Past Events 2008

Autochthonous Autocrats: the Tyranny of the Athenian Democracy

Jonathan M. Hall, Professor of Classics and History, University of Chicago, USA

The charter myth of the Athenian democracy represented its advent as a liberation from tyranny achieved by the tyrannicides. The fledgling Athenian democracy had no conceptual vocabulary on which to draw other than that formerly associated with non-democratic regimes. Part of the success of the early Athenian democracy was derived not from the fact that it represented a stark departure from, or reaction to, non-democratic modes of governance, but rather from its deliberate usurpation of the terminology, mentality and visual culture of such political forms. The Athenian claim to hegemony was bolstered by a belief in ethnic exclusivity (autochthony), which was similar to strategies that had previously been employed by tyrants. The contradictions are also apparent in perceptions of the relationship between the public and private spheres: in the Funeral Oration, Perikles makes much of the lack of surveillance that distinguishes Athenian society from its Spartan counterpart, yet there is also a menacing injunction that private interests have to be sacrificed for the greater good of the state. Such tensions give rise to a sort of “double-speak” that resembles the strategies of deception commonly attributed to tyrants. Thucydides’ description of the deception that was practised by the revolutionaries on Kerkyra, or the Old Oligarch’s observation that deception can be achieved more easily in a democracy, are cases in point, but the comedies of Aristophanes, which offer a glimpse of the Athenian demos’ self-presentation, also play on the themes of deceit and suspicion. The question that naturally arises is: to what extent was the Athenian democracy itself a deceitful conceit?

This public lecture is the keynote address for the ‘Private and Public Lies’ conference, 7 – 10 July, at the University of Melbourne.

Jonathan M. Hall is Phyllis Fay Horton Professor in the Humanities, Professor and Chair of Classics, and Professor of History at the University of Chicago. His award-winning book, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge, 1997), provides a sober look at an important but sticky topic—the question of what it meant to be ethnically Greek. Hall is also the author of Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture (Chicago, 2002) and The Blackwell History of the Archaic Greek World (Blackwell 2006).

Date: Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A, University of Melbourne

Lies, Deception and Economy with the Truth: Augustus and the Establishment of the Principate

Professor John Rich, University of Nottingham

Following the assassination of Caesar in 44 BC, Augustus took a mere fourteen years to establish himself as sole ruler of the Roman world and consolidate his power, establishing a monarchical system which would endure for centuries. This illustrated lecture will explore Augustus’ use of deception and spin both preceding and during his rule. Particular attention will be paid to Augustus’ own writings, especially the Res Gestae, and the question will be posed whether that text exhibits outright falsehoods or just a masterly economy with the truth.

John Rich is Professor of Roman History and Head of the School of Humanities at the University of Nottingham. He has published widely on Roman history and in particular on Roman war and international relations, historical writing, and the emperor Augustus. His authored and edited books include Declaring War in the Roman Republic (1976), Cassius Dio: The Augustan Settlement (1990), and (with Graham Shipley), War and Society in the Greek World and War and Society in the Roman World (1993). He is currently writing the The Blackwell History of the Roman Republic.

Date: Wednesday, 8 July 2008
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A, University of Melbourne


7 – 10 July 2008

“Public and Private Lies: the Discourse of Despotism and Deceit in the Ancient World”

University of Melbourne, Parkville campus
Keynote speaker: Prof Jonathan Hall (University of Chicago)


20 – 21 September 2008

“Refashioning the Classics: modern fabrications of the ancient world”

Monash University, Melbourne, Caulfield Campus
Keynote Speaker, Professor Simon Goldhill (University of Cambridge)

The Annual H. W. Allen Memorial Lecture: Erotes on the Euphrates: redecorating the wall of a Hellenistic house in North Syria

Heather Jackson, ARC Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Classics and Archaeology, University of Melbourne

Recently-discovered fragments of a stucco figured frieze from the wall of a house at Jebel Khalid, in North Syria, stimulated this attempt to reconstruct the appearance of the original wall, which dates from the Hellenistic period and was contemporary with the famous tomb paintings of Macedonian sites and the highly decorated walls in rich houses on Delos. Examples of Hellenistic wall decoration from the Near East are very rare and this figured frieze is unique. The discovery raises questions about the prosperity of the inhabitants of the house, their cultural heritage, their use of the Greek tetrachrome palette and adherence to a Greek mythical motif.

