The Paper Anniversary: Antigone’s First Year


When we launched Antigone in March 2021, we didn’t know what to expect from the project. There was then no public-facing website that sought to survey the Ancient Greeks and Romans on their own terms, while encouraging readers to explore their worlds – or at least none that could be accessed freely. So we rolled our sleeves up, approached friends to write on topics that enthused them, and crossed our fingers that their enthusiasm for Classics would prove to be infectious. Our hopes were not misplaced.

No one-year-old has sufficient experience of the world to say whether his or her life is achieving its ambitions – but, for Antigone at her first anniversary, we can at least say that we’re thrilled with how things have played out so far, and we are very excited about what the future holds. What follows, if you’re interested, is a summary of the things that have struck us most about our journey over this first year.

Writers and Readers

The site has published 170 new articles, comprising over 400,000 words, and 2,000 images. We’ve hosted some 110 writers from 15 countries, spread across four continents, and drawn from over 40 institutions; most cheeringly, our content has attracted readers from all over the world.[1] While most of our readers come from the major Anglophone countries – USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland – we have a substantial audience in India, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Greece, Spain, and France. Earlier this year we had our millionth reader, but at the time it seemed too arbitrary and self-congratulatory to celebrate.

Our essays to date have covered something of the broad span we always hoped to offer. Alongside scores of articles on literature, history and philosophy, we have run a wide range of pieces on archaeology, art, politics, linguistics, music, sport, the Classical tradition, the state of Classics and its future, and the crucial question of how to get into the Classics ‘from the outside’.

Some topics we knew would do well – those on Greek philosophy (especially Socrates), core authors, or the more (in)famous Roman emperors. But some of our top reads have really surprised and cheered us: many articles have had 20 or 30 times more readers than most modern academic works hope for. We’ve taken a lot of encouragement from the success of pieces on Ancient Greek accents; gender in language; Roman currency; the Greeks in Afghanistan; the pseudo-Latin filler text Lorem ipsum…, and the history of Classical scholarship. What’s more – as a hint of how large the potential online audience is when something fires the public imagination – a graduate student’s article on Roman comedy has received over 160,000 readers. It’s still early days, of course, and we have so many topics yet to tackle. But all in good time!

We’ve also been proud to host a very broad range of contributors: school pupils, undergraduates and graduates, university lecturers and researchers, amateur enthusiasts, professionals in other fields, you name it. Our competitions have spread that net even wider, allowing us to publish entries from an 8-year-old lad in China to an 88-year-old Brit. We’re also pleased too have published excellent writers from other online Classics journals, now defunct.

“If you build it, <t>he<y> will come.”

The Aims of Antigone

The day we launched – with just a half-dozen articles under our belt – we were as clear as we could be about our aims. A year on, we have seen no need to amend or expand them: they are simple, clear and firm. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to explore the Classical worlds of Greece and Rome, along with other ancient cultures in their orbit, and that this should be available without obstruction or cost.

We were glad to launch a “Helps” hub last autumn, which pools together the most impressive sites and tools that offer huge resources of information for free. Our hope is that publicising these tools will assist our curious-minded readers explore further on their own. We naturally regret that Antigone articles are currently English-only, but we’re nevertheless pleased that out readers still come from all over the world.[2]

The most important thing we have learned is that our instincts were right. The fascination that people feel the world over about the Ancient Greeks and the Romans is real, permanent and universal. Anyone who encounters these cultures feels both how familiar and alien they were – peoples whose myriad activities are remarkable and rewarding to confront and explore, however easy or difficult they may be for us to understand.

One thing that has really struck us is that our most successful pieces have provided access to the ancient world directly and honestly, without any contorted efforts to make it “relevant”, or to wag fingers at the past for its moral failings. The Antigone approach is neither to be triumphant about any “glories of antiquity”, nor to be debilitated by its horrors; we are driven onwards not by moralising judgment but by raw fascination with cultures that still offer us so many opportunities for instructive immersion.

Our open-plan office at the Cadmea in Thebes. To the right of the shot can be seen the “Professor Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson memorial ramp”.

The Team

Antigone appears on the basis of nothing other than the generosity of its writers and the hard work of its voluntary team. Just as no-one is charged to access the site, so no-one is paid to create and curate such a space. The writers receive nothing, their reviewers nothing, their editors nothing. If it’s true that more than 5,000 unpaid hours have been put into the project so far, we hope that this figure reflects how important those involved in Antigone believe the mission of keeping Classics alive to be.

The costs for maintaining the site, along with our social media and email tools, are borne by those team-members who feel they can – in these early days, at least – support the endeavour. That said, it was a welcome move to open up a route for donations earlier this year from our readers. We – and our supportive and sanguine family members – are so very grateful for those who have been able to offer support hitherto. Thank you!

Bertha, the 2,700-year-old office mascot.


We have been spurred on throughout our work by the support we have received from both expected and unexpected quarters. We’ve exchanged thousands of emails and messages and have enjoyed all interaction with the community who read us. When we held an in-person conference in the UK in December, it was such a joy to meet scores of new faces and to share ideas, jokes and drinks while discussing the subject that enthuses us. We are planning a couple of events later in 2022, which we much look forward to advertising to our email subscribers as and when.

