Emerging from chaos and crisis

Children of an eastern suburb of London, who have been made homeless by the random bombs of the Nazi night raiders, waiting outside the wreckage of what was their homeThe Phoenix Project aims to consider examples of regeneration and restoration from history, it  reflects on how civilisations and cultures emerge from conflict and/or crisis and attempts to establish imaginative links between past and present insights. The fundamental premise for this project is that history’s efforts to establish order out of disorder offer parallels still useful to any contemporary society in, or emerging from, serious crisis.

Throughout history, great powers are toppled, civilisations fall… but rarely was their destruction absolute, nor was defeat total. What happened after the calamity?

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The Long Walls of Athens

Acropolis by Von KlenzeA new piece has been added to the section on ancient Athens, which considers the famous Long Walls as a enduring symbol of the city’s resolve and resilience.

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Walter Scheidel on the COVID crisis

Scheidel - The Great LevelerExcellent interview with Prof. Walter Scheidel from The Guardian, who considers how the world might respond to  current troubles: will the coronavirus be the catalyst for a more equal world?

Prof. Scheidel points readers back to his excellent The Great Leveler  (Princeton 2017).

Prof. Scheidel addresses the ‘International Inequalities Institute’ at the LSE on (Dec. 2017). (LINK HERE)

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Living among the ruins – some examples

Ancient Tyre

10 Ancient Cities Where People Still Live

Life goes on… A nice piece on ancient cities that still endure – in particular, the examples of Tyre, Sidon, and Argos give us much to think about. While there, check out UNESCO’s page on the city of Tyre.

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Jared Diamon, Upheaval revisited

Upheaval - Jared diamond

Prof. Jared Diamond addresses a ‘Politics and Prose’ event at George Washington University on (5/10/19). (LINK HERE)

A presentation based on his book Upheaval: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change, a consideration of  how modern countries cope with crisis and disaster, and a discussion with the audience  following.

Interview with the author in this piece from The Observer (April 2019): ‘So how do states cover from crises? Same way as people do.’

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Disaster film – notes on Pompeii (2014)


At the urging of some first year students, for whom this is their historical disaster movie of choice, some note on Pompeii!

APompeii 2014 classic? Who cares? Load up the SFX and enjoy: Pompeii, ‘a place of corruption, a place of temptation?’ ‘No warning? No escape?’ Hmmm… The quick thoughts of the indefatigable Prof. Mary Beard are well worth a read: ‘10 things you need to know about Pompeii‘ (better still, buy the award-wnning book).

Even though the final destruction of the city was extensive, the history of Pompeii provides much of interest to this project. The resilient Pompeians rebuilt their city after it was extensively damaged by an earthquake in AD 63, and battled through a series of preliminary seismic eruptions in the build up to the great cataclysm in AD 79.

A wealth of information can be found on Blogging Pompeii, and Virginia Campbell’s Pompeian Connections. Finally, a nice piece…

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Remarkable ancient Greek sites that still endure


A new list for the new year…

Although it is a key contention of ours that the emphasis on the total ruin and complete collapse of cities through history is a misconception worth challenging (the fact is that civilisations tend to be much more resilient than is usually allowed for), here is a catalogue of 25 ancient Greek cities that no longer exist… except for those ones that do… cities such as Marseille and Alexandria etc. continuously occupied for millennia…

Anyway, if nothing else the list certainly does show how extensive the ancient Greek colonisation of the whole Mediterranean (and beyond) was.

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Malaria and the fall of Rome

Storage jars from LugnanoIt took a bit of digging (appropriately enough), but we found this BBC page that reviews work by Prof. David Soren (University of Arizona). Assessing remarkable remains from the large children’s cemetery found at Lugnano, Soren considers the impact a deadly epidemic might have had on the Eternal city as the empire declined.

We should note that the theories presented here are far from universally accepted; for example, see W.V. Harris’ review of the book that resulted from this research project and his argument that the evidence for an epidemic of malaria is entirely indirect and its impact on Rome overstated.

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CRISIS! The identification, analysis, & commemoration of crises in the ancient world

Crasis on Crisis 2015A parallel initiative to note is the forthcoming master class & one-day conference on Crisis, and the memory of crisis,  hosted by the University of Groningen’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies in Culture, Religion and Society of the Graeco-Roman World.

On  February 5th & 6th (2015), there participants will focus on how the ancients coped with crisis. Using a broad understanding of the concept, this meeting brings together literary, material, as well as environmental and documentary sources to consider what is known about the definition, nature, perception, and commemoration of crises in the ancient world.

For further details go to: http://www.rug.nl/research/centre-for-religious-studies/crasis/activities/annual-meeting/crasis-annual-meeting-masterclass

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Ancient stories in the news

Straying slightly from our main theme, but perhaps it is appropriate to include a review of ‘ground-breaking’ archaeology stories that made the news in 2014. The story of cholera-plagued vampires is one highlight.

Night Pyramids

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