. | Posted in General Announcements on Mon, 02/07/2022 - 8:43am by .
ACLS logo

The American Council of Learned Societies Opens 2022 Leading Edge Fellowship Competition for Recent PhDs in the Humanities and Interpretive Social Sciences

Program Partners Early-Career Humanities Scholars with Nonprofit Organizations Advancing Social Justice

Fellowship applications due by 9pm EDT on Monday, March 28, 2022.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 02/02/2022 - 12:06pm by .

Pages

Latest Stories

SCS Announcements
SCS Announcements
Symposium Cumanum – Call for Proposal
Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings
JOIN TAPA FOR A VIRTUAL OPEN

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy