On Wednesday, October 25th, the U of G Classics Society attempted an incredible feat — to recreate the Battle of Thermopylae from 480BC. The goal was to get 300 Guelph students representing the Spartan Army, with Professor John Walsh at its head.
The Ontarion interviewed Laurel Jarvis, vice president of the Guelph Classics Society, about how the incredible event was organized.
Leslie Thompson: How did this event come about?
Laurel Jarvis: John approached the Guelph Classics Society with this really amazing photo idea, but would not tell us his idea until we set up a meeting with him. A few weeks ago I met with him and he took me down to the location between Mackinnon and Johnston and asked me what this location reminded me of, with the wide open ends and the narrow passage. He talked about Thermopylae, the famous battle of 300 Spartans holding off thousands and thousands of Persians, just by blocking the narrow passage way at Thermopylae and not letting anyone pass. He wanted to create an image of him against 300 students as a fun photographic opportunity and bring history to life.
LT: Are you happy with how the event turned out?
LJ: Honestly we were a little worried what turnout would be like. Classical Studies is one of the smallest programs on campus, and we are not very well known. Our events are typically targeted for 20-40 people, so this was massive to try and get 300. We advertised the event as best we could, and planning it during CASU’s Arts Week helped as well. However, 300 was still a large amount of people, but John assured us he would bring a mob of people after his class. We started setting up the event and a few people had arrived, but once John had arrived after his class ended, at least 100 people had showed up with him and there was a massive line to sign up.
While we did not reach our goal of 300, we were actually really happy with how the event turned out with around 150 people in the end. A few of us talked to John after the event and he seemed really excited with how things went as well.
I think this is an event he wants to do again, he was really happy with the enthusiasm everyone brought, but I know he really wants to reach the 300 goal.
LT: How awesome is John Walsh?
LJ: He is an absolutely fantastic professor and really cares about his students and is passionate about what he teaches. A lot of people see classical studies as a boring subject, but it is actually quite fascinating and he brings history back to life with each lecture. Everyone I meet talks about how amazing his lectures are, and how he can modernize events from thousands of years ago to make them relevant today. If you ever get the opportunity, you absolutely have to take one of his courses.
Photo by Laurel Jarvis