Monarch by Universal Consent: Revisiting Augustus’ Alternative Truth

Public lecture: Tuesday, 2 October, 6:00
Forum Theatre, Arts West Building, The University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Frederik Vervaet, The University of Melbourne

In April 44 BCE, barely two months after the Ides of March, the young C. Octavius (born 63 BCE) arrived in Italy to claim the political inheritance of his adoptive father, the slain dictator Julius Caesar.  Some fourteen years later, his final victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt in the summer of 30 BCE paved the way for almost 45 years of undisputed mastery over the entire Roman world.  This lecture endeavours to reappraise the momentous career of the man who would be known as Imperator Caesar Augustus from January 27 and is widely considered as Rome’s first Emperor.  The chosen approach will be to confront the ‘alternative facts’ of his ‘post-truth’ retrospective in his Res Gestae, the official record of achievements he divulged in 13 CE, one year before his death, with the extant historical sources.  This exercise will reveal his breathtaking distortions of the truth and offer valuable insights into authoritarian statecraft and mass communication.

Associate Professor Frederik Vervaet is a member of the Council of the Classical Association of Victoria.  He received his PhD from Ghent University, Flanders, and is an expert in Roman political and socio-institutional history and Roman public law.  Before coming to Melbourne in 2007 he was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Wolfson College, Oxford and the Belgian Historical Institute at Rome.  He authored a substantial monograph on The High Command in the Roman Republic (Stuttgart 2014, termed “magisterial” in The Classical Review and was awarded with the 2017 Woodward Medal in Humanities and Social Sciences).  Associate Professor Vervaet spent the northern spring of 2018 as a member at Princeton’s renowned Institute for Advanced Study to pursue further study into Augustan statecraft.

Frederik Vervaet is Associate Professor in Ancient History at the University of Melbourne, where he specializes in Roman socio-institutional and political history, and Roman public law.  He was awarded the Woodward Medal in Humanities and Social Sciences his 2014 book, The High Command in the Roman Republic: The Principle of the summum imperium auspiciumque from 509 to 19 BCE.  Most recently he was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study.

This lecture is part of the “Truth” Lecture series run by the University of Melbourne’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS).  The lecture is free but please register your attendance at


Attic Bell Bottoms: Hellenism and Hybridity in the Caucasus

A paper by Hilary Gopnick, Monash University, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 17 September in room 224, South Theatre, Old Arts.

Sometime between 400 and 200 BCE, either shortly before or shortly after Alexander brought down the Persian Empire, somebody dragged huge limestone blocks from a distant quarry to the top of the hill at Oǧlanqala in Naxçivan, Azerbaijan and began to carve them into column bases and drums.  Some of these column elements fit squarely with our knowledge of Hellenistic Greek architecture, but others are a peculiar and unique amalgamation of forms from the warring Achaemenid Persian and Hellenistic worlds.  Before the columns were raised, the construction site was abandoned, leaving the whole project unfinished and forgotten.  I will use the evidence from this unfinished building, excavated by a team from the University of Pennsylvania and Emory University, to evaluate the nature of the Hellenization of material culture that has marked our understanding of the immediate post-Achaemenid period.  Does Hellenistic hybridity take on a different meaning if it incorporates a fundamental symbol of Achaemenid centralized control like the bell-shaped base?

Classics and the Media

A paper by Marguerite Johnson, University of Newcastle, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Tuesday 18 September in Arts West North Wing Room 353 – Interactive Cinema Space.

Among the community and media, there is an increasing interest in Classics and Ancient History.  The relevance of, and fascination for the discipline, often sparked by current political and social debates, films and other forms of popular culture, as well as the passion inspired by leading scholars such as Mary Beard, means that now – more than ever – Classics and Ancient History have the potential to grow and inspire.  This talk looks at ways scholars can share the discipline with the community and provides some tips for effectively engaging with the media.

Marguerite Johnson is Professor of Classics at the University of Newcastle.  She is an interdisciplinary scholar who works in several key research areas, including Classical Reception Studies and studies of sexuality, gender and the body.  She is author of several books and articles, including (most recently) “Ovid on Cosmetics: Medicamina Faciei Femineae and Related Texts” (Bloomsbury: 2016).  A regular contributor to The Conversation and ABC Radio, Marguerite is also interested in strategies and initiatives around Classics and the community.

Natural World Imagery and the Sublime in the Gospel of Matthew

A paper by Dorothy Lee, University of Divinity, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 10 September in room 224, South Theatre, Old Arts.

In his depiction of creation, the Gospel of Matthew makes use of the ‘sublime’, a literary concept familiar to the ancient world through the treatise of Longinus, ‘On the Sublime’. In mountain scenes, sky signs and sea and land turbulence, Matthew’s Gospel shows an awareness of how the sublime operates within the narrative for moral transformation.


