Past Events 2009

Scythians in the Altay Mountains: Survey, Inventory and Landscape Study

Thursday, 26 November, 2009 6:30 p.m.
Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre
Admission Free
Details (pdf)

Jean Bourgeois (Ghent University)

The Scythians were a nomadic population and in the last millennium BC they roamed a vast area from the delta of the Danube, through Ukraine and as far as the Chinese wall. The Greek writer Herodotos mentions them in his Histories and describes different aspects of their civilization, including their funeral practices. In modern archaeology, the Scythians are best known for their burial mounds; in a few spectacular cases these mounds, also called kurgans, have been perfectly preserved, thanks mainly to the permafrost in the Altay Mountains. Ghent University’s Department of Archaeology is working in the Altay Mountains (Russian Federation, Central Asia) to study the archaeology of that area. This lecture will present the results of this research, as well as the major discoveries at Pazyryk and Ukok.

Jean Bourgeois is Professor of Archaeology and Ancient History at Ghent University in Belgium and has published extensively on Scythian-Siberian archaeology. He is visiting Australia under the auspices of a research project on historical aerial photography in Belgium, where he and his assistant will be studying the World War I aerial photographs in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

On the Cusp of Empires: Archaeology in Central Caucasus

Thursday, 19 November, 6:30 pm
Royal Society of Victoria, 9 Victoria Street, Melbourne
Details (pdf)

Antonio Sagona (University of Melbourne)

Caucasus, an isthmus of land separating the Black and Caspian Seas, satisfies almost any definition of a frontier. For much of antiquity the lands south of the great Caucasus mountain range had their own cultural landscape which was quite distinct from other centres of power. Such was the Iberian Kingdom of Caucasus — at one time a client state of Rome, at another annexed by Persia. This lecture will report on two seasons of fieldwork at Samtavro in Mtskheta, Georgia, a collaborative project between The University of Melbourne and the Georgian National Museum.

Antonio Sagona is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Melbourne. Presently he is involved with two new major and long-term archaeological projects, one in the Republic of Georgia, the other at the ANZAC Battlefield area at Gallipoli. Among his numerous publications are the book The Heritage of Eastern Turkey: From the Earliest Settlements to Islam (2006) and Archaeology in Southern Caucasus: Perspectives for Georgia (2008, co-edited with Mikheil Abramishvili). He is also Editor of the journal Ancient Near Eastern Studies and its monograph series, published by Peeters Press in Leuven.

This public lecture is sponsored and organized by the Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria. The venue, the Royal Society of Victoria, is located opposite the SW corner of the Exhibition Gardens, at the intersection of Victoria, Rathdowne and Exhibition Streets.

Investigating the Sacral City of the Mother Goddess Cybele: Pessinus in Central Turkey

Wednesday, 18 November, 2009 6:30 p.m.
ICT Building, Theatre 1, 111 Barry Street, Carlton
Admission Free
Details (pdf)

Gocha Tsetskhladze (University of Melbourne)

Cybele, the Great Mother Goddess, was the most popular and widely worshipped female deity in the ancient world. From the Anatolian empires of Phrygia and Lydia at the beginning of the 1st milllennium BCE, her worship spread to the Greek world and then to Rome and onward throughout its empire, thus becoming one of the major cults of antiquity. The cult’s popularity lay in the goddess’s unique attributes: fertility, curer of disease, protectress during war, goddess of mountains and mistress of nature, mixing Minoan-Mycenaean traditions and even showing neo-Hittite features. According to ancient Greek and Roman writers, the cult began at Pessinus in Central Anatolia, established in the 8th century BC by the semi-mythical King Midas of Phrygia as Cybele’s sacral city, in effect a temple-state that housed her main sanctuary/temple. Ghent University excavated at Pessinus from 1967 to 2008, with interruptions. The University of Melbourne took over the project in 2009. This lecture gives a general outline of the site and its investigation, the first results from 2009 and future plans and discusses the challenges posed by the site and its place in the wider Anatolian and Mediterranean world.

Gocha Tsetskhladze is Associate Professor and Reader in Arcaheology at the University of Melbourne. His books include The Greek Colonisation of the Black Sea Area (1998); Cultural History of Colchis (1998); and Trade on the Black Sea in the Archaic Periods (in Turkish, 2005). He is founder and editor-in-chief of the academic periodical Ancient West & East (the publication series on the archaeology and ancient history of the Black Sea), its monograph supplement Colloquia Antiqua, and the Dictionary of Black Sea Antiquities. He is also a co-recipient of an Australia Research Council grant which funded the project, ‘A study of the archaeology of Caucasian Iberia with implications for grazing management in Australia.’

The Harbour of Ancient Torone and its Disappearance

Tuesday, 20 October, 2009 6.30 p.m.
ICT Building, Theatre 1, 111 Barry Street, Carlton
Admission Free

Tom Hillard (Macquarie University)

Ancient Torone, situated in the Chalkidiki (northern Greece), was an important trading centre in the classical Greek world and into the period of the Roman Empire. Its port was considered one of the assets of ancient Macedonia. Its strategic importance made it the target of hostile interest on a number of occasions. An Australian archaeological expedition, under the directorship of Prof Alexander Cambitoglou, has been investigating this site since 1975. In 1990, during an exploratory survey, Tom Hillard and his colleague Dr Lea Beness found interesting remains below the current sea level; and in 1993 Tom Hillard led an Australian expedition which initiated the underwater exploration of the site with the intention of locating Torone’s harbour. The results were unexpected. This lecture summarizes a decade’s research, pinpoints the harbour’s probable location, and outlines the reasons for its disappearance.

