Ancient World Seminar

Trajan's Column, Rome
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

The Ancient World Seminar is held on Mondays from 1:15-2:15 during semester for presentations and discussions of papers from students and academic staff on all aspects of the ancient world.


For information on the seminar series or to be added to the email list please contact Dr Edward Jeremiah (


The venue, unless noted otherwise, will be Old Arts 124 (Theatre C) and via Zoom.   Meeting details will be emailed in the week before each seminar.  For further details or to receive the Zoom link please email Dr Edward Jeremiah (

2023 Programme

20 March

Madaline Harris-Schober, The University of Melbourne

Ritual Architecture, Material Culture and Practice of the Philistines

The Philistines have long been an elusive group of seafarers who appear in the Southern Levant ca. 1200 BCE. This study focuses on the identification of ritual and cult-related architecture, material finds and practices of the Philistines and their neighbours through the application of comparative analysis and a reassessment of legacy data. The archaeological dataset of the Philistines is rich and important, allowing for a multi-scaled perspective and understanding of migrant group(s) becoming entangled in indigenous populations and undergoing subtle cultural transformation. This research aims to present a new way of viewing the ritual architecture of Philistia and the wider Eastern Mediterranean.

Madaline is an Archaeologist and dual PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne and Ludwig Maximillian Universität München researching Philistine ritual architecture and its wider connections. Madaline has previously worked as part of the JVRP (Jezreel Valley Regional Project) at the site of Legio, the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project and the Tell Akko 'Total Archaeology' Project. Madaline's overseas research was funded by the Jessie Webb, the Alma Hansen and the Norman McGeorge scholarships.

This talk is also part of the Jessie Webb, the Alma Hansen and the Norman McGeorge scholarship completion requirement.

27 March

6:30; via Zoom only

Tilmann Gaitzsch, University of Leipzig

Urban Society and Ideal Community: Strategies of Establishing Jerusalemite Identity in 2Sam 24 and 1Chr 21

The story of the plague in Israel in 2Sam 24 and its retelling in 1Chr 21 are two of the most insightful regarding the conception of urban structures in both Iron-Age Judah and Persian Jehud. Both versions describe the establishment of activities typical for urban structures: Administration (census) and cultic practice (sacrifice). However, the most important element of both accounts is the shared experience of (deliverance from) a catastrophic epidemic. This catastrophe is inextricably intertwined with the foundation of the urban community. The texts can therefore be understood both as literary descriptions of urbanisation processes dated back to the Iron I and as a reflection of the ideas and ideals that their respective authors had on urban identity and lifestyle.

I will focus on the question how the author used the Iron-Age cult legend, handed to him through the Deuteronomic History, to describe an ideal urban community against a Persian background and how the iron age urban society of Jerusalem became a point of constant reference for the concept of any urban society with enormous and lasting influence both on the city itself and on a global level.

Tilmann Gaitzsch is a PhD Student at the University of Leipzig currently working at the University of Tel Aviv. From 2014 till 2020 he studied Theology at the Universities of Leipzig, Thessaloniki and Zurich. He is now working on his PhD thesis on the role of epidemics in the Hebrew Bible, especially in 2Sam 24/1Chr 21, and in ancient near eastern societies. His main area of interest is the connections between ancient Israel and the Mediterranean realms and cultures and their respective literatures.

3 April

Lambros Tapinos, University of Melbourne

Minoan Frescoes and Heterotopia: Creating Ritual Spaces and Visual Language at Mari, Alalakh, Tel Kabri

This paper explores the meaning and function of the Minoan decorative motifs painted at Mari and fresco paintings discovered at Alalakh and Tel Kabri proposing that rulers sought craftspeople from the Aegean to decorate palatial spaces where elites gathered for ritual ceremonies and diacritical feasting. Erwin Panofsky’s iconological approach is used to contextually interpret iconographic elements and read the visual language which aligns with palace rituals and sacred kingship ideology. The iconographic elements are juxtaposed with comparanda from the Aegean and Near Eastern repertoires while syntax and semantic relationships reveal the iconography was imbued with religious meaning over time and space but acculturated to the needs of the receiving culture. The paper investigates how fresco paintings contributed to architectural space and ritual activities occurring in the rooms they decorated, investigating in particular, how ritual spaces were conceived and structured by ruling elites and how participants might have perceived and experienced them. The paper also considers cross-cultural interactions and agency concluding the paintings were not just desired exotica for the enhancement of elite identities but also had religious meanings and functions. The lime plaster technology was considered to be manufactured with esoteric knowledge from distant Crete under the patronage of a deity while the religious iconography created illusions of other worlds, creating in the palace heterotopic spaces that supported ceremonial rituals and divine feasting.

Lambros Tapinos is a graduate researcher commencing the PhD program at The University of Melbourne (2023) after completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts (Advance) within the Discipline of Classics and Archaeology in 2022. Previously, Lambros completed a Masters' Degree in Ancient History at Macquarie University (2016).

17 April

Lieve Donnellan, University of Melbourne

The Urban Architecture Survey at Haliartos (Boeotia): Revisiting Greek Urban Architecture and Urbanism

A recent research project in Haliartos (Boeotia, Greece) aims at studying the visible standing architectural remains intra muros. After the destruction by the Romans in 171BC, Haliartos was not reoccupied in a significant manner, and thus, the preservation of the remains is excellent. Using a series of interdisciplinary methods, the architectural remains could be studied in detail. A selection of the most important discoveries will be presented along with some reflections on methodologies for conducting urban architecture surveys. Moreover, the preliminary research results at Haliartos do not just inform us about local building practices, but also invite us to rethink some of the current concepts of ancient Greek urbanism.

On July 1st 2020, Lieve Donnellan joined the department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Melbourne. She was previously Assistant Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Aarhus (Denmark). After graduating from Ghent University in 2012, she held various postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Chicago, the Georg-August University in Göttingen and the Free University in Amsterdam. Lieve Donnellan's main research interests are the Greek "colonisation" of Southern Italy and the Black Sea, urbanisation and urban architecture, the ancient economy and the application of network theory in archaeology. Lieve currently conducts fieldwork in Greece (Haliartos, Boeotia) and in Italy, in the Plain of Gioia Tauro (Calabria). She was the recipient of various awards and scholarships, from the Belgian Historical Institute in Rome (2006, 2008, 2012), the 'Ecole Française d'Athènes (2011), the Belgian-American Educational Foundation (2013), the Dorothea Schlözer Fellowship from the Georg-August Universität Göttingen (2014), a Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship (2016). She was awarded the BaBesch Award from the Byvanck Foundation in Leiden in 2011.

8 May

Tim Parkin, University of Melbourne

Investigating Domestic Violence in the Roman World

In this talk I shall discuss some questions and ideas that I am currently grappling with as part of an emerging project on domestic violence in antiquity - a shared endeavour with colleagues at the University of Sydney, among others. My aim in this talk is to present our current framework for the project: the topics we are trying to explore, including intimate partner violence, generational abuse, and coercive control within the domestic sphere, not just between partners and between parents and children, but also, for example, between enslaved and enslavers. I shall also talk about one aspect I am focussing on (one perhaps less obvious in this context), namely elder abuse in antiquity. Among the issues I hope to raise for discussion are both the nature of the evidence and problems of terminology, ancient and modern.

Please be aware that, of necessity, we are dealing with very difficult and sensitive topics in this seminar.

Tim Parkin joined the Classics & Archaeology department at the University of Melbourne in 2018 as the inaugural Elizabeth & James Tatoulis Chair in Classics. Before this he had spent over eleven years as Professor of Ancient History at the University of Manchester (UK). He is a New Zealander by birth who was awarded a D.Phil. at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and who, since 1989, has worked in universities in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Tim's teaching covers both ancient history and classical languages. His main research is in Roman social, cultural, legal, and demographic history. Among his major publications are Demography and Roman Society (1992), Old Age in the Roman World (2003), Roman Social History (2007), and The Oxford Handbook of Childhood and Education in the Classical World (2014). He is now working on a book on ancient sexual health, in particular sexually transmitted diseases, as well as completing a six-volume world history of ageing. He is currently serving as Deputy Head of the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies and as the Deputy Associate Dean (DAD) of Arts - Partnerships & Engagement - at the University of Melbourne.

15 May

Ash Green and Andrew Turner, University of Melbourne

Annus mirabilis: 1887 and the Popularization of the Classics in Melbourne

The year 1887 saw two major events which presented the classical past on stage to the people of ‘Marvellous Melbourne.’

In April, college students performed Plautus’ Aulularia in support of a funding drive for the first women’s residential college at the University of Melbourne. Aulularia lacks an ending in the manuscript tradition, and so the new professor of classical philology, Thomas Tucker, provided an ending to the play which received critical acclaim. The text which was performed before an elite audience also contained significant alterations to appeal to Victorian sensibilities, which will be discussed in the first part of the presentation.

At the other end of the spectrum, there was James Pain’s pyrodrama, The Last Days of Pompeii, which was performed from October and throughout the summer season to crowds of tens of thousands in the open air near the Yarra River. Through a combination of elaborate sets, costumed actors, musicians, and electrical illumination, Pain brought the city of Pompeii to life for the people of Melbourne before simulating its destruction by the eruption of Vesuvius through a dazzling fireworks display. This was a play for ‘People with the big P’ and forms a powerful contrast with the Aulularia, allowing us to explore how social dynamics affected the reception of classics in 19th-century colonial Australia.

Dr Ash Green is a recent graduate of The University of Melbourne. Her principal research is concerned with birds in Roman life and myth, and what the study of human/animal relations can reveal about cultures and societies both past and present. As well, in 2022 she was awarded a Charles La Trobe fellowship with a project which investigated the planning and construction of the first purpose-built penal and psychiatric institutions in the Port Phillip District and colony of Victoria. She now teaches at the University in the Ancient World Studies programme.

Dr Andrew Turner teaches in the Latin Language programme at the University of Melbourne. His research focuses on the reception of Latin literature in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and he has worked extensively on the playwrights Terence and Seneca.

18 May

Lieve van Hoof (University of Ghent)

Libanius, For the Prisoners (Oration 45): An Extraordinary Speech for Social Justice

In A.D. 386, the orator Libanius composed a speech “For the prisoners” (Oration 45), in which he drew the emperor Theodosius’ attention to the appalling circumstances in which prisoners were being kept in Antioch. Whilst a few scholars have discussed what this text can teach us about Libanius’ views on prisons, his references to legislation concerning emprisonment, prison architecture, and Antiochene society, this paper is the first to draw explicit attention to the oration’s exceptional nature. It does so by offering an analysis of the text as well as by placing it against the context of Greek rhetoric in Late Antiquity. Finally, the paper also discusses the reasons why Libanius decided to take up the cause of the prisoners in this extraordinary way.

Lieve Van Hoof is a Full Professor of Classics & Ancient History at Ghent University, Belgium. Trained as a classicist (PhD KU Leuven, 2006), historian and political scientist, she currently studies late antique Greek and Latin letter collections in order to shed light on lobbying in the later Roman Empire. Her publications include a monograph on Plutarch’s Practical Ethics (OUP, 2010), an edited volume on Libanius (CUP, 2014), and a co-authored Translated Texts for Historians volume on Jordanes’ Romana and Getica (Liverpool UP, 2020, with P. Van Nuffelen). She was formerly co-president of the Young Academy of Belgium, and is currently also Professor Extraordinary at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

22 May

Christopher Greenough, Tom Keep, Emily Simons

National Archaeology Week