Truth and Authenticity

A paper by Professor Robyn Sloggett, Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 13 May in Old Arts 107 (William Macmahon Ball Theatre).

What happens to truth when people cannot access their cultural, historic and scientific record?

The verification of histories, the development of identity and the iteration of the culture all require the existence of, and access to, the authentic cultural record. The right to know is enshrined in the basic principles of democracy but the ability to access information is framed, supported and in many instances privileged by race, region and socio-economic status.

In this seminar, Professor Sloggett explores the ways in which risk to the preservation of cultural, historical and scientific records is situated within broader issues of climate change, regionalism and post-colonialism.


Cruelty in Roman Civil War

A paper by Carissa Kelly, University of Melbourne, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 6 May in Old Arts 107 (William Macmahon Ball Theatre).  (MA completion seminar)

Through a diachronically organised analysis of case-studies from the civil wars of the late Roman Republic period, I aim to define how cruelty was perceived by the ancient Romans during this period of civil strife. Since studies into the Roman view of cruelty are scarce, and modern scholars tend to focus on their own contemporary perceptions of cruelty instead, this seminar will offer a fresh look at the topic.

A First-century AD Crafting Community in Inland Tuscany: Excavations at Podere Marzuolo 2016-2018

A paper by Dr. Gijs Tol, University of Melbourne, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 29 April in Old Arts 107 (William Macmahon Ball Theatre).

This paper presents the results of three years of excavation (2016-2018) at the site of Podere Marzuolo by the Marzuolo Archaeological Project, a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, Cornell University and The University of Arkansas. Work conducted over the last three seasons highlights the potential of the site to function as a paragon of the varied nature of Roman rural settlement. Situated ca. 40km away from the coast and from the nearest urban settlement of Roselle, the site finds itself in a landscape populated by small-scale peasant activity sites. The site itself is of a type undocumented to date for the Roman world: excavations reveal a purpose-built artisanal community that centres around a large complex (to date ca. 1500m2 of it has been excavated) that existed for only a few generations before it burnt down and was abandoned. It consists of a central courtyard flanked by a sequence of large cells dedicated to artisanal production. Excavated features include a blacksmith workshop (with a complete set of tools and instruments) and a room containing collapsed piles of ca. 400 vessels in terra sigillata, the iconic red-slipped tableware of the Early Imperial period.

Talking Sense about Herodotos

A paper by Emeritus Professor Ronald Ridley, University of Melbourne, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 15 April in Old Arts 107 (William Macmahon Ball Theatre).

This is the sixth and last chapter of the book I have just finished: The Birth of History, which traces the way historical records were made in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Assyria, by the Hittites and Persians, the Hebrews and, finall,y Herodotos, proving (to my utter satisfaction) that he is, indeed, the ‘Father of History’.  His History is the only one of the six great histories of the Graeco-Roman world to survive intact and the bibliography constitutes a small library in itself.  Yet, in the last generation or so, his amazing achievement has been subjected to the most fantastic attacks by those who make the most unhistorical demands on him and find their own obsessions much more important.  I will try to explain exactly what constitutes his epoch-making achievement.

Slavery and Beauty in Petronius

A paper by Professor Costas Panayotakis, University of Glasgow, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Tuesday 9 April in Arts West, North Wing, Room 353 (Interactive Cinema Space).

The purpose of this paper is to consider the ambivalent relationship of master and slave in the Satyrica, and to focus on the portrayal of physical beauty, sexual attraction, and power with regard to free men and slaves, especially male slaves, or characters who pretend to be slaves in the novel of Petronius. In the first part of the seminar, I support the view that the protagonists Encolpius and Giton are neither slaves nor freedmen but free men, and I show that their free status brings them mostly disempowerment, danger, and trouble, whereas their disguise as (Eumolpus’) ‘slaves’ provides them (albeit temporarily) with safety, opportunities for erotic pleasure, and material goods. In the second part of the seminar, I argue that the vocabulary of male slavery and physical beauty in Encolpius’ sophisticated narrative is socially and intertextually nuanced, and reveals Petronius’ linguistic originality, the narrator’s haughty personality, Trimalchio’s influence on him, and the destabilization of societal norms and authority figures in the text.

Greek Gods in Central Asia

A paper by Associate Professor Rachel Mairs, University of Reading, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 8 April in Old Arts 107 (William Macmahon Ball Theatre).

The Greek-ruled kingdoms of Central Asia in the Hellenistic period used to be one of the most obscure sub-fields of Classical studies. Dramatic archaeological and documentary finds from the mid-twentieth to the early twenty-first centuries have changed this picture completely. This is particularly true of our view of the religious landscape of the region. We now have the remains of a number of important Hellenistic temples (from places such as Ai Khanoum in Afghanistan, and Takht-i Sangin and Torbulok in Tajikistan); numerous depictions of deities and religious symbols on coins; and even mention of Greek gods in inscriptions. Scholarly debate over the cultural and ethnic affinities of ‘Greek’ gods in Central Asia, however, continues. This paper will survey religious practice in Hellenistic Central Asia with an emphasis on the versatility of apparently ‘Greek’ religious imagery and cult practices. Behind a ‘Greek’ veneer, we find a culturally diverse set of religious practices.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Resilience Theory: Bouncing Back from “Sword, Famine and Plague” in Late Antiquity

A paper by Dr Tamara Lewit, University of Melbourne, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday1 April in Old Arts 107 (William Macmahon Ball Theatre).

Late antiquity (3rd to 7th centuries CE) was a time of warfare, breakdown of the Roman state, threats to food supply, and natural disasters including widespread plague, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In examining the effects of these shocks on society, some archaeologists have applied the currently popular concept of the Adaptive Cycle, derived from Resilience Theories used in Ecological Science. This paper argues that a more fruitful analysis can rather be derived from the social science approach of Community Resilience Theory, which investigates the mental, social, and economic capacities that allow a community to successfully bounce back from crisis. In particular, I ask whether this theory is useful in explaining the dramatic divergence between Western and Eastern Mediterranean communities in this period. Material remains which attest social capital, economic resources, and technological innovation can be used to explore the immaterial capacities of these communities, and thus how ordinary people might have acted as historical agents in determining their own fate.