My Exclusive Writer Interview with Dr Stephanie Russo on MQ’s Literary Podcast ‘From the Lighthouse’

Claire_Catacouzinos

Hi Everyone,

Some more wonderful news to share!

I was interviewed by Dr Stephanie Russo on Macquarie University’s Literary Podcast ‘From the Lighthouse’ about my journey as a young writer, my publications, the impact of my Greek heritage, historical fiction, and helpful tips I can give to young aspiring writers managing a writing career. There’s also the casual mention of Harry Potter; Melina Marchetta; the Great Historical Epics of Hollywood; Ancient Greece; my first children’s book coming out soon by my publisher, Zoozil; working at MQ’s student publication magazine, Grapeshot; and my four major tips for any aspiring young writer.

You can check out my interview here.

You can download the ‘From the Lighthouse’ Show on your Podcast app on your phone.

For more info visit the English Department’s podcast website at: https://www.fromthelighthouse.org

I was initially contacted by Stephanie to speak to some MQ students about my writing career as part of the English Department’s PACE internship unit. I was very humbled that I was given the opportunity to share my writing journey and book publishing knowledge to MQ students. To then be asked to be interviewed on the English Department’s new Literary Podcast about my work and life as a young writer was amazing. Thank you, Stephanie!

I hope you all enjoy the interview!

Also just a heads up that I’ll be blogging over the next couple of months about my holiday in Italy and Greece from August 2017. So watch this space!

Best wishes,
Claire

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Sneak Peek of me at Herculaneum in Italy, August 2017

For more information about my writing check out:
My Publications
My History in Review Column from Grapeshot
My Creative Writing Blog Posts
My Ancient History Blog Posts

 

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Drum Roll Please! Book Announcement!

Zoozil Announcement3

Hi Everyone,

I’m super thrilled and excited to announce that I’ll be publishing my first children’s book with US publisher, Zoozil!

For anyone who knows me, this is a dream come true!!! It’s been a long time for me trying to find a publisher who focuses on historical fiction for children, and I’ve hit the jackpot!

Zoozil’s books let’s young readers go back in history to direct the characters, explore new perspectives and even change the ending! Zoozil promotes history, and advocates for literacy skills in children and they can achieve this while getting lost in a story. As a Zoozil author, we pass over our control and give it back to our readers by offering them different pathways to choose from with our characters to go on different journeys. More information on their website: http://www.zoozil.com/

zoozil logoMy children’s book is obviously set in Ancient Greece! My favourite historical period to write about, and what I’m known for with my first ever publication, Helike. I’ve been writing historical short stories for a long time, and have four historical short stories published at Macquarie University’s English Department’s e-journal, The Quarry. You can check out my historical short stories here:

Helike https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/short-stories/short-story-helike/

Taras’ Parthenians https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/short-stories/short-story-taras-parthenians/

Golden Drachmas https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/short-stories/short-story-golden-drachmas/

Asklepios https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/short-stories/short-story-asklepios/

Book Announcement

There is more information to come soon about my Zoozil book. So please watch this space. I’m so thankful and humbled that I’ve been given the opportunity to help children find their favourite story and connect with reading.

A huge thank you to Joseph Heinzen (President & Founder of Zoozil) and Eric Raue (Zoozil Board Member) for giving me this opportunity.

And a shout out as well to Dr Jane Messer for being a wonderful mentor throughout my time at Macquarie University, to Dr Victoria Flanagan for getting me in contact with my publisher, and to my manuscript supervisor during my MA degree, Elizabeth Claire Alberts! You have all been an instrumental part in my writing career and success.

Lastly, a huge thank you to Mum and Dad for supporting me and my writing dream! I love you both!

Again, more information to come soon about my book! But in the meantime, I have a special holiday gift for you! @Zoozil has redefined the way kids get to explore the world by putting them in control of the story. This is a great opportunity for you to read a book from my publisher for 50% off!  #IChangedTheStory #ChangeTheStory #Zoozil

Best wishes,
ClaireZoozil 2017 Promotion

WONDER WOMAN: THE AMAZING AMAZONS – HISTORY & MYTH

Image result for wonder woman amazons

Hi Everyone,

I loved the buzz Wonder Woman received from the launch of the 2017 Film, which is finally out now on DVD, and now Leigh Bardugo’s new book in the DC Icon Series, Wonder Woman: Warbringer. So I thought I would write a blog post on the inspiration behind Princess Diana’s Amazonian World, but also shed some light on the ‘mythical’ and ‘real’ Amazons in ancient history.

