Inhuman Territories in Classical Antiquity
We are accustomed to seeing the ancient world from its centres – Athens,
Rome, and other major cities to and from which ideas, goods, and people
circulated. But in many locations in Greek and Roman thought and
imagination, past and present, the 'civilised' human was the outsider.
These places were often inhabited by part-human or inhuman 'people', whose
appearance and behaviour ranged from the peculiar to the horrific.
These 'wild places' were often geographically remote, such as the Libyan
deserts, the snowy wastes of Scythia, and the gloom of Cimmeria. Monstrous
races were the subject of ethnological scrutiny, challenging anatomical
definitions of humanity. Other wild places were closer to hand, but
untamed: Arcadia; Thessaly; the depths of the sea; even local mountains,
forests and other silent places could be haunted by dangerous supernatural
beings such as fauns and satyrs.
The past, too, could be an inhuman wilderness. Both Roman and Greek
cultures ranged between creativity, rationalism and aporia when confronted
by traditions and legends that defied understanding, even their own, let
alone those of others. Some myths even connect the founding of human
societies with the rejection of semi-human beings, such as Hercules'
labours, the Argonauts' and Odysseus' fantastical encounters, and above
all, the victories of the gods over the Giants and Titans in the earliest
age of the cosmos.
Offers of papers are invited for the forthcoming conference 'Where the
Wild Things Are: Inhuman Territories in Classical Antiquity', to be held
at the University of Reading, Thurs. 4th to Friday 5th September 2008.
Accommodation and meals will be provided for all speakers.
This event will bring together researchers from a range of classical
disciplines to explore the same fundamental questions:
In what ways were part-human beings in the ancient imagination defined by
Did environment affect how 'savage' or 'cultured' they were, and should we
define this by their anatomies, their familial and social structures, or
their relationships with humans, animals, and the gods?
Finally, how did the exploration of wild places at the boundaries of human
civilisation reinforce or challenge those boundaries?
Yulia Ustinova (Ben Gurion University), our keynote speaker, will address
the subject of ''Wild Caves': Immortal Dwellers and Mortal Visitors'.
Papers should be 25-30 minutes in length. We welcome research in a wide
variety of fields, but the following topics would be especially warmly
the ethnographic element in Herodotus
later ethnographic writers, both Greek and Latin
hybrid and monstrous beings, especially in ancient verse and philosophy.
Titles and abstracts (c. 200 words in length) should be sent to the
conference organisers, Dr. Emma Aston (E.M.M.Aston AT reading.ac.uk) and Dr.
Dunstan Lowe (D.M.Lowe AT reading.ac.uk). If regular mail is preferred, the
Department of Classics
University of Reading
The deadline for titles and abstracts is March 15th, 2008.