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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Languages of Ecology: Ancient and Early Modern Approaches to Nature

Colloquium at the Getty Research Institute
Getty Research Institute & Volkswagen Foundation
March 18, 2020 | Museum Lecture Hall
Organized by Jesús Muñoz Morcillo, GRI Volkswagen Foundation Fellow

Languages of Ecology: Ancient and Early Modern Approaches to Nature focuses on the origins, variety, and transformations of notions of ecology in antiquity and the early modern period.

The colloquium aims to initiate an interdisciplinar debate about epistemic and literary-based image production that led to popular, symbolic, and new scientific notions of ecology. Studies into the foundations and traditions of environmental thinking and ancient experiences of nature, including eco-critical attitudes, enable a better understanding of the different languages of ecology that emerged and co-existed during the early modern period and beyond.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Thu, 02/27/2020 - 9:02am by Erik Shell.


April 2-3, 2020, Marshall University

Call for papers

The inaugural Agamben and His Interlocutors Conference will take place April 2-3, 2020, on the Huntington, WV campus of Marshall University. Giorgio Agamben is a contemporary political philosopher whose scholarship has had a lasting impact on a wide variety of fields, from political theory to classics and anthropology. The conference is being organized by three Marshall University faculty: Professor Robin Conley Riner (Anthropology), Professor Christina Franzen (Classics), and Professor Jeffrey Powell (Philosophy). As is suggested by the conference title and its organizers, it will be an inherently interdisciplinary affair, drawing from the various interlocutors with whom Agamben has engaged.

Abstract submissions should be no longer than 250 words and are due via email to by March 16, 2020. Presenters will have an hour each for presentation and discussion. Abstracts will be accepted from undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.

Keynote speakers

  • Dr. Kevin Attell, Cornell University, English
  • Dr. Thomas Biggs, University of Georgia, Classics


Robin Riner

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Marshall University

One John Marshall Drive

Huntington, WV 25701

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 02/25/2020 - 3:16pm by Erik Shell.

Apply to be Nominated for a Whiting Foundation Public Engagement Fellowship or Seed Grant

Once again, the Whiting Foundation has invited the Society for Classical Studies to nominate four scholars for the Whiting Foundation Public Engagement Fellowships and Seed grants. SCS will be nominating two scholars selected last academic year, who have elected to use their nominations in this year’s application cycle. We are also issuing an open call for applications from which the Committee on Public Information and Media Relations will select two additional nominees.

Below you can read more about the fellowships and seed grants, and find guidelines for applying to SCS to be a nominee.

About the Whiting Public Engagement Programs:

These programs aim to celebrate and empower early-career humanities faculty who undertake ambitious, usually deeply collaborative projects to infuse the depth, historical richness, and nuance of the humanities into public life. The two programs are:

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 02/24/2020 - 9:51am by Helen Cullyer.

(Submitted by Mark Possanza)

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Wed, 02/19/2020 - 8:56am by Erik Shell.
Bellum ex altera parte: Social Status, Gender and Ethnicity in Ancient Warfare
(21st UNISA Classics Colloquium)
We are pleased to announce our first call for papers, inviting abstracts for the annual Unisa Classics Colloquium, to be held in Pretoria from 15 to 18 October 2020.
Ancient artists and writers focused heavily on the role of elite male citizens in their representations of warfare in the ancient world, and this was for the most part also the focus of scholarship on warfare up to the mid-20th century.  But an interest in ideologically excluded groups, often called the ‘other’ or the ‘subaltern’ in scholarship, gained ground in the second half of the 20th century, and in the last decade or two the subject of war itself is now being examined for information on groups that were not at the top of the social hierarchy (although from the 8th century BC to the 5th century CE the composition of these groups was certainly subject to fluctuation). Our theme this year therefore focuses on those who populated these categories within the context of warfare in the ancient world.
View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 02/19/2020 - 8:54am by Erik Shell.

