Ancient World Seminar

Via Appia Antica
Via Appia Antica - Quo Vadis?
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

The Ancient World Seminar is held at 1-2 pm usually on Monday during semester for presentations and discussions of papers from students and academic staff on all aspects of the ancient world.


Hyun Jin Kim


Mcmahon Ball Theatre, Old Arts, unless otherwise noted.

2017 Programme

6 March

Michael Schmitz, University of Melbourne

The Evolution of Roman Armour During the Dacian Wars AD101-107

The Roman military are renowned for their ability to adapt to the enemies they faced. This presentation will focus on the Roman adaptation of defensive equipment to mitigate the threat posed by the Dacians during Trajan’s wars against the Dacian king Decebalus between AD 101 and 106.

13 March

K.O. Chong-Gossard, University of Melbourne

The Pope's Shoes: Cultural Glosses by Guy Jouenneaux in Badius’ 1493 Edition of Terence's Comedies

The invention of the printing press with movable type in the mid-15th century revolutionized the study of the classics, and it is no surprise that one of the most popular printed authors was Terence, whose six Latin comedies had been indispensable in the education of schoolboys for centuries. Terence's comedies contain many references to ancient customs and to figures from classical mythology, some quite direct, others oblique. For late-15th century readers unfamiliar with all aspects of antiquity, the significance of an invocation to Juno Lucina or the mention of a psaltria in a character’s speech could be lost. This paper examines how the commentary of Guy Jouenneaux (a.k.a. Guido Juvenalis), which was printed in Badius’ 1493 edition of Terence, explains the background of ancient cultural references in the plays. Examples in the Eunuchus alone include military terms like centurio and cornu, the etymology of peniculon (a long sponge), and the myth of Hercules and OmphaleMost notably, Jouenneaux describes Omphale's sandals as similar to the pope's shoes worn at the celebration of mass, which is itself a reminder to us that late 15th Europeans no longer wore sandals. By examining such cultural glosses, and in particular his erudite quoting of ancient writers (Cicero, Ovid, Sallust, Varro, and Festus being frequent), we can understand more precisely what Jouenneaux means in his first epistle (printed in Badius' edition) when he proclaims his intention to explain every small detail (minima quaeque) of the Latin for students whose desire for learning (discendi cupiditatem) is hampered for lack of a teacher or lack of money.

20 March

Antonio Gonzalez, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation

Cultural Cleansing and Iconoclasm under the ‘Islamic State’: Human/Heritage Attacks on Yezidis and Christians

When the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) seized large swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria and declared their new caliphate, they unleashed a cataclysmic wave of both devastating human suffering and unprecedented heritage destruction.  In terms of the human suffering, the IS has executed many who questioned their nefarious ideology or committed petty crimes.  At the same time, the rapid expansion of the IS has also proved fatal for many of the world’s most sensitive and important cultural heritage sites.  Targeted sites range from ancient Mesopotamian city-states through to Greek, Roman and Byzantine sites, as well as museums, art galleries and libraries. However, little attention has been paid to the intersection between the human suffering and the heritage destruction undertaken by the Islamic State (IS).  Here, human/heritage destruction are intertwined: the suffering inflicted on people is projected onto their sites of ritual and worship; just as the destruction of these sites are deliberately orchestrated to inflict symbolic suffering on specific communities and to shatter the ethnic and religious diversity of the region.  This talk will explore and document the human/heritage ‘cultural cleansing’ undertaken by the IS against two fragile minorities: the Yezidi and Christian populations of northern Iraq and Syria.

27 March

Chris Gosden, University of Oxford

English Landscapes and Identities

The English Landscapes and Identities project (funded by the European Research Council) attempted to bring together all the major digital sources of archaeological information on the English landscape for the period from 1500 BC to AD 1086.  We were interested in the possibilities of large-scale digital data for revealing patterns of life and landscape organization across England as a whole, but also regional differences.  This seminar will present some of the major results of the project, looking at the influences generating archaeological evidence, but also variations in artefact use, landscape clearance, fields and settlement across England from the prehistoric period, through the Roman occupation and into the early medieval world.  Issues of continuity and change have been rethought around scales of change and the notion of identity was also addressed.

