“Roads to Rome” Family Game (2020)

“Roads to Rome” is a new family board game designed by Matthieu Podevin and illustrated by Joëlle Drans, recently published in Poland by GRANNA publishing company. The game was originally published in France by Holy Grail Games.

The official age range of the game is 8+ and the amount of players can be between 2-5 people.

Cover of the game

The rules of the game are very simple – each player becomes a member of one of the richest families of ancient Rome, trying to win by creating a network of roads connecting Rome with the rest of the world. What is really interesting, all city names visible on the board correspond to their authentic names in the era of the Roman Empire. Also the connections between the cities did exist during Roman times – to recreate them, Matthieu Podevin was using the project called “ORBIS”, created by Professor Walter Scheidel (a historian from the Stanford University).

Main board of “Roads to Rome” [source]
Players boards [source]
Quick play for two players

See more:

Granna’s official website – link

“Roads to Rome” on Boardgame Geek – link

Post by Dorota Rejter

Replaying “Hades” by Karol Popow

Karol Popow is MA student at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw, member of the ALEA game research group, lifelong games passionate.

The games, unlike the previous media, have one major difference – they are interactive. Digital entertainment audiences have moved from interpassive reading or viewing to acting as reception. Reading games means playing them. At the same time, the digital form of leisure has created new research opportunities in areas such as the reception of Classical Antiquity. The key interactive features of games have a profound effect on the worlds and characters that the games represent. They are habitable thanks to the involvement of the players. So to find how Antiquity exists in games, it is necessary not only to describe the creators’ vision of it, but also the way the player inhabits and uses Antiquity.

Hades – Launch Trailer

Hades (Supergiant Games, 2020) is a recent game situated in the realm of Greek mythology. It fits in the rougelite genre – the player controls the character, crawls throughout a dungeon in runs lasting about 30 minutes, kills monsters, collects loot and treasures lasting for one run, and permanent power ups the avatar. In Hades, the mechanics of rougelite are explained by mythological narratives, especially the reverse katabasis motif. Instead of getting to the Underworld, the player-controlled character Zagreus (here: a son of the God of Hades) tries to escape from the deepest floors of Tartarus. Thus, the first and most comprehensive narrative use of Antiquity in Hades is twisted, but also it retains its basic meaning. To get to the Underworld, or in this case to escape from Hades, you need to show your skills, tame the Unknown and, most importantly, prove yourself. A chance only possible in games – play the katabasis, not just read or watch. There is also an analogy to the labyrinth motif. The state of the Underworld, upgrades, enemies, and even the rank of challenge are created randomly each time a player starts a new run. Hades uses a reverse katabasis mixed with escaping a mythical maze as a reason to take gameness seriously, and the game does it really well.

Hades [source]

Another way Hades plays with Antiquity is through its relationship with gods, heroes, and mythological monsters. They were traditionally symbols of divine and sacred powers, and in particular the gods were worshiped by mortals. In this example, the monsters remain as obstacles to be overcome (killed) by the player, and the gods and heroes, like in the case of katabasis, change appearances while revealing deeper meanings. Firstly, some of them represent the forces of nature. Poseidon rules the water, Zeus restrains the lightning. But the vision of the Hades creators stands out mostly when they present the gods like Athena, Aphrodite, and Dionysus not only as mythical figures, but also interesting game mechanical features. Thus, the goddess of wisdom endows Zagreus with defensive skills, while the other two gods weaken his enemies. If we consider Greek mythology as a set of stories explaining the world to the ancient people, we can take the classic themes in Hades not only as justifying the existence of this game-world, but also as an opportunity to enrich the player’s iteration with this world and make understandable his agency in it. The Hades mythology is not only knowledge of the world. It is part of the gameplay, mechanics, and narrative design. Mythology constitutes this world and belongs to it. Hades uses the gods as helpers to the main character, not just totemic idols. This is much closer to the ancient perception of the interference of divine powers than we imagine it today.

Poseidon [source]

Finally, the game developed by Supergiant is huge and ambitious, proving that pop culture can create new visual, literary and aural representations of Greek mythology. Each character living in the world of Hades has a unique portrait, iconography, and complete professional VoiceOver. They are so well written that create convincing illusions of living entities: watching them gossip, fight, and shout over each other is pure fun. Additionally, Hades offers to the players a coherent in-game chronicle of the Underworld, written by Achilles. Developed as the game progresses, this is an excellent example of the literary interpretation of the ancient tradition experienced by the player throughout the game. Musically, the game is also excellent. The Hades soundtrack’s composer Darren Korb uses electronics, orchestral music, and even heavy metal riffs to create a composition that is energetic and nostalgic when needed, but above all memorable. The level design of the world allows players to run around the crypts of the Tartarus, the fiery Periphlegeton pools in Asphodel, the Elysian Fields, and even a step into the void of Chaos. Paradoxically, the world of the dead has never been so alive before. All this indicates that the ancient aesthetic sense of beauty can be conveyed by modern means.

