Kallos Gallery

11th November 2014


From ancient Greece to the trenches

Remembrance Day provokes thoughts about the sufferings caused by war for soldiers and their families, in Britain and across the world. In this centenary year, we reach back into the past to think about and feel for those men who have fought and died since the beginning of the twentieth century, an era about which we know a great deal, and the lessons from which we are still learning.

But is it also possible for us today to understand what the battlefield experience was like for an average hoplite over 2,000 years ago, in ancient Greece? Some scholars would say that because the ancient world was so different from today’s, it is impossible for us to project onto those people who lived in the distant past any attitudes or feelings that we have constructed from superficially comparable situations today. The opposite argument states that there are certain facets of human nature that are intrinsic and universal to almost every human being, such as fear, courage, or love, that we can reliably assume people experienced in a similar way to how we do now in the modern world.

A group of Year 9 students from Kelmscott School in Walthamstow have used the Kallos Corinthian Helmet to explore exactly this question. After studying the Kallos Helmet with their English teacher as part of a lesson on war poetry, the students composed the following, inspired by their discussion of the similarities between a soldier’s life during the First World War and that anonymous ancient soldier who wore the Kallos Helmet. We would like to thank the students for their thought-provoking poem about the helmet, and we are very proud to publish it below.

The Warrior Within
I’m saying goodbye to my family,
I think that I am ready… finally.
I see their faces, looks haunt my scared eyes,
We all think that same thought, ‘will we all die?’
My breath and helmet suffocate me,
No peripheral vision… I CAN’T SEE!
Endless thoughts, whether I will live or die,
Last prayers as I stare up at the sky.
Running as my heart beats… I’m paranoid,
But I won’t scream. My foe will be destroyed!
I swipe my silver blade across his head,
Seeing him in great pain, meeting his dread.
Being a soldier, surviving the war,
Seeing thousands of bodies on the floor
Looking around I see people that are dead,
Organs everywhere, men ripped to shreds.
War is  – over, I feel – like a soldier!
Glad to be home… a few minutes older.

 By Mr. Hogg’s Year 9 English class, Kelmscott School, Walthamstow.