Centiens adsentiens: Antigone’s semestral survey

Antigone

We generally try to keep our heads down at Antigone. Our belief is that our articles say and do enough in and of themselves without need for further public comment. But the coincidence today of two noteworthy milestones – the appearance of our 100th article and the completion of our first six months live – gives us the opportunity to survey our progress and to reaffirm our fundamental principles and goals.

Antigone was launched to provide an open forum for Classics in two senses. First, open to articles from all topics in the field, and from writers of all stripes – academics, students, enthusiasts – without restriction. Second, open to readers coming from entirely outside the academic world, allowing them to access these articles freely and in a form that is readable and enjoyable.

We have been very pleased with all the writers who have either accepted our invitations to write, or – just as commonly – have volunteered to write out of the blue. Since Antigone is free in all senses of the word, its work is funded from the pockets of its unpaid editorial team; we cannot pay for contributions, but trust that our writers take sufficient enjoyment from opening up the subject to consider that repayment for their work. For us, it has been particularly rewarding to see articles from school-pupils, current undergraduates and several brilliant graduate students, as well as those in-between. We look forward to running many more in the near future, as we do to expanding our teaching resources.

It’s been a thrill to see how broad a readership our first century of articles has attracted. The site has been visited by hundreds of thousands of people since our launch in March. Given our largely monoglottal content, it’s unsurprising that most of our readers come from the Anglophone world; but we have been cheered to see particularly substantial traffic from India, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Holland, Poland, and Greece. We have attracted at least some interest from readers spread across the whole world – in fact, from all but seven countries and six island nations.[1] While we take nothing for granted, and have not even woven any of the laurel wreaths on which we could make the mistake of resting, we keenly hope to reach the million-readers mark by the time of our first anniversary.

To be honest, we’re not quite clear on how word about Antigone has spread as it has. A third of our traffic comes via the obvious routes of social media; but the majority arrives via a complex mix of educational institutions, apps, literary websites, online forums, discussion groups, search engines, and all manner else. Whatever is going on, we are deeply grateful to all of you who have shared our articles, and encouraged others to take a look at what we host. So cheers to all the big-hearted, big-picture folk out there.

Our pieces have covered a good amount of ground so far: we now have over 200,000 words of content on the Classical world and its reception, ranging both through the canon and into much less explored corners of the subject. We’ve already built a good geographical spread of authors (a dozen countries, 35 universities and schools) from all age groups: our 80 or so contributors range from teenagers to octogenarians. The two quarterly competitions we’ve run have spread that net even wider, with commended competitors including an 8- and an 87-year-old.

We are always intrigued to see which pieces catch the public imagination most, and to hear why. Perhaps it may interest some of you to know which of our pieces most took off and/or got people talking:

Our most read piece appeared in July – Nicholas Swift’s deft survey of how the sounds of ancient languages can be resurrected with some clever detective work and hard graft. It sailed through 50,000 views later that month and continues to bring in a fine crop of readers every week. If you haven’t read it yet, now is as good a time as any![2]

Our most discussed piece appeared in May – Tully Williams’ account of how he came to access the Classics as an enthusiast ‘on the outside’. The article has prompted many inspiring messages, comments and correspondence from those who have shared similar experiences. This is music to our ears, or rather magic to our eyes, for it’s a fundamental part of the Antigone mission to demonstrate that anyone can step into the worlds of the Greeks and Romans, can soon find their feet, and perhaps even their niche, so long as that opportunity arises.

Our most shared piece was in fact more of a song – our collaboration with the young singer Cannibal to turn an iconic football tune (at least for the English) into a Latin belter. The results – thanks to Hayley’s brilliance – conveyed something of the joy and fun of what we’re about. The story did the rounds, and enjoyed some good coverage on TV, radio and in the papers. You can take a read here, if renewed recollections of the World Cup’s denouement don’t make you blanch…

Our most controversial piece popped out at the end of May. To mark the appearance of a new edition of Apuleius’ Golden Ass, translated by Ellen Finkelpearl (Scripps College) and with an introduction by the moral philosopher Peter Singer (Princeton), we republished Singer’s reflections on the significance of this text for modern animal rights, a piece that had previously appeared in the Literary Review. While Singer’s views on some other subjects are controversial and difficult, including for members of our team, his importance as an academic and public intellectual persuaded us that his thoughts on bringing an ancient text to a wider audience were of general interest.

A number of forceful – and in some cases personally malicious – objections to this decision were made on social media. This shocked us, not least because Singer publishes work in a wide variety of media, from academic journals to the popular press, usually without controversy. Although dismayed by suggestions that a Classics journal should debar some academics from the free and civil exchange of ideas, we continue to take the view that articles should be judged primarily on the basis of what they say, not who has said it. Equally, as an open forum, we welcome constructive pieces that make opposing cases to anything we publish. After all, just as in any journal or university, no Antigone author should be assumed to hold the views of any other.

The editors of Antigone are delighted with the success of the project up to this point. We are also looking excitedly to the future. We wish to thank all colleagues and Classics-lovers who have engaged positively with what we do. All the while we aim to attract still more Classicists as readers, writers and supporters. If you feel you can help, please share your ideas here!

We remain just six-months young, and there’s so much we are yet to roll out. Since we and our readers are a community united by shared passions, and since our network is now not insubstantial, we look forward to introducing events – in-person and online – to put us all into proper conversation. For the time being, we wish just to record a heartfelt final “thank you” to all who have let their curiosity roam wide on our site, and all who share our excitement about what is still yet to come.

Ἐρρῶσθαι.


Notes

Notes
1 Please feel free to put in a good word for Antigone in Chad, Eritrea, Eswatini, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, North Korea (?), Turkmenistan; Comoros, Marshall Islands, Palau, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
2 The Internet is a funny place, and on the day this paragraph appeared, another brilliant piece – Orlando Gibbs on Roman comedy – started to rocket, and is about to become our first piece to achieve 100,000 reads off its own bat.