Department of Classics and Classical Reception

Research Focus

The department continues the long tradition of research of ancient culture and thought, building on the groundwork laid already in the former Centre for Greek, Roman and Latin Studies of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. It is engaged in the study of ancient culture and its reception in later periods, especially in those cultural spheres which are defined against the background of the classical heritage and lively communicate with the classical culture, i. e. mainly drama and theatre, literature and visual arts. The classical culture is not a secluded subject of research; the classical antiquity is also studied as an idea which was imbued with various meanings with regard to contemporaneous needs and which served to express important contemporary topics. The works of our department concentrate on how the classical antiquity was seen in later centuries, and on works of art which dealt with the antiquity or were inspired by it. Much attention is also paid to the reception of classical culture in the Czech lands, shaped by specific cultural, social and historical factors of the multicultural region in the centre of Europe.

Current projects

Team projects

(Jakub Čechvala – Alena Sarkissian)

There is no doubt that the Greek tragedy influenced the evolution of drama towards its modern form. This project focuses on the study of this ancient dramatic genre in context: its roots in the spiritual and social context of the era, its theoretical and practical reflexion in later historical epochs and the changing attitudes to its theatrical performances. Jakub Čechvala and Alena Sarkissian have dealt with Greek drama and theatre over a long period: Jakub Čechvala with its theoretical reflections, Alena Sarkissian takes into account also the issues of tragic performance and production.
The project will result in studies in scholarly journals, on the basis of which will be written a monograph which will be the first to systematically introduce the Greek tragedy to Czech readers.

(Daniela Čadková – Eliška Poláčková)

In order to create a high-quality translation, it is imperative not only to master the target language and the one of the source, but especially to have a deep insight in the translated author, his cultural and historical background, and knowledge of translation studies. Without meeting these requirements, the translation produced is of poor quality, it does not interpret the meaning of the original but distorts and blurs it. Translations of dramas are even more demanding, because they not only have to meet the demands on literary qualities of the text, but also to have the potential to be rendered on stage. We believe translations of classical works to be one of the key activities which must be systematically fostered, because the reception of the classical antiquity in Czech culture is today, given the minimal knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin, possible only through translations of the originals. Given the personnel composition of the department, we will first focus on ancient drama and its contemporary reflexions. The translation itself is a specific kind of reception of ancient literature, as we make clear by theoretical insight into this discipline.
The first output of the project will be three volumes of new Czech translation of L. A. Seneca’s tragedies, because Czech translations either do not exist at all or have been published only in journals. The three volumes will be published in cooperation with Professor Eva Stehlíková in the publishing house Větrné mlýny.

Collaborations of Projects Run by Other Institutions

The database of performances of ancient dramas on the Czech stage is a part of European projects Network of Research and Documentation of Performances of Ancient Greek Drama (Athens) and Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama (Oxford). Furthermore, Jan Bažant takes part in the project Corpus vasorum antiquorum which is under the aegis of the Union académique internationale in Brussels.

Individual Projects

(Jan Bažant)

The project deals with depictions of ancient Greek and Roman myths in visual arts since the beginnings in the 8th century BCE until today. The first output of the project will be the monograph Perseus a Medusa (Perseus and Medusa) published in the publishing house Academia (see Strategy AV21 under Projects).

(Alena Sarkissian)

An interdisciplinary research of the issues of the acting profession in the antiquity, on the borderline between the classical philology and theatre studies. The results will be scholarly publications leading to the creation of a monograph on the topic.


Ancient Inspiration in Visual Arts

Performances of Ancient Dramas

The Antiquity in Inscriptions of Czech Provenance


Involvement in the Strategy AV21

The publication will be the output of Jan Bažant’s project Depictions of Ancient Myths since the Beginnings until Today. Czech paintings, reliefs and statues inspired by ancient myths are now incomprehensible for most Czechs. The aim of this book is to make them speak again. The reader will be acquainted with the evolution of the grammar and vocabulary of these depictions since the antiquity to the present. The publication does not target just scholars, its text is essentially a commentary on authentic sources (texts and especially five hundred typical depictions of the Perseus myth) for wide public. The oldest discussed items were created in the second millennium BCE, the youngest in 2013. They come not just from all the Europe, but also from the Middle East and North America. Among the selected pictures and statues are all depictions created in Czech territory. Why the Perseus myth? Because it was related since its beginnings with seeing and displaying, which is the base of modern culture.

The collective monograph tracing the connections with the classical mythology in Czech public discourse from the second half of the 19th century until present. Another link connecting the individual essays is the method: the antiquity and its heritage will be regarded as a cultural construct. The publication will contain essays exploring the problematics from various points of view. This is made possible by the interdisciplinary proficiency of the Department of Classical Culture and Its Reception. The essays will focus on transformations of ancient myths in numerous branches of Czech culture: books for children, specialised literature, visual arts, theatrical performances etc. Editors: Jakub Čechvala, Eliška Poláčková. The collective of authors: J. Bažant, D. Čadková, J. Čechvala, J. Kepartová, E. Poláčková, M. C. Putna, A. Sarkissian.

Educational Activities

Every semester, the Department organises at least three specialised courses based on our scholars’ own projects, mostly dealing with the oldest era of the history of theatre in a broad historical, cultural and social context. We also present the classical culture in general and its reception in later centuries. All members of the department take part on the educational activities to some extent. For more details (in Czech), click here.


Completed Projects and Selected Important Publications


Čechvala, Jakub – Poláčková, Eliška (eds.), Ve stínu hellénského slunce: Obrazy antiky v moderní české kultuře. Praha: Filosofia 2016, 455 s. ISBN 978-80-7007-460-2 [In the Shade of Hellenic Sun: Images of the Classical Antiquity in Modern Czech Culture].

Sarkissian, Alena, Ať Múzy promluví: Tři byzantská kvazidramata. Červený Kostelec, Mervart 2013, 121 s. ISBN 978-80-7465-027-7 [Let the Muses Speak. Three Byzantine Quasi-Dramas].



Bažant, Jan, „Habsburg Mythology and Waldstein Palace in Prague“, in: H. Karner – I. Ciulisová – B. J. García García (eds.), The Habsburgs and Their Courts in Europe, 1400–1700. Between Cosmopolitanism and Regionalism. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften – KU Leuven 2014, pp. 73–99.

Bažant, Jan, „Classical Reception in the Czech Republic: An Introduction“, in: Z. Martirosova Torlone – D. LaCourse Munteanu – D. Dutsch (eds.), A Handbook to Classical Reception in Eastern and Central Europe. Chichester: Wiley – Blackwell 2017, pp. 115–120.

Bažant, Jan, „The Classical Tradition and Nationalism: The Art and Architecture of Prague, 1860–1900“, in: Z. Martirosova Torlone – D. LaCourse Munteanu – D. Dutsch (eds.), A Handbook to Classical Reception in Eastern and Central Europe. Chichester: Wiley – Blackwell 2017, pp. 133–145.

Čadková, Daniela, „Classical Antiquity in Czech Literature between the National Revival and the Avant‐Garde“, in: Z. Martirosova Torlone – D. LaCourse Munteanu – D. Dutsch (eds.), A Handbook to Classical Reception in Eastern and Central Europe. Chichester: Wiley – Blackwell 2017, pp. 121–132.

Čadková, Daniela, „Antická dramata Jaroslava Vrchlického a jejich dobová recepce“, in: Listy filologické 136, 2013, pp. 189–219 [“Jaroslav Vrchlický’s Ancient Dramas and Their Contemporary Reception”].

Čadková, Daniela, „Vrchlického Hippodamie a její dobová recepce“, in: Listy filologické 136, 2013, pp. 415–441 [“Vrchlický’s Hippodamia and Its Contemporary Reception”].

Sarkissian, Alena, „The Case of the Oresteia: Classical Drama on the Czech Stage, 1889–2012“, in: Z. Martirosova Torlone – D. LaCourse Munteanu – D. Dutsch (eds.), A Handbook to Classical Reception in Eastern and Central Europe. Chichester: Wiley – Blackwell 2017, pp. 146–158.

Sarkissian, Alena, „Rituál, válka, oběť a sňatek na českém jevišti: případ Ífigenie v Aulidě“, in: Listy filologické 136, 2013, pp. 1–31 [“Ritual, War, Sacrifice and Wedding on Czech Stage: The Case of the Ifigenia in Aulis”].