The Writing on the Wall: The Perilous Future of Historical Sites and Monuments

This article was originally published in January 2020 on the Retrospect Journal website and can be read here.

In March 2014, officials in the Huairou District of Beijing announced their intention to certify part of the Great Wall of China a ‘graffiti zone’, formally allowing individuals to freely etch their names into the millennia old fortification. Located within the Mutianyu section – one of the best preserved areas of the wall and particularly popular with tourists – the controversial decision was made in an effort to abate increasing destruction by overzealous visitors. Authorities claimed this drastic step was a necessary one, arguing that patrolling officers and warning signs across the 5500 mile long structure had already proven ineffective, and that granting people permission to inscribe their messages on a small portion of the wall would lure them away from defacing it elsewhere. 

The Great Wall of China, however, is not unique in its suffering. Just three months after the dedication of the graffiti zone in Beijing, a part of the parapet on the historic Pont des Arts bridge in Paris (originally constructed during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte in the nineteenth century before being rebuilt in the 1980s) collapsed under the weight of padlocks attached to its railings. In a tradition where amorous couples seek to immortalise their devotion by marking their initials on a ‘love lock’ before attaching it to a bridge or other railing, the literal weight of this act proved costly. Subsequently, some forty-five tonnes of padlocks were removed from the Pont des Arts and destroyed. Locals in Verona, Italy are similarly bearing the burden of sentimental tradition. The courtyard of the Casa di Giulietta, believed to belong to William Shakespeare’s eponymous – and fictitious – heroine in Romeo and Juliet has become awash with scribblings, engravings and paper notes tacked to the walls with chewing gum (despite the infamous balcony from which she delivers her soliloquy being a twentieth century addition). The response from local authorities in this instance was to provide removable boards to satiate the desire of visitors to commemorate their love and to prevent further damage to neighbouring properties.

Human defilement is not the only factor at work in the destruction of outdoor landmarks, however. Erosion caused by weather conditions and natural degradation over time is a constant threat to their conservation. How best to preserve them whilst maintaining the integrity of the original structure has often proven a contentious issue. The Pictish standing stones of medieval Scotland exemplify this struggle, as their pictorial and ogham inscriptions are gradually worn by the harsh climate. In Forres, on the Moray coast, the monolithic ninth-century Sueno’s Stone now stands interred behind glass panels to prevent further damage, although remains on the site where it was first erected. The Anglo-Saxon Ruthwell Cross, which once stood in the yard of the church after which it is named, is now housed inside the building in an apse specially constructed for it in 1887. Whilst sheltering the cross – which dates to the eighth century – from the elements has ensured its survival, in doing so it no longer serves the same purpose for which it was originally created. What once was an object to be observed by passing laity – an ecclesiastical monument to the omnipotence of God and a beacon for travelling pilgrims – is now an artefact of historical religious significance. Whilst the artistry of the cross can still be admired by those who enter Ruthwell Church today, its context in the annals of medieval Christianity ought not to be disregarded.

Sueno’s Stone in Forres, Moray is now stands behind an armoured glass structure to prevent natural and human degradation.

Preserving and restoring structures subject to elemental deterioration presents a plethora of issues to conservationists, something which is only exacerbated by sites which benefit greatly from the tourist trade. Drawing new swathes of visitors to areas on occasion serves as the driving force in restoring ancient monuments but becomes problematic when done so to an inadequate standard. Addressing cosmetic deterioration on a merely superficial level often fails to fully address the source of the decay or does so in a manner unsympathetic to the original architecture. In 2016, the Great Wall of China once again hit headlines due to what individuals, including the chairman of the China Great Wall Society, viewed as an incredibly unsympathetic repair on a mile long stretch of it however official plans were announced in 2019 to reinstate the wall and prevent further irreversible damage.

Needless to say, preserving a monument as grand in scale as the Great Wall of China is not quite as simple as installing plywood panels along its ramparts or placing it behind armoured glass sheets. The dedication of the graffiti zone may be seen as the best possible course of action in what has become an increasingly dire situation. The most drastic course of action – preventing tourist access to the well-travelled sections of wall – would prove a gravely arduous and immensely costly task given the economic boost provided by tourist commerce, although graffiti is but one problem threatening the future of the structure. An estimated 30% of the Great Wall built by the ruling Ming dynasty has been lost due to natural erosion and the theft of bricks by tourists and locals alike. Although patrols continue along the route, maintaining 5500 miles of fortification visited annually by an estimated eleven million visitors in the most popular sections alone is a complex issue.

