Biennium Beantium: Two Years of Antigone

Team Antigone

Tempus truly fugit, eh? Today marks two years since we first launched the Antigone skiff out onto the choppy waters of the public-facing humanities. And since making that optimistic leap of faith we have, truth be told, loved our time on the waves: we’ve been thrilled about both who has swum out to climb on board HMS Tigs, and who has come along to cheer us on warmly, and sometimes wildly, from the safety of the shore. So, in the hope that we don’t go on about ourselves too much, we offer below a brief summary of where we feel we’ve got to.

The Antigone project has now hosted some 170 writers, whose 300-odd pieces now tot up to a million words or so. Our authors come from all around the world – nearly 20 countries across five continents. As well as professional Classicists from 55 universities and colleges, we have hosted articles by plenty of teachers, school pupils, undergraduate students, academics in several other fields, and enthusiasts from all walks of life: artists, musicians, authors, lawyers, librarians, journalists, cruciverbalists, and several folk enjoying a sprightly retirement.

Without doing anything particular to spread the word, and without doing anything other than hosting free articles and resources for the Classics-curious, our website has somehow brought in a couple of million readers. Most of this readership comes from unknowable quarters – people who coming stumble upon our articles via search engines or direct links. While a little over half of our audience comes from Anglophone countries (with 500,000 American readers leading the charge), we’re thrilled that we have now had readers from every country and territory in the world.

Our pieces have been picked up in plenty of news stories (serious and silly), as well as cited in various academic books and articles. The growth of universities and schools linking to our material through their own online hubs has been significant, and now covers about a quarter of our total traffic. It’s always interesting, and somewhat mysterious, to see which of our articles take off – to see where they land on our range of possible readers, at anywhere between 1,500 and 200,000 views.

Over the past biennium we have hosted articles on all manner of things, ancient, medieval and modern – from 2nd millennium BC statues of Aphrodite right through to cutting-edge debates in 2023 with ChatGPT. There are pieces on most things we can think of: Amazons, Bus stops, Caecilius, Drinking, Exams, Free speech, Genshin Impact, Hortensius, Irrational spondees, Japan, Keats, Larkin, Maori culture, Naipaul, Oppian, Palimpsests, Quintilian, Raphael, ‘Sponsian’, Tiberius, Universities, Vindolanda, Weil, Xylotomy, Yorkers, Zeno, and, per se, &.

Our page that gathers together 100+ free Classics resource has evidently provided some sort of service to 50,000 people. And, far more importantly, nearly 20,000 people have profited from our Latin subtitles, or Latin football song. We have been proud to create a landing page for Kenneth Clark’s remarkable Civilisation series, and are glad to see it garner good traffic. We were also pleased to mark our 250th piece by asking our readers what ancient text they valued the most. And finally, our weekly email does the rounds more than our social media witterings, so thank you to all who read and respond to that hebdomadal oddity.

We enjoy running seasonal competitions, of which there have been seven so far. We love receiving witty and wonderful entries from all around the world, the young and old, the expert and the enthusiast. We have awarded several thousands of pounds to the various prize-winners, and also given away hundreds of Classics books via social media, all for free.

The last year has brought the team several items of sad news. Our contributor and friend, Stephen Coombs, died, but we are proud to have published two fascinating pieces by him. To mark the death of Her Late Majesty The Queen, we were proud to host a commemorative set of Latin poems. And the death of Pope Benedict XVI prompted a profound piece on his relationship with the Classics. The ongoing war in Ukraine has inspired two pieces on that country’s deeply-felt Classical culture.

Looking forwards, as we must, we have three major aims for the future.

First, to give the site sufficient stability that it will endure indefinitely. We are keen to find a way in future to pay our writers, who give us their time and knowledge and enthusiasm with such rare and admirable generosity. Our costs are supported by occasional donations, which are extremely welcome, but naturally ebb and flow beyond our control. To all of you have supported us at any point, we convey our sincerest thanks. We are excited about building support and gaining strength, with your continuing encouragement.

Second, to expand the free resources that we can offer Classics lovers and students from around the world, including open-access video courses for learning Latin and Greek from scratch. This is a major project – and do get in touch if you’d like to know more or have a hand in the project.

Third, to remain the busiest site offering open-access articles on the Ancient Greeks, Romans, other Mediterranean cultures, and their complex legacies over subsequent millennia. Our aim to be on the public radar as a free and easy-going site is of course still in its early days, but we are exceptionally grateful for all of those who have helped spread the word about the Antigone project. When you share our essays, you are broadcasting the remarkable fascination that the ancient world holds, and so joining us in spreading the inexhaustible wealth of Greco-Roman culture.

For the most part our readers are kind and curious, and are colleagues are generous and supportive. There are exceptions, of course, and some quite spectacular aberrations, but that is the world we live in. To all those who have the future of the subject closer to heart than self-interest, we raise a hearty glass.

Our team is small – and at the hard end there are only five or six of us (all full-time employed and with family commitments) who are able to help out every week. But the good news is that we share passion and enthusiasm, so the thousands of hours of (necessarily unpaid) work we’ve put in up to this point feels fully worthwhile for the cause at hand. So onwards we go!

Our ten most read articles to date, if you’re interested, are as follows.

10) Do wise men get drunk? (John Dillon, Sep. 2022)

9) Shakespeare’s Latin and Greek (Tom Moran, May 2022)

8) Civilisations and the ends of history (Michael Bonner, Nov. 2022)

7) Mark Antony’s living descendants (Theodore Kopaliani, Oct. 2022)

6) 10 rules for Ancient Greek accents (David Butterfield, June 2021)

5) Aristotle on 3 types of friendship (Anika Prather, March 2021)

4) Spartan cybersecurity? (Martine Diepenbroek, June 2021)

3) How to build an Ancient Greek temple (Edmund Stewart, Sep. 2022)

2) What did ancient languages sound like? (Nicholas Swift, July 2021)

1) What makes Roman comedy tick? (Orlando Gibbs, Aug. 2021)

Well, we are pleased, but certainly not surprised, that the authors of these most-read pieces range across school pupils, undergraduate and graduate students, professional academics, and those outside the academic world entirely. More of the same, please!

Sat sit; enough for now.