Nondum Arabes Seresque rogant: Classics Looks East

By Kathleen Coleman, Harvard University

This paper was delivered as part of "The Future of Classical Education: A Dialogue," a panel organized by the SCS Program Committee at the 147th annual meeting of the SCS in San Francisco, January 8, 2016.

The fourth book of the Siluae opens with a poem to mark the inauguration of Domitian’s seventeenth consulship in 95 CE. This is too important an occasion for a mere mortal to commemorate. So Statius gives the microphone to the god Janus, who hogs the discourse for more than half the poem (27 lines out of a total of 47). Among many other tributes, the god opens by addressing the emperor as magne parens mundi and declaring that Rome has longed to see him permanently gracing Janus’ own month of January; he imagines Minerva herself weaving Domitian’s consular toga; he invokes the help of Roma and Vetustas in reviewing all the precedents for such a glittering incumbent of the consulship—and naturally finds them all wanting; he dares to compare Domitian with Augustus, to the detriment (of course) of the latter; and finally, after a breathless series of rhetorical exclamation marks, he predicts future triumphs—as long as Domitian will not eschew them—and ends in graceful ring-composition with a concluding calendrical reference, claiming that the ten months that are not yet named after the emperor (September had already been renamed Germanicus and October Domitianus) want a share in his nomenclature (Silu. 4.1.39–43, trans. Coleman):

mille tropaea feres—tantum permitte triumphos.

restat Bactra nouis, restat Babylona tributis

frenari; nondum in gremio Iouis Indica laurus,

nondum Arabes Seresque rogant, nondum omnis honorem

annus habet, cupiuntque decem tua nomina menses.

You will carry off a thousand trophies—only allow the triumphs. Bactra remains to be curbed with unfamiliar tribute, Babylon too remains; not yet do the laurels of India rest in Jupiter’s lap, nor yet do the Arabs and Chinese file petitions, nor yet is the whole year honoured, and ten months desire a name from you.

Here Statius, using rogare in a bold elliptical construction, imagines that sooner or later the Arabs and the Chinese will sue for the benefits of Roman rule. This, obviously, is a scenario designed to massage Domitian’s imperialist ego, although the reality was undoubtedly somewhat different: Tiridates may have come to Rome to be crowned king of Armenia, but even an emperor as impractical as Nero did not, apparently, dream of colonizing the Far East. Trade between Rome and the Orient was of mutual benefit; military and ideological conquest was not on the agenda.

"Alexander Visits the Sage Plato in his Mountain Cave" (detail), Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi (1597-98). Photo: © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Contact and Comparison

Today the ancient Mediterranean world, as recreated in our contemporary classrooms, is once more looking east, towards a mutually satisfying symbiosis. I am going to look at this very briefly from two perspectives, and I will stress at the outset that they are not necessarily related. One is the burgeoning interest in combining research on the ancient Mediterranean world and the contemporary cultures of the Orient (effectively the period of the Warring States and Early Empire, from the fifth century BCE to the third century CE), whether by the study of (indirect) contact between the two or comparison of independent features and institutions. The most significant—and tantalizing—items of evidence for contact between the two worlds are the late Roman coins from the eastern Empire that have been found in northern China, which today number at least 100. Astoundingly, at least 47 of these have been shown to be imitations, perhaps created not as currency but, rather, to accompany the corpse in the afterlife. A recent compendium of the evidence, including nearly eight pages of bibliography (in which all Chinese titles are helpfully accompanied by English translations), is a major step forward in bringing this material to the attention of scholars in the West (Li 2015).

As courses in “World History” enter the curricula in our colleges and universities, the seeds for comparative studies are being sown, fertilized by textbooks such as The Earth and its Peoples: A Global History, first published in 2005 and now in its sixth edition, which contains a chapter comparing the Roman Empire with Qin and Han China (Bulliet, Crossley, Headrick, Hirsch, Johnson, and Northrup 2015). A brief search on the Internet, conducted for me by Matthew DeShaw, Harvard Class of 2018, has turned up eight courses at US institutions comparing Rome and China, with or without the inclusion of Greece. A recent research project funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung, “‘Empire’ and ‘World’: Constructions of the ‘Self’ and the ‘Other’ in the Historical Discourse of Ancient Empires. Rome and Ancient China as Examples,” has yielded a volume with an interesting comparative approach: paired papers tackle a common topic from the point of view of each author’s own discipline, so that the comparative element is to be deduced by the reader rather than articulated in detail by the authors themselves (Mutschler and Mittag 2008; Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens 2008; Schneider 2008). This relieves the authors of articulating comparisons that they are not competent to make.

The other perspective is the growing interest in the Mediterranean world among scholars and students in the Far East, chiefly China, Korea, and Japan—an interest that is by no means restricted to comparative studies. This interest goes back a long way, and is currently the topic of a research project, “The Reception of Greek and Roman Culture in East Asia,” based at the Freie Universität in Berlin under the direction of Professor Almut-Barbara Renger. As far back as 1841, a Latin-Chinese lexicon was published (Gonçalves 1892 [1841]), and even further back the Humanist Giovanni Pietro Maffei included a book of Chinese ethnography in his sixteen-volume Historiae Indicae, based on Jesuit missionary sources (Maffei 1752 [1588]). Indeed, Jesuit accounts in Latin are primary sources for such events as the Japanese-Korean War of 1592 (Ahn 2015), and are therefore a major focus of interest for historians of East Asia in the early modern period and an important impetus for teaching Latin in East Asian institutions.

Statius’ brief reference to the Arabs and the Chinese (the Seres, “Silk People”) makes one long to know what those names conjured up for him. Were they just that, simply names, or did they come with associations, the smell of exotic spices from the markets of his native Naples or the texture of silk cushions at the dinner party he attended in the Domus Flavia? In recent decades, classical scholarship has produced some important studies on ancient perceptions of, and contact with, foreign peoples: Edith Hall on the construction of foreigners in Greek tragedy (Hall 1989) or Grant Parker on Roman views of India, to name only two (Parker 2008). This interest has recently taken a comparative turn, contrasting ancient Chinese views of the “other” with views from ancient societies in the Middle East and the West (Schaberg 1999; Poo 2005; Pirazolli-t’Serstevens 2008; Kim 2009). Comparative studies instantly raise a burning question—probably the burning question of my inquiry: access to the sources. Learning Arabic and Chinese alongside Greek and Latin is a tall order that I will come to in the second part of this paper. Indeed, Statius’ prediction offers me the opportunity to talk about the opportunities for combining the study of Greek and Latin with Arabic as well—a very fruitful area, especially for the reconstruction of classical texts surviving only in Arabic translation—but here I shall focus on the Seres and leave the Arabes for another occasion.

Rome and China

So far only one comprehensive edition of Chinese sources in English translation has come to my attention (Leslie and Gardiner 1996). The title, The Roman Empire in Chinese Sources, is in fact slightly misleading, since the volume also includes Roman sources on China and the Chinese, which the authors, being sinologists, have relied on the help of classical colleagues to collect. The sources are rigorously categorized (animals, plants, etc.) and excerpted down to very fine details, which makes it less easy to assess their context, and there is perhaps less help in identifying them than a classicist would need; but this is at least a starting point, and there are useful concordances, for example of ancient place names, themselves a challenge for identification. The mysterious Ta-Ch’in of the Chinese sources has not even been definitively identified, although Leslie and Gardiner argue that it must be the Roman Empire. The city represented in the Chinese sources as A-li-san is agreed to be Alexandria, but An-ku, for instance, could be either Antioch or Constantinople. These disputes illustrate how hard it is to interpret the Chinese sources. The Barrington Atlas does, of course, have to deal with topographical uncertainty all the time, but not even being sure whether a term means the Roman Empire or some other entity shows the scale of the problem.

Methodological difficulties are particularly acute, because we take for granted patterns of western thought in Greco-Roman sources. One of the most prominent contributors to comparative Greco-Roman and Chinese studies is the historian of science, Geoffrey Lloyd, who has reflected in depth on these problems (Lloyd 1994). While aware of the trap of simplistic polarities, Lloyd and others have identified a competitive and antagonistic strand in ancient Greek thinking, as opposed to a more harmonious approach in ancient Chinese thought, a difference that is perhaps related to the cultural context: democracy in Greecce, monarchy in China. The most useful analysis of current attempts to approach comparative studies of ancient China, Greece, and Rome with maximum finesse and moral integrity is an article by Jeremy Tanner in JHS, and I would recommend anyone interested in this topic to start there (Tanner 2009).

One of the biggest dangers, obviously, is that from 35,000 feet above sea level everything looks the same, but at ground level similarities may be equally misleading, because a close-up view of tiny details divorces them from their broader context. But even if comparative studies run the risk of being methodologically flawed, it is nonetheless salutary for scholars to try to see their discipline and the subjects of their study from an outside perspective. To use Tanner’s term, this “deparochializes” Classics; even given its interdisciplinary nature, Classics, like any other discipline, can put its blinkers on. A quick flip through Tanner’s bibliography gives a sense of the vast range of comparative topics that are already being addressed. To whet your appetite, here are a few very selective examples of recent work, including some that have appeared since Tanner published his article: Geoffrey Lloyd, whose bibliography is enormous, has done seminal work on science and causation, divination, and similar topics (Lloyd 1999; Lloyd 2002; Lloyd and Sivin 2002); comparative work on divination has now yielded a book-length study (Raphals 2014); and comparative work on ancient science and philosophy has brought to fruition a study of rational thinking in ancient Greece and China (Reding 2004).

From Thorley’s article examining the conditions that favored the silk trade in the reign of Trajan (Thorley 1971), via a massive overview of Roman trade with the East (Raschke 1978), to Walter Scheidel’s work on monetary systems (Scheidel 2009), the ancient economy is a major field, with major surprises: Thorley argues that the Romans sold back to the Chinese their silk woven into textiles that the Chinese themselves did not have the technology to produce. Comparative studies of rhetoric and literature rely especially heavily on joint mastery of the ancient languages in East and West (Lu 1998; Beecroft 2010; Denecke 2014). A category that could loosely be termed “communal life” embraces some of the most radical and intriguing differences between ancient East and West: public space, for instance, has been shown to be far more democratically structured in Rome than the hierarchically controlled spaces of public ceremonies under the Han dynasty (Schneider 2008; Lewis 2015); gender relations have been inferred from a study of festivals and feasting in Greece and China (Zhou 2010); Aristotle and Confucius are usefully contrasted in a study of approaches to morality (Sim 2007); and Roman and Chinese cults of the dead show that in both societies transmission of property gradually replaces kinship ties in fixing responsibility for tending to the cult of the dead (Evans 1985). And so on. Entire series are now being established to accommodate comparative studies (Lackner and Chardonnens 2014; Pape, Preuschoff, Wei, and Zhao 2014; King 2015).

The Study of the Greco-Roman Classics in Asia

I would now like to turn to the second part of my enquiry, the burgeoning interest in Greco-Roman studies in the Far East. The SCS is a member of the Internationale Thesaurus-Kommission that publishes the monumental Thesaurus Linguae Latinae; so is the Japan Academy, and the Introduction to that complex and highly valuable lexicon is available in Japanese, published by the Academy in Tokyo in 1989. Just as we, the SCS, send a Fellow every year to learn the discipline of lexicography and write articles for the lexicon, so Japan sends a Fellow also, although not as regularly. Three national universities have Departments of Classics (that is, philology and literature): Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagoya. But at many national and private universities, elementary Latin and/or Greek are taught as part of the liberal arts curriculum, and Ancient History and Ancient Philosophy are taught at most institutions that have Departments of History and/or Philosophy, and these are sometimes taught in the liberal arts curriculum, too. The Classical Society of Japan covers Greek and Latin Literature, Ancient Philosophy, and Ancient History (including Art History), and has approximately 450 members, including a few non-Japanese who teach Classics at Japanese institutions. 

At Tokyo University, the entrance exam for the postgraduate course in Classics requires candidates to translate Greek and Latin passages into Japanese without a dictionary. But this is exceptional. Most undergraduate students writing theses on Ancient History or Philosophy use translated texts. Plenty of Greek and Latin texts have been translated into Japanese, especially since Kyoto University Press launched a big translation project in 1997, Seiyo Koten Sosho (“Library of Western Classics”). This is equivalent to a Japanese “Loeb” (site in Japanese). So far, the series comprises 118 volumes, covering approximately 40 Greek and Latin authors, including the first volume of what will be a translation of the complete letters of Libanios. At the postgraduate level, many students read Greek and Latin texts in the original. But the ancient languages remain the biggest barrier to advanced work in Classics in Japan. Students do not start to learn elementary Greek and/or Latin until college, and of course the linguistic structure of Japanese is totally different from that of the Western languages.

As so often, entering the discipline often depends upon the dedication and encouragement of a single mentor; as teachers, we need to remember that. A scholar I met at a conference in Beijing two years ago, Professor Atsuko Gotoh, studied western history as an undergraduate and took elementary Latin in the liberal arts curriculum out of curiosity. Her tutor, the late Professor Toru Yuge, got her interested in the later Roman Empire, and hearing that four out of twelve undergraduates in the second year had learned elementary Latin, offered a class on the letters of the Younger Pliny in Latin. It was so intriguing to read historical sources in the original language that three of the four students became professional Roman historians. One of Professor Gotoh’s colleagues, Professor Sumio Takabatake, whom I also met in Beijing, has published statistics for the distribution of articles published by ancient historians in Japan (Appendix). As you can see, the Roman figures continue to climb slowly, although overall there has been a slight decline since the 1990s, largely due to reduced coverage in Greek history; when Greek is taken together with Hellenistic, the balance between Greek and Roman topics is currently about even (Takabatake 2013). In addition, one needs to add the work being done by Japanese archaeologists, such as the excavation of the site at Somma Vesuviana on the Bay of Naples, which is a Japanese dig (Matsuda 2011).

