Ancient borders, modern issues.

Research Talks, November 3

Our series of informal talks by current fellows continues on Thursday, November 3 at 4:00PM (EST) with presentations by: Tyler Jo Smith University of Virginia “The Art of Greek Religion: Object, Performance, Image” Kathryn Topper University of Washington “The Representation of the Exotic in Athenian Ritual Imagery” Watch the presentations live at rtsp://, viewable with Quicktime or Real Player. Recordings of these talks will be available on our Research Talks… Read more

The Future of Hellenistic Archaeology In Egypt or: how I stopped worrying and learned to love the blog

Since this is my first post, I thought I should use this space to introduce myself and to offer some insight into both the project that brought me here and other things that I’ve been working on since I arrived in Washington.  I’m here at the Center this year to work on a project, tentatively called “Power Across Frontiers: Networks of Power in Hellenistic Upper Egypt.”  This book-length project examines… Read more

Research Talks, October 20

Our series of informal talks by current fellows continues on Thursday, October 20 at 4:00PM (EST) with presentations by: Cristina Carusi Scuola Normale Superiore “Public Building in Law and Economy of Classical Athens”   Reginald Gibbons Northwestern University “Translating the Poetics of Pindar” Watch the presentations live at rtsp://, viewable with Quicktime or Real Player. Recordings of these talks will be available on our Research Talks page after the event. Read more

Research Talks

During the academic year, the current fellows will give talks about the research they are conducting while at the CHS. The series of talks kicks off on Friday, October 7 at 4:00PM (EST) with presentations by: Alexandra Pappas University of Arkansas “Graphic Art: Alphabetic Images in Ancient Greece” Diego Machuca Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas “Can the Skeptic Search for Truth?” Watch the presentations live at rtsp://, viewable… Read more

CHS Research Symposium

On Saturday, April 30, join us for a live webcast of the CHS Research Symposium, featuring talks by the 2010-11 CHS Fellows in Hellenic Studies. The live webcast will be available at rtsp://, viewable with a Quicktime Player. To download and install Quicktime from Apple, please go to   Viewers can submit questions via chat.  To learn more about using chat and to see the schedule, click here. Read more

Mutilating goddesses: Aphrodite in Late Antique Aphrodisias

Recently I participated in a conference in Germany, entitled “Prehistoric and ancient goddesses.”  My interest was in violence towards goddesses’ images, particularly Christian attacks on pagan divinities.  I focused my paper on how the citizens of Aphrodisias in southwestern Turkey eradicated the cult of Aphrodite, and in so doing transformed the visual landscape of their city.  Aphrodisias’s rich archaeological and epigraphic record, and the prominence of Aphrodite there, made this… Read more

Looking inside ancient Greek texts with visualization tools

Since I won’t have time to talk about this in detail during my ten minute bit for our Future of Classics discussions, I thought that the blog might be the appropriate forum to pre-emptively follow-up (if such time travel is in fact possible) on a point which I will make tomorrow about what can be done in with relative speed and ease using data and tools that are already available… Read more

Gleaned from the latest Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum

Humanities may be under attack, but thankfully Greek Epigraphy keeps thriving, at least in terms of sheer number of publications, as can be seen in SEG for which I have been working as an assistant editor since 2007. SEG LVI (2006) came out at the very end of 2010, but it probably hit most libraries (including ours here in the CHS) earlier this year. It contains 2,159 lemmata. One would… Read more

Preexistence before Socrates

In my last post, I mentioned a talk I will be giving at the University of Toronto’s Collaborative Programme in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy on April 8.  I’m under water this week, so I thought I’d put up a preview of that talk: The significance of the verb ὑπάρχειν and its cognates cannot be overstated for Aristotle: it plays a central role in his unique approaches to metaphysics and logic. … Read more

The ancient paragone

Those who are here at the Center know that I have been puzzling over Theocritus’ Idyll 15, the Women at the Adonis-festival, since the fall, and in an earlier blog I announced that I would post some thoughts about it… So here we are. Idyll 15 contains a brief ekphrasis of certain tapestries depicting figures, whose life-likeness the two female protagonists admire (78-86), and a song in a song (100-144),… Read more

Tracking the Order of Nature: The Use of Hypokeisthô in Aristotle’s De Caelo

In his account for why stars and planets move in different directions, Aristotle reasons that if the universe is to move eternally in a circle, it must have a center that remains at rest, and that if there is to be such a center, ‘it is necessary that earth exists: for this rests at the center’ (Cael II 3, 286a20-21). Interestingly, this proposition about the position and the immobility of… Read more