Hades – Good Riddance (Eurydice Solo feat. Ashley Barrett)
Hades – Lament of Orpheus

Replaying Hades is to be constantly torn by the need to flee the Underworld and the desire to stay there to discover one more reference, one more fun dialogue, another deadly weapon combo. This game presents a great opportunity – only available in the form of electronic entertainment – to inhabit and fall in love with this world. The Supergiant Games’ vision is an extraordinary achievement in literature, art, sound, and game mechanics, but most importantly, Hades proves that ancient tradition could and should seek new media to live on. This is an opportunity to reach new audiences, especially young people, and show them the beauty of Classical Antiquity in their native language, the language of the game. After all, replaying Hades is just fun as hell.

Blog post prepared by Karol Popow & elaborated by Dorota Rejter

For ALEA see https://www.facebook.com/ALEAUW, contact: alea.kn@uw.edu.pl.

For more on the games and the Classics see the volume edited by Christian Rollinger, Classical Antiquity in Video Games: Playing with the Ancient World, London: Bloomsbury, 2020.

“Galatea Text Game” by Paweł Machnik

The video game titled Galatea was created by the British author Emily Short. To further illustrate her creative process, we can say that the game was indeed written because it is a text game without graphic effects. When it comes to using the reception of the ancient tradition, the author refers to the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea.

The game is aimed at young adults & adults and it may contain content inappropriate for children.

Galatea.thumbnail.jpg
“Galatea” cover [source]
The opening screen of the game [source]

The action of the game begins during the opening of an AI (Artificial Intelligence) exhibition. The player notices Galatea who is placed on a pedestal with an information plaque. She is illuminated by spotlights and wears an emerald dress.[1] The player’s task will be to talk to her:

A conversation with a work of art. “47. Galatea. White Thasos marble. Non-commissioned work by the late Pygmalion of Cyprus. (The artist has since committed suicide.) Originally not an animate. The waking of this piece from its natural state remains unexplained.” [source]

At a certain point, when the player is about to leave, Galatea says, “They told me you would come”. From now the development of the story can take various scenarios that will depend on the player’s decisions expressed via words and actions.[2] The author of the game created 70 different endings and there are hundreds of ways to achieve these endings.

Emily Short at “Digital Cultures ” 2018 talking about “Galatea” and her other creations

Galatea has been awarded numerous awards:

  1. Best of Show, Portrait – 2000 IF Art Show
  2. Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner, Best Individual NPC –2000 XYZZY Awards
  3. 16th Place – Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2011 edition)
  4. 41st Place – Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2015 edition)
  5. 4th Place – Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition)
  6. Honorable Mention – The Top Five IF Games (Adventure Gamers, 2002)

See more:

  1. “Galatea” text game – link
  2. Emily Short’s blog – link
  3. Galatea, in: Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia – link
  4. “Galatea” in “Electronic literature collection” volume one – link

Post written by Paweł Machnik, MA student of the Cultural Studies – Mediterranean Civilization, participant in the Grant Seminar Our Mythical Childhood at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw

Post elaborated by Dorota Rejter

“Atlas – a Symbol of Respect: Part 2” by Beatrice Palmieri

Beatrice Palmieri is a student from the Department of Classical Philology and Italian Studies at the University of Bologna. She accomplished her Erasmus training within the Our Mythical Childhood project at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw, in the 2nd term of the academic year 2019/2020, during the lockdown. She contributed to our new initiative for the pandemic times (and hopefully for later, too) Find the Force (see Colora le Muse). For the Part 1 of her text on Atlas see here.


The Atlas myth is present in today’s culture perhaps more than we imagine. Before even mentioning the world of culture, it is enough to consider how we are made, since our body already contains a suggestion: in fact, the first vertebra of the spine that connects our skeleton to the skull is called atlas. According to a fairly intuitive metaphor, our head, seat of our thoughts, dreams, and the nodal point of our exchange with the world around us, is compared to the globe that Atlas supports with the strength of his arms alone. This image, perhaps precisely because it touches us so closely and is a real and common experience, makes us think well about the great responsibility assumed by this small vertebra which bears a weight that is as tiring as it is essential:

800px-C1_lateral
Atlas [source].

If we move from human anatomy to geography, we will easily see how the myth of Atlas has left an indelible mark in this area too. According to Ovid’s version, Perseus, after fighting against the Gorgon, sought rest in the region of Hesperia, where the Titan Atlas reigned. Since he did not appear hospitable, Perseus showed him the head of the Medusa and Atlas petrified turning into a mighty mountain “and the whole sky with its innumerable stars rested on him”: thus Mount Atlas was born, a mountain range that extends for about two thousand five hundred kilometres the length of North-Western Africa:

Gorges_du_dades05
Mount Atlas [source].

