Seminars

  • Founded
    1957
  • Seminar Number
    441

This seminar exists to further, in the New York area, the study of the literature, art, archaeology, and history of the ancient world. Seven meetings are held each year attended by twenty to sixty members drawn from universities and colleges within reach of New York. There is no set theme to the seminar for a given semester or year.


Co-Chairs
Professor Marcus Folch
mf2664@columbia.edu

Professor Joel Lidov
joel.lidov@qc.cuny.edu

Professor Katharina Volk
kv2018@columbia.edu

Rapporteur
Lien Van Geel
lv2371@columbia.edu


Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.


Meeting Schedule

09/19/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
Roman teamsters: muliones (muleteers) and the (dis)organization of land transport in the Roman empire
John Bodel, Brown University
Abstract

Abstract

In a consumer-driven economy the transport of commodities (one element of distribution) links producers to markets and markets to consumers and thus provides a vital mechanism of connectivity that ties the system together. To what extent the economy of the Roman empire resembled such a market-based system has long been debated. Demographic modeling and New Institutional Economics have established new parameters of inquiry and provided theoretical insights but have not resolved the essential question. Nor does this paper do so. Instead it attempts to shed light on the operational infrastructure that undergirded the system by investigating the role of land transport workers in moving goods around the empire and offers a new approach, based upon a comparative historical sociology, to understanding their place in the Roman economy.





10/17/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
Sappho’s Aphrodite: A Reparative Reading
Melissa Mueller, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Abstract

Abstract

This talk focuses on several poems (Sappho 1 and fr. 44V, as well as the Kypris Song) where Sappho’s reception of Homer can best be understood as a form of reparative reading. Traditional critique, including intertextuality, examines relations of power, competition, and mastery. With its focus on the body, affect, and sensations both inside and outside the text, reparative reading (developed initially by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in dialogue with Melanie Klein’s notion of the reparative) encourages attentiveness to moments of shame, weakness, and vulnerability. Sappho’s Aphrodite emerges, I argue, from the traumatized (but also cruel) Aphrodite of Iliad 3 and Iliad 5. The Homeric goddess’s experiences of both shaming and being shamed are key to understanding the Aphrodite of Sappho’s lyrics and exemplify the generative force of negative emotions.





11/21/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
Impotence, Castration, and Talking Penises: A New Reading of Catullus 17
Leah Kronenberg, Boston University
Abstract

Abstract

Catullus 17 is a bizarre poem in the Priapean meter in which an unknown speaker complains to an unspecified and personified town about an anonymous fellow townsmen’s (municeps) inability to prevent his wife from cheating on him and the speaker’s resulting desire to throw him off a bridge to wake him from his lethargy. There have been three general approaches to this poem: 1) attempts to figure out what religious rituals are alluded to in the poem 2) biographical readings that link the wife to Clodia Metelli 3) analysis of the sexual imagery and Priapic elements in the poem. This paper builds on the last two approaches and proposes that the poem contains a central riddle pertaining to the identities of the speaker and the municeps. I argue that the speaker is Catullus’ penis, which is complaining about the passivity of the soul of Catullus (the municeps) and fantasizing about a separation from it or quasi-castration. The poem might be read as a sequel to Catullus 8, in which Catullus has a dialogue with himself about the weakness of his will and his failure to move on from his puella. Catullus 17 invokes and plays on several poem types: self-addresses to the soul/heart, harangues of the impotent penis, talking penis poems, and the closely related talking Priapus poems. It thus ties into the larger themes of the “divided self” and personified body parts in Catullus’ oeuvre.





01/30/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
At War With Juno
Lisa Mignone, Independent Scholar
Abstract

Abstract

Vergil's epic frames a rageful Juno as Rome's primordial enemy, but how did the Roman state worship the goddess in times of military crisis? This talk examines Rome's relationship with the queen of the pantheon from Rome's foundation through the Punic Wars. First, it systematizes worship in her various cults at Rome. Second, it considers the sack of Etruscan Veii, whence the tutelary deity, Uni, was believed to have been ritually "evoked" and taken to a new temple in Rome: what was Rome's aim in removing their enemy's cult statue, and why did they place it on the Aventine hill? Third, this talk turns to the Hannibalic War and the magnificent procession of 207 BCE: were the Romans worshipping Punic Tanit in an attempt to woo her protection away from Carthage? What is the evidence that Rome removed their enemy's tutelary goddess and established her cult at Rome instead? The talk closes by unmounting studies of Roman cult from Vergil's literary universe. "At War with Juno" highlights the importance of using a variety of ancient media appropriately while it reconsiders the relationship of poetry to religious practice and religious history.





02/27/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
Aztec Latinists: Classical learning and indigenous legacies in sixteenth-century Mexico
Andrew Laird, Brown University
Abstract

Abstract

Soon after the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1521, missionaries began teaching Latin, classical rhetoric and Aristotelian philosophy to youths from the native Nahua or ‘Aztec' nobility. This talk will explain the nature and purpose of that training, and show some unexpected ways in which indigenous scholars used and connected their knowledge of Greco-Roman literature and history to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic world as well as to the colonial environment in which they lived.





03/26/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
meeting cancelled
,




04/23/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
meeting cancelled
,