2020 Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit Winners

Congratulations to the three winners of the 2020 Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in classical scholarship. You can read the full award citations by clicking on the names of the winners below:

Paul J. Kosmin

Kelly Shannon-Henderson

Steven D. Smith

Paul J. Kosmin, Time and its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire (Harvard University Press, 2018)

Kosmin’s book is a groundbreaking contribution to the study of the Hellenistic world and to the growing literature in time studies. A pendant to The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire (2014), which mapped the Seleucids’ conquest of territorial space, Time and its Adversaries flips the board and considers the Seleucids’ bold but ultimately failed effort to take command of historical time itself. Combining vast erudition on a breathtaking scale, a command of textual, inscriptional, and material evidence that stretches from Macedonia to Mesopotamia and Judea, fluency in contemporary theory, and a style capable of capturing and condensing complex analysis in memorable and quotable form, Kosmin’s book has the feel of an instant classic that will be cited and emulated for years to come, as much for its methods as for its findings.

The thesis is simple but also entirely original and compelling. Part 1 (“The Imperial Present”) takes up the imperial perspective, the view from above. Starting with Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander’s successors in the east, the Seleucids created a system for dating time that anchored their empire in a new Year 1 (311 BCE). With this move, time was effectively colonized, politicized, and commodified: it became a marker of the Seleucid empire and imperial property. Detached from regnal counting eras, the Seleucid Era announced a new, seemingly inexorable path forward into the future, one that presaged the beginnings of abstract, homogeneous, and countable time familiar to modernity. It was also an attempt to monopolize time as never before: the institution of a Seleucid Year 1, an arbitrary effort at establishing a political mythology, “made the empire historical in a radically new sense, perhaps even the first truly historical state.”

But time belongs to no one and everyone, and the Seleucid effort failed. Part 2 (“Indigenous Past and Future”) shows why, by presenting the view from below. The Seleucids oversaw a region that was ethnically but also chronographically diverse: it was filled with local, epichoric pasts and indigenous calendars and conceptions of time, a true heterochrony. The Seleucid Era acted as a formal administrative overlay but also as a stimulus to resistant insurgencies: the empire talked back. The most strident of these countervoices are found in contemporary Jewish apocalyptic eschatologies (the book of Daniel, 1 Enoch, parts of the Seder ‘Olam), which outbid the Seleucids by foretelling its demise. The Seleucids could not compete with the End Time. Other insurgent responses included conventional historiographies, for instance the Babyloniaca of Berossus, the Babylonian Dynastic Prophecy, Zoroastrian eschatological works, and 1–2 Maccabees, as well as a wave of antiquarian retrievals of local pasts that swept across Babylonia, West Iran, Armenia, and the Hellenized Levant and Cilicia. Collectively, these subaltern efforts constituted “a historiography of irreducible excess and affective immediacy, a dialogical history preceding, incorporating, and surpassing the Seleucid empire and exploding its logics of time.”

Time became weaponized in the Hellenistic East, partly on the Seleucids’ own model of “total history.” But it also became an object of fresh scrutiny in the Hellenistic period, as is shown by Eratosthenes’ diastemic chronology, Polybius’ universal history, and the personification of abstract time in texts and images, quite plausibly, as Kosmin suggests, in response to the turmoil sparked by the Seleucids. This burgeoning of approaches to time was their real legacy. “The Seleucid east opened the very age to which we belong,” namely our own plural sense of time. For this reminder and for paving the way forward to what will certainly prove to be a richer and more diverse past, the committee is pleased to recognize Paul J. Kosmin for his stimulating and exciting work.

Kelly E. Shannon-Henderson, Religion and Memory in Tacitus’ Annals (Oxford University Press, 2019)

Tacitus is a complex and pessimistic author who found a new audience in the dark days of the twentieth century, when his themes of looming autocracy and cowardice in the face of moral and political decay gained a special urgency; the voice of Ronald Syme often still sets the tone for Tacitean scholarship. Kelly Shannon-Henderson’s book Religion and Memory in Tacitus’ Annals offers an original and thought-provoking new way to read Tacitus’ narrative of the Julio-Claudians in the context of Roman social memory and religious practice. Her vision presents a bold corrective to Syme.

Shannon-Henderson’s book examines individual episodes in the Annals, at the same time as it traces important overarching themes that shape the narrative of the principate from the death of Augustus to the demise of Nero. She thoughtfully reimagines the experience of the ancient reader who encounters the narrative sequentially, as it develops the powerful themes of remembering and forgetting, of decline and fall, themselves linked to a complex and nuanced picture of how religion operated within Roman society.