Its location can be easily verified by opening any geographical atlas, and you will immediately notice how it too owes its name to the son of the Titan Iapetus: this is because Gerardo Mercatore decided to put on the title page of the first collection of geographical maps, published in Rome in 1595, the image of Atlas, bent and fully committed to supporting the world. From that moment on, the term “atlas” defines all the collections of geographical maps in general, on which children and adults learn about formation of the world in which we live, characteristics of the land we inhabit, both as individuals and as mankind:

Mercator_Atlas_1595_page_5_main_frontispiece (1)
Frontispiece di Atlas sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura [source].

Finally, wanting to move on to the reception of the myth in a more strictly cultural, literary and cinematographic context, we note how this is re-examined in a less literal way compared to how it is taken up by the areas previously mentioned. The figure of Atlas is reinterpreted through different lenses which often have in common the portraying of the Titan in the act of releasing the grip, a sort of alternative and possible ending that no ancient author had shown us before. Take for example the TV series Pollon, taken from the Japanese manga of the same name: wandering through the lands of ancient Greece, the little daughter of Apollo runs into the immense figure of Atlas intent on supporting the sky. Intrigued by the strange occupation of the god, Pollon begins to converse with him and learns of his eternal condemnation. Moved, she intends to hold the sky in place for a moment but is crushed by the enormous weight of the sky:

The episode is thus structured in a series of tests which Pollon is subjected to by Zeus, who punishes her for causing such serious damage. A similar episode is found in a comic book published in Corriere dei Piccoli dating from 1978, Piccolo Zeus, created by the writer and screenwriter Sergio Crivellaro. The great saga tells of the adventures of Piccolo Zeus that follow one another in an ironic plot halfway between classical mythology and different genres (superheroes, souls, science fiction, etc.), in which the theme of Titanomachy is taken up among many others. The first opponent of Piccolo Zeus is in fact Titan, escaped from his prison – an asteroid of Tartarus, with whom, however, unlike the Hesiodic plot, he allies himself to defeat various opponents who will gradually present themselves along their way. The first of their adventures as allies has to do with Atlas: the evil Ares kicked the giant causing the fall of the celestial vault that it supported (consistent with the classical tradition). The two friends therefore work to put Atlas back on his feet and thus restore his initial balance:

pzeus33
Fragment of Piccolo Zeus [source].

Faced with these two simple examples, we have to ask the question: what would happen if Atlas really let go and the celestial vault collapsed on us? In both analyzed episodes, the Titan abandons his task due to an external force that temporarily relieves him from his sentence, but this exemption cannot last for a long time: that of Atlas is a drama and, at the same time, a necessity, and the Titan always returns to continue fulfilling his responsibility with acceptance and perseverance. And perhaps it is precisely this attitude that makes this myth resound still today, especially if one reads the current situation with a magnifying glass which is inspired by it: we mortals have tried to impose a violent dominion over nature and the cosmos, and now, almost as a counterpoint, precisely by that Nature that we were trying to invade, we are being punished, condemned to have to support a weight that is perhaps too big for us, but that affects us all. We have to remodel our habits, our being in the world, and to do this there was perhaps a need to reset everything, stop for a moment the frenetic rhythm in which we were immersed and moved almost by inertia, making an act of difficult sacrifice but necessary.

This time, perhaps, we need to learn to maintain a balance that is very subtle and delicate, and underlies the human condition: we must take care of our planet now, in this moment of difficulty and suspension, but above all when this situation will be over, what we learned is to persist, like Atlas, in keeping the balance we experienced as extremely fragile. Our current condition turns out to be dramatic in that it makes us confront our weaknesses, but at the same time it hides a necessary requirement: will we be able to welcome it and accept, as Atlas, with boldness and perseverance?

 

Post prepared by Beatrice Palmieri (Università di Bologna), placed by Dorota Rejter, intro by Katarzyna Marciniak. 

“Atlas – a Symbol of Respect: Part 1” by Beatrice Palmieri

Beatrice Palmieri is a student from the Department of Classical Philology and Italian Studies at the University of Bologna – an institution that is our great friend and partner in many initiatives, incl. the Our Mythical Childhhood project and the Cluster: The Past for the Present. Beatrice came to the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw, in February 2020 for her Erasmus training within the Our Mythical Childhood project. Despite the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, she managed to accomplish her training and all the classes successfully and she also contributed to our new initiative for the pandemic times (and hopefully for later, too) Find the Force, by preparing the Italian versions of the activities we are creating for children and their parents and tutors who search for entertaining education (see Colora le Muse). 