Tom Hillard is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University. He is currently the Director of Macquarie’s new Centre of Research Excellence in Ancient Cultures. His research interests are broad, but focus principally on Roman social history and the politics of the Late Roman Republic. His main current project is the Macquarie Dictionary of Roman Biography, of which he is co-director with Dr Lea Beness.

This lecture is supported by the Visiting Professorship Programme of the AAIA.

Revolutions and Classicisms in Roman Culture

Thursday, 1 October, 2009, 7.30 p.m.
Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A, University of Melbourne
Admission Free

Greg Woolf (University of St Andrews, U.K.)

Greg Woolf is Professor of Ancient History in the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Among his publications are the books Et tu Bruté?: The Murder of Caesar and Political Assassination (2008) and Becoming Roman: The Origins of Provincial Civilization in Gaul (1998).

Professor Woolf’s visit is sponsored by a donation from the Classical Association of Victoria.

Barbarians at the Gates of Troy?: Homer’s Heroes as Goliath’s Philistines

Wednesday, 9 September, 2009 6.30 p.m.
ICT Building, Theatre 1, 111 Barry Street, Carlton
Admission Free

Louise Hitchcock (University of Melbourne)

The myth of the Trojan War took place against a larger backdrop of widespread destructions across the Mediterranean landscape extending from Greece to Syria, and beyond. In the aftermath of this cataclysm, there appeared new settlements and a new ethnic group in the Levant: a culture that Biblical tradition identifies as Philistine. To be a ‘Philistine’ has entered our language to mean uncouth or barbaric, a perception deeply situated in Biblical thought. In contrast, archaeology reveals them to be an innovative, creative, and sophisticated culture that shares many characteristics found in the Mycenaean civilization of Homeric epic. This lecture will present new evidence (from the site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, the Biblical home of Goliath, and other Philistine sites) that links the cosmopolitan culture of the Philistines with Mycenaean diasporas of which the Trojan War was just one small component.

Dr Louise Hitchcock is Senior Lecturer in the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Classics and Archaeology. In addition to digging at the Bar-Ilan Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath in Israel every year, and collaborating with the Institute for Advanced Study at Hebrew University Jerusalem, Louise also convened the 12th International Aegean Conference (“Dais: The Aegean Feast”) at the University of Melbourne in 2008, and published a book (Theory for Classics: A Student’s Guide) in that same year.

The Fires of Pompeii: Doctor Who and Stones that Speak

Wednesday, 26 August, 2009 6.30 p.m.
ICT Building, Theatre 1, 111 Barry Street, Carlton
Admission Free

Ika Willis (University of Bristol)

Famously (at least among classicists who watch British science fiction), in the 2008 Doctor Who episode The Fires of Pompeii, the Doctor encounters Caecilius, Quintus and Metella, the family from the Cambridge Latin Course. In this paper, I am going to argue that this is not just a small and ornamental joke for classicists. Instead, the episode is a far-reaching exploration of history and temporality, suggesting that Latin itself is a kind of time-travelling technology, and that the ethical dilemma that the Doctor faces in this episode is one which resonates with everyone who engages with classical texts and languages.

Dr Ika Willis is Arts Faculty Lecturer in Reception, in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol, U.K. Her publications are in the field of textuality and reception, and she is particularly interested in the idea of the archive, and in the impact of phonographic and photographic technologies on philosophies of writing, reading and reception.

Razing Hypatia

by Jane Montgomery Griffiths

August 20-September 6
The Stork Theatre Season Two 2009
Alliance Francaise Theatre, 51 Grey Street, St Kilda

The first female scientific genius in the western world. Refusing to conform, Hypatia pays the ultimate price. Assassinated, burnt, books destroyed, name forgotten. Sic transit gloria classica. Her death ushered in the dark ages.

A Night in Pompeii

Lecture Series at the Melbourne Museum, Nicholson Street, Carlton (in conjunction with the A Day in Pompeii Exhibition) 16 July–17 September, Thursdays at 6:30, $15 per lecture ($10 conc., $7.50 MV Members).

Justinian, Byzantium and the Transformation of the Roman Empire

The H. W. Allen Memorial Lecture, Wednesday, 8 July, 2009 6:30 pm; 6:00 – light supper
Kaye Scott Room, Ormond College, University of Melbourne (Parkville)

Roger D. Scott (University of Melbourne)

Justinian, emperor for 38 years (527-565) is among the more famous of Byzantine emperors for his achievements, which include building Hagia Sophia, codifying Roman Law and restoring the Western Roman empire. Whereas the first two represent his more enduring legacy, it is often stated that the latter was his major interest. So Charles Diehl claimed that “from the day when he first mounted the throne of Constantinople, he claimed in its full extent the ancient Roman Empire” while the American historian John Barker wrote in his Justinian and the Later Roman Empire that “the most celebrated external aspect of Justinian’s reign is his effort to recover the territories of the western Mediterranean which were in barbarian hands. This effort constituted one of the underlying themes in all that Justinian did, and affected every aspect of his reign”. This paper will consider whether this was really so or whether Justinian’s reign represented a turning point from a Roman to a Byzantine world.

Roger Scott was an associate professor in the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Classics and Archaeology until his retirement in 2004 (when the 14th conference of the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies was held in his honour) and he remains a Principal Fellow in the School of Historical Studies. He is the author of numerous articles on Byzantine history (in particular of the sixth century) and the recipient of Australian Research Council grants for his work on Byzantine chronicles. He was also Honorary President of the Classical Association of Victoria from 2001-2007.

The 2009 Alexander Leeper Prize (for the highest-achieving graduating honours students in Classics at tertiary institutions in 2008) will be awarded before the lecture.

Teachers’ Events

In-Service Day

Friday 6 March 2009
Melbourne Girls Grammar (South Yarra)
Please contact John Tuckfield ( for details.

You can also download the programme (pdf 85kb)