Tacitus served as a Quindecemvir from an early stage of his career and displays considerable expertise in his understanding of the actual and potential role of religion within Roman society. Shannon-Henderson makes the case for taking religion seriously in Tacitus, whether in terms of his very detailed expositions of individual episodes, or on the level of the general patterns traced by the emerging principate as an autocratic system destructive of traditional cultic memory and ritual practice. Topics include many traditional religious practices and the actions of priests, the development of the imperial cult within city and empire, the role of fate and the will of the gods in Roman history, the system of prodigies, the rise of astrology and its powerful effects on members of Rome’s political elite, and above all the continual alterations to cultic memory produced by the very nature of one-man rule.

Tacitus begins the Annals with the death of Augustus. The promotion of the first princeps to the official status of divus in effect launched the religious phenomenon of the imperial cult, whose many effects shape Tacitus’ account of the Julio-Claudians. New portraits emerge of Germanicus (the man who was never emperor) and Claudius (his brother who had the least prospects of being elevated to that supreme position). Germanicus is revealed as a “theatrical opportunist” who tries to use traditional religion for his own purposes but is often ignorant of its form and content. The learned Claudius aims to restore traditional practices and rituals but is too weak and easily influenced to halt the decline inherent in Roman political culture by his day. Tacitus uses the themes of religion and memory to shape his analysis of the very nature of the principate.

The committee congratulates Kelly Shannon-Henderson on a distinguished first book, that sheds new light on how a literary text can represent religion as embodied in but also constitutive of Roman political culture.

Steven D. Smith, Greek Epigram and Byzantine Culture: Gender, Desire, and Denial in the Age of Justinian (Cambridge University Press, 2019)

The epigrams and other poems that form the core of the Greek Anthology were assembled in the tenth century, but that collection was based in part on earlier anthologies, beginning with Meleager’s Garland or Stephanos (it may sound ill-omened these days to mention the Latin name).  Meleager’s florilegium dates to the first century BCE, and was followed by another, the Garland of Philip, compiled in the first century CE.  Both these early anthologies have recently been the subject of considerable scholarly attention.  But there was a third, still later collection or Cycle, this time the work of one Agathias and dating to the sixth century, containing poems contemporary with the reign of Justinian.  These are the poems, full of wit and learning but little appreciated today, that Steven Smith brilliantly situates in their social environment.  And what a world it turns out to be.  With great elegance, charm, and impressive erudition, he shows that these early Byzantine epigrams were not merely an “inconsequential expression of classical paideia.”  Rather, they were something much more odd and intriguing, “a collection of frivolous diversions totally irrelevant to the more serious concerns of the age, while paradoxically also an ultra-refined instrument of social ambition within an elite class of learned men.”

Here is Paul the Silentiary’s little ditty, in which the persona is an insatiably lusty woman:

"Kissing Hippomenes, I set my mind on Leander.  And while planted on the lips of Leander, I bear in my heart an image of Xanthos.  And while embracing Xanthos, I lead my heart back to Hippomenes.  I spurn each one that’s in my grasp....   And if someone finds fault with me, let him be content with the poverty of monogamy."

This at a time when a woman’s highest virtue was thought to reside in virginity!  But not just that.  The speaker may be a woman, but the poet is a man.  Making astute and nuanced use of modern theories of sexuality, Steven Smith observes that “the epigram is no less queer for its overtly heterosexual camouflage.”

 Not that virgins fail to get their due.  Agathias himself describes an intriguing arrangement:

 "Prevented from kissing me on the mouth, divine Rhodanthe stretched out her virgin’s girdle between us and kept kissing that, and I, like one who conducts water through a channel, drew the water of desire to the other end, pulling her kiss back....  And this too beguiled my pain, for the sweet girdle was a passage between both our lips."

There is an element of servile submission here, not to mention a dash of fetishism, that Steven Smith cunningly connects with the subservience of conquered barbarians before the powerful king, symbolized, in another of Agathias’ poems, by the yoke of a leather strap.  As he argues, the erotic world of Agathias’ circle was a refined metaphor as well for social relations between master and slave, superior and subordinate.

 For bringing the rich treasures of this Cycle to our attention, and making manifest the multiple dimensions of contemporary reference and poetic play that inform the poems, we are pleased to honor Steven Smith with the Charles Goodwin Award of Merit.