Column detail at the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion, Attica, showing the signature reputed to belong to Lord Byron (bottom centre).

On occasion, however, the inscriptions left behind by figures eminent in their own right may actually serve in drawing visitors to an area. A signature purported to belong to Romantic poet Lord Byron on a column of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion in Attica draws as many literary admirers as it does classicists. It would malapropos to suggest, however, that making an allowance for this particular piece of history serves to encourage the public debasement of ancient monuments. The desire for people to leave their mark on sites of great provenance is all too common an issue facing conservationists and whilst individuals may do so ignorant to the consequences of their vandalism, it is a problem needing addressed on a global scale before historical sites are irreversibly damaged – or lost entirely.


Sueno’s Stone image courtesy of Scott from London, UK, Sueno’s Stone, Forres (2865748659), CC BY-SA 2.0

Detail of Temple of Poseidon image courtesy of Larry from Charlottetown, PEI, Canada, Detail of Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion (4692639675), CC BY 2.0


Aitken-Burt, Laura. “Rewriting History.” History Today, January, 2020.

Chance, Stephen. “The Politics of Restoration.” The Architectural Review 196, no. 1172 (October 1994): 80-4.

Coldwell, Will. “Great Wall of China to Establish Graffiti Area for Tourists.” The Guardian, 4 March, 2020.


The Arnolfini Portrait and the Limits of Interpretation

This article was originally published in November 2019 on the Retrospect Journal website and can be read here.

Hung in the fifteenth-century Netherlandish painting room of the National Gallery, Jan van Eyck’s 1434 Arnolfini Portrait has been a source of intrigue, mystery and vastly differing readings since its purchase by the gallery in 1842. Measuring just under one metre in height, this oil panel – commonly understood to be a member of the prominent Italian Arnolfini family and his wife – is replete with detail. Such a wealth of imagery has invited a great deal of scholarly debate concerning how to interpret the artwork however, when even the identity of the painting’s subjects cannot be confirmed with absolute certainty, uncovering the true intention of van Eyck’s masterpiece is no small task.

A pivotal work in the study of the painting is a 1934 thesis published in the Burlington Magazine by art historian Erwin Panofsky. An expert in analysing iconography and symbolism in art of the Northern Renaissance, the impetus for Panofsky’s reading was an earlier theory presented by Louis Dimier who believed the couple to be Jan van Eyck and his wife. Panofsky disagreed with this interpretation of ‘Johannes de Eyck fuit hic’ (an inscription on the wall behind the couple which translates as ‘Jan van Eyck was here’), believing it to signify that the artist was present as a witness rather than a bridegroom. However, in the inventories of Margaret of Austria in what Panofsky termed the “orthodox theory”, the male figure in the panel was declared as one ‘Arnoult fin’; adopting this stance, Panofsky asserted that the couple must therefore be Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife, Jeanne de Cename. He then argued, with convincing reasoning, that it not only represented a nuptial scene but served as a pictorial wedding contract, citing that the clandestine nature of the wedding would necessitate such a unique testimony from van Eyck.

Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434). Oil on Panel, 82 x 59.5cm. London, The National Gallery.
Jan Van Eyck, “Arnolfini Portrait” (1434). London, The National Gallery.

Several counter arguments were presented to Panofsky’s theory in subsequent years. In 1994, art historian Edwin Hall published The Arnolfini Betrothal in which he argued that the painting was not a wedding scene, but rather commemorated an engagement. However, both theories rested on the supposition that the gentleman in the painting was the same man. Unchallenged for decades, later findings would expose a tremendous flaw in this assumption, shattering the foundations upon which both theories rested. Whilst Panofsky refers in his text simply to a ‘Giovanni Arnolfini,’ the name was shared by two members of the family, both of whom lived in Bruges when van Eyck was active: Giovanni de Arrigo Arnolfini – who was married to Jeanne de Cename and who Panofsky believes are the couple depicted – and his cousin, Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini. The discovery of another inventory would be his undoing; ducal accounts confirmed that the former Arnolfini cousin and Jeanne were not wed until 1447, 13 years after the ‘matrimonial’ artwork was completed. If it was Giovanni de Arrigo Arnolfini, it could not be a nuptial scene. Lorne Campbell, former Beaumont Senior Research Curator at the National Gallery and responsible for the gallery’s catalogue of Fifteenth Century Netherlandish Paintings, claimed that the couple were di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife, Costanza Trenta. But again, a critical problem arose with this attribution – Constanza Trenta died in 1433. It could be that, as Lorne Campbell suggests, di Nicolao was wed for a second time very soon after the death of this first wife, but no evidence has been uncovered to support this notion.