Wonder Woman book3

While at Macquarie University I studied the unit in my Ancient History major, Women and Gender in the Ancient World. I absolutely loved the course, but the one guest lecture we had from Dr Ian Plant on the History and Myth of the Ancient Amazons was a stand out. So here’s a few points on the ‘mythical’ and ‘real’ Amazons that I wanted to share.

Best wishes,
Claire

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History and Myth of the Ancient Amazons

Who they were – Ancient Greek literature

The Ancient Greeks constantly referenced the Amazons in their work.

The Amazons live near the Thermodon.  They are daughters of Ares and Harmonia, the nymph and Naiad.  The most famous are Hippolyte, Antiope, whom Theseus abducted, Anaia, Andromache, Glauke, Otrere, and Penthesileia, her daughter.  In the time of Mygdon, son of Akmon, and Otreus, son of Dymas, they plundered the neighbouring districts, riding on their fire-breathing horses, and later overran Phrygia for booty.  They were so called because they lacked one breast—for they cauterized it to prevent it from getting in the way when they used their bows, or because they did not eat bread [maza], but tortoises, lizards and snakes.  Some say that they are the same as the Sarmatian women.  [Antianeirai] means equal to or hostile to men.

Scholia on Iliad  (from 3rd C. BC on)

They were also called ‘Sauropatides’ (lizard crushers) because they trampled on lizards and ate them, or Sarmatians because they lived in Sarmatian Skythia. There is also a city Amazonia in Messapia. 

Steph. Byz. Ethnika, s.v. Amazones

 Blok, J.H.  The Early Amazons  (Leiden, 1995)IX

Then in the 5th century BCE the details changed with the Amazons:

  • They were without men
  • Aeschylus Suppliant Women play – showed them armed with a bow, which closely resembled meat eating Amazons. Meat eating meant they were barbaric. (Nice aye?)
  • Aeschylus Prometheus Bound play – they were now viewed as man-hating Amazons
  • They lived in Thrace in the north, then moved to Amazoneion – another name for Kyme, where they lived. Hekataios records the name in book IX of his work on the Aiolid.
  • They are still seen as Thracians even though they moved.
  • However, there was a real society of people who lived in this area called The Sauromataes – Scythians, who were nomadic people.
  • There are different places that have claimed to be the Amazon’s homeland.

Amazons Homelands

Amazonian Lifestyle Invented

  • Hallanikos of Lesbos and Diodorus stated that the Amazons cauterized their chest with an iron to prevent their breasts from growing. (Clearly DC comics didn’t replicate this!).

[…]they are called Amazons because they cut off their right breast to prevent it from getting in the way when they use their bows.  This is untrue, because that would have been fatal to them.  Hellanikos and Diodorus [II.45.3] says that they cauterized the spot with an iron object before it [the breast] began to grow, to prevent it from growing.

Hellanicus of Lesbos (c. 480-400 BC) cited by Plutarch in Theseus 27

  • The Amazons had children because apparently men stalked them.
  • Men liked them because they were different (like the Spartan women who were seen as ‘thigh flashers’ – love it!).
  • The Amazon women didn’t want to live with men because they were not nomadic for women’s work and they wanted to hunt.
  • They grew to be big and strong because of the climate of the region. It was suitable for them to grow and develop their physical physiques.
  • To ensure that Amazonian women were always on top they would crush the limbs of men. (Yikes!)
  • Apparently they didn’t lay aside their virginity until they killed 3 of their enemies. (An initiation rite within other tribes throughout history).
  • The Greek geographer and historian, Strabo, wrote his work Geography where he tried to make the Amazonian mythology realistic by saying that they fought with a bow, Scythian axe and light shield. And that the Amazons lived on the other side of a mountain next to the Gargarians (an all-male tribe). And apparently, every 2 months in a year, they would ‘get’ together. The Amazons would keep the female offspring and the Gargarians kept the male offspring. (Sound like a utopia to you?)
  • The Roman historican,Quintus Curtius Rufus, wrote the Histories of Alexander the Great and said that Alexander the Great met the Queen of the Amazons. She apparently spent 13 days with him. (To beget children, who knows?)

