CFP: A theatre of Justice: aspects of performance in Greco-Roman oratory and rhetoric

Seen on the Classicists list:

A theatre of Justice:
Aspects of performance in Greco-Roman oratory and rhetoric

19-20 April 2012, University College London, London

The notion of “performance” has recently attracted considerable scholarly attention both in literary criticism and in cultural history. In
fundamentally “performative” societies, such as the Greek and Roman, a
“performance” approach seems to be a sine qua non for the understanding of the nature of several genres. Oratory is, certainly, among them: for the Greeks and Romans, oratory was not primarily something they wrote or read, but something they performed before the audience. Despite the significant scholarly advances that have been made on the area of oratory in/as performance, there is still a lot more to be explored, further questions need to be asked and answered.

For example:
1) What is performance? Suggested definitions of performance based on information offered by Greek and Roman rhetorical texts.
2) Performance and text: can we reconstruct something as elusive and fleeting as performance from the extant written copies of oratorical
3) Why performance matters? What difference does it make in our
understanding of the oratorical texts that they were performed?
4) “Imagine that you are not in a court, but in a theater” (Aeschines
3.153): what is the relation of oratorical performance with theatre?
5) Features of the “performative” infrastructure of certain oratorical
6) Hypocrisis-actio-delivery.
7) Ethopoiia as an aspect of performance.

Our postgraduate conference aims at bringing together not only classicists,
but also students from other fields of study such as law, reception and
theatrical studies, in order to present their on-going research work in this
fertile area.

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Professor Ian Worthington (University of Missouri, USA)
Professor Edith Hall (Royal Holloway, London)

Interested postgraduate students are warmly invited to submit titles and
abstracts of no more than 300 words for a 20-minute research paper by
Sunday, 18 December 2011 at the latest. Please send your abstracts or
enquiries, to both conference organisers:
Andreas Serafim (andreas.serafim.10 AT
Beatrice Da Vela (beatrice.vela.10 AT

Mythologizing Syphilis

This is one of those times when I wish I had access to assorted online databases. The current issue of Archives of Dermatology has a potentially very interesting article, it seems, with a 150-word tease (since there isn’t an abstract). How’s this for Classical Tradition:

In early times, some physicians named syphilis for Greek and Roman myths as a way to explain the difficulty in overcoming the disease. Guillaume Rondelet (1507-1566) called syphilis Hydra’s disease for the Greek mythological monster Hydra from Lerna, which had 9 heads, with the one in the middle being immortal. Gervais Uçay (17th century) named the numerous symptoms and clinical features of syphilis Proteus’ disease after the Greek divinity, who was able to change his appearance according to circumstance.

People believed that the outcome of syphilis was God’s severe punishment for lascivious men. Juan Almenar (15th-16th century) named the disease passio turpis saturnina in remembrance of the filthy passion of Saturn, a Roman divinity, known as Kronos in Greek mythology, who killed his own sons by eating them.1 Almenar stated, “Venereal disease is a diathesis which is . . .

… the link will take you to access possibilities, including shelling out thirty bucks for what I think is a one page article.

JOB: Assorted Specialty Options @ UWinnipeg (tenure track)

Seen on various lists:

The Department of Classics at The University of Winnipeg invites applications from qualified women and men for a tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor. This appointment is effective July 1, 2012 and is subject to budgetary approval. Salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience. Preference will be given to candidates who can demonstrate an ability to teach broadly at the undergraduate level and have a particular interest in one of the following areas: 1. Staging and Filming Greek and Roman Drama; teaching responsibilities may include courses on Drama (its content, societal relevance and staging), Reception Studies and the Ancient World in Film and Television.
2. The Sustainable City and the Ancient Mediterranean World; teaching responsibilities may include courses on Town Planning Ancient and Modern, The Environment in the Classical World and on aspects of Greek and Roman Society. There is a strong tradition of engagement with the community by the Department’s members, and it is expected that the successful applicant will be similarly involved. Experience in the use of digital media in research and pedagogy is an asset. Qualifications include a completed or nearly completed Ph.D. in Classics and a demonstrated potential for excellence in teaching, research and scholarship.

The University of Winnipeg is committed to employment equity, welcomes diversity in the workplace and encourages applications from all qualified individuals, including women, members of visible minorities, Aboriginal persons and persons with disabilities. In accordance with Canadian immigration requirements, this advertisement is initially directed to Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada.

Interested applicants should send their curriculum vitae, along with three
letters of reference, to:

Dr. Jane Cahill
Chair, Department of Classics
The University of Winnipeg
515 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB
R3B 2E9

The deadline for applications is December 15th, 2011.

CONF: Ancient Aitia: Explaining Matter Between Knowledge and Belief

Seen on various lists:

NYU Classics Department Graduate Student Conference 2011
Ancient Aitia: Explaining Matter Between Knowledge and Belief

Co-sponsored by:
NYU Center for Ancient Studies
NYU College of Arts and Sciences
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
New York Classical Club
Classical Association of the Atlantic States

9 am Breakfast
9:30 Welcome & Introduction

Inger Kuin (New York University)

First Panel

Aitia in Imperial Greek Literature: Love and Faith
Chair: Melanie Subacus (New York University)

9:45 “There Must Be Something in the Water: The Questions of Bartholomew, Eve’s Seduction, and the Functional Use of Aetiology in Two Coptic Magical Texts”

Ryan B. Knowles (Boston University)

10:05 Response & Discussion

Allan Georgia (Fordham University)

10:20 “Literary Functions of the Aetiological Texts in Parthenius Nicaea’s Erotika Pathemata”

Marc Vandersmissen (Université de Liège)

10:40 Response & Discussion
Robyn Walsh (Brown University)

10:55 “The Social Side of Aitia: Demons, Seals, and Recipes in the Testament of Solomon and Late Antique Apotropaic Practices”

Katherine French (Boston University)

11:15 Response & Discussion

Zacharias Andreadakis (University of Michigan)

11:30 Coffee Break

Second Panel

Aitia in Science: Doctors, Rainbows and Stars
Chair: Inger Kuin (New York University)

11:50 “It Is Evident That There Is No Cause: Aitia in Early Greek Medicine”

David Camden (Harvard University)

12:10 Response & Discussion
Sara Agnelli (University of Florida)

12:25 “On Rainbows: Optical Technology and Meteorological Aitia”
Colin Webster (Columbia University)

12:45 Response & Discussion
Katia Kosova (New York University)

1 pm “The sidus Iulium: Political Advantage and Religious Truth”
Eric Tindale (University of Toronto)

1:20 Response & Discussion
Nicholas Geller (University of Michigan)

1:35 Lunch

Third Panel

The Aetiological Method: Time, Humor and Community
Chair: Melanie Subacus (New York University)

3 pm “Illud Tempus in Orpheus’ Song: Eliade, Apollonius, and Aetiological Time”

Kathryn Wilson (University of Pennsylvania)

3:20 Response & Discussion
Anke Walter (Universität Rostock)

3:35 “Comic First Inventions”
Alan Sumler (City University of New York Graduate Center)

3:55 Response & Discussion
Elda Granata (University La Sapienza of Rome / University of Michigan)

4:10 “Sublime Riddling: Self-Identity and Sense of Community in Symphosius’ Aenigmata”
Adrienne Ho (University of Iowa)

4:30 Response & Discussion
Paul McBreen (City University of New York Graduate Center)

4:45 Break

5 pm Keynote Address: "Why doesn’t my baby look like me? Expectations and surprises in ancient theories of inheritance."
Professor Daryn Lehoux (Queen’s University)

6 pm Reception

Also Seen: W. H. Auden and the Comedy of Human Suffering

Interesting little essay over at big think … here’s the incipit as a bit of a tease:

“What is so distasteful about the Homeric gods,” W. H. Auden complains in his essay “The Frivolous & the Earnest,”

is that they are well aware of human suffering but refuse to take it seriously. They take the lives of men as frivolously as their own; they meddle with the former for fun, and then get bored.

Unlovable as the gods can be, this isn’t quite fair to them. Plenty of evidence in the Iliad and Odyssey contradicts the charge of heartlessness: Zeus, Hera, and the rest take pity on mortals at least as often as they harass them, and far more often than they view human suffering with detachment. A lot depends on their mood (Zeus is notoriously mercurial) and character (Athena, for example, runs more errands of mercy than Ares). But in general, they have an undeniable capacity for decency; they’re just selective and inconsistent in applying it. What seems to bother Auden is not that the Homeric gods are “frivolous” but that they’re no more or less so than we are.

How does all of this bear on Auden’s own poetry? Throughout his career, Auden strove to stay morally engaged with, rather than aesthetically detached from, the wars and genocides of the twentieth century. Because these were immediate rather than historical crises, Auden had a tough line to walk. He wanted to save mankind but also save his work from the trash heap, to address contemporary fears with both urgency and permanence. […]

Purported ‘Tomb of Alexander’ Find Followup

This one’s kind of weird, in that the article appeared, then disappeared (or was inaccessible?) and now seems available again … brief item from Focus Fen:

Following recent news that the tomb of Alexander the Great and the Ark of the Covenant have been found on the Greek Island of Thasos during excavations, Greek researcher and publicist Nikolaos Koumartzis contacted Focus News Agency with a commentary on the situation.