The conference I attended in Beijing was the Tenth Japan–Korea–China Symposium on Ancient European History, organized by Professor Yan Shaoxiang at Capital Normal University. There were 21 papers, five given by westerners and the rest by Japanese, Korean, and Chinese scholars. Apart from one paper on “Ancient Sources and Ancient World History” and one (by the German scholar Fritz-Heiner Mutschler, who has taught for many years in China) on “Political Organization and Human Conduct in Greco-Roman and Ancient Chinese Historiography,” the rest were on strictly Greco-Roman topics, indistinguishable, in fact, from the range that one sees at a meeting like ours here in San Francisco. The Symposium was originally confined to Japan and Korea; only latterly had China become involved. My statistics for Greco-Roman studies in China are a bit imprecise, but at least ten of the top universities in China teach Greek and/or Latin. In three of these, western scholars have been hired to do the teaching. Greek philosophy is quite popular, but—as often in the US—ancient philolosphy is taught in Philosophy Departments and ancient history in Ancient History Departments, and ancient literature is often taught in Departments of Chinese Language. So the study of the Greco-Roman world is rather Balkanized.

There are numerous translations of the classics into Chinese; some authors, like Plato and Aristotle, have been translated more than once. Most of the students, especially those specializing in ancient history, literature, and philosophy, can read English. Some of them can also read German and French. Only those who plan to be classical scholars read in the original Greek and Latin. Some Chinese scholars read Greek, Latin, German, French, and Italian, besides English. Some of them were trained in European and American universities and are qualified scholars doing advanced research. None, as far as I know, pursues Classical Archaeology as a discipline, although I have recently discovered that a graduate student at Emory, An Jiang, who did his undergraduate studies in China and is currently a Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, has just published an article about a Laconian cup in the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory (Jiang 2016).

One of the Korean scholars at the conference in Beijing, Professor Jaewon Ahn of Seoul National University, has assembled useful statistics pertaining to the teaching of Classics in Korea (Ahn [forthcoming]). Latin is taught in at least ten universities, as well as at several theological seminaries. Three universities teach Greek. Since 1991 an interdisciplinary program in Western Classical Studies leading to the degree of MA and PhD has been offered at Seoul National University, but it is still customary for students to go abroad for graduate study, attracted by a far greater range of resources, both human and material. Over the course of their careers, many such students will contribute to the nation-wide effort to translate all the major texts from Antiquity into Korean. Emeritus Professor Byung-Hee Cheon laid the foundation for such a library over a period of forty years by translating works by Homer, Hesiod, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Menander, Aesop, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Casesar, Cicero, Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, as well as a few key works of scholarship (including Mommsen’s Römische Geschichte). His translations from Greek and Latin are based on the original text, rather than a version in Japanese or English, and in addition to performing a scholarly function, they have caught the imagination of the general public.

Three of the papers at the conference in Beijing were given by graduate students from Korea who were doing their doctorates at British universities. One of them, Kee-Hyun Ban, has just finished his PhD at King’s College London; his paper, an offshoot of his dissertation, was on Roman soldiers in the Greek East, focussing on soldiers in Petronius and Apuleius. The other two are both women: Sangduk Lee, currently pursuing a PhD also at King’s, spoke about the creation of Oropus outside Athens. Young-Chae Kim at Oxford reconstructed the Italian perspective on the post-Gracchan agrarian laws, 121–111 BCE. I recently sent the same questionnaire to all of them. First I asked what got them interested in the Greco-Roman world in the first place. Dr. Ban replied that he was attracted by the relative paucity of evidence and the room that this gives classicists for exercising their historical imagination. He also cited the practical motivation of the special relationship between South Korea and the US, which prompted him to learn about the Roman administration and army in order to understand the formation of the modern western superpowers. Ms. Lee had a somewhat similar reason, namely to learn about the history at the root of western civilization in order to understand the West; she added the chastening observation that seeing how little the West understands the East has reinforced her ambition. Young-Chae Kim was always interested in the past, and especially Rome, because contemporary sources still survive; I found it interesting that she said she was particularly drawn to the secular nature of Roman documentary sources.

In response to the question why each of these Korean students decided to pursue a PhD in the UK, beyond the fact that Korean professors encourage their students to do a further degree abroad, the answers were variable: the length to graduation is shorter than in the US; the dissertation is written in English; Britain is a traditional center of classical studies; it has premier archaeological collections; and it is closer to Italy than Korea (a point relevant to Ms. Kim’s work on the post-Gracchan agrarian laws). One of my three informants experienced severe funding problems, having insufficient savings to cover all the expenses; the other two were financed, respectively, by their parents or a big scholarship. The greatest challenges that they faced were either practical (cost of living or separation from family) or else, in Ms. Kim’s case, “learning the languages, learning the languages, learning the languages.” This triple repetition bears emphasis; I will return to it. My final question was what they gained from a PhD in the UK that they couldn’t have gained in Korea, and the answer was better job-prospects in a university back in Korea, specifically because of the excellence of British research librarires (both in Britain and abroad, for instance at the British School at Rome) and the stimulation of having an enormous network of scholars with whom to exchange ideas. Many of you have probably heard similar statements from graduate students from Asia (and elsewhere) doing their PhD at US institutions.

