Past Events 2015

Changing Perceptions: Philodemus and Epicurean Philosophy

W.H. Allen Memorial Lecture

Wednesday, 21 October; reception 4:45; CAV AGM 5:20; lecture 5:30
Kaye Scott Room, Ormond College, 49 College Crescent, Parkville
Reception in the J M Young Room

Dr Sonya Wurster, University of Melbourne

This lecture focuses on the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus of Gadara (c. 110 BCE to c. 40 or 35 BCE), who lived and worked in Italy during the late Roman Republic. It examines the impact of his works, which were preserved by the first pyroclastic surge of Mount Vesuvius, on our understanding of Epicurean philosophy. Prior to their discovery in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum in the 18th century, knowledge of Epicurean philosophy came from a very small number of extant Epicurean texts or from overtly hostile sources such as Cicero and Plutarch. Extant Epicurean sources, which included the account of Epicurus in Diogenes Laertius’ “Lives of the Philosophers” and Lucretius’ “De Rerum Natura,” did not provide a full picture of Epicurean doctrines, while hostile sources actively misrepresented the school’s views. Owing to their fragmentary state, many of Philodemus’ works were little studied until the 1970s when Marcello Gigante began the Centro internazionale per lo studio dei papiri ercolanesi (C.I.S.P.E.). Since then, new editions and new technologies have made these difficult texts more accessible. Material from Philodemus, who wrote on a wide range of topics including death, rhetoric, music, poetry, logic, theology, epistemology, the history of philosophy and ethics, has thus changed perceptions of Epicurean philosophy. They have also provided insight into how Epicureans dealt with the competing claims of philosophy and a Roman context.

Sonya Wurster is an Honorary Fellow in Classics within the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at The University of Melbourne. She completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2012 with a thesis on Philodemos; she also completed a MA thesis in 2007 on the Roman travel writer Strabo. In 2014 she was the recipient of the ASCS (Australasian Society for Classical Studies) Early Career Award. Since 2012 she has been President of AWAWS (Australasian Women in Ancient World Studies) and since 2011 has been a founding member and head editor of the Melbourne Historical Journal: The Amphora Issue.

The annual W.H. Allen Memorial Lecture is sponsored by the Classical Association of Victoria and Ormond College, in honour of Barney Allen, the first Secretary of the Classical Association of Victoria (1912 onwards) and Vice-Master of Ormond College from 1915-1943.

Immediately prior to this lecture, a brief Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Classical Association of Victoria (CAV) will take place, beginning at 5:20. The AGM will include the election of office bearers. Any nominations (by current members of the CAV) for the following positions should reach the Honorary Secretary (email preferred: by 14 October: president, secretary, treasurer and council members. Nominations should be signed by the nominee and seconded. The AGM will include the awarding of the annual Alexander Leeper Prize for the highest-achieving undergraduate Classics honours student in the state of Victoria. Alexander Leeper in 1876 became the first Warden of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, and in 1912 became the first President of the Classical Association of Victoria.

Scenes from Daily Life on Athenian Vases

Wednesday, 16 September, 6.30
Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, The University of Melbourne

Professor John Oakley, 2015 Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens (AAIA) Visiting Professor

Greek painted vases from Athens are our richest and most complex source of images from ancient Greece. Traditionally, they have been grouped together as either scenes of myth or pictures of daily life with most of the scholarly attention being paid to myth. This lecture will examine not only the different types of subjects connected with daily life that are illustrated on these vases, but will also note subjects not found, such as scenes of cooking or cleaning, activities probably left to slaves.

Scholars are currently divided as to how great the documentary value of vase-paintings is for determining the reality of ancient life in Athens, and the question of whether the vase paintings are accurate reflections of different aspects of ancient life or pure fantasy has not been answered definitively. Indeed, often multiple interpretations for the same type of scene have been put forth. This lecture will shed light on this question and attempt to solve the quandary.

John Oakley is the Chancellor Professor and Forrest D. Murden Jr. Professor, Department of Classical Studies, College of William and Mary in Virginia, United States . He is a world-renowned specialist in Greek vase painting, iconography and Roman sarcophagi and the author of numerous books, including “Athenian Potters and Painters” (in 3 volumes, Oxford 1997, 2009, and 2014), “The Greek Vase: The Art of the Storyteller” (British Museum Press, 2013) and “Picturing Death in Classical Athens: The Evidence of the White Lekythoi” (Cambridge, 2004).

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Classical Association of Victoria and the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS) at The University of Melbourne.

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Over-arching Goddess: Artemis of Ephesos between Anatolia and Iberia

Thursday, 20 August, 6:30
Laby Theatre (Physics South), The University of Melbourne

Prof Irad Malkin, Tel Aviv University

In ancient Anatolia, Greeks encountered the figure of a great Goddess whom they identified with Artemis of Ephesos. So unique were her features, and so intimately these were linked with notions of prosperity, safety, and legitimacy, that even the “Oriental” Lydian kings re-adopted her as a Greek Goddess. She was an over-arching deity, common to Ionian (Greek) migrants and colonists, and identified with the very foundation and secure existence of the city. She was the one whom Anatolian colonists (Phocaeans) took with them westwards, together with her priestess, to the modern shores of Spain and France. Her statue and cult (a rare occasion in Greek religion) were intentionally disseminated among Barbarians, such as Iberians and Romans. A goddess of mediation and cultural encounters among settlers, traders, and local populations, she came to express Hellenic identity within wide-reaching Mediterranean horizons.

