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Call for papers: Human Crime and Divine Punishment in Ancient Didactic poetry

Trinity College Dublin, 10-11 March 2022

As has long been observed, ancient Didactic poetry is not merely a vehicle to convey technical information and instruction. Justice and the place of humanity in the cosmos are already central concerns of Hesiod’s Works and Days, which attributes the harsh realities of agricultural life to a history of transgression, moral decline, and punishment. Similar questions continue to fascinate his didactic successors, who not only develop Hesiodic material, for instance in the departure of Justice from Earth in Aratus’ Phaenomena, but also explore other manifestations of divine intervention, such as through myths of metamorphosis and catasterism. In some didactic poems, such as Virgil’s Georgics or Oppian’s Halieutica, the pursuit of their subject matter itself poses the risk of violating ethical norms or overstepping mortal boundaries.

This online conference aims to explore the moral and religious dimensions of Didactic poetry from a diachronic perspective, from the archaic period to late antiquity, in both the Greek and Roman world. We welcome proposals addressing, but not limited to, the following issues and topics:

  • In what way does the didactic poet correlate the features of the natural world or the condition of human existence to the concept of divinity?
  • How is the notion of theodicy related to the intended didactic outcome of the poem?
  • What constitute moral and religious transgressions in didactic poetry?
  • How does the didactic teacher mediate between the human and divine realms?
  • How do Hellenistic kingship and Roman imperial rule inform the portrayal of divine justice and vice versa?
  • How are ethical concerns reflected in didactic poems that lack a conspicuous divine apparatus?
  • Can we identify uniquely didactic worldviews in our extant corpus?

Abstracts of a maximum of 300 words, suitable for a 20-minute presentation, should be submitted to by 31 August 2021. Please also include your current affiliation in the email. Acceptance of your paper will be communicated by 15 September.

Confirmed speakers: Stratis Kyriakidis, Emily Kneebone, Floris Overduin, Athanassios Vergados, Pamela Zinn.

Please note that this event will be held over Zoom, regardless of whether measures restricting travel and maintaining social distancing have been lifted when the conference takes place.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Sean McGrath ( or George Prekas (

With best wishes,

The organising committee

Monica Gale

Sean McGrath

George Prekas