Amazonomachia_Pio-Clementino_Inv896

Views from the Ancient World about the Ancient Amazons

Some notes juxtaposing the Mythical Amazons & Traditional Ancient Greek Women

Amazons

Ancient Greek Women

Race of martial women Greek women not martial
Race of women alone Greek women live with men
Men subordinate Women = subordinate
Women in men’s roles Women in women’s roles
Women care for children Women crush the limbs of boys
Don’t live by agriculture = civilization  Agriculture = bread civilization
Eat meat, lizards, tortoises = wild, matriarchy Eat bread = tamed, patriarchy
Live outdoors, not indoors Indoor lifestyle

Development of Amazons Over Time

In the beginning in Greek literature the Amazons started as equal to men then, they became warriors and fought heroes (and were defeated by heroes as well).

Then they developed a homeland on the edge of the Greek world and made a way of life for themselves. They could have represented the foreign enemy (for example Athens’ enemy was Persia), and then they became Scythian.

Amazons4

Interpretation of the Amazon Myth

  1. Historical Evidence:
    Were they Scythians?
    An early iron age site in southern Ukraine provides archaeological evidence at Pokrovka. Perhaps they were the Sauromatians.
  2. Structural Evidence in Literature:
    Definition of the Self by creation of the Other.
  3. Combining Greek History and Myth:
    The ancient Greeks invented the Amazons as creatures of mythical imagination. Then the ancient Greeks met the ‘Sauromations’ and their mythical Amazons took on the characteristics of these nomadic women.

Iconography and Amazonomachy

  • The Greeks invented the Amazons so they wore Greek clothing and used Greek weapons.
  • They then developed the Amazons to wearing non Greek costumes (patterns, pants, different helmets and weapons) to show that they were Scythians, Eastern, Northern,  Phrygian, and Thracian.
  • They then feminised their warrior costume.

Amazons in Greek and Persian costume2Amazons in Greek and Persian costume

Amazonian Archaeology / Sauromatians Archaeology

  • The evolution of the Amazons is reflected in the Sauromatians culture, who were nomadic people.
  • There are multiple burial mounds in Kurgan that imitates the Amazonian lifestyle. For example, women were buried with weapons and armour, and were also buried with their husbands and children.
  • 20% of Sauromatian and ancient Sarmatian tombs have women buried with weapons (usually arrows, but occasionally with swords and spears).
  • There is evidence in these tombs showing contact with the Ancient Greeks:
    • Greek pottery – amphora 
    • Bracelet – Greek beads
  • The burial graves date from the 5th to 4th century BCE which dates well with the homeland of Herodotus’ Amazons and Scythian immigrants.
  • Dr Jeannine Davis Kimble’s research in Pokrovka in Russia identifies 3 classes of women from excavating and researching burials in this area.
    1. Feminine and Domestic = 28 burials
      • Feminine and domestic goods such as spindle, whorls, mirrors, stone and glass beads.
    2. Priestess = 5 burials
      • Cult goods such as clay and stone altars, bone spoons, bronze mirrors, and seashells.
    3. Warrior = 7 burials
      • Weapons include iron swords, daggers, bronze arrow-heads, whetstones, and a quiver.
      • 1 skeleton had an arrow found in her.

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For more information about the real Amazing Amazons check out:

Interview with Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/amazon-warrior-women-interview-dr-jeannine-davis-kimball/1473/

Amazon Warrior Women: Background

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/amazon-warrior-women-background/1466/

Interactive: Amazon Warrior Forensic Facial Reconstruction

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/interactive-from-the-archive-amazon-warrior-forensic-facial-reconstruction/1094/

Reference

Plant, Dr Ian. (August 2011). “Amazons: Myth and History.” Lecture given at Macquarie University, NSW.

Wonder Woman 2017 Film & Book

Image result for wonder woman

Hi Everyone,

I absolutely loved the new Wonder Woman film by DC Comics, directed by Patty Jenkins. The setting of the Amazonian world was exquisite with the Aegean sea, the abundant mountains, the cobblestone streets, and the extreme wide long shot of the whole city and the acropolis on the mountain with the cascading waterfall – my God! I was thrown back into ancient Greece.

Even the Amazonian costumes, helmets, and weapons were perfect with the added element of fantasy. I loved it! And Gal Gadot as Diana was a star! The only two critiques I have is that I wish she had more muscle like the DC comics portray Wonder Woman. But other than that, what a champion! And the love interest with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), I honestly thought he was out of her league – ah hello – she’s a goddess! Why on earth would she want to be with a mortal man? But of course, it was because of her love for him she felt compassion and had empathy for the human race, so, I’ll have to give her credit for that. Even though, like her mother said to her, the world doesn’t deserve her.

