Ancient World Seminar 2011

Byzantine Church Door
Byzantine Church Door,
Ancient Agora, Athens (Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

Papers for 2011

2:15-3:15, Tuesday 15 February, Turner Theatre, Botany Building
Professor Christopher Smith
, Director, British School at Rome

The Lost Memoirs of Augustus and the Development of Roman Autobiography

7 March
Louise Hitchcock
, University of Melbourne

The 2010 Season of the University of Melbourne and Bar-Ilan University Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath

14 March
Joost Crouwel
, University of Amsterdam

Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Habitation at Geraki in Laconia (Greece)

Since 1995 a team from the University of Amsterdam has been conducting archaeological fieldwork at Geraki (ancient Geronthrai), 26 km southeast of Sparta. Surface survey and excavations have revealed a long history of occupation of the acropolis of Geraki - albeit with significant gaps, notably in the Mycenaean period - from the Final Neolithic to the time of the Greek Civil War. This seminar will concentrate on the earliest occupation - in the Final Neolithic and Early Helladic II periods. Of particular interest is the discovery that in both periods the site was fortified.

28 March
Josephine Verduci
, University of Melbourne

Philistines East of the Jordan River? The Search for Early Iron Age Jewellery in the Storerooms of the Department of Antiquities

11 April
Andrew Madden
, University of Melbourne

Identifying Mosaic Workshops in Byzantine Palestine and Arabia

Artist attribution in the medium of mosaic pavements has not been widely approached, due mainly to a lack of adequate extant regional assemblages and a concise methodology with which to examine to floors. However, the principles applied by Beazley to the study of Attic pottery have significant implications for figured mosaics, as both mediums display common linear techniques. A substantial corpus of figured floors of the Early Byzantine period exists in Jordan and Israel, and several can be confidently ascribed to specific mosaicists/workshops. Distinct regional styles are evident, and it appears model-books were widely circulated.

18 April
Brent Davis
, University of Melbourne

Minoan Stone Vessels with Linear A Inscriptions

Minoan stone vessels with Linear A inscriptions are ritual vessels whose stone and inscriptions denoted the permanence of the dedicants' devotion. The vessels were dedicated to deities, and were used in a variety of Minoan rituals, some of which can be tentatively reconstructed.

Most of the vessels come from peak sanctuaries, the most important of which probably doubled as observatories for marking the passage of the equinoxes and solstices; thus the concentration of inscribed vessels at these sites suggests that the vessels played a part in seasonal rituals whose timing was determined by the sun and moon. The seasonality of these rituals suggests that they were focused on aspects of the cycle of life: fertility, birth, death and renewal. However, offerings left with the vessels also suggest that people visited these sanctuaries for other, more personal reasons-for example, to give thanks for good fortune, to request healing, or to seek divine protection before a dangerous journey. Inscribed stone vessels may have played a part in any of these rituals.

A smaller number of inscribed stone vessels come from Kato Syme, a very important shrine built high on a flank of Mt Dikte, on the spot where a perpetual spring issues from the mountain. This spring is an important water source for the valleys and arable lands below; thus the location of the sanctuary again suggests that the inscribed vessels found there were used in rituals focussed on the divine source(s) of fertility.

Most inscribed stone vessels can be interpreted as receptacles for liquid and/or solid offerings. The so-called Minoan 'ladles' are a special case: I interpret them as pouring vessels meant to be held in cupped hands. Iconographic evidence suggests that 'ladles' may have been used in male maturation rites.

Though Linear A remains undeciphered, linguistic analysis of the inscriptions on the vessels is still possible on several fronts. Clues to the phonology of Minoan can be found in the structure of Linear A itself, and in the way in which it was borrowed by the Mycenaeans to create Linear B. Mycenaean spellings of Minoan words and names also contain clues as to the sounds of Minoan, while alternating Classical spellings of some Minoan words suggest that Minoan had some sounds that were not native to Greek.

The morphology of Minoan can be investigated through statistical analyses of the frequency with which the various Linear A signs occur. Inflection in human languages usually involves affixes; thus signs that appear inordinately often at the beginnings or ends of Linear A words are likely to be prefixes and suffixes.

Finally: most inscribed Minoan stone vessels contain a version of the so-called 'Libation formula', a lengthy sequence of Minoan words; comparing these versions yields valuable clues about the nature of Minoan syntax. The results of these investigations suggest that Minoan is a non-Indo-European, non-Semitic language with a fairly standard set of phonemes, an agglutinative morphology incorporating both prefixes and suffixes, and Verb-Subject-Object word order.

Wednesday 20 April, G-16 (Jim Potter Room), Old Physics Building
David Runia
, University of Melbourne

Unde malum? Clement of Alexandria on the Nature and Origin Evil

2 May - 11:00, Theatre B, Old Arts
Aren Maeir
, Bar-Ilan University

Canaanites to Philistines, Israelites to Crusaders: Excavating Five Millennia of Near Eastern History and Culture at Tell es-Safi/Gath

9 May
Chris Mackie
, LaTrobe University

Iliad 24 and the Judgement of Paris

12 May - Thursday, 11:00, Turner Theatre, Botany Building
Tim Harrison
, University of Toronto

The Khirbet Kerak Phenomenon: Migration, Cultural Diffusion or Social Differentiation?

The wide distribution of Early Transcaucasian Culture (ETC), often referred to as the Khirbet Kerak Phenomenon, has long been upheld as a classic case of migration. First attested in the Transcaucasus region as early as the mid-4th millennium BCE, concentrations of this distinctive cultural assemblage, most notably its striking pottery, have been found in a vast arc extending southwestward through central Anatolia, the Amuq Plain in the North Orontes Valley and as far south as the Sea of Galilee in the North Jordan Valley, and southeastward into the Zagros Mountain range of western Iran. More recently, cultural diffusion and social differentiation have been invoked as models to explain this remarkable cultural dispersion. This seminar will review the results of recent and ongoing research, and assess these competing models in light of this research.

Dr Timothy P. Harrison is Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, a position he filled in 1997. Prior to his appointment at Toronto he was a Research Associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, where he began working on the Megiddo Stratum VI Publication Project. He earned his Ph.D in Near Eastern Archaeology from the University of Chicago in 1995, completing a dissertation on the Early Bronze Age in the Highlands of Central Jordan. He has directed excavations at the Bronze and Iron Age site of Tell Madaba in Jordan and currently is directing the Tayinat Archaeological Project excavations on the Plain of Antioch in southeastern Turkey. These projects form part of a wider, interregional research effort that seeks to shed light on the early development of urban life and state-ordered society amidst the diverse cultures that have given shape to the eastern Mediterranean world. In addition to his own projects, Dr Harrison has participated in numerous other excavations and field expeditions in Israel, Jordan and Turkey. In 2007 he was elected President of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR).

16 May
Andrew Kelly
, University of Melbourne

Pindar Space

23 May
Frederik Vervaet
, University of Melbourne

The Remarkable Rise of the Flavians

24 May - Tuesday, 11:00 –12:30, Old Arts 254
Professor Danny Praet
, University of Ghent

Explaining the Christianization of the Roman Empire: A Short Historiography

This seminar will try to confront the views of Franz Cumont (1868-1947), specialist of Ancient Mystery Cults and the so-called Oriental Religions in the Roman Empire, on the process of christianization of the ancient world with those of his contemporaries such as the French theologian and professor at the Collège de France Alfred Loisy (1857-1940; author of e.g. The pagan mysteries and the Christian mystery, French original, 1914) and the German theologian and Church historian Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930; author of The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the first three centuries; 2 vol. 1902, fourth edition 1924; English translation second edition London, 1908). We will compare the explanatory frame-work developed by these scholars from the first half of the twentieth century with the most recent developments in scholarship on the conversion of the Roman World such as When our world became Christian (312-394) by retired professor at the Collège de France Paul Veyne and Jan N. Bremmer’s The Rise of Christianity.

