From Achilles to Anzac: Locating the Classical Past in the Anzac Tradition

Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:15 pm
Old Geology, Theatre 1, The University of Melbourne
Norman Macgeorge Public Lecture

Sarah Midford

This lecture traces the use of the classics in the construction of the Anzac tradition and the commemoration of Anzac soldiers who fell during the Great War (1914-1918). Since the first Australian soldiers landed on the beach at Gallipoli in April 1915 they have been likened to ancient Greek warrior heroes. However, the Trojan hero is simply one aspect of the multi-faceted Australian Anzac archetypal hero whose construction is equally informed by ancient Greek democratic ideals.

This lecture will briefly examine C.E.W. Bean’s use of the ancient Greek past in the commemoration of the Anzac soldier before focussing on allusions to Homeric heroes in Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981). The lecture will emphasise the depth to which the classics are embedded in the Anzac Legend by exploring the characterisation of Weir’s two protagonists Archy Hamilton and Frank Dunne as incarnations of the Homeric heroes Achilles and Odysseus respectively.

Sarah Midford is completing a PhD thesis at the University of Melbourne on the influence of the classics on the construction and development of the Australian ‘Anzac Legend’. Since 2010, Sarah has worked on the Joint Historical and Archaeological Survey of the Gallipoli Peninsula, recording what remains of the Great War battlefield site. In 2013 Sarah undertook research at the Korfmann Institute in Çanakkale as the Norman Macgeorge Scholar and in 2014 she will return to Çanakkale to excavate at Troy with Dr Rüstem Aslan from Onsekiz Mart University.

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