Many thanks to the Goodwin Award Committee members for all their hard work in selecting winners and writing the citations. The committee members this year were Jeffrey Henderson, Carolyn Dewald, David Konstan, James I. Porter, and Harriet Flower.

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An illustration of an infographic titled "How UVM Admin Manufactured the Arts & Sciences Budget Crisis"

Happy news and an update on affairs at UVM.

A generous gift from Emeritus Professor Z. Philip Ambrose will let us maintain our MA program, and with it most of our undergraduate language curriculum, for the next five years at least. Please help us spread the word and encourage eligible students to apply for one of two very substantial fellowships that we can now offer each year. Our small program is familial yet rigorous, with a strong record of graduates securing doctoral fellowships as well as teaching positions in public and private schools. Our research collection is superb, from generations of active curation and endowed library funds. Burlington is also a fantastic place to pass two years. Information about our program, and a link to the application portal, are available here. Further questions may be directed to Dr. Jacques Bailly, DGS.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 01/21/2022 - 11:28am by John C. Franklin.

2023 NumIG CFP

Call for Papers

“Ancient Coins and Portraiture”

Organized by the Numismatics Interest Group of the Archaeological Institute of America

For the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America

Jan. 5-8, 2023, New Orleans, LA

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 01/18/2022 - 4:18pm by Helen Cullyer.
The logo for Asterion. A wide oval with a black background filled with stars. In the middle is a red circle with a Greek meander pattern, and inside the circle text reads "Asterion: Neurodiverse Classics."

As an autistic classicist, one of the things I’ve always struggled with is social interaction. In class, I teach students about Bourdieu and habitus and cultural scripts, while all the time feeling that, whatever the cultural script of our time is, mine got lost in the mail. I’ve spent my life pretending (without much success) to understand people and the codes that underpin their actions. The easiest solution for me has always been to hide because, when I’m on my own, I’m not uncomfortable, awkward, or afraid.

But hiding sends the wrong message and models the wrong behavior, as I realized when my son was diagnosed with autism, too. How can you advise a child to pretend to be like everyone else, because difference makes them a target? How can you warn them that their honesty will make them an outcast, their sensitivities will make them vulnerable, and their hyperempathy will make them a victim? How can you commit to inclusion in your professional life while accepting exclusion in your personal life?

You can’t — or, at least, I couldn’t.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 01/18/2022 - 9:38am by .
A brightly colored manuscript page. On the left is calligraphy in Sanskrit; on the right is a woman in printed garb sitting in a carriage pulled by two white horses. She makes a gesture with her two palms press together. A black figure looks back at her.

Like many educators, I have found myself in an endless loop lately of thinking and rethinking my teaching principles and practices — a loop caused by the unprecedented teaching conditions the pandemic has brought upon us. Though I consider myself a thoughtful instructor, I admit that I have never thought so extensively, carefully, and critically about the purposes and desired outcomes of my teaching as I have in the months between March 2020 and now. Each week of each semester involves calibrating and recalibrating my courses, as I hope to meet the needs of my students and help them balance their lives within the classroom and without. I have become more attuned to the extramural realities that bear on my students’ learning, and as someone who works at a Hispanic-serving Institution, a desire for inclusivity increasingly informs the way I teach. My own institution just recently offered its first workshop on culturally responsive pedagogy, which provided me with many new tools for teaching in inclusive ways. Among other things, I realized that any kind of responsive pedagogy involves constant conversation with one’s colleagues, to generate, refresh, and fine-tune ways of teaching with a view toward inclusion and accessibility.

View full article. | Posted in on Sun, 01/09/2022 - 9:37pm by .
A Macbook sits on a wooden desk showing a Zoom screen filled with faces. Left of it, a turquoise mug sits on the desk.

To write about the Capitol Insurrection, as the one-year anniversary approached, I went back through my chat logs from January 6, 2021, in the interest of refreshing and confirming my memory. What I found, in lieu of any particularly meaningful conclusions, was a window into that day and how some friends and I were dealing with catastrophic events as they unfolded.

That day, I had a university meeting wedged between SCS panels, and I think I actually found the precise moment when I realized what was going on. That moment is a fairly profanity-laden series of messages with a very-online friend of mine, to whom I sent “So what the fuck is happening in DC?? I've been in meetings and the capitol building is being stormed??” followed by “i allegedly have another meeting right now and i am physically nauseous after having like a 5 minute break and seeing the news.”

In all my other group chats, things progressed about the same. Conversation about the SCS conference and pre-semester preparation, interrupted by a confused panic about what was happening on the news. A bunch of millennial classicists trying frantically to figure out where they can watch live news and wondering why all the afternoon panels weren’t canceled (though some were), processing anger and fear in countless group-chats and DMs.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 12:48pm by .
A painting of Rome featuring a crowd of men fighting on a hill. Behind them is an obelisk, a column, and a toppled white marble statue of a nude man.

At 2:00 pm on January 6th, 2021, a mob made its way up the steps of the U.S. Capitol following a morning of brinkmanship, speeches, and speculation. I sat in my office at home, logged into a Zoom session, watching Twitter and a streaming news channel on one screen, all while pretending to be engaged with the beginning of an SCS Panel, “The Powers and Perils of Solitude in Greek Literature.”

At 2:20 or so, I was slated to begin a talk entitled “Being Human, Being Alone” as the Capitol was evacuated and our legislators were put under protection. At 2:24 pm, President Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 01/06/2022 - 10:00am by Joel Perry Christensen.
A monochromatic stone statue of a man with short hair wrapped in a toga and sitting in a large chair. His right arm is leaning on the back of the chair, and his left hand holds a writing tablet on his lap. The base of the statue reads "SALLVSTIVS"

What do you read for an insurrection? Classics offers plenty of material for revolutionary bibliophiles: compilations for the budding revolutionary, handbooks for coups both successful and failed. The Capitol rioters certainly had their Classics before their eyes, as Curtis Dozier outlined shortly after the event: Caesar and XenophonVergil and Herodotus.

But in January 2021, I was reading Sallust—and an apt choice it was, too. Not because of what Sallust writes — Catiline’s attempt to overthrow the government or Marius’ attempt to change Roman institutions — but because of what he passes over. He was there at the swelling of the atmosphere that led to the burning of the Senate house on January 19th (what is it about Januaries?), 52 bce, during the funeral of Publius Clodius.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 01/05/2022 - 11:20am by Ayelet Haimson Lushkov.
New WCC logo reading WCC 50th, 1972-2022. Beige font on a dusty pink background.

The year was 1971. In the lobby of a hotel in Cincinnati, OH, a small group of early career faculty and graduate students, mostly women, met and decided to form a caucus. Frustrated by the lack of transparency, mentors, and opportunities in Classics both for women in the field and for those who studied women in antiquity, they wanted something different, both for themselves and for future generations. At the next year’s Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association (APA) in Philadelphia, PA, they made it official. The Women’s Classical Caucus (WCC) was born.

By phone, mail, and intermittent gatherings at regional conferences and the APA (now SCS), the founders and early members of this young caucus stayed connected and encouraged each other in its early decades to publish feminist scholarship and introduce to their departments new, revolutionary courses on “women in antiquity,” which received almost immediate backlash.

Fast forward 50 years, and it’s hard to imagine a time when women and feminist scholars were not a strong presence in the profession, whether publishing scholarship through the lens of feminist theory, teaching about ancient women at both the K-12 and university levels, or taking on leadership roles both in the SCS and in their local institutions.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 01/03/2022 - 10:14am by .

Every year at the annual meeting we hold the Career Networking event, a meeting that gives academics access to former classicists, historians, and archeologists who have made career shifts into new fields. They speak candidly about their transition, and are there to offer advice to anyone looking to change career paths. This year we have more networkers than in any year previous, with a broad range of fields and experiences represented.

We will hold our annual Career Networking event at this year's virtual AIA/SCS Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 8th, from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Please block off time to attend this extraordinarily helpful event. It'll be accessible through the digital meeting platform.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 01/03/2022 - 9:01am by Erik Shell.

The AIA and SCS have made the difficult decision to switch our upcoming 2022 Annual Meeting to a virtual only event.  We had high hopes to once again have an in-person component to our meeting, but the rapid rise in Covid cases due to the Delta and Omicron variants have made that impossible to do safely.  While we are eager to see everyone in-person again, the overall health and safety of our attendees, staff, and hotel and meeting personnel take precedence. 

Since we were already planning to hold our meeting in a hybrid format the transition to a virtual only meeting will not be difficult.  We are using the same platform as last year and all sessions will be available through the virtual meeting platform.  Details on how to access it will be emailed out to all attendees next Monday (January 3).

If you had been planning to attend in person, please contact the Hilton to cancel your reservation.  We will be reaching out to all in-person registrants following the meeting regarding refunds for the difference in registration rates. 

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy and look forward to seeing you online during our virtual meeting. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 12/29/2021 - 2:17pm by Helen Cullyer.

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