Boris Johnson, Bettany Hughes, Fenella Fielding and Actors of Dionysus at London City Hall

On Thursday 18 September 2014 a love for Classics was in the air as Boris Johnson, Bettany Hughes, Fenella Fielding and Actors of Dionysus featured in a spectacular venue with panoramic views of London.

Patrons and supporters of the charity gathered to celebrate the achievements of the charity and prepare for new projects and new rounds of funding ahead.

Even on this evening dedicated to the ancient world, you couldn’t escape the modern: health and safety regulations had to be read out. Peter Jones did the honours in Latin: Si incendium oritur, effugiendum est. Statim, etc.

While paying homage to London as the new Athens, the charity’s patron Boris Johnson reflected that, in defiance of health and safety, you could hop on and off the capital’s buses, much like Diomedes in his chariot (epibainô and apobainô since you ask).

And on the eve of the Scottish referendum, Johnson couldn’t resist declaring that ‘the people of Caledonia will vote. But I know they will say NO in droves.’ He based his prediction on Tacitus’s 2,000-year-old account of the tattooed Celtic chieftain, Calgacus, who united the British tribes faced with the invading Roman forces. The mayor concluded: ‘We were united before the Romans came to this island, and we were united after. If only Alex Salmond had had the benefit of a classical education.’

Yasmin, a year 9 pupil at Burntwood School in Tooting, was next to extol the benefits of classics. Her class is just about to embark on Ancient Greek GCSE as a result of the CfA programme started two years ago.

The Greig City Academy has just started a Classics Club for the first time. The words of the Assistant Deputy Head Deborah Hughes summed up CfA’s mission: ‘The achievement of mastering such challenging subjects encourages academic confidence and ambition, and gives them invaluable cultural capital which will benefit these students for the rest of their lives.’