Since 1995, Dr. Heather M. Jackson has been Field Director of an excavation of a whole insula of houses at Jebel Khalid on the Euphrates in North Syria and Co-Director, with Professor Graeme Clarke of ANU, Canberra, of the on-going Jebel Khalid campaigns. She is co-author of Greek Vases in the University of Melbourne (1999), the National Gallery of Victoria’s Handbook of Antiquities (2003), and author of Jebel Khalid on the Euphrates, Volume Two: the Terracotta Figurines (2006).

Date: Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Time: 8:15pm
Location: Kaye Scott Room, Ormond College, University of Melbourne

Feeling the Pain: Empathy in Greek Tragedy

Eric Dugdale, Gustavus Adolphus College, USA

In the ideal city-state, drama would be carefully censored, Plato’s Athenian argues in the Republic. For Aristotle, on the other hand, tragedy offers a valuable service to society: by inciting fear and pity, it achieves the katharsis of these emotions. All agree, however, that at Athens theatre mattered and that it had a profound effect on audience and actors alike. Ancient audiences felt a strong emotional response to the plays they watched, and actors drew close connections between the characters they played and their own lives. This lecture considers factors that may have contributed to the strong personal response of ancient theatre-goers, and actors’ conditions of performance, such as the spatial configuration of the theatre and masked acting as well as strategies within the plays themselves. Taking Euripides’ Trojan Woman as a case-study, the lecture will seek to show how the play systematically breaks down categories of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and invites involvement by the viewer. The paper will argue the continued role of the performance arts in developing within the citizen body the capacity for empathy, and will suggest ways to retrieve the emotive content of Athenian tragedy in modern performance.

Eric Dugdale is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota in the USA. He is the author of a new translation and commentary on Sophocles’ Electra, to be published by Cambridge in 2008, and writes extensively on the role of Greek tragedy in ancient Athens. He has also taught at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, and chaired the Committee for Ancient and Modern Performance for the American Philological Association. He is a MacGeorge Honorary Fellow during his visit to the University of Melbourne, with the support of the MacGeorge Bequest. This lecture is sponsored by the School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

Date: Thursday, 3 April 2008
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A, University of Melbourne

From Feasting to the Social Archaeology of Eating and Drinking

Yannis Hamilakis, Archaeology, University of Southampton, U.K.

In the last few years, archaeological research in the prehistoric Aegean has turned its attention to feasting, as witnessed by the number of conferences, theses, and publications on the topic. This echoes developments in archaeology overall, but it also signifies a dramatic change from the situation until the middle nineties, when most research on food was either simply data-gathering or fell within the paradigms of “subsistence,” and “survival” the discourse of animal and plant husbandry, and the logic of formalist economics. This lecture will review the developments in the field in the last 15 years, and will propose some interpretative avenues for its future.

This public lecture is the opening keynote address for the “DAIS: Aegean Feast” conference.

Dr Yannis Hamilakis is Senior Lecturer in Archaeology in the School of Humanities at the University of Southampton. Author of The Nation and its Ruins: Antiquity, Archaeology and National Imagination in Greece (Oxford, 2007), his research interests include the socio-politics of archaeology (including the politics of pedagogy), the archaeology of the human body (including the consuming body), bodily senses and bodily memory, social zooarchaeology, and prehistoric Greece.

Date: Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Time: 9:15am
Location: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A, University of Melbourne

The Earliest Temples on Earth: New Perspectives on Life in the Neolithic

Tony Sagona, Professor, Centre for Classics and Archaeology, University of Melbourne

With the waning of the Glacial Period, from about 11,000 BC, the world was fundamentally transformed in several ways. The magnitude of these episodes did not escape V. G. Childe, who, some seventy years ago, summed them up in the enduring metaphor — the Neolithic Revolution. While these days there is far less talk of a ‘revolution’, few would disagree that these events were indeed momentous. This lecture will focus on recent discoveries in Turkey that have dazzled the discipline of archaeology with their preservation and rich finds, causing a major re-thinking of Neolithic ritual and belief systems.

Antonio (Tony) Sagona has over 20 years’ experience in archaeological fieldwork. Tony is Editor of the journal Ancient Near Eastern Studies, and its monograph series, published by Peeters Press, in Leuven. He is an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. This lecture is part of the 2008 Lecture Series of the School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

Date: Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A, University of Melbourne

DAIS: The Aegean Feast – 12th International Aegean Conference

25 – 29 March 2008
University of Melbourne, Parkville campus

Teachers’ Wing In-Service Day

Thursday 6th March 2008, 9:00am – 3:30pm
National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Road (entry via Schools’ Entrance on side)

Download programme and registration info (Word doc 80kb)