However, whilst the majority of scholarship supports the concept that the painting depicts a conjugal scene – which throws into serious question the identity of the couple – it may convey a dramatically different tale. The majority of Panofsky’s argument centres on his interpretation of the many objects interspersed throughout the scene, such as the solitary candle burning in a chandelier directly above the male Arnolfini’s head. For Panofsky, it can have only one meaning; not serving any practical purposes of illumination, he states emphatically that it relates to the matrimonial oath. But in fifteenth-century artistic convention, the burning candle served other purposes of a much more sombre ilk. Presenting her own findings in 2003, art historian, Margaret Koster introduces the burning candle as a symbol of life, but that the extinguished candle over Constanza’s head may in actuality signify her death. The symbolic counter-arguments do not end there: the small dog at the feet of the couple, which for Panofsky represents marital fidelity, was also a common trope in female tomb effigies as they were believed to accompany them into the afterlife. Incidentally, Panofsky notes the similarities in the stance of the couple to Roman sarcophagi but cites this reference as little more than a possible ‘influence.’ The mirror hung on the wall above van Eyck’s signature too has prompted speculation; whilst Panofsky does not probe its inclusion beyond reflecting the couple, Koster states that it’s a device often used in vanitas paintings. Like the memento mori, such compositions denote the fragility of life and inevitability of death. In such paintings, mirrors represent both vanity and truth, and its inclusion in a convex form within the Arnolfini Portrait may signify a distorted perception of the world; the reality of the married couple portrayed in actuality being a melancholic figment of imagination.

It also ought to be stated that what Panofsky considers deliberate or ‘disguised symbolism’ purposely included by Jan van Eyck may in fact be incidental. He goes into great deal in elaborating the purpose of the small dog at the feet of the Arnolfini’s as a representation of faith; whilst it may have a more sorrowful purpose, it may also simply be a beloved lapdog, another common feature in artwork of the period. Indeed, the marital vow that Panofsky attests the couple are taking based on their hand gestures (note that the examples he uses show the joining of the couples right hands; in the Arnolfini Portrait, his left hand takes her right which in itself has prompted problematic interpretation) could signify a plethora of oaths. With the crux of his argument resting on an understanding that has since proven false, Panofsky’s translation of what he considers to be deliberate symbols quickly begins to unravel.

With such conflicting scholarship, it seems the true ‘meaning’ of the Arnolfini portrait may never be indubitably uncovered. What Edwin Panofsky and the scholars that both proceeded and followed him show is how interpretation is severely limited by how much it can be substantiated. Despite plausible theories and cogent argumentation, Panofsky’s thesis unfortunately fell foul to the passing of time and subsequent findings. That is not to say that his thesis ought to be completely disregarded, rather his understanding of iconography and Netherlandish painting provide an interesting insight into a masterpiece. The mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait, however, continues.


Hall, Edwin, The Arnolfini Betrothal: Medieval Marriage and the Enigma of Van Eyck’s Double Portrait, (London, 1994).

Hicks, Carola, The Girl in a Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait, (London, 2012).

Janson, Anthony F., “The Convex Mirror as Vanitas Symbol,” Source: Notes in the History of Art, 2/3 (1985): 51-54.

Koster, Margaret L., “The Arnolfini Double Portrait: A Simple Solution,” Apollo, 499 (2003): 3-14.Panofsky, Erwin, “Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 372 (1934): 117-127. 


The Woman with Lapis Lazuli in Her Teeth: Exploring the Female Scribes of Medieval Europe

This article was originally published in November 2019 on the Retrospect Journal website and can be read here.