The Problem of Languages

I would now like to return to the issue that recurred in so many of my conversations with the scholars I met in Beijing—the difficulty of mastering the ancient languages—and set it beside the difficulty for western scholars trying to learn the oriental languages. To do so, I asked one of our graduate students, James Zainaldin, who started Chinese this past summer and is now in the intermediate course, to describe his experience. His goal in learning Chinese is twofold, mapping directly on to the two halves of my enquiry in this paper. One goal is the comparative purpose, working directly with Chinese texts to test which features of the discourse and development of Greco-Roman knowledge traditions are uniquely related to the political, social, and intellectual conditions of the Mediterranean world, and which are, rather, universal and, thus, of wider “anthropological” significance. The other goal is that James wants to be able to establish contacts and communicate with scholars of the western classics who work in China, and to be able to contribute to the development of that international community.

In a nutshell, James pointed out to me that Chinese is easier than the classical languages in that there are no verb conjugations; no noun declensions; no singular and plural forms of nouns; no noun genders; no inflection of adjectives; in sum, no requirements for inflected agreement between nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Sentence order is typically very strict. But Chinese is much harder in respect of the difficult tonal system in speaking; a variety of difficult consonants and vowels; challenging and sometimes idiomatic use of grammatical particles in lieu of inflected forms; a character-based writing system with a large number of intricate characters, many of which are different in simplified and traditional forms. In James’s estimation, the most challenging aspect of learning Chinese is the fact that its unique difficulties—the tones and characters—do not admit of methodical solutions. While students learn ways of mitigating the inflectional and grammatical complexity of Greek and Latin through analyzing the form and grammatical function of individual words, clauses, and sentences, when it comes to learning Chinese characters, on the other hand, there is no comparable “method” except constant revision and rewriting. Visually, the characters often seem very similar, and there are few clues to the precise meaning or pronunciation of a character simply from its appearance, although familiarity with “radicals,” the strokes that are the building blocks of characters, affords some small help. Similar difficulties apply to the tones. And, as if that weren’t enough, the language of pre-modern and archaic Chinese texts behaves differently from modern Chinese and comes with its own difficulties, entailing the necessity for students to pursue a dedicated reading course (offered at some elite institutions) alongside a traditional Chinese language course. The investment of time becomes simply overwhelming.

So it seems to me that if we want to do serious comparative work between ancient cultures in East and West, and if we want to facilitate serious work on any aspect of Greco-Roman studies in the Far East, we need to think hard about ways to make it possible for the next generation to acquire the relevant languages. Comparative studies undoubtedly carry potential, and so our students need to acquire Arabic and Chinese alongside Hittite and German, but it is particularly the need for native speakers of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to learn Greek and Latin that I think we should focus on, because if even a tiny fraction of the rising generation of undergraduates in China, Korea, and Japan become interested in Greece and Rome, Classics will survive. We all have heritage speakers of these languages among the undergraduates in our colleges. They all have some command of English. We need to confront them with the challenge and benefits of learning Greek and Latin, and the more clearly we understand the difficulties—the corollary of the difficulties that James Zainaldin describes in learning Chinese—the more we can train our Greek and Latin teachers to appreciate those difficulties and give the students help in overcoming them.

Since delivering the original version of this paper, I have been alerted to an important initiative, Dickinson Classics Online, which was established in 2015 to assist Chinese students and scholars in reading Greek and Latin texts. The site already contains a Chinese version of the “Core Latin and Greek Vocabularies” accompanying the texts that are included in the series Dickinson College Commentaries, and there are plans to produce a reader in an aspect of Greek history, possibly focussing on democracy. Furthermore, Professor Jinyu Liu of DePauw University has been awarded a Chinese National Social Science Foundation Major Grant to lead a team of more than twelve scholars in four countries engaged in completing a Chinese translation of the entire works of Ovid, and in 2017 a conference celebrating the bimillennium of Ovid’s death will be held in Shanghai, co-sponsored by the Chinese National Social Science Foundation, Shanghai Normal University, and Dickinson College. As the Call for Papers says, “Latin literature is gaining momentum [in China] at a speed faster than one could have imagined a generation ago.” This is a καιρός moment for Classics. A trenchant quotation from the article by Jeremy Tanner that I described at the beginning will provide an apposite conclusion to my remarks (Tanner 2009: 105): “The encounter of Western cultures and societies with a rising China will be one of the most pressing issues for the humanities and social sciences in this new millennium.” As Classicists, we need to take up this gauntlet, right away.


