Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Hellenic or Roman Antiquities and Egyptology (AMPHORA)

The Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Hellenic or Roman Antiquities and Egyptology (AMPHORA) Conference will take place at the University of Melbourne from 26-28 November. The Classical Association of Victoria donated money to the organizers of this conference earlier this year to enable their keynote speaker, Prof Hans Beck of McGill University in Montreal, to come to Melbourne.


Thursday, 27 November, 2014, 5:15 pm

The University of Melbourne, Old Arts Building, Public Lecture Theatre (PLT) “The Parochial Polis. Localism and the Ancient Greek City-State”

Prof Hans Beck, McGill University

Greek history is one of shifting frontiers. From the Archaic Great Colonization through the Classical Period to the Age of Alexander, the Greeks experienced the sensation of encountering ever-new horizons. Expanding networks of exchange facilitated new modes of connectivity. Every generation saw people, goods, and ideas travel further, and faster. New arteries of traffic once again increased communication, making everything closer. In a nutshell, as the world of Aegean Greece grew larger, in a different sense it paradoxically became a “small world” where communities near and far were closely interconnected. The most impactful resource that brought order and meaning to the challenge of embracing new horizons came from within society. In their assessment of the world around them, Greek city-states relied on readings that were innately local, or parochial, with little regard for the glamour of globalization. Phokylides of Miletus captured this attitude in the 6th century BCE, declaring that “a small and orderly polis on a rock is better than foolish Nineveh”. This opinion is often interpreted as a commitment to political autonomy and freedom. But the workings of localism cut much deeper than that. Localism is a societal disposition that draws on the full breadth of the human experience. The acclamation of local cuisines and diets, local preferences of cultural tradition and style, beliefs in primordial descent and attachment to the land: all these convictions were as much at the heart of a polis community as was the conduct of politics. When added together, these various commitments created a robust force that steered city-states towards the paramount of the local.

The keynote lecture explores the forces of localism in ancient Greece. Breaking into the communicative realm of city-states beyond Athens, it surveys the expression of localism in material culture and textual traditions. Staged before the backdrop of emerging new horizons, the lecture also touches on the universal tension between globalization and the responses it provokes at the local level.

Hans Beck is Professor of Ancient History, John MacNaughton Chair of Classics, and Director of Classical Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He earned his DPhil at Erlangen University in Germany, and from 1997 to 2003 was an Assistant Professor at the University of Cologne. He came to McGill in 2005. He is the editor of the Blackwell “Companion to Ancient Greek Government” (2013), co-author (with John Buckler) or “Central Greece and the Politics of Power in the Fourth Century BC” (Cambridge 2009), co-editor of “Consuls and Res Publica. Holding High Office in the Roman Republic” (Cambridge 2011), and the author of numerous articles on Greek and Roman history.

If CAV members would like to attend either the Keynote Lecture or some of the conference sessions themselves, please send an email to so that the organizers can keep track of numbers for catering purposes.