Caractacus: An Interdisciplinary Symposium

Sunday 18th March 2012, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Victoria Rooms, University of Bristol

Sir Edward Elgar’s 1898 cantata Caractacus explores patriotism and imperialism through historical re-imagining of early British resistance to the Roman empire.

Two Bristol University Institutes, the Centre for the History of Music in Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth, and the Institute for Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition, have collaborated to produce this symposium on Caractacus from antiquity to the nineteenth century, and beyond. The speakers (listed below) will deliver papers from a range of perspectives – archaeology, art history, classics, history, music and reception – to promote interdisciplinary discussion on the uses of the past for both aesthetic and ideological purposes.

The symposium will follow a performance of the cantata by the University Choral Society and Symphony Orchestra on the previous evening: tickets cost £10-15 (details below). The Sunday symposium will incorporate a question and answer session with the conductor, John Pickard. Caractacus, a substantial full-length work is rarely performed, and has never before been discussed in such an interdisciplinary forum. It will appeal to researchers working in Music, Classical Reception, and Colonialism, and to anyone interested in choral performance, history, and the British and Roman Empires.

Attendance at the symposium is free. Tea and coffee is included, but those attending will have to arrange and pay for their own lunch. Two postgraduate bursaries will be available to enable students from other universities to attend this event. Students wishing to apply for these should send a short outline of their research interests, and a reference from their supervisor, to Ellen O’Gorman at

Booking for the symposium is available at

Symposium Speakers

Keynote address:
Professor Tim Barringer (Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art, Yale University):
“An English Hero: Paradoxes of Nation and Empire in Elgar’s Caractacus

Professor Stephen Banfield (Stanley Hugh Badock Professor of Music, University of Bristol):
Caractacus in music before Elgar: reflections of the first British empire?”

Professor Richard Hingley (Professor of Archaeology, University of Durham):
“Caractacus as a historical and archaeological figure”

Dr. Ellen O’Gorman (Senior Lecturer in Classics, University of Bristol):
“Caractacus and barbarian character in Latin literature”

Professor Julian Rushton (Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Leeds):
“Making Elgar’s Caractacus

Choral Performance

Saturday 17 March, 7.30pm

Bristol University Choral Society and Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: John Pickard
Marianne Cotterill (Soprano)
Luke Price (Tenor)
Niall Hoskin (Baritone)
Stephen Foulkes (Baritone)

Elgar: Caractacus Op.35

Concert generously supported by Elgar in Performance and The Elgar Society (Great Western Branch)

Balcony £15 (concessions £10)
Stalls £10 (concessions £7)

Tickets can be purchased:
– by post: cheques should be made payable to ‘University of Bristol’ and sent to: Department of Music, Victoria Rooms, Queen’s Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 ISA
-by credit/debit card (Visa, Mastercard and Switch only) by telephone (0117 331 4044).