Statistics for Japanese Articles on Greco-Roman Topics, after Takabatake 2013









Greek history









Hellenistic history









Roman history





























Ahn, Jaewon. 2015. “Another Perspective on the ‘Bellum Corai’ (Japanese-Korean War of 1592).” Horizons: Seoul Journal of Humanities 6.1: 111–129.

Ahn, Jaewon [forthcoming]. “A Brief Report on Classical Scholarship in Korea, Focusing on Literature.” In Almut-Barbara Renger, ed. Greek and Roman Culture in East Asia: Transfer and Reception. Leiden: Brill.

Beecroft, Alexander. 2010. Authorship and Cultural Identity in Early Greece and China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bulliet, Richard W., Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, and David Northrup. 2015. The Earth and its Peoples: A Global History.6 Independence, KY: Cengage Learning.

Denecke, Wiebke. 2014. Classical World Literatures: Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Comparisons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Evans, John Karl. 1985. “The Cult of the Dead in Ancient Rome and Modern China: A Comparative Analysis.” Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 25: 119–151.

Gonçalves, Joaquim Affonso. 1892 [1841]. Lexicon magnum: latino-sinicum ostendens etymologiam, prosodiam et constructionem vocabulorum. Beijing: Xishiku tian zhu tang (orig. publ. 1841).

Hall, Edith. 1989. Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jiang, An. 2016. “Karneia and Kitharoidos: Rereading a Laconian Cup in the Michael C. Carlos Museum.” In Thomas H. Carpenter, Elizabeth Langridge-Noti, and Mark D. Stansbury-O’Donnell, eds. The Consumers’ Choice: Uses of Greek Figure-Decorated Pottery (Boston: Archaeological Institute of America), 23–40.

Kim, Hyun Jin. 2009. Ethnicity and Foreigners in Ancient Greece and China. London: Duckworth.

King, R. A. H. ed. 2015. The Good Life and Conceptions of Life in Early China and Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Chinese–Western Discourse, Vol. 3. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Lackner, Michael, and Nikola Chardonnens, eds. 2014. Polyphony Embodied: Freedom and Fate in Gao Xingjian’s Writings. Chinese–Western Discourse, Vol. 1. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Leslie, D. D., and K. H. J. Gardiner. 1996. The Roman Empire in Chinese Sources. Rome: Bardi.

Lewis, Mark Edward. 2015. “Public Spaces in Cities in the Roman and Han Empires.” In Walter Scheidel, ed. State Power in Ancient China and Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 204–229.

Li, Qiang. 2015. “Roman Coins Discovered in China and their Research.” Eirene 15: 279–299.

 Lloyd, G. E. R. 1994. “Methodological Issues in the Comparison of East and West.” In Hiroyuki Numata and Shigeru Kawada, eds. Is it Possible to Compare East and West? Dialogues with G. E. R. Lloyd (Tokyo: Pedilavium), 23–36.

Lloyd, G. E. R. 1999. “Divination: Traditions and Controversies, Chinese and Greek.” Extrême-Orient. Extrême-Occident 21: 155–165.

Lloyd, G. E. R. 2002. The Ambitions of Curiosity: Understanding the World in Ancient Greece and China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lloyd, Geoffrey, and Nathan Sivin. 2002. The Way and the Word: Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Lu, Xing. 1998. Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century, B.C.E.: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

Maffei, Giovanni Pietro. 1752 [1588]. Historiarum Indicarum Libri XVI. Vienna: Bernardi (orig. publ. 1588).

Matsuda, Akira. 2011. “Archaeology by the (Far) East in the West: What Do Local People Think If Japanese Archaeologists Excavate the ‘Villa of Augustus’ in Italy?” In Katsuyuki Okamura and Akira Matsuda, eds. New Perspectives in Global Public Archaeology (New York: Springer), 167–181.

Mutschler, Fritz-Heiner, and Achim Mittag, eds. 2008. Conceiving the Empire: China and Rome Compared. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pape, Walter, Susanne Preuschoff, Yuging Wei, and Him Zhao, eds. 2014. China und Europa: Sprache und Kultur, Werte und Recht. Chinese–Western Discourse, Vol. 2. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Parker, Grant. 2008. The Making of Roman India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, Michèle. 2008. “Imperial Aura and the Image of the Other in Han Art.” In Mutschler and Mittag 2008: 299–317.

