Highlights of 2014-2015

John Penrose Barron Memorial Lecture
Webs of knowledge: untangling the practices of textile production in ancient Greece

Lin Foxhall (Leicester) delivered the John Penrose Barron Memorial Lecture on 3 June 2015. She explained that it was widely accepted that textile manufacture was women's work in the ancient Greek world (though this has been recently questioned for classical Athens). But, the hard evidence that does survive can be much trickier to interpret than has often been recognised.  In fact, many different techniques and processes are collapsed together under the term 'textile production', and there is some evidence to suggest that these may on occasion have been performed by a range of different people  - not everyone did the same things when they were 'making textiles'. The lecture explored the contexts of learning to make, making and distributing textiles, to reveal a far more complex picture of 'women's work'


Michael Ventris Memorial Lecture
The Minoan palace of Galatas: a major civil and religious centre in the Pediada region (central Crete)

Giorgos Rethemiotakis (Director Emeritus of the Herakleion Museum) presented the Michael Ventris Memorial Lecture on 20 May 2015. He gave an account of his excavations at the major new Minoan palatial site of Galatas located some 16 kms south-east of Knossos, in the Pediada region of central Crete. First occupied in the third millennium BC, the settlement expanded considerably in the early second millennium before suffering a major destruction. A large palace compound, displaying intense Knossian influence, was constructed in MM IIIA (c. 1700-1650 BC). Its architectural features include a large central courtyard, a Minoan Hall, and extensive use of fine ashlar masonry, gypsum slabs, and plastered floors. Religious and ceremonial activities are attested through an altar and libation pit, processional ways, and much evidence for communal feasting. Gradually deserted in MM IIIB and LM IA, the palace was utterly devastated by a violent earthquake at the end of LM IA (c. 1500 BC). Although the palace was never rebuilt, the settlement continued to flourish until LM IB (c. 1450 BC), when destructions affected most sites on the island.

ICS Pottery in Context Lecture
Who picks pursuit?  Looking at subject choice in Athenian and Italian contexts

Mark Stansbury O'Donnell (St Thomas, ICS Visiting Fellow) presented a Special Guest Lecture on 18 May 2015 in association with the Institute’s Pottery in Context Network. He considered the importance of shape and subject matter in the selection of vases. Most Athenian vase painting was exported, raising the question of the relationship between the production of various shapes and subject matter by Athenian potters and painters on the one hand and the consumer choices on the other hand. Did Athenian potters and painters differentiate among these different markets in their pottery? The lectured explored this issue by comparing the pottery and the appearance of pursuit scenes found in several sites, including the Athenian agora, Delos, Vassallaggi, and Bologna, to see if there are statistically significant variations in shape and style that suggest specific interests in vessels. While there is some overlap in the pottery from these sites, there are distinct variations in each group that show some selectivity in both subject matter and shape.

Whose grave is this? The ownership of grave plots in Ancient Greece

Rachel Abramovitz-Zelnick (Professor of Classics at the University of Tel Aviv and ICS Visiting Fellow) presented a Special Guest Lecture on 13 May 2015 examining the intricate question: Who owned the grave plot? Was it private, public or common land? If the grave plot was private, how could non-citizens and slaves be buried within the territory of the polis? These questions, which only recently has started to attract scholarly attention, are closely related to the concepts of ‘public’ and ‘private’, hence to the development of the polis. In this context we should also interpret the evidence pointing to the assumption by the polis of the responsibility to protect the graves.

The Afterlife of Cicero
Warburg Institute 7-8 May 2015

The conference (organized by the Warburg Institute, the Institute of Classical Studies and UCL) explored the impact of Cicero’s writings and personality on intellectual and cultural history, on the visual arts, philosophy, politics, rhetoric and literature. Since so much of Cicero’s writings is extant, they cover a wide variety of genres and topics, and we are also able to get a glimpse of his personality from his letters, Cicero has had an enormous influence on western culture. By examining a diverse series of significant case studies, the conference aims to make a contribution to assessing Cicero’s impact more fully.  The proceedings will be jointly published by the two Institutes as Supplements to the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies.

Organisers:  Peter Mack (Warwick), John North (UCL), Gesine Manuwald (UCL) and Maria Wyke (UCL)

Speakers: Virginia Cox (New York University), Nina Dubin (CASVA, Washington), Katherine East (Royal Holloway London), Lynn Fotheringham (Nottingham), Matthew Fox (Glasgow), Luke Houghton (Reading), Catherine Keen (UCL), Andrew Laird (Warwick), Carole Mabboux (Savoie), David Marsh (Rutgers), Martin McLaughlin (Oxford) and Laura Refe (Venice)

Rome London Lecture

This year's Rome-London Lecture - held at the Institute of Classical Studies in association with the British School at Rome - took place at 5pm on Wednesday 6 May. Professor Paolo Vitti presented a paper entitled The Mausoleum of Hadrian rediscovered: a new architectural study prepared in connection with the exhibition Apoteosi. Da uomini a dei (Apotheosis, from Men to Gods), held in Rome, December 2013-April 2014. The new reconstruction is based on information deriving from a recent, detailed and on-site examination of the structures preserved within the present-day Castel Sant'Angelo. The speaker estimated that nearly 80% of the original masonry survives, but is mostly concealed beneath later additions and transformations. Important additions to our understanding of the mausoleum include the original architectural layout, the construction methods and the route used to reach the top of the mausoleum, all issues hitherto unresolved.

