CFP | Homer and the Good Ruler: The Reception of Homeric Epic as Princes’ Mirror

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Call for Papers for an International Conference at the University of Ghent, Belgium
Deadline for Abstracts (max 350 words): July 1st 2014 (Jacqueline.Klooster AT

Dear Colleagues,
We have the pleasure to invite contributions to an international conference organized by the Classics Department at Ghent University (Belgium) on

Homer and the Good Ruler: The Reception of Homeric Epic as Princes’ Mirror

Confirmed participants:

William Desmond (Maynooth), Irene de Jong (Amsterdam), Barbara Graziosi (Durham), Lawrence Kim (Trinity University), Damien Nelis (Geneva), Filippomaria Pontani (Ca’ Foscari)

One of the main themes of Homer’s Iliad, as the ancient Greeks already recognized, is good government and its opposite. But ‘theOdyssey as well has much to do with the theme of kingship, more than is usually acknowledged. We must bear in mind Odysseus’ kingly status in order to appreciate the full resonances of the portions of the poem in which he plays the beggar,’ as Richard Martin observes (1984: 43). Agamemnon, Achilles, Nestor, Odysseus, Hector and Priam: all of the Homeric heroes could serve as examples in bonam and in malam partem for the ideal behavior of a ruler in different societies and at different times. Homer was revered in antiquity as the ultimate authority on all things ethical and the great mirror of the condition humaine, and was thus a fixture in the elite education of antiquity. Moreover, the great poetic riches of Homeric epic ensured that Homer always remained on the curriculum of the political orator, and hence statesman, since he provided examples of each rhetorical style.

Indeed, throughout the whole period of classical civilization and beyond, the Homeric epics are drawn upon time and again when the education of the wise ruler is discussed. From Solon, who appropriates the Homeric Catalogue of ships, through Plato’s Socrates, who, reluctantly, banishes the divine bard from his projected ideal state and the curriculum of its guardians. And from Alexander, who strove to be an alter Achilles, and slept with a copy of the Iliad under his pillow through to Philodemus’ epicurean treatise On the Good King according to Homer and Dio Chrysostom’s Kingship Orations. The Homeric heritage as Fürstenspiegel knows a long and rich reception, which stretches even beyond the Greek world. We may think of Cicero, Quintilian and the Augustan poets in the Roman world, and of Mediaeval and Renaissance reception of the epics as ideal reading for the ideal ruler. How did the Byzantines use the Homeric epics, for instance, in rhetorical education and imperial oratory? And how did Homer fare under the Christians, in Byzantium and beyond?
This conference aims to bring together an international array of senior and junior scholars of Homer and his reception in poetry, philosophy and rhetoric of antiquity and beyond, to study the use and abuse of Homeric epic as Princes’  Mirror and ideal reading for the wise ruler. Up to date, a study of this topic has not been undertaken in this form.

Suggested topics within this theme include but are not limited to:

-Educating the ideal ruler in Homeric epic
-Problems of reading Homer as manual for the ideal ruler (philosophical or otherwise)
-Specific heroes as problematic or ideal (Achilles, Agamemnon, Diomedes, Odysseus)
-Roman adaptations of Homer as Princes’ Mirror
-The ethics of Homeric statesmanship
-Synthesizing Plato and Homer in the second sophistic
-Democratic readings of Homer
-The scholiasts’ theories of Homeric statesmanship and their Alexandrian context
-Homer as Mirror for the Christian Ruler (Byzantium, Middle Ages)
-Homer and Renaissance Princes’ manuals.
-Homer and modern statesmen

Organizing Committee: Dr. Jacqueline Klooster (UGent), Prof. dr. Koen de Temmerman (UGent), Baukje van den Berg, MA (UvA), Prof. dr. Kristoffel Demoen (UGent), Prof. dr. Luc Van der Stockt (KULeuven)

Scientific Committee: Prof. dr. Irene de Jong (UvA), Prof. dr. Danny Praet (UGent), Prof. dr. Jürgen Pieters (UGent), Prof. dr Wim Verbaal (UGent), dr. Lieve Van Hoof (UGent)

Papers will be considered for publication with an academic press.

Please send abstracts (350 words max) for papers of ca. 30-35 minutes to Jacqueline.Klooster AT before July 1st 2014. Any enquiries about the conference may also be addressed to this e-mail address.