The present text on Atlas (in two parts) is a work written by Beatrice for the OMC Seminar, in the cycle entitled ambiguously Antiquity in Crisis: the students chose some motifs from mythology, ancient history, or philosophy and they reflected on their meaning in the current circumstances. Their papers show the potential of Classical Antiquity as a source of reflection, joy, and education – all most needed always, and when the world is in crisis – all the more so… 


Shortly before the world stopped, I had just left for what would later prove to be an extraordinary Erasmus, to say the least – in the true etymological sense of the term. Warsaw was the city I had chosen as a destination for this academic and life experience, and it was also the city that welcomed me during this very particular period.

fot. Mirosław Kaźmierczak (10)
Fot. Mirosław Kaźmierczak, (c) University of Warsaw

Generally, Erasmus thrives on the “physical” part, which has to do with moving, traveling, coming in contact with new people, and another more “spiritual” one, which sees us both exchanging experiences with others and dealing with ourselves and our fears and emotions: Erasmus at COVID-19’s times, however, was mainly about experiences of the second type. 

The suspension of the historical moment, living in a time that seems to have stopped, in which we no longer distinguish the days and things happen in a continuous and inseparable flow – perpetual being – lead us almost inevitably to consider our being in the world and the way we consider the value of time. And it is easy for the mind to wander in these eternal temporal flows that bind present to past; and where our thought could land, if not in the time of myth, timeless time par excellence? 

During a normal day of quarantine, I remembered that, as soon as I arrived in Warsaw with my family, we visited the Royal Castle in the Old Town.

Royal Castle in Warsaw Old Town [source]

In one of the many marvelous rooms, the statue of a man stood out, bent over himself, intent on holding up a globe of a bright, beautiful blue color. He was Atlas, I told my brother. I could not say why, but the image of that man, apparently so big, but at the same time so dignifiedly subjected to the weight of the delicate celestial sphere, touched me deeply. And that same chord sounded weeks later, when during the forced isolation in which the whole world found itself, it occurred to me that perhaps, at that moment, we were all a bit in the condition of Atlas. 

Warsaw on the lockdown (movie by Damian Popławski)

“The greatness of man lies for us in the fact that he carries his destiny as Atlas carried the celestial vault on his shoulders” – Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

John Singer Sargent – Atlas and the Hesperides [source]

Hesiod, in Theogony, says that Atlas led the army of the Titans against Zeus, and the latter, after winning the war for the dominion of Olympus, punished him with an exemplary punishment: Atlas was condemned to support with only the strength of his arms the weight of the whole cosmos and the celestial vault. For a sort of retaliation, the one who had previously tried to perpetuate an unjust and cruel dominance – that of Cronos – is now forced to keep on his shoulders, under his responsibility, a delicate balance between values totally opposite to those he tried to preserve

Warszawa_Atlas
Pałac Tyszkiewiczów, University of Warsaw [source]

The cosmological role of his punishment is to keep Heaven and Earth separate avoiding a return to the primordial Chaos, that is, an absence of creation and, therefore, of values. Atlas then becomes a fundamental figure of balance and no longer disharmony, of care and no longer neglect, of welcome and no longer of brutal refusal, of acceptance and no longer disdainful rebellion. It is as if Zeus had wanted to give the possibility of redemption to him alone: Atlas is now a symbol of respect for the cosmos, because only he, with tireless strength, has the inescapable responsibility to bear on his shoulders that wonderful combination of energies that it is the union between starry Heaven and fertile Earth. 

fot. Mirosław Każmierczak (86)_©Uniwersytet Warszawski
Fot. Mirosław Kaźmierczak, (c) University of Warsaw

To be continued… 


Post prepared by Beatrice Palmieri (Università di Bologna), intro by Katarzyna Marciniak, placed by Dorota Rejter. 

Get to Know “Zeus the Mighty” and His Friends!

Is there a better combination than myths and animals? 🙂 Today we would like to present you our recent discovery – the children’s book series written by Crispin Boyer, titled “Zeus the Mighty”. The age range of the series readers: 8-12 years.

The first volume Zeus the Mighty: The Quest for the Golden Fleas” was published in 2019, the second one Zeus The Mighty: The Maze of the Menacing Minotaur” in May, 2020. Both were issued by Under the Stars publisher, which is a part of National Geographic Kids Book.