Poo, Mu-chou. 2005. Enemies of Civilization: Attitudes towards Foreigners in Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Raphals, Lisa. 2014. Divination and Prediction in Early China and Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Raschke, Manfred G. 1978. “New Studies in Roman Commerce with the East.” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II 9.2: 604–1361.

Reding, Jean-Paul. 2004. Comparative Essays in Early Greek and Chinese Rational Thinking. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Schaberg, David. 1999. “Travel, Geography, and the Imperial Imagination in Fifth-Century Athens and Han China.” Comparative Literature 51.2: 152–191.

Scheidel, Walter. 2009. “The Monetary Systems of the Han and Roman Empires.” In Walter Scheidel, ed. Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 137–207.

Schneider, Rolf Michael. 2008. “Image and Empire: The Shaping of Augustan Rome.” In Mutschler and Mittag 2008: 269–298.

Sim, May. 2007. Remastering Morals with Aristotle and Confucius. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Takabatake, Sumio. 2013. “A History of the Historical Studies of Ancient Greece and Rome in Postwar Japan.” Bulletin of the Institute of Human Sciences, Tokyo University 15: 31–49.

Tanner, Jeremy. 2009. “Ancient Greece, Early China: Sino-Hellenic Studies and Comparative Approaches to the Classical World: A Review Article.” Journal of Hellenic Studies 129: 89–109.

Thorley, J. 1971. “The Silk Trade between China and the Roman Empire at Its Height, circa A.D. 90–130.” Greece & Rome2 18.1: 71–80.

Zhou, Yiqun. 2010. Festivals, Feasts, and Gender Relations in Ancient China and Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Image: "Alexander Visits the Sage Plato in his Mountain Cave" (detail), Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi (1597-98). Photo: © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


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 Soldiers carrying banners depicting Julius Caesar's triumphant military exploits, from The Triumph of Julius Caesar

Latinists enjoy ready access to online texts collected under names like Perseus, PHI, and the Latin Library, collections which are now as much a fixture of scholarly workflows as OCTs, Teubners, and Loebs. Descriptive data and statistics about these texts are harder to find. How many times does Lucretius use the future imperative? How many ablatives absolute are there in Cicero’s De amicitia? Where does ensis appear in Caesar’s writings? (Answers at the end of this post.) Opera Latina is a search interface from the Laboratoire d’Analyse Statistique des Langues Anciennes (LASLA) at the University of Liège that draws on over five decades of linguistic research on Latin literature to return the sort of descriptive details posed in the questions above. The database currently includes 154 works from 19 authors: Caesar, Cato, Catullus, Cicero, Horace, Juvenal, Lucretius, Ovid, Persius, Petronius, Plautus, Pliny the Younger, Propertius, Quintus Curtius Rufus, Sallust, Seneca the Younger, Tactius, Tibullus, and Vergil.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/21/2017 - 12:00am by Patrick J. Burns.

Lyric and the Sacred, 27 June – July 1 2018, Spetses, Greece

Lucia Athanassaki (University of Crete) and André Lardinois (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen) announce the 5th Open Conference which they are co-organizing on behalf of the Network for the Study of Archaic and Classical Greek Song (

The conference will take place on the island of Spetses in Greece from June 27th to July 1st 2018. The topic of the conference is ‘Lyric and the Sacred’.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 08/18/2017 - 10:38am by Erik Shell.

Call for Papers:

Wilderness, Frontiers, and New Worlds in Antiquity

Biennial Classics Graduate Student Conference

New York University

November 4, 2017

Keynote: Prof. Emily Greenwood (Yale University) "Classics and the Travelers' Tool Kit: literature on ancient and modern frontiers"

Unfamiliar, unexplored, and unsettled places captivated the ancient imagination and were of pressing importance not only to poets and prose writers of every genre, but also to merchants, militaries, and governing bodies enticed by the prospects of new sites for trading, settling, and conquering. There has been a swell of critical interest recently in the topics of borders and boundaries in the ancient world, as part of the increased scholarly attention to space over the past few decades. Our conference is interested in spaces beyond borders, and we aim to explore ancient encounters with wilderness, frontiers, and unknown lands.

Possible topics include:

•   Visual representations of wilderness and extreme environments

•   Representations in ancient texts of the landscape, weather, and human adaptation in unexplored lands

•   Narrations and theorizations of journeys undersea, into the sky, or below the earth

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 08/18/2017 - 10:34am by Erik Shell.

Call for Papers for the 2018 Symposium Cumanum:
rerum cognoscere causas: Learning in the Late Republic and the Augustan Age

June 26–30, 2018

Co-Directors: T. H. M. Gellar-Goad (Wake Forest University) and Christopher B. Polt (Boston College)
Confirmed speakers: Barbara Weiden Boyd, Monica R. Gale, Steven J. Green, Alison Keith, James J. O'Hara, and Alessandro Schiesaro

The Vergilian Society invites proposals for papers for the 2018 Symposium Cumanum at the Villa Vergiliana in Cuma, Italy.

