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International Plutarch Society: The Discourse of Leadership in the Greco-Roman World

The Discourse of Leadership in the Greco-Roman World

Sponsored by the International Plutarch Society. Organized by Mallory Monaco Caterine, Tulane University, and Jeffrey Beneker, University of Wisconsin, Madison

For better or worse, the vast majority of extant literature from Greco-Roman antiquity was written by individuals who were leaders in their communities and was aimed at an audience of similar, leaderly peers, or at times, at leaders who were even more powerful than the authors themselves. It is unsurprising, then, that the complex concept of leadership is a common theme in ancient literature across genres and time-periods. Plutarch, both in his Moralia and Lives, is preoccupied with examining and constructing models of leadership for his ambitious readers, but his interest is matched by his contemporaries Dio of Prusa, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger. Moreover, he is in dialogue with earlier authors including Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon, just to name a few, and that conversation continued well after the fall of the Roman Empire. Beyond literary treatments, leadership is performed and negotiated in inscriptions, on coins, and through physical monuments throughout the Mediterranean – and these objects would have been “read” by a much wider audience than the ancient litterati. Given their wide influence, they too must be included in any discussion of ancient constructions of leadership.

This panel seeks to examine the boundaries, intersections, and enduring impact of the robust discourse of leadership in Greek and Roman literature and material culture. We seek papers that address how the concept of leadership is expressed in mapped into Greek and Latin terminology; how different authors define leadership, both good and bad; how genre influences the presentation of leaders; how authors fit leaders who do not look like them (i.e. women, foreigners, slaves, etc.) into a broader concept of leadership; and consider both the positive and problematic impact of ancient ideas about leadership on later thinkers and leaders, including those of today. While some preference may be given to papers that shed light on Plutarch’s approaches to leadership, we welcome papers on any Greek or Roman authors, either individually or in combination. We also encourage papers that read the literary and material evidence of leadership discourse together.

Abstracts should be sent electronically, in MS Word format or PDF, to Jeffrey Beneker (jbeneker@wisc.edu). In preparing the abstract, please follow the formatting guidelines for individual abstracts that appear on the Society for Classical Studies web site, and plan for a paper that takes no more than 20 minutes to deliver. Abstracts will be judged anonymously. Membership in the International Plutarch Society is not required for participation in this panel, but all presenters must be members of the SCS. The deadline is March 1, 2020.

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