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Eleanor produced the first major translation of ancient Roman school textbooks, casting new light on schooling in antiquity. Wishing to bring to life her findings about ancient society and their approach to learning, Eleanor created the Reading Ancient Schoolroom.

Eleanor’s project replicates an ancient classroom to enable modern students to find out first-hand what an ancient school was like.

Working with students and colleagues in the University of Reading’s Department of Classics, Eleanor made papyrus rolls of texts, sewed Roman costumes, and obtained wax tablets, reed pens, and inkwells to create a genuine Roman classroom experience.

Local children were invited to experience the recreated ancient schoolroom, and at the end of the first event, teachers and children were eager to learn more.

What started as a one-hour workshop evolved into a full-day experience offering Roman reading, writing, mathematics, languages, Roman graffiti workshops, object handling in the Ure Museum and Roman food tasting.

Through her research, Eleanor has discovered that ancient schooling methods were highly individual, offering flexibility to students with differing needs and one-on-one time for every pupil: there were no set start times, no lectures and no raised hands as pupils worked individually and at their own pace.

Ancient teachers wrote eloquently about the importance of tailoring education to the individual, and when looking at the long-term impact of the project Eleanor hopes that it can bring ancient insights to bear on modern education, making it a happier and more beneficial experience for everyone.

"The ancient schoolroom is tremendous fun for me and for the University of Reading students who volunteer as teachers, as well as for the children who join us.

"We all learn an amazing amount, and getting to know my students outside the classroom gives me so much appreciation for their many talents."

Learn more about our outreach for schools

Professor Ian Rutherford: forgotten corners of the ancient world

Ian believes that it is important for scholars and students to enhance their understanding of the classical world through studying different ancient cultures together. 

Professor Barbara Goff: seeking ancient solutions to modern problems

Barbara’s research sheds light on the problems shared by the ancient world and the modern day, and considers whether ancient approaches might be applicable to today’s society.

Dr Emma Aston: research that feeds into teaching

Emma has taught on a variety of modules in the Department, drawing substantially on her research and on her academic interests more broadly.