Enactment and make-believe

I’m happy to announce a talk I will be giving at Catholic here in DC next Wednesday. Here is the poster. CUA talk POSTER The point of departure of the talk is the following observation: in many ancient descriptions of spectacles the focus is very much on the staging itself, to the detriment of the representational content. To give a couple of examples: – Xenophon, Symposium: when the dinner-guests witness… Read more

Plato's klinai

To follow up on my last post, which concerned the great variety of couch styles represented on Athenian vases: If there were so many different types of klinai in the repertoire of Athenian vase painters, why did Plato choose to use the kline as a paradigm in his discussion of ideal form and mimesis (Republic 10.596b-598a)? What kind of kline did Plato have in mind as the “one” essential form… Read more

The Signature of the Muses: Epigram as Everyday Miracle?

In a recent article on artists’ signatures in antiquity, Osborne has argued that such signatures reveal the socially embedded nature of pots, sculpture, gems etc., a collaboration between artist, object and end-user.  As Osborne states, “What they all [plastic arts and literature] share is the sense that there is an ‘author,’ that the identity of the creator of these works is something worth knowing—and worth knowing because these are works… Read more

Democritus the Pythagorean

Perhaps I’m simply becoming provocative for the sake of provoking; or maybe I’m losing my mind; but in the process of writing this book on mathematical Pythagoreanism and its supposed progenitor Hippasus of Metapontum (fl. early-mid 5th Century BCE), I am beginning to see mathematical Pythagoreanism everywhere.  And I mean everywhere (even the New York Times). Witness Democritus of Abdera, father of atomism, and – dare I say it! – mathematical… Read more

The Plausibility of a Bottom-Up Account of Natural Character in Aristotle

I just received some feedback on a paper in which I present some results of the character project I have been working on in the past few months, and one of the worries expressed by the reader was that my account seemed too extreme in its bottom-up, materialistic account of character – so much so that it seems to violate Aristotle’s usual hylomorphism, according to which soul-capacities have both a… Read more

Typical Euripides and the end of Hippolytus Veiled

As part of my project on etiological myths in tragedy, I have been forced to spend far too much time thinking about the deus ex machina and divine interventions in tragedy. I keep reading in comments on the deus ex machina that this is a feature of Typical Euripides. (This Typical Euripides guy also likes etiology apparently.) But as I’ve been going over much of this material I find again… Read more

Last Pictures and Notes from Malawi and a Fond Farewell

I didn’t want to leave things on anything like a negative note (with the student riots and all), as my visit to Chancellor College and Malawi has been thoroughly productive and enjoyable. By way of thanks to the Department and University for hosting me (and to the CHS for sponsoring me), and to all the wonderful people I met on my two visits here, I post below some additional photos,… Read more

Cross-Cultural versus Internal Wisdom Transmission?

One of the most exciting points for classicists who have got some knowledge about Eastern matters consists in inquiring where so many similarities between Greece and Mesopotamia, Iran or India come from. Thereabout three hypotheses basically seem to be considered: 1) a direct influence; 2) a shared inheritance (especially for the cultures that speak an Indo-European language); 3) a spontaneous expression of the universal human reason. But I would like… Read more

Iron Men

Hello again, I’m just back from giving papers at Bryn Mawr and Yale, which is why this blog is a little late. In between preparing for those papers, I have been grappling with an interesting passage from the Chronicle of Ptolemy III. This is an Akkadian text that describes Ptolemy’s invasion of Mesopotamia in 246/5 BCE. The event is reported also in Greek sources, but, in my Akkadian chronicle, it… Read more

The Decapitated Scholar

Decapitated Scholar OK, so he’s not quite decapitated, but after the student riot here at Chancellor College on the night of 2/15 he lost his mortar board. (So sad, especially after all that work by the masons just last week—see photo in my earlier post). As it happens, I was inadvertently caught up in this event. Here is a brief blow-by-blow. (Spoiler alert—things seem to have calmed down now, even… Read more

"The inscription is a machine designed to produce kleos."

In this formulation, heavily indebted to Derrida, Svenbro sees the “language” of early epigram.  While I am nearly entirely sympathetic to this idea, I would like to take a tour of the kind of factory in which these machines themselves are produced—I’m sure the upper management would have some very interesting things to say about Greek poetics. Svenbro’s definition is pronounced in the context of a discussion of the following… Read more

Athenian Kleroteria and Hellenistic sortition

I will start with a cliché: apologies for my delayed first posting. Now, there is one question I often like to pose to undergraduate students: can they name one salient feature of Athenian democracy? Surely enough, ‘democratic elections’ or some version thereof is the most common answer. And, as you can imagine, I always take pleasure in pointing out that electoral procedures were not considered to be particularly democratic by… Read more

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