Impact case study: The science of stories

AI in Antiquity and the Science of Stories: from improving uptake of Classics in schools to informing the design of human-machine interactions

AI, robots, and cyborgs unexpectedly play a role in classical myths and narratives that are almost 3,000 years old. Ancient storytellers such as Homer, Hesiod, and Ovid describe cyborg slave girls made of gold, a humanoid bronze giant, and ships that ‘navigate by thought’. Professor Liveley’s research into these ancient myths - and their reception by subsequent generations of storytellers - shows that public attitudes towards the future of AI in society are shaped, or ‘programmed’, by their experience of AI, robots, and cyborgs in fiction. Further, it reveals that 21st century stories about this supposedly new science are repeating very ancient patterns.


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In December 2017, Professor Liveley engaged six schools as her community partners in the co-creation of a new set of classroom resources on the ‘Science of Stories’ (SoS), which has since been distributed to over 600 schools nationwide.

Teacher responses to SoS

  • "The cross-curricular thinking that SoS inspires has changed teaching practice."
  • "Our school has used the SoS resources as a way to enrich the teaching practice of the science department, using it as a form of extension and differentiation."
  • "SoS has led to the school actually offering Latin/Classics as a subject, where previously it wasn’t."
  • "Simply put, Classics wouldn't be where it is now in our school without [your] support, and hundreds of children would never have encountered the ancient world in a classroom setting."

In her role as Chair of the local branch of the Bristol Classical Association, Professor Liveley also relaunched a regional Latin drama festival to support English teachers in secondary and primary schools in encouraging students to perform Latin stories, which has now been made an annual event.

She has also collaborated with We The Curious to co-create new story-focused activities and events (‘Telling Stories About Robots’) and to  enhance staff training; and advised the Roman Baths Museum on their ‘Minerva’s Owls’ project, helping them to secure external seed-funding and rewrite their family trails with a new focus on science and story.

Statistics: improved uptake across the UK

Each year, 4,000+ pupils across 75 state schools (59 secondaries and 16 primaries) in the South West and Wales who previously were not offered any Classics now experience some form of Classics on the curriculum; another 9 schools now offer extra-curricular Classics – and 15 schools have introduced a new Classics subject at GCSE or AS Level, including GCSE Greek.

As a result of Professor Liveley’s research-informed engagement with schools over 2016 to 2020, entries in Classical subjects at GCSE have increased across the UK since 2017, with a +6.6% increase from 2016-2020 (over the same period, the 16-year-old population has changed by +0.8%).

Headshot of Genevieve Liveley

Genevieve Liveley is a Professor in the University of Bristol's Department of Classics & Ancient History, a RISCS Fellow, and a Turing Fellow. Her research has been funded by Classics for All, and the Institute for Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition.



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