The Afterlife of Greek Tragedy

Warburg Institute 5-6 March 2015

A conference organised by the Warburg Institute and the Institute of Classical Studies.

The conference explored the impact of Greek Tragedy on intellectual and cultural history, on the visual arts, philosophy, politics, rhetoric and literature, including the development and character of European and other theatrical traditions. The proceedings will be jointly published by the two Institutes as Supplements to the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies.

Organisers: Peter Mack (Warwick) and John North (Institute of Classical Studies)

Speakers: Erika Fischer-Lichte (Freie Universitaet Berlin), Katie Fleming (Queen Mary London), Edith Hall (Kings College London), Fiona Macintosh (Oxford), Anthony Ossa-Richardson (Queen Mary London), Valentina Prosperi (Sassari), Elina Pyy (Helsinki) Andrea Rodighiero (Verona), Hanna Roisman (Colby College), Ruth Webb (Lille) and Gerald Wildgruber (Basel)

Framing Victory: Salamis, the Athenian Acropolis and the Agora

Professor John K. Papadopoulos from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA, presented a Special Guest Lecture at the Institute of Classical Studies at 5 pm on Wednesday 4 March 2015. His lecture focused on the monumental entrance/exit to the Athenian Acropolis, namely the Propylaia. In the 430s BC, Mnesikles, the architect of the Propylaia, changed the orientation of the building from that of the Old Propylon. What Mnesikles achieved was to capture, for eternity and in the architectural fabric of the city, a view of the greatest watershed event in Athenian history: the Battle of Salamis. This was only one part of the 'dissertation on victory' that the Acropolis represents; the Classical Agora was also part of the Athenian building programme after Salamis.

Institute of Classical Studies Autumn Lecture in association with the British School at Athens

This year’s autumn lecture, entitled Mycenaean Elis in light of new evidence, was given by Olimpia Vikatou, Director of the 36th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Greece. She spoke about new insights into the settlements and cemeteries of Mycenaean Elis following recent excavations. This district, best known for the famous archaic and classical site of Olympia, had been considered thinly-populated and backward in the Mycenaean period, overshadowed by larger palatial centres. Excavations during the past 20 years, and especially those following the tragic forest fires of 2008, have revealed substantial settlement evidence north of the Alpheios River, while extensive cemeteries with rich warrior graves provide insights into the socio-economic and military organization of Mycenaean Elis. The wealth of high quality pottery, including a vibrant pictorial style, and portable finds serves to emphasise widespread overseas contacts from the Ionian islands and Adriatic, ranging as far afield as Crete and Cyprus.

Annual TBL Webster Lecture

The 2014 TBL Webster lecture was given by this year's Webster Fellow, Athena Tsingarida from the Université libre de Bruxelles, on 5 November 2014.  Her theme was: The phiale at the symposium: cultural interaction between Athens and the East.

Recent scholarship tends to change the Classical view that opposed Greeks and Persians, and proposes a more nuanced reading of the history of Persia and its relations with Greece. Regarding the contacts between Classical Athens and the Achaemenid Empire, several scholars convincingly suggested that receptivity might have worked on two-ways. In this perspective, it seems essential to study drinking vessels as a significant part of visual culture, material exchanges and social identity of people, such as Greeks and Persians, who adopt the symposium as a main practice during the Archaic and Classical periods. The conference examines Athenian receptivity to Achaemenid material culture through the uses of the phiale, a vessel of Near Eastern origin that remains rare in the Greek repertoire. While the shape is generally associated with ritual or dedicatory practices in Greek contexts, emphasis is laid on evidence attesting its distinctive use as a drinking vessel. Two complementary study cases are taken into account. One discusses evidence provided by Athenian iconography and ancient texts about the use of metallic phialai in the Athenian symposium already since the late 6th to the middle of the 5th centuries B.C. Another takes into account pottery studies and archaeological contexts and focuses on the production, distribution and uses of the Attic Achaemenid phiale in clay that forms the most striking and distinctive imitation of a Persian form by Athenian potters. Both cases provide evidence of a Non-Greek vessel either adopted in its Persian use, as a drinking vessel, by an Athenian clientele, or closely imitated by Athenian craftsmen in order to address overseas markets and be used in the banquet. They raise issues about the role occasionally played by the phiale in asserting a distinctive cultural and social identity.