Call for Papers: The Impact of Learning Greek, Hebrew, and 'Oriental' Languages


13-15 December 2017

In 1517, Leuven witnessed the foundation of the Collegium Trilingue. This institute, funded through the legacy of Hieronymus Busleyden and enthusiastically promoted by Desiderius Erasmus, offered courses in the three ‘sacred’ languages Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The initiative was not the only of its kind in the early 16th century. Ten years earlier, the first Collegium Trilingue had been established in the Spanish Catholic collegium of San Ildefonso, and similar institutes and language chairs were soon to follow. By the end of 1518, the university of Wittenberg offered courses of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin in the regular curriculum, whereas in 1530 king Francis I founded his Collège Royal in Paris after the model of the Louvain Collegium Trilingue. This fascination with Greek and Hebrew did not come out of nowhere, but had its roots in Renaissance Italy, whence it gradually disseminated to other parts of Europe. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that, as early as the beginning of the 14th century, the Council of Vienne had authorized and encouraged the foundation of professorships in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic at four universities (Bologna, Oxford, Paris, and Salamanca), mainly in order to convert Jews, Muslims, and Oriental Christians to the ‘true’ faith. The council and Italian Humanism thus testify to the fact that enthusiasm for learning Greek and ‘Oriental’ (nowadays: Semitic) languages, next to Latin, among Western-European scholars and clergymen clearly predates the 16th century.

What is more, the Humanist connection explains why, even though the study of Greek, Hebrew, and other ‘Oriental’ languages was largely sparked by theological concerns, institutes such as the Leuven Collegium Trilingue reserved a prominent place for pagan (especially Greek and Latin) literature in their curricula as well. Moreover, also the special connection between the study of ancient Greek at institutes like the Collegium Trilingue and the legal practice and thought cannot be overlooked. In the early 16th century, indeed, Greek was the language of the new political and legal ideas. For jurist Reuchlin it was not an ancient language, but the tongue of Constantinople. Then, in the course of the 16th century, Greek culture was reduced to a pre-Christian culture because of its destabilization of Western Christianity, and to an old ‘democratic’ culture because of the influence of Greek imperialism on Western absolutism – a reduction to which also the Collegium Trilingue contributed. Hence, it weighted on legal studies, through professors as Puteanus, who wrote about law and politics. Law professors as Gérard de Courcelles had taught Greek at the Trilingue; Valerius Andreas had studied at this school; Tuldenus attached great importance to Greek literature as well. However, the Greek letters of the Louvain jurists had little to do with love of Antiquity. The study of the Greek language was neutral, and it allowed one to stay in touch with the heritage of Constantinople, which was slowly being absorbed into Western culture.

This year’s LECTIO conference will seize the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the Leuven Collegium Trilingue as an incentive both to examine the general context in which such polyglot institutes emerged and—more generally—to assess the overall impact of Greek and Hebrew education. Our focus is not exclusively on the 16th century, as we also welcome papers dealing with the status and functions accorded to Greek, Hebrew, and other ‘Oriental’ languages in the (later) Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period up to 1750. Special attention will be directed to the learning and teaching practices and to the general impact the study of these languages exerted on scholarship, science and society. We therefore look forward to receiving abstracts offering answers to the following questions, inter multa alia:

* What was the interrelationship between the Early Modern initiatives offering education in the three biblical languages, such as the 1508 Spanish Collegium Trilingue, the 1517 Leuven institute, the 1518 Wittenberg program, and the 1530 establishment of the Collège Royal? What is the connection, if any, between the 16th-century establishment of language chairs and the Late Medieval interest in these languages? To what extent are we informed about the teaching practices conducted in these institutes and universities, and about the learning of Greek and ‘Oriental’ languages in Western Europe before the 14th century? How did the institutes impact on university curricula?

* What significance was accorded to ‘antiquity’ and the classical tradition in the Colleges of the Three Tongues, in relation to the interest in biblical literature? To what extent can the confessionalization model be applied to the study of Greek and Hebrew in Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed regions? Whereas the Council of Vienne clearly aimed at “propagating the saving faith among the heathen peoples” (Decrees, 24), the 16th-century humanists had for the most part much less explicit missionary goals with their study of ‘Oriental’ languages. What were their aims, and how did they strike out on this new course? What is the link, if any, with the several polyglot Bibles appearing in Europe in the 16th century?

* Despite the original hostility towards the polyglot institutes out of religious concerns, the study of Greek and Hebrew ultimately found acceptance rather quickly after about one generation, also among Catholic theologians. What circumstances explain and stimulated this process of acceptance? Who were the main protagonists and adversaries in it? Are there abiding differences among the various confessions in Europe regarding the degree they embraced the study of these languages?