A 2014 analysis of the remains of a woman, exhumed from the burial site adjacent to a former medieval monastery in Dalheim, Germany, found brilliant blue particles embedded in her dental calculus. Raman spectroscopic analysis revealed these pigments to be lapis lazuli: an immensely valuable commodity in the Middle Ages and used only by the most skilled artists in works of the highest order. What made this discovery all the more spectacular is that she dates from around the eleventh to early twelfth century where examples of the expensive mineral, mined only in one region of Afghanistan, are exceptionally rare. Whilst numerous theories have been proposed as to how it found its way into a one thousand year old dental plaque, the prevailing thought is that this woman was a monastic scribe – and an accomplished one at that. The copying of Christian manuscripts was vital for its spread beyond Latin Christendom throughout late antiquity and the middle period, with dedicated writing rooms – known as scriptoria – established in monasteries for this purpose. The frequently reproduced image of the medieval scribe in a candle lit room: his tonsured head bent over a desk as he commits to parchment the gospels of the four Evangelists, illustrates the false notion that writing in the Middle Ages was solely the pursuit of men. Although evidence of the role that women played in the preservation of ecclesiastical literature is immensely sparse, documented accounts of the female scribe do indeed exist.

The lower jaw of the Dalheim woman displaying evidence of lapis lazuli pigment. Photo courtesy of Christina Warinner (used with permission).

The lack of signature on what textual evidence does remain, however, makes the task of identifying scribes an incredibly problematic one. Very little can be safely attributed to any one person, let alone exclusively to the hand of a woman. Whilst the vast majority of references to female writers and illuminators exist second-hand in passing reference, there are a modest number of signed works. A female scribe by the name of Duriswint is attributed to a small prayer book crafted for Emperor Otto III; written using gold ink upon purple parchment, it was a luxurious gift for a tremendously powerful individual, suggesting that Duriswint was greatly respected in her trade. Monastic communities were vital, not only as centres of ascetic practice and veneration, but as institutions where women too were afforded a literary education. Gisela, abbess of Chelles and sister of Charlemagne (fl. 785-810), was responsible for a large scriptorium of nuns in which a number of works were produced bearing their signatures. Although largely uniform and indistinguishable from one another, the quality of the manuscripts created demonstrates both their skill and their rigorous training. Whilst not erroneous to assume that the majority of lay people during the Middle Ages were illiterate, it is often assumed that women had little to no access to education regardless of status. Indeed, there is a lack of textual evidence to the contrary and quantifying literacy rates – male or female – is a fruitless task, but such examples begin to challenge the suppositional historiography upon which the presence of the female scribe has been established.

Although manuscripts produced in the monastic scriptorium are difficult to assign, tangible evidence of female authorship predates the Dalheim woman by millennia. Enheduanna of Sumer (fl. twenty-third century BC) not only has a number of devotional hymns ascribed to her but is the earliest known recorded author – male or female. Female lyric poets, such as Corinna and Sappho, flourished in sixth century BC Greece. In the fourth century AD, as Christianity came to be the dominant religion of the Roman Empire and literary practices evolved with it, so too were women lauded for their penmanship. Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History (c. early fourth century), references the “girls trained for beautiful writing”, producing manuscripts for Origen. Women are not only centred in this instance but were, as Eusebius suggests, highly proficient calligraphers producing manuscripts on behalf of a very prominent Christian theologian. The role of the medieval scribe was not merely secretarial; the illuminations of gospel books of the early medieval period reveal in glorious colour the heights of monastic artistry at this time. Similarly, the quality of the materials used reflects the importance of the commission; the glorious eighth century Lindisfarne Gospels were written upon vellum crafted from some 150 calf skins. Eadfrith – the scribe responsible for their creation – was, however, unable to procure the rare lapis lazuli found on the Dalheim woman and so created his own pigment from more locally sourced ingredients. Not only was this female scribe using an immensely valuable material in her work, she was using one that was seemingly impossible to retrieve from the far reaches of central Asia. 

Christine de Pisan writing in her study. From The Book of the City of Ladies (1405).

How this mineral came to arrive in Germany, at what cost and for what purpose are but a few of the copious questions which remain unanswered from this discovery. As postulated by the team involved in analysing the skeleton of the Dalheim woman, it is entirely plausible that she was indeed operating as a scribe at this monastery during the High Medieval period. That lapis lazuli was available for her not only suggests trade connections beyond the presumed reaches of the period, but highlights her status within the field of manuscript copying. This is of course likely to invite speculation – and indeed has already done so – but it ought not to be rebuked for its existence as a solitary example of female clerical excellence; it exists as only one thread in the larger tapestry of women and their ecclesiastical writing. Beyond the medieval scriptorium, female authors were certainly not unheard of. Whilst the clerical reforms established by Pope Gregory VII in the eleventh century threatened to restrict those who were not enticed by the reverence of an ascetic life, female authorship came to the fore during the fourteenth century, exemplified in the writing of Christine de Pisan. If this article seeks to demonstrate anything it is that women were not only active in the production of medieval manuscripts but, as the woman with lapis lazuli in her teeth serves to illuminate, were highly proficient in it.


