Unclassical Traditions: Alternatives to the Classical Past in Late Antiquity

A two-day conference to be held at the Faculty of Classics, University of
Cambridge - 16th-17th April, 2007

Please find below the schedule and prospectus for the 'Unclassical
Traditions' conference. If you would like to register, please email
Richard Flower (raf33 AT cam.ac.uk) by Friday 6th April. The conference fee
is £20, which includes lunches and refreshments on both days. There will
also be a four-course conference dinner on the Monday night at a cost of
£25 per head (wine included).

Monday 16th April

9:30 a.m. Registration

9:40 a.m. Michael Williams, University of Cambridge
Introduction: (Im)possible Pasts

Neil McLynn, University of Oxford
The Manna from Uncle: Basil's Subversion of the Classical

11:00 a.m. Tea

11:20 a.m. Mark Humphries, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Gog, Magog and the Goths

Peter Heather, University of Oxford
Cassiodorus, Jordanes and the Formation of a Grand Gothic

12:40 p.m. Lunch

2:00 p.m. Hallie Meredith, University of Oxford
Words and Visions: Appending Histories to Late-Antique Art

Janet Huskinson, Open University
Commemorating Difference: Self-Representation on Third-
and Fourth-Century Roman Sarcophagi

3:20 p.m. Tea

3:40 p.m. Richard Flower, University of Cambridge
The Emperor's New Past: Christian Invectives against
Constantius II

Bella Sandwell, University of Bristol
John Chrysostom on Christian Identity: Rethinking Social
Identity in the Fourth Century

5:15 p.m. Derek Krueger, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
The Liturgical Creation of a Christian Past: Identity and
Community in Anaphoral Prayers

7:00 p.m. Conference Dinner at Clare College

Tuesday 17th April

9:40 a.m. Gavin Kelly, University of Edinburgh
The Roman World of Festus' Breviarium

Phil Booth, University of Cambridge
Competing Epistemologies in Sophronius Sophista's Miracles
of Cyrus and John

11:00 a.m. Tea

11:20 a.m. Simon Corcoran, University College, London
New Codes for Old: Alaric and Justinian revisit Theodosius

Richard Miles, University of Cambridge
Forgetting the Past: The Latin Poets of Vandal Carthage

12:40 p.m. Lunch

2:00 p.m. Claudia Rapp, University of California, Los Angeles
The Literature of Early Monasticism: Purpose and Genre
between Tradition and Innovation

Gillian Clark, University of Bristol
Demonic Traditions: Augustine on the Roman Past

3:20p.m. Conclusions and Closing Words

Registration and all papers will be held in Room 1.04.
Lunches and refreshments will be served in Room G.21.


The persistence of the classical tradition in the later Roman empire
remains a topic of controversy. In recent decades, the period has come to
be seen not as one of decline and fall but of transformation, in which the
educated elite of the empire considered themselves to inhabit a
recognisably classical landscape in which they could employ their cultural
capital in a range of new contexts. However, this model is not without its
critics, and some scholars have preferred to emphasise the destruction of
the classical legacy, and with it 'the end of civilisation'.

The purpose of this conference is not to argue for the pre-eminence of
either model, nor to replace them with another monolithic explanation of
the period. The range of experiences and responses across the broad
expanse of the Roman empire instead enables us to recognise the enormous
variety of late-antique responses to the classical past. This topic was
itself subject to contemporary debate: alongside those who wished to
defend and preserve the dominance of classical culture were others who
sought to provide the world of late antiquity with alternative traditions.

This conference will therefore concentrate on the revival and the
invention of these unclassical traditions in all areas of late-antique
culture. Topics for discussion will include: the use of the biblical past
in Christian writing and controversy; alternatives to the Roman legal
tradition; departures from the classical models of social organisation and
interaction, as expressed through cultural commentary and through changes
in the management of public space; the negotiation of cultural norms
between representatives of the Roman empire and its neighbours; and the
construction of non-classical identities for particular social, cultural
and ethnic groupings throughout the Roman world. It is hoped that through
the recognition of these dissonant voices a broader and richer image will
emerge, providing a sense of the abundant possibilities available for the
negotiation and definition of a late-antique cultural identity.