* It is often argued that champions of Greek and Hebrew had to overcome several burdens. Not only did students of both languages risk to be suspected of heterodox beliefs, but they also had to surmount material hindrances, since only a minority of publishers were willing to invest in Greek and Hebrew font sets. To what extent can these claims be substantiated? What part did polyglot editions, such as those printed in Alcalà, Antwerp and Paris, play in this?

* How did the study of Hebrew and Greek affect the study and status of Latin? To what extent did the significance attached to both languages stimulate the study of vernacular languages and other ‘Oriental’ languages, such as Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic? A number of scholars even felt confident enough to compose texts in Greek, Hebrew, and other ‘Oriental’ languages themselves: in what contexts and for what purposes did they do so?

* The study of Greek, Hebrew, and other ‘Oriental’ languages was often pursued by scholars interested in both law and sciences, such as medicine, biology, astronomy, and geography. How did the study of these languages impact on these disciplines and what was the concomitant societal effect? In what way, e.g., did Greek legal thought mark both the Protestant law faculties and the legal rationalism that originated in that world? How did Greek studies contribute to the Law Faculty’s renewed contacts with the Calvinist countries and enabled it to play a foundational part in the development of the legal doctrine, which Pufendorf would turn into ‘Natural Law’ in 1661?

Participants are asked to give 20-minute papers in English, German or French. To submit a proposal, please send an abstract of approximately 300 words (along with your name, academic affiliation and contact information) to by 30 April, 2017. Notification of acceptance will be given by 20 May, 2017.
The publication of selected papers is planned in a volume to be included in the peer-reviewed LECTIO Series (Brepols Publishers).

Invited speakers
Luigi-Alberto Sanchi (Institut d’Histoire du Droit Paris)
Saverio Campanini (Università di Bologna)

Venue of the Conference
The Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe, Janseniusstraat 1, 3000 Leuven

Organizing committee
Wim François, Erika Gielen, Jan Papy, Toon Van Hal, Pierre Van Hecke, Raf Van Rooy, Laurent Waelkens

Faculties of Arts, Law, Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies
Blijde-Inkomststraat 5
3000 Leuven

+32 16 32 87 35


(Photo: "Handwritten" by A. Birkan, licensed under CC BY 2.0)


Follow SCS News for information about the SCS and all things classical.

Use this field to search SCS News
Select a category from this list to limit the content on this page.

We're pleased to announce this year's winners of the following SCS Awards:

TLL Fellowship
  • Charles Kuper
Pearson Fellowship  
  • Philip Murray Wilson
Undergraduate Minority Scholarships
  • Sneha Adusumilli
  • Lokukalafi Ahomana
  • Zaidimary Barreto
Zeph Stewart Awards
  • Daphne Bissette
  • Sallie Blanks

Congratulations to these exemplary Classicists for all their excellent work!


(Photo: "library" by Viva Vivanista, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Thu, 03/22/2018 - 12:17pm by Erik Shell.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Harvard Classics Department, Harvard Classics Club, and Office for hte Arts at Harvard are presenting Antigone at the Harvard Stadium at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 29th.

This event is free to the public, and is directed by Mitchell Polonsky and produced by Ben Roy.


(Photo: "Empty Theatre (almost)" by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 03/20/2018 - 2:25pm by Erik Shell.

As the name suggests, the Digital Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum (DFHG) is an online edition of Karl Müller’s Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum (1841–1873). Müller’s work was a five-volume collection of fragmentary Greek historians, to which were added (in Latin) overviews of each author (with embedded testimonia), translation of fragments, and, often, brief commentary. Its online successor is elegantly presented, meticulously cross-referenced and admirably accessible— if somewhat quixotic. I will begin with an overview of what the FHG contains, describe the DFHG’s interface and features, and then offer some thoughts about the usefulness of the project in a context where Jacoby Online (recently reviewed in this forum by Matt Simonton) already exists.

View full article. | Posted in on Sun, 03/18/2018 - 11:29am by Richard Fernando Buxton.



Leuven, 17 May 2018

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 03/15/2018 - 10:28am by Erik Shell.
Hellen Cullyer

A Day in the Life of a Classicist is a monthly column on the SCS blog written by Prof. Ayelet Haimson Lushkov celebrating the working lives of classicists. If you’d like to share your day, let us know here.

Hellen Cullyer is Executive Director of SCS.