3 April

Philipp Stockhammer, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

New Thoughts on the End of the Mycenaean Palaces

For a long time, the 13th century in the Aegean has been considered as a peaceful period marked by rather stable, local communities and the large-scale exchange of commodities most emblematically materialised by the Mycenaean palaces of the Argolid.  In contrast to that, the 12th century seemed to be characterised not only by the end of the palaces and all connected societal institutions but also by human mobility together with a rather neglectable scale of the exchange of commodities.  The year 1200 BC was considered as the peak of the crisis which has been taken as an explanation for the assumed groundbreaking shifts between the two centuries.

In my paper, I want to go beyond simplifying narratives and take a more differentiated view on what transformations took place at the end of the 13th century or already during its course.  I want to show that major changes already seem to have taken place in the second half of the 13th century and continued into the 12th century and thereby relativise the year 1200 BC as a hallmark of the developments.  I will demonstrate the shifts of the Mediterranean network of mobility of humans and objects during the 13th century and in the early 12th century with a strong focus on the archaeological evidence from Tiryns. This will lead to a revaluation of the historical developments in the 13th century.

In the final part of my paper, I will then present our newly founded Max Planck Harvard Research Center for the Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean (MHAAM) and present a vision for future research which will help us to shed a completely new light on the issues discussed in the first part of my lecture.

10 April

Louise Hitchcock, University of Melbourne

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me: The Maritime Culture of the Sea People

An anthropological approach to culture extrapolates social structures, traditions and general organizing principles of that culture from the careful observation of patterns of behavior as described in case studies.  In the absence of a living culture to record, archaeologists extrapolate this information from behavior reconstructed from spatially determined patterns in the deposition of material remains and from patterns found in the general organizing principles of historically documented cultures, using arguments based on analogy.  This talk builds on my previous research with Aren Maeir on the “Sea Peoples” as a piratical culture in order to investigate and to apply an anthropological approach to understanding the cultural identities of the various tribal groups involved in maritime activities at the end of the Bronze Age who are popularly known as the “Sea People” and place this within the broader context of the current discussions on the transition between the Late Bronze and Iron Age in the Mediterranean.

24 April

Trudie Fraser, University of Melbourne

The Dilemma of Vibia Sabina's Roman Coins

The coins of Vibia Sabina, wife of the emperor Hadrian, are beautiful and their number suggests that she was honoured with more coins than any previous emperor’s wife. The chronology of these coins, however,  has puzzled many scholars for nearly a century with no satisfactory conclusion having yet been reached.  The variety of the iconography, both the obverse images of Sabina and the selection of reverse images, several different legends and the use of most coin denominations, all contribute to an enormous chronological dilemma.  This paper discusses these problems with many illustrations of Sabina’s coins. It attempts to provide reasons for the different combinations of image and legend and to suggest a possible chronology for Sabina’s coins, which in turn could shed some light on Sabina’s relationship with her husband.

1 May (Old Arts 239 - North Theatre)

Andrew Turner, University of Melbourne

Jodocus Badius and the Lyon Terence: The Earliest Illustrated incunabulum of the Six Comedies

The 1490s saw the first early printed editions (incunabula) of Terence’s plays incorporating an illustrative cycle found in manuscripts which had its origins in late antiquity; the earliest and most complete of these was published in Lyon, where it was edited by the Flemish classical scholar Jodocus Badius Ascensius.  Although the pictures appear to be a late addition to another edition and commentary on Terence, written by Guy Jouenneaux, behind them lies a large amount of careful scholarship by Badius.  Only two years earlier he published a major edition of the ancient commentary by Donatus on Terence, rediscovered in the 1440s, and had studied the classics extensively in Renaissance Ferrara at the precise time that the first dramatic revivals of Roman comedy were taking place on stage there.  This paper looks in more detail at the relationship of text, image and performance in one of the key works for the reception of Terence in the later Renaissance.

8 May

Stuart Ibrahim, University of Melbourne

Third Intermediate Period/Iron Age I-II Raphia and Egypt's Response to the Changed Political Spectrum in the Levant: Early Results

15 May

Brent Davis, University of Melbourne

The Phaistos Disk: A New Way of Looking at the Language Behind the Script

22 May

Frederik Vervaet, University of Melbourne

Last of the Naval Triumphs: Revisiting Some Key Actian Honours

Past papers