Image result for wonder woman amazons

So, just to round up and recap, the Amazonian women in DC comics are a fictional matriarchal society (woohoo!) of ethnically diverse superhumans, based on the Amazons of Greek mythology. The Greek Gods created the Amazons and bestowed upon them the mandate as guardians to the Man’s World; their mission was providing a bridge for humans to obtain greater understanding. When the Amazons were enslaved by their charges, Queen Hippolyta led her people to freedom, and as a result, ultimately abandon their sacred stewardship.

Image result for wonder woman amazons city

I’m also very excited to have received my copy of Leigh Bardugo’s new book in the DC Icon Series, Wonder Woman: Warbringer! I can’t wait to read it and delve into Diana’s story all over again!!!

Wonder Woman book3

Blurb on Wonder Woman: Warbringer

The highly anticipated coming-of-age story for the world’s greatest super hero: WONDER WOMAN by the # 1 New York Times bestselling author LEIGH BARDUGO.

She will become a legend but first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning . . .

Diana is desperate to prove herself to her warrior sisters. But when the opportunity comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law to save a mere mortal, Alia Keralis. With this single heroic act, Diana may have just doomed the world.

Alia is a Warbringer – a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies, mortal and divine, determined to destroy or possess the Warbringer.

To save the world, they must stand side by side against the tide of war.

Best wishes,
Claire

Image result for wonder woman amazons city

For more information check out Leigh’s book at:

https://www.penguin.com.au/books/wonder-woman-warbringer-dc-icons-series-9780141387376

Pompeii and Herculaneum – Exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum

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Hi Everyone,

Ever since I studied Pompeii and Herculaneum as part of my Year 12 Ancient History core topic, I have always dreamed about travelling to Italy to visit these heavily enriched archaeological sites. I have always been fascinated by the architecture, structure, art, history, but most importantly, the people and their daily lives of these well-documented areas.

Luckily and finally, this year I’ll be heading off to Europe again after four years, and Italy will be my first stop. There will be future posts documenting my travels at Rome, Pompeii and Herculaneum later in the year.

However, I was very lucky in May 2017 to attend the ‘Escape from Pompeii: The Untold Roman Rescue’ exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum! Yes, that’s right, artefacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum were here in Australia!!!

The exhibition brought to Australia rare artefacts from sites from around the Bay of Naples: Pompeii, Herculaneum and lesser-known ones such as Baiae, Puteoli and Misenum. They gave insights into the lives of sailors of the Roman fleet and to the people who lived on the Bay of Naples, considered by many Romans to be the most beautiful place on earth – until the volcanic eruption of 79 AD.

Some gorgeous artefacts that we saw:

  • a Roman rostrum, used to ram enemy ships
  • a helmet from the Battle of the Aegates in 241 BC, which marked Rome’s entry as a maritime superpower
  • sculptured reliefs celebrating Rome’s naval victories
  • a military diploma bestowing Roman citizenship on a serviceman
  • trade goods from Pompeii – both workaday items and luxuries – including sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, jewellery, glassware and tableware sourced from throughout the empire
  • everyday objects preserved in the eruption, such as a loaf of bread and figs from Herculaneum, and items taken by the fleeing victims

The Exhibition is open until the 3rd of September 2017.
For more information: http://www.anmm.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/on-now/pompeii

 

Ethical Issues

In spite of seeing the exhibition, the one thing that I did want to mention was that I didn’t want to post any photos of the body casts of Pompeiian victims. I believe it is an ongoing ethical problem for us in contemporary society, if and how, we display human remains, especially if we are photographing the victims and insensitively uploading these images onto social media platforms just so that we can get ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ on these victims’ final moments in time before they died. It is cruel and crude. Especially if you are smiling in front of a camera or posing with a duck face, thumbs up, or peace sign, while human remains are behind you. It’s intentionally selfish, narcissistic and insensitive. These victims and the mood surrounding their death is eerie, harrowing and haunting.

The one thing that needs to be noted was that these human remains were displayed respectfully, which the museum and other exhibitions have done and will continue to do. However, the problem still remains that some scholars believe that it is unethical to display human remains that have already been excavated, but on the other hand, there is the other held belief that the public should have access to the stories to human remains and what they have to tell us about ancient biological and cultural aspects of human populations. This is also evident with Egyptian mummies and how they are displayed and viewed at museums.

