Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Classics and Myth workshop for Classics for All

I'm delighted to announce I will be running a workshop for Classics for All on myth and creative writing. It's available for teachers: have a look here.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Review of John Julius Norwich and Adam Thorpe: Spectator

I've reviewed John Julius Norwich's new book, A History of France, and Adam Thorpe's Notes from the CĂ©vennes, for The Spectator. Read it here.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The Branford Boase Shortlist

I've written a guest blog about the Branford Boase shortlist for Minerva Reads.

Monday, 23 April 2018


The Arrow of Apollo by Philip Womack


Iulus is also known as Ascanius; he is the first son of Aeneas, by his Trojan wife, Creusa. In myth, he is led out of Troy by his father. All sorts of things happen to Iulus: in Virgil's Aeneid, he is largely the cause of the war between the Latins and the Trojans, when he shoots a pet stag belonging to one of the Latins.

He's also meant to be the original founder of the line of the Julians, which of course continues on into Julius Caesar and his great-nephew Augustus, hence endowing the Julio-Claudians with divine heritage (as Venus is Aeneas' mother) and with a direct link to their mythical past. It is rather like our own Queen Elizabeth II, who is, naturally, descended from the god Woden.

In The Arrow of Apollo, Iulus is Silvius's elder brother: rather arrogant, he teases his little brother, and has been given his own town of Alba Longa to rule.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Thursday, 5 April 2018


Latinus offerring Lavinia to Aeneas
The Arrow of Apollo by Philip Womack


The second wife of Aeneas (his first, Creusa, having perished at Troy), Lavinia was the daughter of King Latinus, a native Italian. She was betrothed to Turnus, a local chieftain; but there was a prophecy which stated that Lavinia should marry a stranger. Hence, when Aeneas arrived, Latinus gave his daughter to the settler. Naturally, there was trouble, and the second half of the Aeneid deals with the war between Aeneas and Turnus. The poem ends with Aeneas killing Turnus (as the Iliad ends with Achilles killing Hector); there were various continuations of the story in later times,  including a 13th book of the Aeneid in which Lavinia and Aeneas get married;  but there is very little in the texts about Lavinia herself.

Virgil describes her as blonde; she is also the subject of an omen, when her hair catches fire, promising future glory. The late, lamented Ursula Le Guin wrote an interesting account of her, Lavinia, in which Virgil is projected backwards in time and sees his subject - he’d got her hair colour wrong, of course.

In THE ARROW OF APOLLO, Lavinia is fleshed out. She is the proud queen of a new, bustling city; she is a healer; she has privileged contacts with divine creatures. She advises Aeneas, being a diplomatic bridge between the new settlers and the original inhabitants,  and runs the palace household - including her stepson, Iulus; her son, Silvius; and his friend, the half-Carthaginian Elissa.