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Classical Greeks often articulated a worldview that divided the world between Greeks and all other ethnic groups. This fundamental distinction served to justify war and slavery. The tragedian Aeschylus portrays non-Greeks as slavish and decadent in his Persians. Aristotle thought enslaving non-Greeks was a just cause for waging war (Politics 7.15.21). The Greeks called non-Greeks barbaroi, or “barbarians,” because of the unintelligible sounds of their foreign languages (they said bar bar). The historian Herodotus has long been a central figure in scholarly discourse about the creation and articulation of the boundary between Greeks and others.
A conspicuous theme in Aristophanic comedy is the civic motivation of Athenian citizens, which is presented as highly problematic. Judges and Assembly-goers are portrayed consistently as motivated not by any sense of civic duty but by monetary incentives — the misthos dikastikos and the misthos ekklēsiastikos, respectively. Some scholars have considered this portrayal of everyday citizens as narrowly profit-driven and utterly selfish to be proof of Aristophanes’ elitist and anti-democratic views. Indeed, such a commentary on civic motivation vis-à-vis incentives seems to align with that of Plato, whose Sokrates famously asserts that Perikles’ introduction of public payments made Athenians “idle, cowardly, talkative, and avaricious” (Gorg. 515e).
Yet an examination of Aristophanes’ plays through the lens of behavioral science allows for a radically different reading. This is the reading I offer in my dissertation, Enter homo oeconomicus: Civic Motivation and Civic Education in Aristophanic Comedy.
Registration for the 2022 hybrid annual meeting is now open! If you would like to attend the meeting in person, you need to register on or before Friday, November 19 in order to obtain the early registration rate. Please note that there is no early rate for virtual attendance. You can register online here.
Growing up, one of my favorite shows was Star Trek: The Next Generation. At the risk of angering my fellow Trekkers, I am a Captain Picard guy all the way. In TNG and the subsequent movie, the concept of “First Contact” is a vitally important hinge point in human history. The term refers to the first time that one planetary civilization — in this case, humans — comes into contact with another, most famously the Vulcans. First Contact is something that is always meant to be planned, considered, and carefully done at precisely the right time. First Contact is also one of the guiding principles I follow as a middle school ancient history teacher. Instead of alien civilizations from space, I bring groups together across time, right here in my classroom — Ancient civilizations and modern 11-year-olds.
The history of emotion studies
Emotion, generally referred to in the ancient world as pathos (from which we get words like sympathy and empathy), or adfectus (which refers to a state of body and/or mind and from which the word affect derives), is a term of fairly recent vintage. Coined in the mid-16th century, it became the expression of choice in the 19th. These days, it is most generally thought to refer to a strong feeling deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others, but there is a long and ongoing debate about the precise nature and function of emotion that stretches back not only to Darwin and James, but also to the ancient world. Aristotle and the Stoics, for example, debated some of the same points that modern proponents of Affect and Appraisal theories of emotion do.
Do you know any kids? Do they like books? Do you want to lure them down the path of Classical Studies before paleontology fever sets in? The good news is that there’s a new resource in development to help you do just that. I’m please to introduce Calliope’s Library: Books for Young Readers.
Figure 1: Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby. Krishni Burns writes, “I appreciate a modern-day Persephone who sets the curtains on fire to get the fire department’s attention, because trapped isn’t the same as helpless.”
Last year, the SCS blog provided several useful resources to help you find books for young Classics fans, among them Sarah Bond’s excellent post about titles that Classical scholars who are also parents have shared with their own children. In the post, Dr. Bond linked to a Twitter thread full of wonderful book recommendations. Twitter being what it is, that thread is now gone.
SCS is pleased to announce that the 2021 Outreach Prize Winner is Mallory Monaco Caterine (Tulane University). You can read the award citation below:
At its best, outreach work not only reaches out, but it also invites in. Exceptional outreach work welcomes members of the broader public into conversations about the ancient world and fosters meaningful relationships that inform and enrich all participants, whether they are scholars, students, or community members. In recognition of her exemplary work in this area, the Society for Classical Studies is pleased to award the 2021 Outreach Award to Mallory Monaco Caterine for her work with Nyansa Classical Community in New Orleans.
The Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities initiative (AnWoMoCo), launched by the SCS in 2019 as the Classics Everywhere initiative, supports projects that seek to engage broader publics — individuals, groups, and communities — in critical discussion of and creative expression related to the ancient Mediterranean, the global reception of Greek and Roman culture, and the history of teaching and scholarship in the field of classical studies. As part of this initiative, the SCS has funded 111 projects, ranging from school programming to reading groups, prison programs, public talks, digital projects, and collaborations with artists in theater, opera, music, dance, and the visual arts. To date, it has funded projects in 25 states and 11 countries, including Canada, the UK, Italy, Greece, Spain, Belgium, Ghana, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and India.
NEH Public Scholars Grant (December 15, 2021 Deadline)
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites applications for the 2021-22 round of the Public Scholars program, which supports the creation of well-researched nonfiction books in the humanities written for the broad public. The program welcomes projects in all areas of the humanities, regardless of geographic or chronological focus. The resulting books might present a narrative history, tell the stories of important individuals, analyze significant texts, provide a synthesis of ideas, revive interest in a neglected subject, or examine the latest thinking on a topic. Books supported by this program must be written in a readily accessible style, must clearly explain specialized terms and concepts, and must frame their topics to have wide appeal. They should also be carefully researched and authoritative, making appropriate use of primary and/or secondary sources and showing appropriate familiarity with relevant existing publications or scholarship. Applications to write books directed primarily to professional scholars are not suitable.
(Re)Ordering the Gods. The Mythographic Web through Times
Warburg Institute, 25-26 November 2021
Free online workshop (register HERE for the Zoom link)
Organiser: Céline Bohnert (U. Reims, Warburg Institute Visiting Fellow)