Creative Writing Competition 2021


The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, in partnership with the Faculty of Classics, is delighted to launch its 2021 Creative Writing Competition. Prizes will be awarded to the top three creative pieces written in response to images from the Manar al-Athar Photo Bank. This unique photograph collection contains around 80,000 images of archaeological sites, buildings and artwork from areas of the former Roman Empire and neighbouring regions, with a chronological range from Alexander the Great (c.300 BCE) through to the Islamic period. These images are ideal creative stimuli giving glimpses of an incredibly rich and diverse cultural heritage. They capture many evocative locations, beautiful artefacts, complex architectural styles, places of historical importance, and a huge range of religious iconography (from paganism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam).


  • Write a piece of creative writing of up to 1500 words. This could take any form e.g. short story, poem, play, monologue.  
  • You must take your inspiration from one or more of the images from the Manar al-Athar Photo Bank. Some options have been given below but you are free to choose any image from the bank.
  • Your writing must be submitted in English.
  • On the first page of your document, you must put your initials and state the name and reference number of the image(s) that inspired you. You may then wish to start your creative response on the next page.
  • Email your submission to as a Word document or a PDF by 6pm (GMT) on Thursday 27 May 2021.
  • In your email, you must state your full name, age, school/educational setting, and the word count of your piece (not including image references).
  • Amendments cannot be made after submission
  • Winners will be contacted by email by the end of June 2021.

Who Can Enter?

  • The Competition is open to anyone aged 14-18 (or in Years 9-13, or equivalent).
  • One entry per person.
  • We accept submissions directly from the student or via their teacher/guardian. Submissions must be the original work of the student.
  • International entries are very much welcomed.


  • The winning entrant will receive £250
  • Second place will receive £150
  • Third place will receive £100
  • Winners have their work published, if desired, online.

Shortlisted entries will also receive a selection of books and congratulatory certificates.

Please note that the Competition Committee will not be able to provide feedback on submissions. Their decision is final.

Optional Images

dougga charioteer mosaic

Dougga Charioteer Mosaic (004_IMG_4188.tif)


antioch house of iphigenia

Antioch, House of Iphigenia (001_DSC_0142.tif)


Palmyra, Baths of Diocletian (034_DSC_1323.tif)


bagawat necropolis

Bagawat, Necropolis (Chapel of the Exodus) (040_DSC_5384.tif)

bethlehem church of nativity

Bethlehem, Church of the Nativity (032_JMCK_2009_HL03-07.tif)

petra corinthian tomb

Petra, Corinthian Tomb 766 (001_DSC_3399.tif)

We have collated some examples of images that you might find particularly stimulating, but you can choose any from the Bank. Selecting from the following list will not increase or decrease your chances of winning.

  1. Setif: Triumph of Dionysus
  2. Tiddis: Mithraeum
  3. Tipasa: Villa of the Frescoes
  4. Tipasa: Theatre
  5. Antioch, Daphne: House of the Boat of the Psyches
  6. Antioch: Yakto Complex
  7. Medain Saleh (Hegra) Jabal al-Khraymat (E)
  8. Medain Saleh (Hegra) Jabal Ithlib
  9. Aruch: Cathedral
  10. Haghpat Monastery: Church of St Nshan
  11. Acholla: Baths of Trajan
  12. Carthage: House of the Aviary
  13. El Djem: Drinking party mosaic
  14. Derinkuyu: Underground city
  15. Abu Simbel: Great Temple
  16. Trabzon: Hagia Sophia