Crispin Boyer Zeus The Mighty 1 - Ceny i opinie na Skapiec.pl
Zeus the Mighty: The Quest for the Golden Fleas” – book cover [source]

Zeus The Mighty 2: The Maze of Menacing Minotaur
Zeus The Mighty: The Maze of the Menacing Minotaur” – book cover [source]

In the story we move to Athens in Georgia (USA), where we meet the residents of “Mount Olympus” – pet supply and rescue center. The main character is Zeus – the hamster, and his friends: cat Athena, proud pufferfish Poseidon, the royal grasshopper Demeter, and the pug called Ares. The animals love to listen to the “Greeking Out” podcast run by Artie – the owner of the “Mount Olympus” who loves Greek mythology. Listening to the stories of ancient gods and goddesses, the pets start to believe themselves to be the mythical characters. They also began to have great adventures!

On the National Geographic Kids website, children can find lots of activities related to the book series, inter alia games, quizes, “truth behind” section, and the “Greeking Out” podcast. Parents and teachers can find a printable “Educator’s Guide” to download.

We hope you will enjoy it!

See more:

  • The official website of “Zeus the Mighty” – link
  • Read the first chapter of “Zeus the Mighty” – link

Post prepared by Dorota Rejter

 

Leadership in Children’s Books about Classical History and Myth (Part 3) by Katerina Volioti

This blog post, of which this is the third of three parts, emerges from my talk for the workshop “Mythology and Education 2020” at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, on 18 February. This work falls within my research for the OMC project. I draw inspiration from my current job as Classical Art Historian at the University of Roehampton, but also from my previous studies at the Saïd Business School and employment in the IT and oil industries. In the first part, I introduce the books about the Classical past and my argument about connective leadership. In the second part, I discuss leadership styles borrowing models from management, especially those of business guru Charles Handy. In this third part, I examine more books and how their mythic and historic leaders lead through teamwork.

Acknowledgements

I am hugely grateful, first and foremost, to Professor Amy C. Smith, as well as to Professors Susan Deacy, Nathan Harter and Katarzyna Marciniak for reading and commenting on earlier versions. My thanks extend to Eirini Dermitzaki of Papadopoulos Publishing for permission to publish images of front covers and of the head offices, as well as to Olga Strycharczyk for putting together the web version so wonderfully.

Part 3: Connecting Leaders in Preschool Education

In the first part of this blog post, I highlighted the need for connective leadership to face global challenges in today’s world. In the second part, I discussed three personality types (tough battler, logical thinker, and friendly helper) and Charles Handy’s four organizational cultures – Zeus, Apollo, Athena, and Dionysos – each of which utilizes different personality types. Here, I argue that Philippos Mandilaras’ and Natalia Kapatsoulia’s books for young children present mythic and historic leaders that act like friendly helpers within teamwork environments. These connecting leaders seem to recall Handy’s Athena culture.

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Fig. 1: Απόλλωνας και Άρτεμη [Apollo and Artemis], from the series My First Mythology, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

In Apollo and Artemis, the two gods are independent spirits, but they also make a team (Fig. 1). Mandilaras writes the two join forces to win over the Giant (Tityos) [my translation, «τον γίγαντα νικούν οι δυο τους ενωμένοι» in Greek]. It appears that we have an Athena-type project here.

In the books Theseus and Herakles, the two heroes stand out for their physical strength, strong determination and high intelligence (Figs. 2 and 3). Yet, they do not exemplify Zeus and Dionysos leadership styles.

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Fig. 2: Ο Θησέας [Theseus], from the series Greek Mythology, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

Theseus, in particular, makes a perfect friendly helper. He kills the robbers, the Marathon bull, and the Minotaur. He takes risks because he is a friendly helper, rather than a logical thinker. The people of Athens consider it illogical for Theseus to sail to Crete, but he goes. And when in Crete, he listens to Ariadne carefully, as if he operates within an Athena context that respects gender equality.

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Fig. 3: Ο Ηρακλής [Herakles], from the series Greek Mythology, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

Herakles has an Apollo-type sense of duty, as he fights beasts and monsters. He is strong and determined, but also compassionate. The book closes with Herakles being immortalised. Up on Mount Olympos, Mandilaras writes that Herakles listens carefully to people’s troubles [my translation, «των ανθρώπων ακούει τα βάσανα με προσοχή» in Greek].

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Fig. 4: Ο Δούρειος Ίππος [The Trojan Horse], from the series Greek Mythology, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

The Trojan Horse is a tale that epitomises the value of connective leadership. Odysseus comes up with an ingenious idea, but he does not operate in a Dionysos-type manner. Rather, he consults Agamemnon, as if they are working in an Athena-type organization. What matters in the rest of the book is the discipline of the Achaeans inside the horse and more Achaeans from the boats. All these soldiers come together as a team to burn Troy.

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Fig. 5: The Battle of Marathon, from the series My First Mythology, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

The Battle of Marathon emphasizes group action by the Athenian soldiers, rather than Miltiades’ leadership. This is not surprising given the context of the book. The Persian King exemplifies Zeus-type authoritarian leadership, while the Greek city states with their assemblies and bottom-up decision-making processes resemble Athena-type organizations.

