Dr Rita Roussos
A native Athenian, Rita taught archaeology and art history at the American University of Athens. She has worked on archaeological projects in Isthmia, Kato, Lossous and Mantinea.
Her research interests range from the place of women in ancient Greece and Rome to 4th century sculpture from Greece. She read ancient Greek and Latin at the University of California, Berkley and earned her PhD in History of Art at London's prestigious Courtauld Institute of Art.
What first sparked your passion for archaeology?
I was first interested in Ancient Greece and Rome at around eight years old when I was taken to museums by my parents. Then at around ten I read the Mary Renauld books which brought the ancient world to life, especially Alexander. From that time on I was captivated by ancient Greece and Rome. I decided to study it during my last semester in high school when we read the Odyssey. I had enjoyed reading Homer so much, that I was determined to learn how to read it in the original Greek. I entered the ancient world through ancient Greek and Latin, then the objects (Art History), then archaeology.
What does archaeology mean to you?
Archaeology assists us in discovering the lives of those who lived in the past. I am most interested in learning how ancient Greeks and Romans lived. Not just the wealthy and powerful males but also the women, children and slaves. I want to examine what they may have desired, what they considered decadent and why. This is as important to me as what type of drinking vessel the ancient Athenians used in their symposia and why, or the development of portrait sculpture in Greek art from the mid-4th c. BC. I believe it is possible to say something meaningful about the past based on its material remains. Material evidence serves as a physical connection to our past. Often, we may also see how human nature has not changed greatly over the millennia.
What is your favourite archaeological site?
I am afraid I have too many to list! It is like asking me to pick a favourite child. The best I can do is to narrow it down to the following, in Greece: the island of Delos, the island of Naxos, Messene, Akropolis of Athens and surroundings, Nemea, and Eleusis.
How many tours have you led for Andante?
I am not sure. I venture to guess around 30. I started working with Andante in 2013. All of the tours I have led included 2-3 of my favourite sites. Some of the sites are popular and can be very crowded; while other sites are very calm and peaceful but rather ‘minor’ and esoteric. In any case, all the tours have allowed me to discover something new when visiting sites with a new group of guests. It allows me to view the site through their eyes and each group is different.
What is the most memorable thing to happen to you on a tour?
Gale force 10 winds on a late October Goulet tour of the Cycladic islands. I realised my sea legs will reach as far as a force 3. After that I cannot really cope. Although the boat was charming, it did not have stabilisers. As a result, one can feel every little motion. However, the most wonderful experience on this tour was the ability to have a morning view of and a sunset view of the awe-inspiring cliffs of Santorini’s caldera!