Roman Memory: Pacific Rim Roman Literature Seminar 33

The thirty-third meeting of the PacRim Roman Literature Seminar will be held at the University of Newcastle from 10-12 July 2019. The theme for the 2019 conference will be Roman Memory.

We are inviting papers on Roman literature on the subject of memory. This might include: representations of Roman history in subsequent periods, the ways in which Latin authors rewrite earlier Roman literature, the use of the Muses as repositories of cultural memory, commemorations of the dead, the methods by which Roman writers position themselves in the literary tradition, the reception of Latin literature in both antiquity and later eras, the loss and recovery of historical memory, the processes of collective memory, the art of forgetting, and resistance to official efforts to erase memory through damnatio memoriae.

The theme may be interpreted broadly and papers on other topics will also be considered.

Papers should be 30 minutes in length (with fifteen minutes of discussion time). The Pacific Rim Seminar does not run parallel sessions; participants may attend any or all papers. Abstract proposals of 200-300 words should be sent to Marguerite Johnson ( and/or Peter Davis ( Submissions from graduate students and early-career researchers are welcome. Please submit abstracts by 28 February 2019. Earlier submissions are of course welcome.

We expect that conference will be held in a venue in the city of Newcastle. A conference web site will be built in due course.

Greece and the Near East in the Early 1st Millennium BCE

A paper by Assistant Professor Antonis Kotsonas, University of Cincinnati, AAIA Visiting Professor, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 3 September in room 156, Arts West North Wing.

The complex and dense networks of interaction that linked Greece and the Near East were severely dismantled in the late 2nd millennium BCE.  In the course of the early 1st millennium BCE connections were gradually restored through the agency of both Greeks and Near Eastern people, especially the Phoenicians and, by the 7th century BCE, Greek culture was strongly Orientalizing.  Moving beyond the traditional art-historical concept of a stand-alone, Orientalizing phase in the 7th century BCE, this lecture promotes the concept of the Orientalizing as a dimension rather than a phase of ancient Greek culture and explores the manipulation of the East by different Greek social groups over the early 1st millennium BCE.  Particular emphasis is given to the sites/regions and ethnic or other groups that pioneered the restoration of interconnections between the Aegean and the Near East; and on the regional and intra-regional variation in the modes of production, distribution and consumption of Near Eastern styles in the Aegean.

Homer and the Archaeology of Crete

Public lecture: Wednesday, 5 September, 7:00
Venue: Elisabeth Murdoch Building – Theatre A, The University of Melbourne

Assistant Professor Antonis Kotsonas, University of Cincinnati, AAIA Visiting Professor

The relationship between the Homeric epics and archaeology has been approached through the lens of Homeric archaeology, which involved matching the epics with the archaeological record and identifying realia of Homer’s heroes. However, a range of new approaches have recently revolutionized the field. Drawing from these approaches, Professor Kotsonas offers a regional and diachronic analysis of Homeric stories about Crete, an assessment of the reception of these stories by the island’s inhabitants throughout antiquity, and an account of their impact on Medieval to modern literature and art. He finds that Cretan interest in Homer peaks in the Hellenistic period, but also argues for the much earlier familiarity of some Cretans with stories that underlie the Homeric epics. This argument relies on an analysis of the archaeological assemblage of a Knossian tomb of the 11th century BCE, which included a range of arms that is exceptional for both Aegean archaeology and the Homeric epics. In the epics, this equipment is carried only by the Knossian hero Meriones, whose poetic persona can be traced back to the Late Bronze Age on philological and linguistic grounds. Based on this, and on current understandings of performance at death, Professor Kotsonas argues that the Knossian burial assemblage was staged to reference the persona of Meriones, therefore suggesting the familiarity of some Cretans with early poetry that eventually filtered into the Homeric epics.

Antonis Kotsonas is Assistant Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati. He specializes in the material culture, socio-cultural and economic history of the Early Iron Age and the Archaic period in Greece and the Mediterranean. His research interests extend, however, from the Late Bronze Age to the Roman period. He has conducted fieldwork and finds research on Crete, and in the Cyclades, Euboea and Macedonia; and comparative studies across the Aegean, and from Italy to Cyprus, engaging problems in state formation, trade and interaction, identity and commensality, memory, and the history of archaeology. Before taking up his post at the University of Cincinnati, Kotsonas worked at King’s College London, the University of Crete, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Edinburgh. He has also served as a Curator of Greek Archaeology at the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam.

This event is jointly sponsored by the Classical Association of Victoria, The Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens (AAIA), and the University of Melbourne’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS).

Although this public event is free, please register your attendance.

Download the flyer.