For further reading on the scriptoria at Chelles Abbey, see: Rosamind McKitterick, “Women and Literacy in the Early Middle Ages” in Books, Scribes and Learning in the Frankish Kingsoms, 6-9th Centuries (Hampshire: Variorum, 1994).

For further reading on Eusebius’ account and the female scribes of Roman Antiquity, see: Kim Haines-Etzen, “’Girls Trained for Beautiful Writing’: Female Scribes in Roman Antiquity and Early Christianity” in the Journal of Early Christian Studies, no. 4 (1998): 629-646.

Lapis lazuli cover image courtesy of James St. John, Lapis lazuli (Italian Mountain, Colorado, USA) 4 (49167330817), CC BY 2.0


*A special thanks to Dr Zubin Mistry at the University of Edinburgh for his literary recommendations.

Conrad-O’Briain, Helen. “Were Women Able to Read and Write in the Middle Ages?” In Misconceptions About the Middle Ages, eds. Stephen Harris and Bryon L. Grigsby (New York: Routledge, 2008).

Haines-Eitzen, Kim. The Gendered Palimpsest: Women, Writing, and Representation in Early Christianity. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Haines-Eitzen, Kim. “”Girls Trained in Beautiful Writing”: Female Scribes in Roman Antiquity and Early Christianity.” Journal of Early Christian Studies, no. 4 (1998): 629-646.

McKitterick, Rosamind. “Women and Literacy in the Early Middle Ages.” In Books, Scribes and Learning in the Frankish Kingdoms, 6-9th Centuries. (Hampshire: Variorum, 1994).

Radini, A., M. Tromp, A. Beach, E. Tong, C. Speller, M. McCormick, J. V. Dudgeon et al. “Medieval Women’s Early Involvement in Manuscript Production Suggested by Lapis Lazuli Identification in Dental Calculus.” Scientific Advances, no. 1 (2019): 1-8.

Stevenson, Jane. Women Latin Poets: Language, Gender, and Authority from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).


The Lost Cimabue: Reflections on a Medieval Master

This article was originally published in October 2019 on the Retrospect Journal website and can be read here.

Woman discovers Renaissance masterpiece in kitchen,’ declares The Guardian on 24 September 2019 upon the surfacing of a rare painting by thirteenth-century Florentine artist, Cimabue, in the home of an elderly woman in northern France. Christ Mocked, one of only eleven known wood panel paintings attributed to the artist, was found hung inconspicuously above the stove of the anonymous woman’s home. Here it had remained – unassumingly and undisturbed – for many years. The arrival of this artwork into public knowledge has garnered much intrigue; however, there remains a great deal of mystery surrounding this discovery – especially how it came to be hung on the wall of a kitchen in Compiegne. I hope in this article to shed a little more light on this once lauded artist. His fall from celebrity has seen him almost erased from the artistic canon in contemporary scholarship, and I write this article in the hopes that this exciting discovery will help restore some of his artistic legacy.

Cimabue, “Christ Mocked”, c.1280. Currently in private ownership.

Cimabue was born Bencivieni di Pepo in 1240 in Florence, Italy. Both a painter and mosaicist, he was credited by Giorgio Vasari in his seminal 1550 text, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects as being the artist ‘who spread first light upon the art of painting’. This accolade helped to cement Cimabue’s reputation as a forerunner in propelling the Italo-Byzantine style forward, which in itself was heralded as a welcome return to the high artistic style of Classical antiquity. He was amongst the first to explore perspective and naturalism in painting. He especially focused on enhancing the largely stylised iconography of his predecessors, with such examples found in the frescoes of The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Whilst many have been extensively damaged over the centuries, the surviving frescoes reveal his fantastically developed style and skill for figurative depiction.

A Changing Fashion

It would be inappropriate to discuss the life and work of Cimabue without giving mention to the artist – of arguably greater renown – believed in some scholarly circles to have been taught by the master, Giotto di Bondone. Giotto received great fame both as a painter of frescoes, a number of which adorn the walls of The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi alongside Cimabue, and as an architect. His artistic talent earned him the title of ‘caput magister’, or ‘Headmaster’, at Florence Cathedral with his accomplishments including the design of the campanile in 1334. Why Giotto has come to overshadow Cimabue is largely due to his enormous renown in life rather than the mastery of his craft – something immortalised by Dante in his epic Divine Comedy. In Purgatorio, Canto XI, he introduces the Italian painter, Oderisi da Gubbio, who laments the fleeting fame of artists, remarking that ‘Cimabue thought / To lord it over painting’s field; and now / The cry is Giotto’s, and his name eclips’d’.With a declining reputation amongst his contemporaries and with so few artworks comparative to Giotto, it is perhaps of little wonder why Cimabue receives such limited recognition today.

Giotto di Bondone, “Ognissanti Madonna“, c.1310. Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence.

It will take some time and several expert opinions before we are able to say with certainty whether or not this is indeed the work of the medieval Florentine artist. Additionally, it is made only more difficult by how few of his works have survived. Whilst there is little doubt that the artwork bears an unmistakable resemblance in style and content to other Cimabue wood panels, a more nuanced analysis will be required before it can be considered indubitable and not the work of a follower. How it came to end up in the ownership of this family – who believed the artwork to be a substantially less valuable Russian icon painting – is perhaps more difficult to discern and will invite a great deal of speculation. Mirroring the 2014 discovery of a painting by Caravaggio in the attic of an apartment in Toulouse, there are a number of theories as to how the Cimabue could have come to rest on a kitchen wall. The socio-economic upheaval of revolutionary France, coupled with a growing veneration of classicism as the epitome of ‘high art’, would have seen a medieval artist such as Cimabue fall out of favour. The lack of a signature on the artwork aided its fall into obscurity – and into the hands of an unwitting dealer.

Restoring an Artistic Legacy

If experts are able to confidently agree that this ‘tatty old artwork’ – as coined by Metro News Online – is indeed a Cimabue, then this discovery is an immensely important one. Whilst Cimabue might not be the household name that Caravaggio or Giotto are, the fact that so few of his works exist adds great significance to this find. His crucial role in art history at the transition from the homogeneity of iconography to the elaborate sensibilities of the Renaissance, ought not to be neglected. Yet, Cimabue is repeatedly omitted from prominent academic works. Perhaps this is due primarily to a lack of attributable works, or perhaps the debate surrounding the validity of Vasari’s account has further diminished his reputation as the teacher of Giotto. Perhaps Giotto simply propelled the Byzantine style further forward than Cimabue ever did, often exemplified by a comparison of the Santa Trinita Madonna of Cimabue and Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna. Let us set aside the writing of Vasari and Dante, and the questionable manner in which the press has chosen to relate this find (choosing to erroneously refer to the late medieval artist as ‘Renaissance’ – but therein lies another article). Instead, let us focus on restoring the reputation of Cimabue to artistic canon and how the discovery of an unassuming icon painting in a small French kitchen might just help us do that.



Firstly – many thanks for visiting my blog, whatever reason has brought you here. If somehow you have stumbled across it by sheer chance, let me provide a little introduction. A first year MA (Hons) Ancient and Medieval History student, I intend to use this website as a place to collate and share my writing, published or otherwise. Over time, however, I hope to expand it to include other work of a predominantly historical nature that I become involved in. I imagine, however, that there will be much natural progression over the course of my four year undergraduate degree and beyond.

My historical interests broadly span two millennia: from the Classical Period of Ancient Greece to the beginning of the Age of Discovery. I consider myself both a Classicist and Medievalist (why pick just one?), although very much at the beginning of my academic studies in each. I am open to developing more acute interests and envisage that my writing will develop to reflect this. In exploring some 2000 years of human history through antiquity and the Middle Ages, I am eager to challenge the all too common erroneous preconceptions of the latter as well as my own subconscious prejudice towards Western thought.

The majority of the articles I publish here have been uploaded to Retrospect Journal which I thoroughly encourage you to engage with. I welcome comments and discussion on each article; if you wish to contact me through other means or have any questions relating to my work, please visit the About section of my site. As may or may not be glaring obvious from the quality of my writing, I am a first year student and as such have much scope in which to develop, and much still to learn, but hope that – if nothing else – contributing regularly to this blog will help me to do just that. Rome, or so the adage goes, wasn’t built in a day after all.