Reminder: 2020 Annual Meeting Seminars

2020 Annual Meeting: Seminars

For the first time since 2016, the SCS will be holding four seminars at this year’s annual meeting.

Seminars as a rule concentrate on more narrowly focused topics and aim at extensive discussion. In order to allow the time to be spent mainly on discussion, the SCS publishes a notice about the session in advance, and organizers distribute copies of the papers (normally three or four in number) to be discussed to those who request them.  Attendance at a seminar will, if necessary, be limited to the first 25 people who sign up. Seminars are normally three hours in length. Registered meeting attendees may sign up at no additional cost for one or more of these seminars.

Third Paper Session, Friday, January 3, 1:45-4:45 PM

State Elite? Senators, Emperors and Roman Political Culture 25BCE-400CE (Seminar)
John Weisweiler, St John's College, University of Cambridge, Organizer

In the first four centuries CE, senators were the most powerful men in western Eurasia. They were the largest landowners in the world and exercised a near monopoly on top government posts in the Roman empire. Ideologically, senatorial power was buttressed by the memory of Republican self-government. Yet it was an embarrassing truth that senators needed the Roman monarchy. All senior office-holders were appointed by the emperor. In order to control their estates, senators relied on the coercive apparatus of the Roman state. Finally, imperial law guaranteed the domination of male office-holders over their wives and daughters, and their property rights over slaves.

This seminar traces the evolution of the difficult relationship between emperor and senate in the longue durée. At least since Tacitus, Roman historians conceived of the interaction between senators and emperors in terms of antagonism. But recent scholarship has shown that this Republican paradigm does not fully capture the complexity of this relationship. In four case studies, our seminar explores the changing place of senators in Roman society from the Early Empire until Late Antiquity.

  1. John Weisweiler, University of Cambridge
    The Heredity of Senatorial Status in the Early Empire
  2. Josiah Osgood, Georgetown University
    Senatorial Women in the Early Principate: Power without Office
  3. Monica Hellström, Durham University
    Respectful Distance? Diocletian, Rome, and the Senatorial Elite
  4. Michele Salzman, University of California, Riverside
    The Constantinian Revolution and the Resilience of Roman Senators

Noel Lenski, Yale University
Response (15 minutes)

Sign Up Here

Sixth Paper Session, Saturday, January 4, 1:45-4:45 PM

New Perspectives on the Atlantic Façade of the Roman World (Seminar)
Carlos F. Noreña, University of California, Berkeley, Organizer

This seminar investigates the dynamic and sweeping Atlantic façade of the Roman world. In the context of the Roman empire as a whole, the Atlantic rim—a macroregion that traces a natural arc from southern Ireland and southwest Britain, across the Atlantic littoral of Gaul and the Iberian peninsula, to the Strait of Gibraltar and the far northwestern corner of the African continent—may be seen as a sort of ecological “frontier.” It was defined by the ocean itself: wild, dangerous, unimaginably immense.

This Atlantic façade has been almost wholly ignored in studies of the Roman empire as a political and economic system—unrecognized, it seems, as a coherent geographical unit of historical analysis. There is now a rapidly growing amount of literature on Atlantic commerce during the Roman period, but the relevant studies are technical and highly specialized. The scholarship on frontier zones, political economy, commercial networks, and provincial cultures and identities has been mostly blind to the Atlantic façade as such. This seminar examines the Roman Atlantic from these perspectives.

The main goal of this seminar is to identify a potentially major new area of research on the Roman world—the Atlantic façade of the Roman empire as a frontier zone that was every bit as dynamic as those to the south, east, and north—and to illustrate, through a series of macro- and micro-histories, how this oceanic corridor might be incorporated into histories of the Mediterranean basin and its continental hinterlands during the centuries of Rome’s ascendancy.

  1. Greg Woolf, Institute of Classical Studies, London
    Building the Atlantic Super-Seaway in the Roman Period
  2. Carlos F. Norena, University of California, Berkeley
    Atlantic Commerce and Social Mobility in Southwestern Iberia
  3. Elva Johnston, University College, Dublin
    The Atlantic Histories of Late Antique Ireland
  4. Nicholas Purcell, University of Oxford
    The Ocean of Mount Atlas: Atlantic History and/in the Ancient World

(Sign-up period is closed)

Sixth Paper Session, Saturday, January 4, 1:45-4:45 PM

Women in Rage, Women in Protest: Feminist Approaches to Ancient Anger (Seminar)
Erika L. Weiberg, Florida State University, and Mary Hamil Gilbert, Birmingham-Southern College, Organizers

In the past year alone, three books by feminist writers have taken up the subject of women’s rage. These writers acknowledge that women’s anger has been historically suppressed, pathologized, and punished, but focus on the potential for rage to function as a resource for revolutionary change and empowerment. Employing feminist approaches to the ancient world, this seminar considers women’s rage in ancient Greece and Rome as protest, refusal, or resource for change. It also interrogates the relevance of ancient women’s rage, real and imaginary, to these discourses of contemporary feminism.