At the Naples Museum in Italy, the displayed human remains are meant to evoke thought about the time of the event, and the changing methods of archaeology. In the past, human remains have been moved from where victims had originally died, or posed differently to capture the public’s eye and gain further attraction as a tourist destination. Again, this was insensitive and disrespectful. Nobody wants their ancestors or relatives inhumanely displayed and modelled for capitalist purposes.

With that note, the continuing excavation, treatment and display of human remains will continue in the future for scholars, archaeologists and the public as it is an evolving topic.

If you have any thoughts, please share your comments below.

 

Second Author Interview – Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Photograph of Vicky by Vania Stoyanova

Hi Everyone,

I had the pleasure for my second author interview to be with Vicky Alvear Shecter, a YA historical fiction, and middle grade mythology and biography writer who I admire in publishing her ancient history YA historical novels – Cleopatra’s Moon published in 2013 and Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii published in 2014. She answered 20 Questions I had about her writing, her book about Pompeii, her characters, and about YA historical novels and the publishing market.

A huge thank you once again to Vicky for her contribution.

And you can check out the Author Interview on the Interview category on my blog here.

Best wishes,
Claire

Second Archaeologist Interview: Dr Dora Katsonopoulou about The Helike Project

dora_kapelloHi Everyone,

I had the pleasure to interview Dr Dora Katsonopoulou, the Director of The Helike Project, and President of The Helike Society based in Achaea, Greece. She is an archaeologist, a researcher, a consultant of international research programs and Board member of scientific Institutes and Organisations, a guest lecturer at Universities and Institutions, and she has organised four International Conferences on Ancient Helike and Aigialeia. She is the Leader of excavations conducted at Helike near Aigio since 2000. I contacted Dora in February 2013 and asked if she could cite my short story, Helike, on the Helike Project’s website to help promote their work and the awareness and significance of the project and archaeological digs, but also for modern people to be educated, to relate to the history of Helike, and to place faces and names to the Greek citizens who were part of the tragedy when the town was lost in history, and lastly, for modern people to have empathetic understanding. My short story is about the destruction of Helike from the perspective of one of its citizens that I created, Alethea. Dora answered 15 Questions I had about her work directing and organising the project, the purpose of the project, and its aims for the future. This is an interview to commemorate her hard work since 1988.

A huge thank you once again to Dora for her contribution.

You can check out the Archaeologist Interview on the Interview category on my blog here.

Best wishes,
Claire

The Quarry – Issue #6 is live!

TheShipDiscoveryFINALEDITHi Everyone,

Since February 2015 I’ve been the Editor-in-Chief of The Quarry Issue #6 for Macquarie University’s English Department’s e-journal, that I was the editor of Issue #4 in 2014. I’m excited to announce that Issue #6 is published and ready to read online. Enjoy the creative works of the postgraduate students with the cohesive theme and common thread of discovery.

DiscoveryingDiscoveryFINALEDIT

It has been a pleasure working with all the fantastic Editors, Ally Bodnaruk, Willo Drummond, Tamara Pratt, and the Web Designers, Tenzin Bereny and Josh McInnes, and the Illustrator, Maxine Sundic (aka Maxine Mars) for this postgraduate issue.

Also, another one of my historical fiction short stories has been published with this issue, titled “Gold Drachmas“. More about this short story will be on its official Short Story – Golden Drachmas Page on my website.

Link to The Quarry Issue #6.

Cheers,
Claire   

 

First Archaeologist Interview: Dr Stavros Vlizos about The Amyklaion: Amykles Research Project

Stavros Vlizos on the steps of the altarHi Everyone,

I had the pleasure to interview Dr Stavros Vlizos, the Assistant Director of The Amyklaion: Amykles Research Project. He is an archaeologist, a researcher and lecturer at the Ionian University in Corfu. I contacted Stavros in March 2014 and asked if he could cite my short story, Taras’ Parthenians on the Amyklaion’s website to help promote their work and the awareness of the sanctuary of the Amyklaion to the general public. In my short story the main scene of rebellion between the Parthenians against the Spartans took place at the sanctuary of the Amyklaion. Stavros answered 15 Questions I had about his work directing and organising the project, the purpose of the project, and its aims for the future. This is an interview to commemorate his hard work.

A huge thank you once again to Stavros for his contribution.

You can check out the Archaeologist Interview on the Interview category on my blog here.

Best wishes,
Claire