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Fig. 6: Leonidas and the Battle at Thermopylae, from the series My First Mythology, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

In Leonidas and the Battle at Thermopylae, we learn that Leonidas was born to be a great king, that is, a born leader. Yet, as the narrative progresses, he is portrayed as a leader who consults his soldiers, in an Athena-type manner. The Greek soldiers want Leonidas to be their leader. Leonidas clearly leads through his team and it makes sense that his loyal soldiers are ready to die for him.

The portrayal of gods, heroes and mortals by Mandilaras and Kapatsoulia in each of these children’s books emphasizes connecting leaders. The mythical characters are unique in different ways, super-intelligent in the case of Odysseus and super-strong in the case of Herakles. Yet, they wish to relate well to others, not to lead by standing out from the crowd. The historical characters do not possess super-natural powers but seek rather to build consensus that is conducive to the success of great military and political plans.

Preschoolers are offered behavioural models that inspire them to work well within a team, to lead through the team, and to be problem-solvers, in a way that is close to Charles Handy’s Athena organizational culture. The story of Classical myth and history is retold in a manner that is aligned with contemporary agendas about gender equality and collaboration, highlighting that there is scope in preschool education to shape tomorrow’s connecting leaders.

Adults who read these books to young children are also made to rethink about the relevance of Classics, and of the Humanities more broadly, as a resource of wisdom for building leadership qualities. Such qualities will always be of use in many instances in one’s personal and professional life. It is under crisis though that connecting leaders can make a difference. In the current coronavirus pandemic several political leaders, including the female premiers of New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan, Denmark, Finland, and Norway, have been praised nationally and internationally for their effective leadership, as highlighted in an opinion piece by the New York Times. Their leadership has been both decisive and compassionate. The combination of these two unique qualities make an even stronger call for connective leadership now and in the future.

Post by Katerina Volioti, placed by Olga Strycharczyk in coll. with Dorota Rejter.

You can read Katerina’s other posts here.

Leadership in Children’s Books about Classical History and Myth (Part 2) by Katerina Volioti

This blog post, of which this is the second of three parts, emerges from my talk for the workshop “Mythology and Education 2020” at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, on 18 February. This work falls within my research for the OMC project. I draw inspiration from my current job as Classical Art Historian at the University of Roehampton, but also from my previous studies at the Saïd Business School and employment in the IT and oil industries. In the first part, I introduced the books about the Classical past and my argument about connective leadership. In this second part, I discuss leadership styles borrowing models from management, especially those of business guru Charles Handy. In the third part, I will examine more books and how their mythic and historic leaders lead through teamwork.

Acknowledgements

I am hugely grateful, first and foremost, to Professor Amy C. Smith, as well as to Professors Susan Deacy, Nathan Harter, and Katarzyna Marciniak for reading and commenting on earlier versions. My thanks extend to Eirini Dermitzaki of Papadopoulos Publishing for permission to publish images of front covers and of the head offices, as well as to Olga Strycharczyk for putting together the web version so wonderfully.

Part 2: Management Today: Models from Greek Myth

In the first part of this blog, I noted that Philippos Mandilaras’ and Natalia Kapatsoulia’s books about the Classical past present connecting leaders that care for others and encourage teamwork. Here I discuss leadership in large corporations.

Leadership is a quality that is highly valued in corporate management. Companies hire university graduates and experienced hires usually when they restructure from a barrel-shaped structure to a pyramid structure (Fig. 1). A barrel structure has too much weight in the middle: in business this means too many middle managers. They need to go because they are expensive. From a financial perspective a pyramid is good: it is wide at the bottom, with newcomers who are not as expensive.

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Fig. 1: From Barrel to Pyramid. Sketch Drawing by Katerina Volioti.

The barrel and the pyramid also describe how the top relates to the bottom. In the barrel, the middle management acts as a buffer zone. New hires do not communicate with the top. In the pyramid, smart university graduates with leadership qualities attract attention from top managers. If the graduates are good with words, as are many who have degrees in Classics, they are cherry picked by the board. Top managers want fewer managers and more leaders. They want leaders who stay always positive and find a way out of a crisis. But what exactly is leadership?

Leadership is the ability to make a difference to the organization and move things forward. Are leaders born or trained? We might address this matter by thinking about personality types. Three basic categories of personality types are tough battlers, logical thinkers, and friendly helpers.[1] Employers try to recruit individuals with each of these personality types when they put together project teams.

Tough battlers always find a way forward. They are the born leaders and usually the project managers. Logical thinkers think carefully and in a structured manner and therefore help tough battlers with decisions. Friendly helpers support tough battlers and logical thinkers. They appear to be the weakest list, as they tend to be remunerated and promoted less. Actually, friendly helpers are the strongest links because they hold teams and projects together.

