Plague in ancient Athens.
Sir Llew Edwards Building (building 14), The University of Queensland, St Lucia
Venue: Sir Llew Edwards Building (building 14), The University of Queensland, St Lucia.

ANCIENT HISTORY DAY: Plague, Filth, and Garbage in the Ancient World

Were ancient cities death traps? They certainly weren’t the healthiest places to live. Human waste was routinely emptied into the street. Urine was collected, stored, and used to process cloth. Slaves were encouraged to defecate on street rubbish heaps – which were then collected by farmers for fertiliser. The great drain that stank and polluted under the Roman Forum was wide enough to drive wagons of hay along. And a mysterious and deadly disease that struck Athens in 430 BCE wiped out perhaps one-third of the population.

The Friends of Antiquity, in conjunction with The Discipline of Classics and Ancient History (School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, UQ), present the 22nd Annual Ancient History Day.

Presentations of 45 minutes each by:

  • Emeritus Professor Trevor Bryce: 'Plagues and Diseases in the Ancient Near East: Causes, Consequences and Cures';
  • Emeritus Professor Bob Milns: 'Thucydides and the Plague at Athens';
  • Professor Alastair Blanshard: 'Pollution in the Greek World';
  • Dr Brad McCall: 'Concepts of Disease and Public Health in ancient Greece and Rome';
  • Dr Janette McWilliam: 'Pollution and Disease in Ancient Rome' (due to unforeseen circumstances, Dr John Ratcliffe and Professors Robert Milns and Alastair Blanshard will deliver short presentations in keeping with the day's theme of plague and public health);
  • Ms Pam Rushby: 'When the Black Death came to Brisbane'.

Please Note: A detailed program will be available for collection at the registration desks on Ancient History Day.


Ancient History Day 2016 Registration Form

$50; $15 each for students with ID; $40 each for FoA/AFUQ members. Cost includes morning tea.


  • 8:00–9:00: REGISTRATION - Foyer of Room 212, Sir Llew Edwards Building
  • 9:00–9:10: Chair: Dr Dorothy Watts; Welcome: Head, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry (formerly HPRC)
  • 10:50–11:20: MORNING TEA – Please note that food and drinks are not permitted in the theatre
  • 1:00–2:15: LUNCH - Food outlets on campus will be listed on signs in the foyer


Food is available at some campus outlets, or at St Lucia village, or BYO.

Other Information for the Day

Parking at UQ is free on weekends (more information: The R D Milns Antiquities Museum is open at lunch break. There will be foyer displays and sales, including secondhand books (AFUQ) and Museum souvenirs. Visit the Co-op Bookshop for new book sales. Teachers only CPD certificate orders may be placed on the day ($15 per certificate, postage included).


Friends of Antiquity (; R D Milns Antiquities Museum (; Alumni Friends of UQ Inc (07) 33651562; School of HAPI (07) 33652620.