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(Re)Imagining Empire through Art and the Environment

November 22, 2019 @ 9:00 am - 5:30 pm

This workshop is co-organized by Dr. Nandini Pandey, Dr. Grant Nelsestuen, and Dr. Dan Kapust and is the first in the Mellon-Borghesi series this year.


9 am: Pro(se)seminar  (relies on attendee participation!)

Don’t miss this experimental brainstorming / creative writing / public humanities activity and a unique chance to collaborate and interact with our great lineup of speakers. No preparation required, just  an open mind.

9:45 am:  Sarah Bond

“Animals and Empire: Roman Expansion and Contraction Through the Lens of the Arena”

This paper looks at the display of animals in the Roman arena as a tool for political leaders to demonstrate aspirations and triumphs in regard to expansion, particularly during the late Republic and Early Imperial period. The use of crocodiles, two-horned rhinoceroses, and giraffes in particular were meant to communicate to the populace, through venationes (“beast hunts”), that the Roman Empire had expanded into the realm of Egypt and what is today Eastern Africa. Although we can use the early venationes held in Rome in particular as a kind of gauge for imperial expansion, in Late Antiquity, the increase in exotic animal bouts in arenas across the Empire instead reflected new attitudes towards gladiatorial combat legislated against by Christian Roman emperors beginning in the fourth century CE.

10:15am :  Hanna Golab

“Epigraphic Poetry and Therapeutic Landscapes of the Graeco-Roman Asklepieia”

The majority of postclassical choral songs discovered on stone inscriptions was once erected in the Graeco-Roman healing sanctuaries. Outside of the Asklepieia, the genre of paean dominates epigraphic choral poetry. This curious geographic and generic distribution suggests that there was a strong connection between the act of healing and the songs’ physical presence in the public space of temples and cities. This paper explores the possibility that hymnic inscriptions were an effort to create therapeutic landscapes in the Asklepieia, parallel to the better known habit of inscribing the so-called healing narratives. I will argue, however, that while the healing narratives are nowadays interpreted as placebo, the epigraphic songs are better understood as an amalgam of ritual healing choruses and the Hippocratic method, which puts emphasis on the role of natural environment in human health. By inscribing healing songs on stone and erecting them in sanctuaries, Greeks and Romans could imbue the landscape with the songs’ therapeutic potency. The complex web of medical theory, choral performances, their material commemoration, and creation of a therapeutic environment truly comes to light during the Antonine Plague, when the oracle of Klaros orchestrated a collective choral response to the disease, combined with erection of inscribed songs and statues of gods. In this interpretation, the choral lyric inscriptions are a blend of ritual apotropaic objects and therapeutic landscaping.

11-11:45 am Sean Gurd

“The Varieties of Translation: Presentation and Discussion”

Translation, often thought of as the process of rendering the meaning of a text in a new language, has from time to time been approached from a variety of much different perspectives. In this workshop we look at a number of these attempts, from translations using only found phrases to translations focusing on the metrical or sonic features of the original, from homo-lingual to inter-medial translations. My aim is simply to ask whether such experiments don’t encourage a widening of our sense of how translation might be useful, and whether new conceptualizations of the practice might be possible.

12-1 pm:  ROUND TABLE

Decolonizing classics in our writing & teaching

4:30 pm: Verity Platt  (introduced by Florence Hsia)

Keynote: “Empire of the Hive: Pliny’s Bees and the Media Theory of Wax”

Within Pliny’s Natural History, beeswax offers a special category of substance between the animal and the vegetal, ubiquitous and yet curiously unmarked. The properties that make wax so fundamental to ancient medicine, writing, and art production also render it neutral, diaphanous, fugitive, and self-effacing – the archetypal infrastructural medium. As such, wax plays a crucial role within the politics of matter as they play out across Pliny’s text. This paper explores the medial operations of wax alongside its nature as an organic substance produced by bees, arguing that its functions within Roman society were, for Pliny, inseparable from the social structure of the hive itself, which had long been analyzed in apicultural texts as a microcosm of the political order.


November 22, 2019
9:00 am - 5:30 pm
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