In his influential book Gods of Management. How They Work and Why They Will Fail, first published in 1978,[2] social philosopher and management thinker Charles Handy used the gods – Zeus, Apollo, Athena and Dionysos – as metaphors for four types of organizations, each of which encourages different leadership styles.

Zeus is a top-down organization (Fig. 2). People relate to the charismatic leader at the top through emotions, flattery, and loyalty. You need to get into the leader’s mind to succeed.

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Fig. 2: Marble head of a god, probably Zeus, Greek, 3rd or 2nd century BC. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 26.60.46 [source].

Apollo is an organization based on roles: everyone has a sense of duty (Fig. 3). Each person is an expert in their field, driven by their role.

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Fig. 3: Marble head of Apollo, Roman (ca. 27 BC–AD 68). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 59.77. Public Domain [source].

Athena is a project-based organization, for which teamwork is particularly important (Fig. 4). Different experts come together to voice their ideas. They are driven by the project.

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Fig. 4: Marble head and torso of Athena, Roman, 1st–2nd century AD. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 24.97.15. Public Domain [source].

Dionysos is an organization that needs the artistic genius (Fig. 5). Such creative individuals work well on their own, but not in teams.

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Fig. 5: Greek or Roman terracotta head of Dionysos, 1st century BC. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 08.258.34 [source].

As I see it, Handy’s model captures the importance of connective leadership and friendly helpers within Apollo and Athena organizational cultures. These two cultures give more space to women, who are valued for their professional expertise and for contributing to teamwork. And it is these two cultures that are emphasized in Mandilaras’ and Kapatsoulia’s books.

In The Twelve Gods of Olympus, there is a clear-cut division of roles between the different Olympians, as with an Apollo culture. Zeus is far from authoritarian. He is caring and rescues his siblings from Cronus’ stomach. As they emerge from the stomach they seem to make a team with their diverse personalities. Yet Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades reach consensus in dividing the world. They are working on the same project, as in an Athena culture.

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Fig. 6: Το ταξίδι του Οδυσσέα [“Odysseus Journey”], from the series Greek Mythology. ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

In Odysseus’ Journey, Odysseus cares of his team (Fig. 6). He kills Polyphemos and forces Kirke to turn his comrades from pigs back to men. He is a tough battler, a logical thinker, and a friendly helper: a leader who stays always positive. In the end, his comrades do not listen to him, yet with fatal consequences. The book may communicate a warning. A leader cannot lead if the team is not on board: connective leadership is required.

In the next and final part of this blog, I analyse more books about Greek gods, heroes and historical figures. I argue that these mythic and historic leaders appear to operate mostly within Handy’s Athena context. This allows them to act with consideration for others and to lead through teamwork.


[1] See Maureen Guirdham, Interpersonal Skills at Work, New York and London: Prentice Hall, 1990.

[2] Charles Handy, Gods of Management. How They Work and Why They Will Fail, London: Souvenir, 1978.

Post by Katerina Volioti, placed by Olga Strycharczyk in coll. with Dorota Rejter.

You can read her other posts here.

Leadership in Children’s Books about Classical History and Myth (Part 1) by Katerina Volioti

This blog post, of which this is the first of three parts, emerges from my talk for the workshop Mythology and Education 2020 at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, on 18 February. This work falls within my research for the Our Mythical Childhood Project. I draw inspiration from my current job as Classical Art Historian at the University of Roehampton, but also from my previous studies at the Saïd Business School and employment in the IT and oil industries. In this first part, I introduce the books about the Classical past and my argument about connective leadership. In the second part, I will discuss leadership styles borrowing models from management, especially those of business guru Charles Handy. In the third part, I will examine more books and how their mythic and historic leaders lead through teamwork.

Acknowledgements

I am hugely grateful, first and foremost, to Professor Amy C. Smith, as well as to Professors Susan Deacy, Nathan Harter, and Katarzyna Marciniak for reading and commenting on earlier versions. My thanks extend to Eirini Dermitzaki of Papadopoulos Publishing for permission to publish images of front covers and of the head offices, as well as to Olga Strycharczyk for putting together the web version so wonderfully.

Part 1: Connective Leadership

A set of illustrated books on ancient Greek myths, recently published in Greece, aim to educate children as young as four about who is who in Classical Antiquity and to prepare them for primary-school education (Fig. 1).

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Fig. 1: The Twelve Gods of Olympus, from the series My First Mythology, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

In addition to imparting knowledge of the myths, the books help children develop interpersonal skills, including leadership qualities. They emphasize a particular style of leadership, known as connective leadership,[1] which encourages collaboration and values the unique contributions of each and every member of a team.

