HISTORIAN Mary Beard praised a new centre to bring ancient Greek and Latin to a wider audience at its opening this week.

The TV celebrity said the Cheney School, Headington centre for the public would “put classics on the map”.

The East Oxford Community Classics Centre will hold events, workshops, lessons and exhibitions.

It has been set up by charity the Iris Project, which teaches the classics in city schools, with help from Oxford University.

Free workshops will run every day apart from Saturdays and include beginners’ classes in Latin and Ancient Greek.

Sessions on mythical beasts and classical debating will also be held by director Dr Lorna Robinson and university students.

It has been decorated with scenes from Oxford and classical stories and the launch included Roman and Greek-style food.

Dr Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, said the centre will help dispel the myth that classics are for “rich boys.” She said: “It is an absolutely great place which will put classics and the ancient world on the map for the city in all kinds of ways.

“It is a place where kids can learn Latin and Greek but there are also activities that give people the chance to discover more about the ancient world.”

Her TV credits include BBC’s Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town and Caligula with Mary Beard.

She said: “Latin and Ancient Greek are demanding subjects but there are also wonderfully fun and spirited sides to them as well.

“It isn’t the case that the classics are just for rich boys now and Lorna is someone who has been successful in moving away from that.

“Hopefully we can move this initiative into other parts of the country. Oxford is leading the way.”

Oxford University classics graduate Dr Robinson set up the charity in 2006.

It has visited Pegasus Primary in Blackbird Leys, Bayards Hill Primary in Barton, St Michael’s in Marston, North Hinksey Primary, St Thomas More Primary in Kidlington and Sandhills Primary.

She said: “For Mary Beard’s talk the hall was at full capacity, which was just under 300 people.

“People were hugely enthusiastic about the space itself and all the activities that were on.”

Cheney School was chosen as it is the only city secondary state school with Latin on its curriculum.

All regular sessions require booking except the Sunday “drop-in” session.

  • s For information visit irisproject.org.uk