Irad Malkin is Professor of Greek History at Tel Aviv University. He holds the Cummings Chair for Mediterranean History and Cultures and is co-Founder (1986) and co-Editor of the Mediterranean Historical Review. His research interests include ancient colonization, religion, myth, ethnicity and network theory. He is the Laureate of the Israel Prize for History, 2014. Professor Malkin is visiting Australia as a guest of Macquarie University, where he holds the 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Visiting Fellowship.

His major publications include Religion and Colonization in Ancient Greece, (Brill: Leiden, 1987); Myth and Territory in the Spartan Mediterranean (Cambridge UP: Cambridge, 1994; Paperback edition, Cambridge UP, 2003, French translation 1999); The Returns of Odysseus: Colonization and Ethnicity (University of California Press, 1998; Italian translation 2004; Hebrew translation 2004); Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Greece (In Hebrew, Tel Aviv 2003); (ed.), Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity (Center for Hellenic Studies and Harvard University Press, Washington DC, 2001); (ed.), Mediterranean Paradigms and Classical Antiquity (London: Routledge, 2005 = Special issue of the Mediterranean Historical Review 18, 2003); A Small Greek World: Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean (Oxford University Press: Oxford and New York 2011; French translation, at Belles Lettres, forthcoming).

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Classical Association of Victoria, and the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS) at The University of Melbourne.

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Festivals, Politics and Wars: The Spending Priorities of Athenian Democracy

Wednesday, 20 May, 6:30 (reception from 5:30 pm onwards)
Elisabeth Murdoch Building, Theatre A, The University of Melbourne

Dr David Pritchard (University of Queensland; Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University)

This paper calculates the public spending of classical Athens. The major public activities of the Athenian dēmos were the staging of religious festivals, the conducting of politics and the waging of wars. There is hot debate about what was spent on these three public activities. Ancient historians cannot agree whether the dēmos spent more on festivals or wars. They debate how the classical Athenians paid for their democracy. These debates go back to the first book on Athenian public finance. August Böckh famously criticised the Athenians for wasting money on their festivals instead of building up their armed forces. His book argued too that their decision to pay themselves to run the democracy forced them to tax unjustly the subjects of their empire. Calculating what they spent on their public activities would settle both debates. Böckh lacked the evidence to do such. Two centuries later this is no longer the case. But in calculating public spending this paper does more than settle longstanding debates. In classical Athens the dēmos had full control over public spending. In the assembly they authorised the one-off activities of their polis and any changes to its recurring activities. Assemblygoers understood the financial consequences of their decisions. They knew how much a proposal which was put before them would cost and what proportion of public income it would use up. They had a good general knowledge of what the polis spent on its major activities. Consequently they could judge whether a proposal cost the same as what was normally spent on such things. This made it possible for the Athenians to change their pattern of spending and so what they spent on one class of activities relative to others. Such votes allowed the dēmos to spend more on what they saw as a priority and less on what was less of a priority. Over time the sums which they spent on different public activities reflected the order of the priorities which they had set for their polis. By calculating these sums this paper confirms whether religious festivals, democratic politics or military campaigns were the Athenian people’s overriding public priority.

Dr David M. Pritchard is Senior Lecturer in Greek History at the University of Queensland. He has held research fellowships at Macquarie University, the University of Copenhagen and the University of Sydney. This year Dr Pritchard is Research Fellow in Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study. In 2014 he was Visiting Scholar in Greek History at Brown University. In 2013 Dr Pritchard was the Charles Gordon Mackay Lecturer in Greek at the University of Edinburgh. He has authored Sport, Democracy and War in Classical Athens (Cambridge: 2013) and Public Spending and Democracy in Classical Athens (University of Texas Press: 2015), edited War, Democracy and Culture in Classical Athens (Cambridge University Press: 2010) and co-edited Sport and Festival in the Ancient Greek World (Classical Press of Wales: 2003). Dr Pritchard is now completing for Cambridge University Press a cultural history of the armed forces of democratic Athens.

This public lecture is sponsored by the Classical Association of Victoria, and The University of Melbourne’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS) and its CONFLICT Lecture series. The lecture is free but registration is requested; just search for the event at

Please join us for a pre-lecture reception which begins at 5:30 pm.

We Would Have Become Roman: From Arminius to Herman the German

Wednesday, 29 April, 6:00
Hercus Theatre, Physics South Building, The University of Melbourne

Professor Kai Brodersen (University of Erfurt)

In classical sources, the Cheruscan military leader Arminius is mentioned as an obstacle to Roman expansion in the early 1st century AD who eventually fell victim to a revolt in his own tribe. The lecture will explore how the perception of this figure changed to make him the mythical founder of a united German nation in the 19th century.

Kai Brodersen is Professor of Classics and President at the University of Erfurt in Germany and currently the inaugural Margaret Braine Fellow in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Western Australia. He has edited and translated both ancient works and modern classical studies. His research focuses on Greek and Roman historiography and geography, on ancient inscriptions, oracles and wonder-texts and on social and economic history. Amongst many other roles, he also is Editor-in-Chief of Historia, one of Germany’s most prestigious reviews and monograph series in ancient history.

This public lecture is sponsored by the Classical Association of Victoria and The University of Melbourne’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS).

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