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)

Saint John’s University
Collegeville, Minnesota  56321

Heckman Stipends, made possible by the A.A. Heckman Endowed Fund, are awarded semi-annually. Up to 10 stipends in amounts up to $2,000 are available each year. Funds may be applied toward travel to and from Collegeville, housing and meals at Saint John’s University, and costs related to duplication of HMML’s microfilm or digital resources (up to $250). The Stipend may be supplemented by other sources of funding but may not be held simultaneously with another HMML Stipend or Fellowship. Holders of the Stipend must wait at least two years before applying again.

The program is specifically intended to help scholars who have not yet established themselves professionally and whose research cannot progress satisfactorily without consulting materials to be found in the collections of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.

Applications must be submitted by March 15 for residencies between July and December of the same year, or by October 15 for residencies between January and June of the following year.

Applicants are asked to provide:

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 02/19/2020 - 8:51am by Erik Shell.

Call for Abstracts: The 2020 meeting of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies in Athens, Greece (June 10-14, 2020), held in conjunction with the American College of Greece.

The International Society for Neoplatonic Studies (ISNS) invites submissions of abstracts for the 2020 meeting in Athens, Greece (June 10-14, 2020).This year’s panels embrace a wide range of themes and topics in the Platonic tradition, spanning from antiquity to the modern period.

People may present in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, or Greek. Speakers presenting in a language other than English are encouraged to give printed copies of their papers.

All abstracts are due by February 24, 2020. Please submit abstracts (a maximum of one page) directly to the panel organizers’ emails, as listed on the official call for abstracts: Those presenting must be ISNS members before the meeting.

The ISNS also will be offering travel grants for students and early career scholars to attend this year’s meeting. More information about these awards can be found here:

For more information please visit the ISNS website:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 02/18/2020 - 11:23am by Erik Shell.

Judith Peller Hallett is Professor of Classics and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Emerita at the University of Maryland, College Park. Judy was born in Chicago, grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and earned her B.A. in Latin from Wellesley College in 1966. She received her M.A. in 1967 and her Ph.D. in Classical Philology in 1971, both from Harvard University. Her research focuses on women, the family, and sexuality in ancient Greece and Rome, particularly in Latin literature. She is also an expert on Classical education and reception in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her publications include Fathers and Daughters in Roman Society: Women and the Elite Family (1984) and a special edition of the journal The Classical World, entitled “Six North American Women Classicists,” with William M. Calder III (1996-1997). A lifelong feminist, she has edited or contributed to numerous collections that focus on women in the ancient world and in the discipline of Classics, such as Roman Sexualities (1997), the Blackwell Companion to Women in the Ancient World (2012), and Women Classical Scholars: Unsealing the Fountain from the Renaissance to Jacqueline de Romilly (2016).

CC: How did you come to Classics?

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 02/18/2020 - 6:10am by Claire Catenaccio.

Greek vases, with their distinctive red and black, are one of the most recognizable faces of ancient Greece. Their decorative scenes of deities, myth, and everyday life offer a beautiful and informative window into classical culture. With the Panoply Vase Animation Project we’re encouraging people to enjoy and learn about ancient vases and society by placing the artifacts center-stage in short, lively animations made from the vase-scenes themselves. The animations keep as close as possible to the original artwork, using the existing figures and decoration and drawing on existing iconography. But the figures can now move, and the animations explore the possibilities within the vase scenes: runners can sprint past, dice are thrown, and those poised to strike can use their weapons. The tone of the animations varies. The Cheat is a light-hearted romp; Hoplites! Greeks at War will send shivers down your spine.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 02/14/2020 - 6:06am by .

The Classical Association of the Atlantic States
Call for Papers: 2020 Annual Meeting, October 8-10, 2020

Hotel DuPont, Wilmington, DE

We invite individual and group proposals on all aspects of the classical world and classical reception, and on new strategies and resources for improved teaching.  Especially welcome are presentations that aim at maximum audience participation and integrate the concerns of K-12 and college faculty, that consider ways of communicating about ancient Greece and Rome beyond our discipline and profession, and that reflect on the past, present, and future of classical studies in the CAAS region.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 02/13/2020 - 8:44am by Erik Shell.


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