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UWF Event Gives Glimpse Into Ancient Roman Culture

The public will be able to take a glimpse into ancient Roman culture during a two-day event held April 3-4 the University of West Florida.

The event, titled Daily Life in Ancient Rome, will feature a number of interdisciplinary research presentations, authentic food offerings and demonstrations - including a Roman catapult.  

Dr. Marie-Therese Champagne, an associate professor of history at the university, started the event several years ago in an effort to make history come alive for her students.

Credit Michael Spooneybarger/CREO
Brooklyn Caulder a junior history major and Matthew Todd a senior international studies major pose for a photo during the Daily Life in Ancient Rome event in the John C. Pace Library at the University of West Florida Thursday October 27, 2016 in Pensacola, Florida.

“Several of us in the history department are doing new and innovative things to try to involve students much more in the action, make it become present to them,” Champagne said.  “From my area, I teach ancient medieval renaissance history and it’s hard to take field trips to Europe, so I try to bring the ancient and medieval settings here as much as I can.”

The event has expanded over the years with the help of grant funding. This year’s event, which is funded by the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities and the history department, includes research contributions from three different colleges at UWF.

“We are involving mechanical engineering students who are building a catapult. Of course, it’s not full size. We have to make that disclaimer and we’re being very safe,” Champagne said. “We have modern safety mechanisms with it. Also we have theater students who are putting on a gladiatorial demonstration. We have public health graduate students who are doing special projects on some of the really interesting and horrific public health problems they had in Rome. They had no idea of the cause of them, so the treatments and everything they were doing were not working, obviously.”

The event will also feature students presenting their research in ancient Roman costumes. 

“And we also will be having some authentic Roman foods according to ancient recipes that have been translated into modern measurements, for sampling,” Champagne said.

The event begins Tuesday, April 3 at 9 a.m. in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts. The catapult demonstration will be held later that afternoon at 1 p.m. at the intramural field behind the UWF Police station. That evening at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Bettina Bergmann, an ancient art historian and professor from Mount Holyoke College will give a keynote presentation entitled, “Visualizing the Natural World: Roman Gardens, Wall Paintings and Homes.” The event will continue on April 4, with a full day of activities, including the gladiatorial demonstration, which will be held at 1 p.m. on the Cannon Green at UWF.

Credit Michael Spooneybarger/CREO
Students present Roman lessons during the Daily Life in Ancient Rome event in the John C. Pace Library at the University of West Florida Thursday October 27, 2016 in Pensacola, Florida.

“We have several resources here on campus to produce something that is unique in the experiences of many of these students,” Champagne said. “The involvement of mechanical engineering has been termed a rare collaboration with history, which I think is fantastic. And I hope to expand this more, I do have funding that has been provided very generously through the university that we hope to expand this over the next several springs and produce it each spring. There are five different departments involved right now over three colleges, and I’m hoping that more and more will want to get involved.”

For more information on the event, contact Champagne at mchampagne@uwf.edu.