All books I discuss here are by Papadopoulos Publishing, an Athens-based house specializing in children’s literature (Fig. 2).

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Fig. 2: Offices of Papadopoulos Publishing. Photograph courtesy of Eirini Dermitzaki, ©Papadopoulos Publishing.

The texts by Philippos Mandilaras, who is a well-known author of children’s and young adults’ books in Greece, are illustrated by Natalia Kapatsoulia, a freelance illustrator of children’s books. I note Kapatsoulia’s vivid colours, open spaces (landscapes and seascapes), and simple human forms that take cues mostly from comics. Mandilaras’ and Kapatsoulia’s books form a best-selling series about the Classical past, and they have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, and Russian (Fig. 3). The books target an international audience, potentially shaping tomorrow’s global citizens.

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Fig. 3: El viaje de Odiseo [Odysseus Journey], from the series My First Mythology, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

We live in a fast-changing world and the new generation will need to solve difficult social, economic, and environmental problems. The Climate Crisis, for example, is a complex global problem, with multiple dimensions, including psychology, science, ecology, politics, and education. As the current coronavirus pandemic has revealed, what is required from the current and future generations is experts in different fields to come together and work effectively as a team.

I find that Mandilaras and Kapatsoulia’s books convey a recent shift in leadership styles, from leaders who act alone to leaders who value collaborative relationships.

A traditional understanding of leadership tends to describe leaders with considerable charisma, perhaps recalling Max Weber’s charismatic leaders who influence the masses and thereby change the world. Such leaders are usually white men in western societies. They are either highly educated or highly ambitious or both. Connective leadership, by contrast, refers to leaders that involve others, including women, in the decision-making process and value diversity as a source of creativity.

In Classical Antiquity we have stereotypes of strong individuals. The Greek gods and heroes are super strong and super mobile, as if they are flying around all the time. Historical figures, such as Leonidas and Pericles, also have strong personalities.

Mandilaras and Kapatsoulia’s books take us beyond such stereotypes of strong personas from the deep past. The books foreground caring and responsible leaders, who listen to others with respect and are good problem-solvers. There is a clear emphasis on connective leadership.

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Fig. 4: Ο Περικλής και ο Χρυσός Αιώνας [Pericles and the Golden Age], from the series My First History, ©Papadopoulos Publishing [source].

In Pericles and the Golden Age, Pericles is a connecting leader par excellence (Fig. 4). This may not be because of Pericles’ qualities alone, but also because of the people all around him. Pericles operates within an Athenian context that has multiple teams in place. The city is egalitarian and there are teams of Democrats and Oligarchs. Pericles works with sculptors and architects to rebuild the Acropolis. Pericles consults his wife Aspasia for advice. Apparently, Pericles leads by involving others. Mandilaras concludes that Pericles wanted to be a servant to the people [my translation, «…ο ηγέτης…που του λαού του θέλησε να είναι υπηρέτης», in Greek].

I discuss examples of these mythic and historic “connective leadership” paradigms presented through these books to young kids in the third part of this post. In the next part, however, I consider leaders in the business world, with reference to organizational restructuring, personality types, and Charles Handy’s Gods of Management.

 

[1]  For connective leadership, I draw inspiration from Nathan W. Harter and Sean M. Heuvel, “New Perspectives on Heroic/Post-Heroic Leadership and on Heroic Followership”, International Leadership Journal 12, 2020, pp. 8-25. Available here.

 

Post by Katerina Volioti, placed by Olga Strycharczyk

 

Dr. Katerina Volioti, University of Roehampton, was educated at the Universities of Cambridge (BA in Archaeology & Anthropology), Oxford (MSc in Management), Humboldt (MA in Politics), and Reading (PhD in Classics), and she is a passionate educator. You can read her other posts here.

“Mythology Activity Sheets” available online [by Candlewick Press]

During this difficult times we are all searching for interesting activities for children to help them learn through play. Lately, we discovered that Candlewick Press is publishing online very helpful materials about mythology for children of age 8 and up, that you can easily download and print. Everything in relation to the children’s book published by the publisher in 2007, titled Mythology: The Gods, Heroes, and Monsters of Ancient Greece”, written by Lady Hestia Evans and illustrated by Nick Harris, Nicki Palin, and David WyattFor example, you can find there “Mythology Activity Sheets” and “Mythology Teachers Guide”  (preview below):

 

Click to access 0763634034.kit.1.pdf

Click to access 0763634034.btg.1.pdf

Hope you will enjoy!


If this post got your attention stay tuned and follow our social media – on May 4th our new endeavour will be released! 🙂

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Post prepared by Dorota Rejter, “Find the Force” image by Zbigniew Karaszewski