From physiotherapy to classical antiquity Dr. Estelle Strazdins found fascination among the stories, artefacts and environments of Roman Greece. She’s one of three new Classics academics joining the College of Arts and Social Sciences at the Australian National University.
Her passion is unmistakable, with her office already adorned with books exploring diverse aspects of the ancient world. She reaches for one behind her, handing me a copy of her book, ‘Fashioning the Future in Roman Greece: Memory, Monuments, Texts’. The book layers analysis of material culture onto the base of her doctoral thesis on Greek literature. It’s not been there long, having gone to print just earlier this month.
After completing a Bachelor of Physiotherapy, Dr. Strazdins pursued her true love – Classics. Earning herself an MA in Greek and Latin language and literature. She received a Clarendon Scholarship to complete her DPhil on 'The Future of the Second Sophistic' in Oxford, and undertook more study in Athens through the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens' Fellowship for Research in Greece. Craving a break from the rigors of academia, she sought refuge in some part-time work as an editor and researcher. But it wasn’t long before she found herself lecturing at the University of Queensland before finally landing the job at ANU.
Dr. Strazdins’ enthusiasm oozes out of her when talking about the shift in Classics towards new areas of inquiry, such as the history of emotions and sensory experience within space. Her own research on the manipulations of space and landscapes, places her in a unique position to explore these new avenues of study. She talks passionately about the importance of "emotions attached to space”. By examining how people in antiquity interacted with their physical surroundings, “we can gain a better understanding of the ways in which their emotional experiences were shaped by the world around them” she says.
With a fresh attitude to teaching Classics at ANU, Dr. Strazdins explains that the study of Ancient History and Classics has long been associated with elitism and exclusivity but as society progresses and our understanding of the world around us evolves, so too must our approach to the study of antiquity.
“The thing with ancient history and classics is that it's moving in broader directions… we're trying to - as much as possible - reduce that sense of elitism that comes when you say ‘Classics’ and realise that there's actually more than just Greece and Rome to antiquity and that there are all these different peoples who affected Greece and Rome in all sorts of ways” she comments.
Her latest book project, ‘After Marathon’ will examine the cultural afterlife of the Battle of Marathon. Making reference especially to the plain of Marathon where the battle was fought, its topographical features and monuments, she will explore how people have used the idea of fighting for freedom and democracy associated with the battle for their own ends over time.
In fact, amid her studies, Dr. Strazdins took part in the 2,500th anniversary of the Athens Marathon. It’s a mammoth achievement running 42 kilometres from Marathon to the Panathenaic stadium in Athens, an ancient monument that was famously renovated for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. While she jokes we won’t see her run another one anytime soon, we expect to see many more ‘runs on the board’ in the form of publications.