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Natalie Haynes & Bettany Hughes: Reclaiming the Women of the Ancient World

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Two leading classicists on the remarkable stories of the women of the ancient world and the injustice in how they are often understood today

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Join 5x15 with Natalie Haynes and Bettany Hughes - two leading historians who are reclaiming forgotten stories and giving voice to the women, girls and goddesses of the ancient world, who, for so long, have been silent.

Stories of gods and monsters are the mainstay of epic poetry and Greek tragedy, from Homer to Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, from Jason and the Argonauts to the wars of Troy. Today, a wealth of novels, plays and films draw their inspiration from stories first told almost three thousand years ago. But modern tellers of Greek myth have usually been men and have rarely shown interest in telling women’s stories. And when they do, those women are often painted as monstrous, vengeful or just plain evil.

In Pandora’s Jar, Natalie Haynes – broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist – redresses this imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus, Odysseus or Oedipus, the voices that sing from these pages are those of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.

In Venus and Aphrodite - through ancient art, evocative myth, archaeological revelations and philosophical explorations - Bettany Hughes shows why the immortal goddess Venus endures through to the twenty-first century, and what her journey through time reveals about what matters to us as humans.

Charting Venus's origins in powerful ancient deities, Bettany demonstrates that Venus is far more complex than first meets the eye. Beginning in Cyprus, the goddess's mythical birthplace, Bettany decodes Venus's relationship to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, and, in turn, Aphrodite's mixed-up origins both as a Cypriot spirit of fertility and procreation - but also, as a descendant of the prehistoric war goddesses of the Near and Middle East, Ishtar, Inanna and Astarte. On a voyage of discovery to reveal the truth behind Venus, Hughes reveals how this mythological figure is so much more than nudity, romance and sex. It is the both the remarkable story of one of antiquity's most potent forces, and the story of human desire - how it transforms who we are and how we behave.

Natalie Haynes is the author of six books. Most recently Pandora’s Jar: Women and the Greek Myths (2020) and A Thousand Ships, published by Pan Macmillan in 2019, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020. She has written and recorded six series of Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics for BBC Radio 4. Series Seven will be broadcast in summer 2021.

Professor Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster, who has devoted the last 25 years to the vibrant communication of the past. Her films on histories and culture are regularly watched by over 200 million worldwide. Her most recent book is Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess (2019), published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Her Sunday Times best-selling Istanbul A Tale of Three Cities has been translated into twelve languages and was shortlisted for the Runciman Prize, her New York Times Bestseller The Hemlock Cup - Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life was shortlisted for the Writers’ Guild Award and her first book Helen of Troy - Goddess, Princess, Whore was translated into twelve languages. In 2019 she was Chair of the Man Booker Prize for International Fiction.

With thanks for your generous support for 5x15's online series.

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