From photo opps with armored legionaries to a deep dive into ancient pirate practices and Roman architecture, the second annual Ides of March dinner and lecture event was enjoyed by a sell-out crowd on Thursday, March 8.


The evening began with tours of the Clayton Museum of Ancient History led by the Junior Docents Legion, a group of knowledgeable history enthusiasts ages 8-16. Junior Docents gave presentations on different museum artifacts under the direction of volunteer coordinator Karla Ott. More than one hundred people visited the museum to view the collection, explore the Little Kingdom children’s interactive exhibit, and learn from the Junior Docents’ research.

After the museum tours, many attendees moved upstairs to the Miller Room for the dinner and lecture portion of the event. Dr. Tim McNeese, associate professor of history at York College, served as the emcee. He entertained the audience with a story about a Roman politician named Lucius Licinius Lucullus, who was famous for his extravagant banquets and enormous ego, noting that he once spent the equivalent of what would today be $90,000 on a single meal for himself and three friends. McNeese assured the audience that while the Clayton Museum hadn’t spent nearly as much as Lucullus on the evening’s dinner, that it would still be very enjoyable.

The main event of the evening was a lecture from Dr. Michael Hoff, Hixson-Lied Professor of Art History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Hoff specializes in Greek and Roman archaeology, focusing his research on the history of Roman Athens and more recently on archaeology of Asia Minor. Hoff now conducts research in Turkey where from 1997 to 2004 he co-directed the architectural survey team of the Rough Cilicia Archaeological Survey Project. He currently serves as project director of the Antiochia Ad Cragum Imperial Temple Excavations on the south coast of Turkey.

Hoff’s presentation focused on his work in Turkey and the recent excavation of an elaborate Roman mosaic floor in a bathhouse complex that dates to the 4th century A.D. Hoff enthralled the audience with stories of vipers and vandals, spiders and sandals, thorn thickets, drone pilots, ravenous goats and machete-wielding college students--and all manner of challenges presented by archaeological research in that region. He also wowed attendees with pictures of his team’s finds, including the head of a marble Medusa, ancient pirate anchors and ship parts, and the collapsed remains of a Roman temple, which the team is in the process of reconstructing.

The evening included a menu inspired by Turkish cuisine, including lamb and chicken kebabs, couscous and roasted vegetables, a savory cheese-and-herb-filled pastry called a bourek, chickpea salad and fresh-made pita chips, with honey-drenched baklava to finish. Aladdin Food Services catered the event.

At the conclusion of the event, McNeese announced the next speaker in the museum archaeology speaker series would be Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Cincinnati Christian University. Ziese will present on his research involving archaeology and the Bible on September 25 at York College. Ziese is also an adjunct professor with the Jerusalem Center of Biblical Studies in Jerusalem and he leads regular trips to the Holy Lands. The event will be free and open to the public. More information will be available closer to the event.

The Clayton Museum recognized sponsors, volunteers, and advisory council members for the success of the Ides of March event, which they plan to repeat next March.

John and Ramona Ratliff pose for a picture with "Claude" and "Fritz", mannequins on display at the museum sporting Roman armor.