Every three months we run a competition on some Classics-related topic. The four contests to date have brought us, our guest judges and our readers a good deal of fun. It’s been entirely worth it to award the talented winners nearly £2,000 in prize money, and to raffle off over 150 books to a random range of Classics lovers. We hope that those who have thrown their hat in this last year have also had some fun.

We’re steadily building a presence on Twitter and on Facebook, but that’s merely a means to an end. We’ve been keen from the start not to exist for these platforms, nor to produce content tailored to them and the communities who use them most. We’re not here to circulate quotations or draw cartoons or manufacture memes that propagate smiles and shares. Such things have their place and we wish all well who spread the Classics that way. But, for Antigone, the proportion of traffic coming from social media has shrunk as we have continued to grow: we are much more interested in the readers, often in schools and universities, who are evidently spending time working through and with our long-form essays. That said, as a recent article argued persuasively, there is real value in getting social media right in tandem, and we are keen to move into new platforms that have the ear of the young. If anyone would like to join us and help on that score, please do get in touch!

Online Reception

Our story to date has been largely a happy and peaceable one. That said, since we launched we have been reminded on a few unusually coordinated occasions that there is a small sector of Twitter-active Classicists who view the Antigone project with suspicion. Since these people neither speak to us nor engage with our writers, it is hard to know what about our site and its aims fires their ire. It is unclear what their goals for the future of Classics are that Antigone hinders rather than helps.

We called ourself an “open forum for Classics” advisedly, and have always been open to discussion and debate. We don’t block anyone from writing, and we wouldn’t dream of blocking anyone on social media. Instead, we always look forward to talking with those who can express their views thoughtfully and in good faith. After all, that is what it means to live in a tolerant and inclusive community, academic or otherwise.

We are passionate about supporting Classics in schools and universities worldwide, and to keep it active in communities at large. Our hope is that a decent proportion of our readers has ended up stepping further into the ancient world because of the introductions offered up by our writers. We can do much more, of course, and our always thinking about ways to help in that common cause.

Someone will see you soon: waiting lobby, Antigone HQ (purchased with undisclosed funds).


Some people have put it about that we are a “controversial” site. Our articles and writers are there to be read and judged on the basis of what they say. For some, it simply doesn’t matter what we do, because of that time we reprinted an article from a British literary magazine in which the Princeton professor of bioethics Peter Singer talked about his involvement in a new translation of Apuleius’ Golden Ass. As it is, the piece continues to be widely read by those who want to read it, and we are not minded to stop them.

To take a broader view that is instead prompted by the site’s content, it may indeed be controversial these days to run a website that is led by ideas and argument and evidence rather than by some monolithic dogma or political cause. If so, there’s not much we can do. While some may pose as the self-appointed gatekeepers of Classics, we regard the subject as the communal possession of all societies. So those lucky enough to be paid to help protect and project access to it really are duty-bound to keep the doors open.

At its best, the online Classics community is friendly, good-natured, engaging and encouraging to all who want the subject to thrive. Antigone exists to promote all that is best about our subject along such lines. At its worst, though, social media is bullying, exclusionary and pretty horrible, which sets it on a course that can only damage the subject’s health. We are certain that things can be done better.

The loneliness of the long-distance doomscroller.

The Future

We have lots of big and bold plans for the future. The most important of these is to work up full, open-access language courses in Latin, Ancient Greek and some of the core skills that can help people make their own way in the Classical world, when institutional provision is available only to a small proportion of the world’s population. We have only one series

up so far, as we’re all so desperately busy with our studies and jobs and families and the like. But, despite its being on the relatively technical topic of Greek and Latin metre, we’re cheered that it’s somehow found some 20,000 views so far. If you think you’d enjoy being involved in producing this sort of thing, as a fellow pro bono team member, please do get in touch with us here.

As to our future articles, we have many queued up in the wings, very many more out on commission, and a myriad more bouncing around our heads as ideas we’d love to get round to. So we’re as keen as ever for you to get in touch if you think you have a topic, or even a piece, that may interest our readers. Please just drop us a line and we’ll be very happy to chat. 

There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but there is ‘cat diary’ in ‘caryatid’.

What Keeps Us Smiling

We are so lucky to have a community of editors, writers and readers who share a love for exploring this subset of the ancient world and who are committed to helping others step into it. These people know how rewarding an experience it is to introduce others to topics they had known nothing about – and, in some cases, even to change their future life path.

The modern world has been shaped in so many ways by the legacy of the Greeks and Romans – by virtue of both their fact and fiction. Not only is our world better understood by exposure to the lives and thoughts of these distant cultures but so too can the fundamental pleasures and pains of being human be better appreciated, valued and – for the things that really matter – cherished.

To close, thank you again for reading, now and any other time.


1 In fact, we’ve now had traffic from every country save the Comoros, Palau, and – as may be expected – North Korea.
2 In a perfect universe, we would have a button which could translate our articles into the language of a reader’s choice, and without messing up Latin and Greek, to be read or narrated as desired.