From Thetis and Demeter to the enslaved women in Plautus’ Casina, women in Greco-Roman literature raged against injustice. This rage, however, took different forms depending upon the women’s identity and status. The maternal rage of goddesses and citizen-women alike (e.g., Medea, Amata) was recognized as effective, if disruptive, in the public sphere, whereas enslaved women, enraged at sexual abuse and other injuries, had no public outlet for expressing their anger, but resorted to private methods instead. Scholars of the emotions in antiquity have analyzed the punitive force of ancient anger, used by men to keep women in their place. In addition, classicists have dissected misogynistic tropes characterizing women as quick to anger or unable to restrain their emotions. In light of recent events, however, some of the work on this subject requires re-evaluation. Less attention has been paid, finally, to women’s anger in antiquity as critique of injustice, as private or public refusal of the status quo, and as resource for pushing back against patriarchal structures. Did ancient women’s rage work in these ways, too, as protest, refusal, or resource for existing in a patriarchal society?

The papers in this seminar address this question by bringing together new approaches to the use of anger by women, real and imaginary, elite and non-elite in antiquity. These papers treat a variety of genres and time periods, from Greek and Roman tragedy to magical papyri, from Roman elegy to Herodotus. Considered together, they provide an urgent re-assessment of women’s anger in historical perspective and open new ways of understanding ancient women’s rage as relevant to or at cross-purposes with the aims of contemporary feminism.

  1. Suzanne Lye, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Putting Pressure on the Patriarchy: The Subversive Power of Women's Anger in Ancient Greek Literature and Magic
  2. Erika L. Weiberg, Florida State University
    The Problem of the Angry Woman and Herodotus’ Use of Tragedy in Two Athenian Logoi
  3. Ellen Cole Lee, Fairfield University
    Irata Puella: Gaslighting, Violence, and Anger in Elegy
  4. Mary Hamil Gilbert, Birmingham-Southern College
    Furor Frustrated: Policing Women’s Anger in the Pseudo-Senecan Octavia

Sign Up Here

Seventh Paper Session, Sunday, January 5, 8-11 AM

Translating ‘Evil’ in Ancient Greek and Hebrew and Modern American Culture (Seminar)
Thomas G. Palaima, University of Texas at Austin, Organizer, Christian Wildberg, University of Pittsburgh, moderator and lead discussant

In this seminar, we propose to discuss what constituted ‘evil’ for the ancient Greeks and how we negotiate the differences between the historical Greek past and our own present in the many forms of ‘translation’ required to explain ancient Greek culture, not only to our students but to scholars in other disciplines and the educated public who take our courses, read our specialized monographs and articles, or use what we think, say and write in various public spheres.

We choose ‘evil’ because it is a big concept and a big challenge, but it also has a fixed point of transition where three important cultural strands (Israelite, Greek and Roman) that influenced our modern culture interacted with one another. ‘Evil’ also can and must be examined from various perspectives: linguistic, historical, literary and comparative literary, psychological, philosophical, anthropological, theological and political.

Tragedies are central to modern studies of ancient Greek ideas and ancient Greek judgments of human behavior and systems of ethics and justice. Recall how John Kekes (1990) pinpoints Polymestor in the Hecuba as the only character in surviving Greek tragedy who satisfies his moral definition of ‘evil’.

We think this seminar can, and again, must, combine detailed discussions of particular passages of ancient languages, literature, history, and philosophy with big questions that would be of interest to mass media, including general periodicals, that look at political, social, or cultural issues. 

  1. Aren Max Wilson-Wright, University of Zurich
    In Search of the Root of All Evil: Is There a Concept of ‘Evil’ in the Hebrew Bible?
  2. Diane Arnson Svarlien, Independent Scholar
    Just Some Evil Scheme: Translating ‘Badness’ in the Plays of Euripides
  3. Thomas G Palaima, University of Texas at Austin
    Evil (Not) Then and Evil Now: A Test Case in ‘Translating’ Cultural Notions
  4. Christian Wildberg, University of Pittsburgh, moderator and lead discussant
    Evil, Past and Present, from a Philosophical Perspective

Sign Up Here

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

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