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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.

Professor Marcus Folch

Professor Joel Lidov

Lien Van Geel

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

10/15/2020 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
The Politics of Greece’s Theatrical Revolution, ca. 500-ca. 300 BC
Peter Wilson, University of Sydney (Australia)


Recent years have witnessed a shift away from the extreme Athenocentrism that has characterised the study of the Greek theatre for centuries. The received account always struggled with the contradiction of a Classical theatre exclusively in, by and for Athens that was instantly replaced by an equally static vision of a Hellenistic theatre that is ubiquitously Greek. The result has been that scholarship has remained largely oblivious to the regional, interurban and international festivals that competed with the Athenian festivals and ended up shaping them as much as Athens shaped theatre in Greece. Earlier this year, my colleague Eric Csapo and I published a volume that seeks to present and analyse the evidence for the spread of theatre from Athens, and for its independent appearance, in and beyond the Mediterranean over the course of the first two centuries of its existence: Theatre Beyond Athens: A Social and Economic History of the Theatre to 300 BC. Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press. In this seminar I build on the results of this research and ask what role, if any, politics played in this extraordinary expansion. Just how exclusively Athenian or democratic were the theatre and its genres? Drawing on the very full corpus of evidence we now have, it is possible to match the reception of theatre with constitutional regimes in Greece. This turns the question into one of reception: some insight can be gained from the choices communities made in the fifth and fourth century as the new medium spread throughout the Greek world. Some states eagerly adopted theatre while others avoided it. Communities that did receive theatre similarly chose to accept or to avoid specific theatre genres and practices.

11/19/2020 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
Reading Vergil from the south
Grant Parker, Stanford University


How do Vergil’s Georgics and other poems look when considered from South African perspectives? The starting point is T. J. Haarhoff (1892-1971), whose many writings include Vergil in the Experience of South Africa (1931) and Stranger at the Gate (1948). Several of his themes have gained new urgency, including land tenure and ecology; universalism and globalism; social inclusiveness and exclusiveness; the role of language; and public outreach. How have these topics evolved in relation to Vergil? The focus is less on Haarhoff himself than on the issues he raised. What messages might they hold for the reading of Vergil and even the reinvention of classics in these strangest of times?

01/21/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
Demosthenes the Accountant: Numbers and Persuasion in the Athenian Courts
Peter O’Connell, University of Georgia


The Attic orators do not use statistics in the modern sense, but one has the sense that their frequent presentation of numbers are either lies or damned lies anyway. I will consider three ways that numbers and calculations in Athenian forensic speeches can persuade, regardless of their status as evidence. First, they can contribute to a speaker’s claims of transparency and self-presentation as a financial expert. Second, they can reflect parallels in word order with inscribed documents of the democracy. Third, they can encourage jurors to experience a sense of participating in the speaker’s argument by appealing to their memories of manipulating physical counters on abacuses. My primary case study will be Demosthenes’ First Speech Against Aphobus.

02/18/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
Generative Landscapes at Delphi (color and khōra)
Jennifer Stager, Johns Hopkins University


This paper considers the interactions of the many colors (pigments, marbles, metals) of the architecture at Delphi with the many changing colors of the landscape into which these buildings were set. Drawing on the multivalence of the ancient Greek word khōra (land, countryside, space), I consider the colors of three contexts at Delphi: the landscape, the temple to Apollo, and the Siphnian treasury. A building, just as a painting, sculpture, or other media, is built up from pieced-together parts of material color. These part-to-whole relationships move outward through space, so that we might also understand the entire landscape as an assemblage pieced together from polychrome parts. A range of Feminist theorists have engaged with Plato’s specific notion of khōra to highlight his excision of the feminine via the excision of matter. In its broader meaning as polychrome landscape, however, khōra reclaims the variegated material color of space and place. This counter-narrative makes visible alternatives to the Platonic story of master-craftsman and immaterial vessel that mapped so neatly onto receptions of Platonic philosophy (including in purity doctrines of modernist architecture) and deepened the gendered divide between form and matter proposed in the Timaeus and resisted by Feminist theorists. I explore these materialized instantiations of khōra to argue for a dimensional or spatial understanding of color and a polychrome, material understanding of space.

03/18/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM

Amy Richlin, University of California, Los Angeles

04/15/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM