Profile: Conor Whatley

Research focused on antiquity led classical professor to Jordan

Studying ancient Greek and Roman history was not where professor Conor Whately thought his university career would end up.

 

In high school, he thought he was going to be a veterinarian.

“I did math and science in high school. I did a co-op placement, this is on Ontario … I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, so I’m glad I did it, cause it set me down a different path,” he said.

After taking a year off of science studies in university, he took two Roman history courses.

“As soon as I was back and did one, I went ‘yeah this is it, and I’m going to go for it and see how it goes,’” Whately said.

He is now an associate professor in the Classics department, which he describes as Roman and Greek ancient history.

He is currently working on an ongoing research project focused on the life of the average soldier in antiquity, which he described as medieval Roman and Greek times.  He’s studying how their family life was, how they fit into their local community and their surrounding environment.

Procopius, someone most people believe to be a lawyer, is what led Whately to Jordan in February for his research. Procopius served a general as his legal counsel, but he was also responsible for organizing supplies and corresponding with the emperor, Whatley says.

Whately adds Procopius wrote three separate texts with very different perspectives.

“Sort of a neutral perspective in one of them, to I hate the emperor in another one, to I love the emperor in another one. So it’s like, what do you really think,” he says.  “It’s really interesting.”

He’ll be going back to Jordan in February 2018 where he’ll continue to do his research.

What was your worst grade in university? Well, that’s easy, it’s the one I failed. It wasn’t even close. The worst one was a fail. I had something like a 50 per cent final and a 50 per cent all year in calculus first year. I had something like a 51 or a 52 going into the final, and I finished with I think a 38. So I did horribly on the exam. I went out to a concert the night before, but I knew it wasn’t going to go well anyway. It was way over my head.

What’s your favourite thing about yourself? That’s hard. I’ll say I like to think I’m pretty open-minded about a lot of things. I tend to be a middle-of-road perspective, which I think means … whether that’s in class or in work or in life, I like to think I’m open to lots of perspectives. Even if I have strong views about something, I can still see the broader picture.

If you could have any superpower what would it be? It’s not really a superpower, but I wish I could read, write and speak every language that’s ever been. I think that would make life so much easier.

Published in Volume 72, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 5, 2017)

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