Learning and teaching were fundamental to Roman literature from the start: Livius Andronicus, the primus auctor of Latin letters, was first a teacher whose pedagogic experiences profoundly shaped his own writing (Feeney, Beyond Greek). Instruction becomes a special interest in the culture and literature of the late Republic and Augustan periods, when attitudes towards education find complex, fluid, and multivalent expressions (Bloomer, The School of Rome). This symposium aims to interrogate the varied, shifting roles that teaching and learning play in this pivotal period, especially with reference to the literary milieu in which Vergil was educated and to which he contributed.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 08/15/2017 - 3:00pm by Erik Shell.
McKeldin Library


Scott Jaschik from Inside Higher Ed has written a story about the statement the SCS board released last Fall.

"The statement notes that the ancient world was not monolithic and in fact was influenced by people of different regions and cultures."

You can read the full piece at Inside Higher Ed here, and read the board's original statement from last Fall here.


(Photo: "McKeldin Library, University of Maryland" by George Williams, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Tue, 08/15/2017 - 8:18am by Erik Shell.

Annual Ancient Philosophy Workshop

The Annual Ancient Philosophy Workshop (41st in the series inauguratedand periodically sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin) will be held February 23-24, 2018, at The University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. This workshop is sponsored by the UF Department of Philosophy in coordination with the UF Department of Classics, with support from the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere. Proposals are invited for papers on any problem, figure, or issue in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. Each paper will be allotted forty-five minutes for oral presentation and will be followed by open discussion.

To propose a paper, send a 1-page abstract of 300-500 words to under the subject heading “Workshop Proposal.” Please provide contact information in the email but no identifying info in the abstract itself. Proposals are due no later than Friday, December 1, 2017. Proposers will be notified of selections by Friday, December 15. Complete papers will be due to session chairs and respondents by Friday, January 26, 2018.

Proposals or questions to:


View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 08/14/2017 - 2:45pm by Erik Shell.

Humanities for All:

A National Survey of Public Engagement in the Humanities in Higher Education


The National Humanities Alliance Foundation is currently conducting a national study of public engagement in the humanities at institutions of higher education.

This national study surveys the range of ways that higher ed faculty, students, and administrators have connected with diverse communities through the humanities over the past decade (short abstract available here). We are especially interested in initiatives that have involved collaboration with the wide range of organizations that are also committed to the public humanities.

We are reaching out to ask for examples of projects that connect the humanities with the broader community.

If you have been involved with or know of any projects that fit this description, we would be grateful if you could please contact Daniel Fisher, Project Director (


This project has received generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 08/14/2017 - 9:36am by Erik Shell.

This article was originally published in Amphora 11.1. It has been edited slightly to adhere to current SCS blog conventions.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/14/2017 - 12:00am by Yongyi Li.

Olympiodorus of Alexandria: exegete, teacher, philosopher

Utrecht University (NL), 14-15 December 2017

Olympiodorus of Alexandria, who is often considered to have been the last leading, non-Christian philosopher of classical antiquity, has also been termed ‘the first classicist’ (Tarrant 1997). His place in the history of thought brings into focus issues of doctrinal difference and toleration, of the value of philosophical tradition, and of pedagogical concern for those coming of age in uncertain times. But there is more to Olympiodorus than the times in which he lived. His commentaries on Plato’s First Alcibiades, Gorgias and Phaedo, and on Aristotle’s Categories and Meteorology are now becoming better known and explored. Recent scholarship has also reopened the question of Olympiodorus’ philosophical calibre. There is reason enough, then, to try to present an all-round picture of Olympiodorus, as this conference intends to do.

Confirmed speakers include:
Bert van den Berg
Michael Griffin
Pauliina Remes
François Renaud
Anne Sheppard
Carlos Steel
Harold Tarrant
Cristina Viano

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 08/10/2017 - 8:21am by Erik Shell.

Please see the following important deadlines for SCS prizes and Annual Meeting Travel Stipend Awards:

Nominations for the Excellence in Precollegiate Teaching Awards are due by September 8.

Nominations for the Outreach Prize are due by September 18.

We are delighted that we will be able to offer a total of $21,000 in funding for graduate students and contingent faculty participating in the Annual Meeting next January.  Of this amount, $12,500 is designated for contingent faculty in accordance with the wishes of a generous donor.  If you are a graduate student or contingent faculty member presenting a paper, organizing a panel, roundtable discussion or workshop, or serving on a SCS committee, and if you will not receive travel funding from your academic institution, you are eligible for these funds.  

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 1:11pm by Helen Cullyer.


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