Lecture 1: Entities of land and sea – 8 Sep 2024

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed their world to be inhabited by all sorts of beings, creatures that chose to reveal themselves – or not. These are the entities of land and sea, non-human inhabitants, some of whom are referred to as ‘nature spirits.’ Some are sentient, while others are more akin to forces of nature. In this talk, we look at some examples, ranging from dryads and other assorted nymphs to the ketos (a huge sea-monster), and the folktales associated with them. We’ll also consider comparative creatures from other cultures, such as fairies and mermaids.

Interested in some background reading? Try – on fairies – Ronald Hutton’s ‘The Making of the Early Modern British Fairy Tradition,’ Historical Journal 57.4 (2014): 1157-75: Fairies4_1_.pdf (bris.ac.uk)

You may also like: Crystal Rome and Debby Sneed’s ‘Sirens in Ancient Greece and the Near East,’ Department of Classics, University of Colorado Boulder (June 19, 2017): Sirens in Ancient Greece and the Near East | Department of Classics | University of Colorado Boulder

Image: Dryad. Creative Commons (Pxfuel).


Marguerite Johnson is a cultural historian of the ancient Mediterranean, specialising in sexuality and gender, particularly in the poetry of Sappho, Catullus, and Ovid, as well as magical traditions in Greece, Rome, and the Near East. She also researches Classical Reception Studies, with a regular focus on Australia. In addition to ancient world studies, Marguerite is interested in sexual histories in modernity as well as magic in the west more broadly, especially the practices and art of Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton. She is Honorary Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Queensland, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day


This Lecture is Part of the Folk Belief in The Ancient Mediterranean a 5 part lecture series – tickets may be booked for this lecture here or for the whole series

In this five-part series, Marguerite Johnson takes you on a journey over land, sea, sky, and into the ethereal world of folk belief in the ancient Mediterranean. Complete with illustrations and the words of the ancients themselves, we look at the strange creatures believed to inhabit land and sea, the terrifying demons that threatened to snatch your child, the werewolf and other shapeshifters, the ancient prototype of the fairytale, ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and some old-fashioned tall tales.

Series image: Sebastian Münster from Olaus Magnus’ Carta marina (Basel c. 1544).


Sep 8th 2024 - 8.00pm - 9:30 pm

£6 - £10 & By Donation

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