Mr Koumartzis pointed that the supposed “excavation of the tomb of Alexander the Great” and presented evidence that the claims of the “excavators” were very unreasonable. Mr Koumartzis published a detailed report demystifying the whole situation and against the claims that the actual tomb of Alexander the Great was found.

Of course, this is in the wake of claims made a week or so ago that Alexander’s tomb had been found, along with — rather incongruently — the Ark of the Covenant (see:Oh Oh! Idiot Meter Just Hit Overload!!! It’s interesting that the person they now rely on a source is the same person who authored the website/book we linked to in our previous coverage … I’m guessing they didn’t read down to the ‘sacred triangles’ part. Or maybe they did — Focus Fen seems to be the farm team for the Daily Mail …

Kathleen Coleman Continues her Gladiator Tour

From the University of Delaware Daily:

Gladiator combat can tell us a great deal about ancient Roman society, but we have no evidence from gladiators themselves about the experience. So classical scholars like Kathleen Coleman are challenged to become classical sleuths, using art, artifacts and architecture to reconstruct the rules and traditions of Roman blood sports.

Coleman, the James Loeb Professor of Classics at Harvard University, painted a vivid picture of organized violence in ancient Rome to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 people at the University of Delaware on Thursday, Nov. 10. Her lecture, “The Virtues of Violence: Amphitheaters, Gladiators and the Roman System of Values,” was part of the Distinguished Scholars Lecture Series of UD’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

Coleman explained how the details on 2,000-year-old mosaics, reliefs, tombstones, paintings, medallions, coins, jugs and plates provide insight into how the sport was organized, refereed and watched.

For example, she showed one image depicting a gladiator holding up a finger for mercy and another displaying a gladiator with his foot on the hand of his downed opponent. These pictures suggest that while blood and gore were an integral part of the sport, death was not necessarily the desired end. “Gladiators were slaves,” Coleman said. “They were a capital investment of their owners, who didn’t want them killed.”

But perhaps most telling is the setting where gladiatorial combat took place. “The Coliseum was a highly sophisticated building that serves as an index to us of the value the Romans placed on this violent activity,” Coleman said.

She gave the audience a visual tour of the structure, which featured a broad array of architectural and mechanical details, including awnings, pulleys, ramps, arcades, gates and trapdoors. A hierarchical seating plan carefully separated spectators by class and gender.

“That chaos of blood, fighting, wounding, and terror took place within a highly ordered infrastructure,” Coleman said. “The entrances and seating were arranged in such a way that you wouldn’t have to come in contact with anyone of the ‘wrong’ class as you came into the building.”

Animals from leopards and lions to bears and bulls were an important element in ancient blood sports. Once again, Coleman showed that the Romans went all out in this effort, which involved elaborate strategies for capturing, importing and displaying the creatures in a realistic environment.

“The spaces included scenery such as plants and hillocks, resulting in an event that was more like a theatrical production than a football game,” Coleman explained. “The Romans recreated the wild to make it more authentic and provided a kind of zoology lesson for spectators.”

New discoveries continue to shed new light on the Roman world. In the early 1990s, for example, a gladiatorial cemetery was discovered in Ephesus, Turkey, providing detailed information about the types of wounds sustained by the participants. DNA tests also show high levels of strontium in the remains, which suggests that the combatants consumed a high-carbohydrate diet.

These sports, which began as funerary ceremonies and morphed into public entertainment, spread thousands of miles across the Roman Empire from northern England to Iraq. The Romans leveled entire communities to build coliseums where people of all social and political ranks came together to watch organized cruelty to animals and other humans.

“It was a perfectly ordered microcosm of Roman society, and it took place on the biggest playground of the Roman Empire,” Coleman said.

Gladiator trivia

Sculptural reliefs depicting horns were discovered in 2006 and suggest that music accompanied gladiator combat.
Gladiators’ helmets were extremely heavy, so battles probably didn’t last long.
Gladiators became specialized over time, with at least seven different classes categorized by their protective equipment and weapons.
Umpires controlled this highly professional form of combat.
The Romans named the leopards in their shows, suggesting that these animals were a star attraction.
Roman blood sport also included public beheading of prisoners.

About Prof. Coleman

Kathleen Coleman was born and raised in Zimbabwe. Before joining the Harvard faculty in 1998, she taught at the University of Cape Town and held the chair of Latin at Trinity College, Dublin.

Among her many accomplishments, she has been a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, a Harvard College Professor appointee—a five-year appointment in recognition of contributions to teaching—and the recipient of the Walter Channing Cabot Fellowship, an annual award given to Harvard faculty members in recognition of achievements in literature, history or art.

She is the editor of Harvard Studies in Classical Philology (Vols. 105–106) and co-editor of Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature, a series published by Oxford University Press.

She is the American delegate to the Internationale Thesaurus-Kommission in Munich, Germany, and president of the American Philological Association.