Suggested reading:

Danny Praet, “Explaining the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Older theories and recent developments.” Sacris Erudiri. A Journal on the Inheritance of Early and Medieval Christianity. XXIII, 1992-1993, p. 5-119. (online with login at

Franz Cumont, The Oriental Religions in the Roman Empire. Paris, 1906, 1924(4), especially chapter two “Why the Oriental Religions spread.” pp. 20-45.
English translation of second edition by Grant Showerman, New York: Dover Publications, 1911.
Free from copyright: online e.g. through the Gutenberg Project at
New French edition with critical introduction in the Bibliotheca Cumontiana, Scripta Maiora vol. 1: F. Cumont, Les religions orientales dans le paganisme romain, Corinne Bonnet, Françoise Van Haeperen (eds.), Turnhout, Brepols Publishers, 2010, ISBN: 978-88-8419-289-9

Paul Veyne, When our world became Christian (312-394). Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010. ISBN 9780745644998.

1 August
Heather Jackson
, University of Melbourne

Fine Wine, Fine Tableware, Marble and Faience: Material Evidence for Trading Contacts in Seleucid Jebel Khalid on the Euphrates

Seleucid Jebel Khalid was founded on the river Euphrates to guard river traffic and a possible crossing. It was situated somewhat south of the main trading route to the east via Zeugma. Nearly all the coins found there were minted in Antioch. This paper looks at the material evidence for contacts with the rest of the Seleucid Empire and finds that most imports came from the west: fine tableware from various sources in Athens, Antioch and Asia Minor, fine wine in stamped amphorae from the Aegean, delicate lamps from Antioch, marble from the finest marble source, the island of Paros. The only ‘Mesopotamian’ import appears to be the green-glazed ware, which probably came up-river. There are a few intriguing instances of faience, possibly Egyptian, sneaking in from Ptolemaic territory. Which raises the question: is the dearth of imports from nearby Cyprus due to an embargo on Ptolemaic imports? Also addressed is the lack of certain types of vessels, particularly lagynoi and ‘Greek’ casseroles. Is there a cultural reason for this lacuna?

8 August
Trudi Fraser
, University of Melbourne

Visualising Plotina:The Iconography and the Woman

Pompeia Plotina, wife of the emperor Trajan, has enjoyed a reputation as a modest and virtuous woman (with thanks to Pliny and Dio), which has endured down through the centuries. In order to glean a deeper understanding of this intelligent and confident woman who became the model of a supportive imperial wife, this paper examines what is known and discusses what can be surmised of her early life. This knowledge is used to interpret a new catalogue that has been assembled of her iconography, including all known busts, statues, coins and gems.

15 August
K.O. Chong-Gossard
, University of Melbourne

Scholia, Illustration and Tradition in Neidhart’s 1486 Translation of Terence’s Eunuchus

This paper examines a printed German translation of Terence’s Eunuchus by Hans Neidhart of Ulm as a transformation of Terence's text in the age of printing and German humanism. Neidhart's 1486 prose translation of the second-century BCE Latin play into his vernacular language (Swabian, or West Upper German) is accompanied by his own scholia and woodblock illustrations of the play's action. The scholia include unapologetic moralizing of Terence's text and an interest in Greek mythology (e.g. Danae, and Hector and Ajax) as the source of proverbs in Neidhart's own time. The woodblock illustrations derive from the manuscript tradition of Terence; and indeed, Neidhart's printed book also imitates a manuscript in its opulent size, Gothic lettering and rubrication. This paper discusses what the Neidhart translation can show about the attitudes of fifteenth-century editors and readers of an ancient play that had a textual tradition spanning millennia.

22 August
Sarah Davidson
, University of Melbourne

The Language of Identity in Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum

The Late Roman Republic saw significant changes in the Roman conception of identity and power as a result of Roman imperialism and social changes within the Roman elite. In this paper I will contextualise Caesar’s Commentarii of his military campaigns in Gaul within Roman Republican historiographical literature with a particular focus on the themes of imperial expansion and the mythologising of origins. In addition I will examine Caesar’s language of identity and power in order to explore Roman identity within Roman society and also within a broader context of the Mediterranean world during the Late Roman Republic. Through his narrative of power and movement Caesar emphasises the role of space and boundaries in regards to the place of Roman authority within the Mediterranean world and elite identity within Roman society.

26 August
Jack Davis
, University of Cincinnati

Dateline 1180 BC: The Palace of Nestor after the Collapse of Mycenaean Society

29 August
Peter Mountford
, University of Melbourne

Livy and the Locals

The paper examines the way in which Livy portrays the various Italic peoples with whom Rome came into conflict during the first three and a half centuries of her existence, as portrayed in the first ten books of his History of Rome. Does he treat all Rome's enemies in the same way? Or does he portray some more generously than others? What other purposes may be served by the way in which he describes the events of this period?

5 September
David Runia
, University of Melbourne

The Creator as Demiurge in Philo of Alexandria: Is the Metaphor Justifiable?

This paper has been prepared for a conference on the theme of “Demiourgos: The World-maker in the Platonic Tradition” sponsored by the Humanities Korea Civilization Research Project at Seoul National University on September 7–9. Philo of Alexandria made an important contribution because he is the first to introduce the biblical tradition, based on the Greek translation of scripture. He faced the challenge of make the tradition of his Jewish religion intellectually acceptable and he made grateful use of convergences between the scriptural creation account and doctrines of Greek philosophy, particularly in Plato. In my paper I shall first present the main features of Philo’s presentation of God the creator and then examine the extent to which it does justice to the biblical account or introduces philosophical elements that are foreign to it.

12 September
Andrew Jamieson, Christine Elias
,         University of Melbourne

Egyptian Antiquities and ‘the tale of two brothers’

Many of Australia’s connections to ancient Egypt came through Flinders Petrie, who was directly involved with the creation of two groups of Egyptian artefacts at the University of Melbourne. In this seminar, the origins and historical significance of the Dodgson and Miller collections will be revealed. The two collections, which reflect the interests of their collectors and typify the era in which they were collected, were both created through links with Petrie and contain a range of fascinating objects including shabti, amulets, jewellery and figurines.

10 October
Sonya Wurster
, University of Melbourne

The Roman World of Philodemus

Philodemus is one of the few extant Epicurean sources from the first century BCE and, along with his epigrams, his works on ethics, theology, logic and epistemology, poetry, rhetoric, music and the history of philosophy are extant. To date, most scholars have tended to examine particular works or specialise in reconstructing his texts. In contrast, I use the full range of Philodemus’ surviving works. He is also generally examined within the framework of Hellenistic philosophy, despite the fact that he lived and worked in Italy for a large part of his life. Although his doctrines are undoubtedly indebted to Hellenistic philosophy, he also responded to his Roman context by varying the tone and language of those works which would have been of most interest to a Roman audience. This paper demonstrates the ways in which he engaged in Roman discourse on education, the changing role of the élite in the late Republic, patronage, religion and politics. Although there are elements of Epicurean philosophy which he adapts for a Roman audience, he maintains his philosophical integrity by preserving the central elements of Epicurus’ doctrines.

17 October
Jessie Birkett-Rees
, University of Melbourne

The State of the Art: Conflict Archaeology and the Cartography of the Gallipoli Peninsula

Classical and historical military sites have long held the interest of historians and archaeologists alike. In recent decades interest in the archaeological investigation of battlefields has developed into a sub-discipline, complete with a dedicated journal (Journal of Conflict Archaeology) and numerous conferences devoted to the topic. This paper examines the emergence of ‘battlefield archaeology’ or, more properly, ‘conflict archaeology’ and the significant role of spatial technologies in this sub-discipline. The application of modern spatial technologies is contributing to the discovery, analysis and conservation of sites of conflict and has encouraged important principles of non-invasive (or minimally destructive) field investigation. The emergent field of conflict archaeology, with its debt to historical archaeology, is especially relevant to the current Joint Historical and Archaeological investigation of the Gallipoli Peninsula (JHAS). In an extension of the discussion of conflict archaeology and spatial technologies, this paper will examine the cartography of the Gallipoli Peninsula and the latest efforts to map the heritage features across this landscape.

31 October
Amanda Goldfarb
, University of Melbourne

Canaanite and Phoenician Astronomy

The purpose of this thesis was to determine if the Canaanites and Phoenicians practised observational astronomy (from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age) and, if so, to introduce the topic as a separate field of enquiry. To do this, their cosmology, mythology, iconography and calendrical systems were analysed and, where applicable, compared to other contemporary cultures with known astronomical practices, such as the Mesopotamians and Egyptians. From this, it was found that Canaanite and Phoenician material remains indicated that they did possess astronomical knowledge; for example, certain iconographical scenes indicated the solstices, equinoxes and even eclipses. It was not possible, however, to determine how mathematical they were in their approach.

7 November, Old Arts Theatre B
Professor Trevor Bryce
, University of Queensland

The Ahhiyawa texts: Mycenaeans in the Near Eastern World

Scholarly debate has long been divided on Emil Forrer’s claim, made in the 1920s, that the Hittite texts contain references to the Late Bronze Age Greek (‘Mycenaean’) world. Recent research has considerably strengthened the equation between the land called Ahhiyawa of Hittite texts and the Mycenaean world, allegedly peopled by Homer’s Achaeans. But do we have actual proof of the equation? This will be discussed in the seminar in the context of a reappraisal of what the Hittite texts tells us of the land ruled by a ‘Great King’ of Ahhiyawa, which lay to the west. Relatively new texts which refer to Ahhiyawa throw interesting additional light on the history of the land and people so called and the Hittite kings with which they dealt, especially in the final years of the Late Bronze Age and in the period that followed. These texts, along with a reassessment of long known sources, will provide the basis for my talk.

30 November (Wednesday), Old Arts Theatre B
Dr Des. Kristina Pfeiffer
, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Orientabteiling – Außenstelle Damaskus

Early Metallurgy in the Sinai: Technological Innovations in Mobile Communities

During the 4th millennium BCE the exchange of goods and copper artefacts between the Southern Levant and the Nile Delta played an important role. As far as the exchange took place by land, it had to pass through the Sinai peninsula. Yet, the latter has never been considered a carrier of independent cultural development but is merely seen as a transfer region. However, its role as a potential raw material supplier or user within supra-regional exchange activities is still to be explored. Although turquoise exploitation in Sinai can be dated back to Neolithic times, it is commonly assumed that extractive metallurgy and incipient metallurgical practices did not occur until the Late Early Bronze Age. With the aim to investigate early metallurgical technologies and their impact on the social structures of the indigenous population, the Sinai Project of the DAI has focused on this subject. With the help of provenience studies based on trace elements and lead isotope analyses it was possible to gain insight into early trade routes, raw material supply and the transfer of technology. As a result of my analyses it becomes clear that the Sinai was not only much more independent from its neighbouring regions than has previously been assumed, but also that it possessed innovative potential especially within the realm of metallurgical technologies.

14 December (Wednesday), Arts West Theatrette 3, 12:00
Simon Young
, University of Melbourne

The Development of Three Greek Agoras in Asia Minor: Aspendos, Aphrodisias and Oenoanda

This seminar explores the development of the agoras at Aspendos, Aphrodisias and Oenoanda in Asia Minor from the Hellenistic period to the late Imperial period. The architecture of Greek agoras reflected a desire to create social unity and a sense of civic identity. This becomes apparent when buildings in the agora are considered in terms of their relationship to both other architectural and non-architectural elements. By examining these three cities as case studies, their agoras reveal how these wider social and civic considerations were expressed through the physical development of their agoras.