There are days when I am traveling, days when I spend hours in front of my computer because of a looming deadline, and days when I am on the phone  / email / Skype most of the day dealing with a crisis. However, a typical day is something like the following on Monday-Thursday. Friday is different, as I explain below. On the average Monday-Thursday, I wake up early and have a quick breakfast before running out of the house to get my train. My work day starts as soon as I sit down on the train. I look at the to-do list that I have written the night before, and take stock of the whole state of the organization and figure out if there is anything crucial that I am forgetting to do. I also catch up on email during this time. Emails may be from members, directors, officers, committee members. At the moment, I have multiple email threads with President Joe Farrell in any given day. For his sake, I hope things will calm down a bit soon.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 03/14/2018 - 4:30pm by Ayelet Haimson Lushkov.

The deadline for the SCS's Ludwig Koenen Fellowship for Training in Papyrology is March 28th, 2018.

The competition is open to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and untenured faculty. Applicants must be SCS members, and the selection committee will make awards of at least $600 but no more than $1,800.  The application should consist of:

  • One-page single-spaced typed narrative description of the training to be undertaken and the funding amount requested.
  • Current curriculum vitae.
  • One letter of recommendation from someone who can address the importance of the training in papyrology for furthering your current research.
  • A list of any other sources of funding applied for with amounts requested.

Applications must be submitted as e-mail attachments to Executive Director Helen Cullyer at


View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 03/14/2018 - 12:24pm by Erik Shell.

HIPPOCRATES AND HIS MEDICAL SCHOOL: Tracing the roots of Bioethics back to the ancient Philosophers -Physicians

Ancient Olympia and Zacharo, Greece
July 29th-31st, 2018

Call for Abstracts and Papers

Hippocrates is most remembered today for his famous Oath, which set high ethical standards for the practice of medicine. The congress invites scientists, scholars and researchers to discuss Hippocrates’ revolutionary foundation in a multidisciplinary way and/or present relevant workshops.

We welcome submissions from a wide range of disciplines, including bioethics, biotechnology, politics, health and life sciences, law and philosophy as well as philosophy and fine arts, and/or other relevant disciplines and fields. Comparative studies (submissions) on the ancient Philosophers-Physicians before and after Hippocrates will be highly appreciated.

The conference aims at providing a platform for in-depth analysis and discussion of all above related areas.

Suggested Thematic Units:

  • Hippocrates Medical School applications
  • Ancient Philosophers –Physicians background
  • Bioethics
  • Fine arts therapeutic impact


April 30, 2018:  Abstract is due (300-500 words)

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 03/12/2018 - 9:54am by Erik Shell.

Authors: Celia E. Schultz (University of Michigan), Carole E. Newlands (University of Colorado), Ruth R. Caston (University of Michigan)

One night over dinner at the SCS in Toronto (2017), conversation turned to one of the more frustrating parts of standard graduate programs in Classics: the surveys of Greek and Latin literature. Students see these courses as great hurdles to leap over, and faculty (well, at least we) felt that their necessarily selective approach is undesireable and that the courses cannot possibly do justice to all the important goals set for them: improving students’ command of the languages and their speed in reading, preparing students for exams, giving students a sense of the chronological development of the classical literary tradition, and introducing them to important trends in scholarship.  Perhaps spurred on by the wine, we decided to see if anyone else felt the same way and to see if we could get a conversation started about how to improve the experience of survey for everyone. 

View full article. | Posted in on Sun, 03/11/2018 - 7:16pm by Celia Schultz.

The deadline for submitting:

  • All proposals for panels, workshops, seminars, and roundtable discussions.
  • Reports from organizers of committee, organizer-refereed, and affiliated group panels who have issued their own CFPs.
  • Proposals for organizer-refereed panels for 2020.
  • Applications for new affiliated group charters and for renewals of current charters.

is April 9th, one month from today. Individual abstracts are due April 25th.

Anyone hoping to submit an abstract or another proposal can do so on our program submission website.


(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 03/08/2018 - 8:40am by Erik Shell.
Terracotta plaque with King Oinomaos and his charioteer, 27 B.C.–A.D. 68. Terracotta. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fletcher Fund, 26.60.31. Licensed under CC BY 1.0.

In the thirteen years I have been active as an independent scholar, I have learned that the independent scholar is in effect the mirror of an independent scholarly readership composed of individuals who are dedicated consumers of scholastic literature without being either presently matriculated students or academics themselves. I have come to believe that we cannot speak of the genuine flourishing of independent scholarship without taking this into account.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 03/07/2018 - 5:09pm by Edward P. Butler.


Latest Stories

Awards and Fellowships
We're pleased to announce this year's winners of the following SCS Awards:
SCS Announcements
The Harvard Classics Department, Harvard Classics Club, and Office for hte Ar
Calls for Papers
SCS Announcements

© 2017, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy