Experience ancient Rome at Brock’s 10th annual Saturnalia

Brock University students are invited to experience a bit of ancient Roman Thursday, Dec. 8 when the Department of Classics and Archaeology holds its 10th annual Saturnalia event.

Based on an ancient Roman festival, the event gives students the opportunity to connect with each other and with faculty in a fun environment while learning about the ancient Mediterranean world.

“It’s an opportunity to embrace everyone’s company and celebrate that we’re a community of people who really love learning about ancient Greece and Rome,” says Fanny Dolansky, Associate Professor and one of the organizers for this year’s event.

Held from 5 to 7 p.m., the evening features a variety of Roman-themed activities, prizes and light refreshments. Activities will include a games room, where students can collect prize tickets playing Roman games of chance, and a department-wide scavenger hunt. Participants can also engage with artifacts in the archaeology lab and take in the Pompeian graffiti projects by students from CLAS 3P31 Art and Archaeology of Pompei.

Students are encouraged to dress up, with a prize going to the best toga costume, and, in a nod to the modern holiday season, the best holiday sweater.

In Roman times, the Saturnalia festival began on Dec. 17 and involved banqueting, gift-giving, games, role-reversal and general merry-making as well as public religious observances. The festival could last up to a week and bore similarities to later mid-winter festivals, including Christmas, New Year and Twelfth Night.

In its 10th year at Brock, Saturnalia has become a popular feature in the department. When it could not be held in person in 2020 due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, the event was moved online, and last year it was modified to meet social distancing requirements.

“The core success of Saturnalia might be that all of our colleagues who are involved working behind the scenes do so happily,” says Associate Professor Carrie Murray, who initiated the original event in 2012. Faculty and staff volunteer their time to organize the event and donate materials and prizes.

In recognition of the role reversal of the original Saturnalia, the department’s event is an opportunity for the faculty to give back to students, says Department Chair and Associate Professor Katharine von Stackelberg.

“Historically, Saturnalia was a festival of inversion, when the people in authority served the people who would normally not be in authority,” she says. “The students are quite excited by the fact that this is something the faculty are putting on purely for the students’ enjoyment. It’s a way for faculty to express how much we appreciate our students.”

The event is open to all interested students, who are invited to explore spaces in the department, such as the archaeology lab, the museum and the workroom, that they may not have had an opportunity to experience yet.

“It really is an event where we are trying to reach out to the broader Brock community and invite them to come and find out a little bit more about us,” says von Stackelberg. “Saturnalia makes you feel part of a community.”

What: Saturnalia, a free event for Brock students
Where: Global Commons IC 104
When: Thursday, Dec. 8, 5 to 7 p.m.

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