Ancient World Seminar

Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

The Ancient World Seminar is held on Mondays from 1:00-2:00 during semester for presentations and discussions of papers from students and academic staff on all aspects of the ancient world.

In second semester 2021 we intend that some seminars will be held in person in the Forum Theatre, Arts West Building, and simulcast on Zoom.  However, some special events will be held only on Zoom, and the time for these may vary according to time zones.  Meeting details will be emailed to subscribers in the week before each seminar.


For information on the seminar series please contact Dr Andrew Turner (


Seminars are held via Zoom until further notice.  Meeting details will be emailed in the week before each seminar.  To receive the Zoom link please email Dr Andrew Turner (

2021 Programme

15 March

Christopher Greenough, University of Melbourne

Bronze Age Aegean Lion Iconography and its Egyptian and Near-Eastern Connections

This paper will be a PhD commencement seminar.  In his dissertation Christopher will examine shared iconographic conventions of Bronze Age civilizations, and what these common cultural traits might tell us about the ancient Mediterranean.  Though iconography is just one facet of an ancient culture, it can communicate what a civilization/culture may have looked like, how it was structured, how its people lived, and — possibly — their beliefs in this life and the next.  Through an in-depth analysis of select objects — context (geographical/political), iconography, and use — it is his aim to ascertain whether or not the societal structure/belief systems of Bronze Age Aegean cultures can be reflected in lion iconography.

Christopher Greenough is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, specializing in Bronze Age Aegean iconography.  Prior to this he completed a Master of International Relations and has participated at the Tell es-Safi archaeological dig in Israel.

22 March, 6-7 pm

Aren Maeir, Bar Ilan University

Philistines and Sea Peoples in Light of the Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath

25 years of excavations at the site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel, conducted by a multi-national team, including from Melbourne, have revealed important finds relating to many periods and cultures.  In this lecture, Professor Maeir will present and discuss finds from the site that contribute to our understanding of the fascinating Sea Peoples and Philistines, in light of the identification of Tell es-Safi/Gath as Philistine Gath, biblical home of Goliath

Aren Maeir is a professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, director of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project and head of the Institute of Archaeology.

29 March

James Tan, The University of Sydney

Regional Representation and the Reform of the Comitia Centuriata in the Third Century BCE

At some point between 241 and 219 BCE, the Romans changed the way that they ran their most prestigious elections. In the comitia centuriata, votes had always been weighted in favour of the wealthy, but now many votes were also organised by territorial tribe. This paper will argue that the reform was not intended to change to change the balance of voting by rich or poor. Instead, it was designed to recalibrate the political influence of old citizens near Rome and of new citizens (and colonists) in more recently conquered areas. While this may well have been a response to the shared sacrifice of the First Punic War and perhaps the Gallic War of the 220’s, I will argue that it also speaks to the development of a spatial perception of Rome that was no longer in sync with political institutions.

James Tan is Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney. He receive his PhD from Columbia University and is the author of Power and Public Finance at Rome (264-49 BCE). He is currently working on a book on the Tribuni Aerarii and the role of taxation in ordering rural communities and creating a sociologically stable Republican elite.

12 April

Ashley Green, The University of Melbourne

Fowling in Imperial Rome: Methods, Tools and Consumption Patterns

This paper examines the practices of fowling and bird-catching in Imperial Rome to create a general profile of the methods, tools, and consumption patterns common across the Empire. It asks how birds were hunted, when they were hunted, and how consumption of wild birds was used to advertise class, status, and inequality. It examines such phenomena as the practice of eating birds 'out of season' and the boom in demand for exotic table birds at the beginning of the Imperial period. Finally, it makes comparison to hunting practices of the Middle Ages and looks at points of differentiation, including Roman lack of falconry and the absence of the concept of poaching in Roman law.

Dr Ash Green is a recent graduate of The University of Melbourne. Her 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.

19 April

Stephanie Zindilis, The University of Melbourne

Distaff Displacement: Narratives of Female Exile in Ovidian Poetry

Displacement, the removal from one’s home or country of origin with the possibility of return being difficult or impossible, is a torment experienced by numerous women in Ovid’s Heroides and Fasti. These episodes reveal how exile is experienced by women and its impact on their psychology, agency, and identity, exploring the myriad of factors that can influence a woman’s success or failure in finding refuge, and how gender and exile intersect to create an oppressive cycle of dual-marginalization. The increased vulnerability of exiled women provides a powerful model for Ovid to voice his own experience of displacement in the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, written after his exile to Tomis in 8 CE. Thematic and linguistic echoes link his pre-exilic and post-exilic work to bridge poetic fact and fiction, identifying the poet with his characters through the shared experience of social exclusion and persecution by a more dominant masculine force.

Stephanie has completed an honours level thesis at the University of Melbourne on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, for which she was awarded the D.H. Rankin Essay prize and the Alexander Leeper Prize. She is currently undertaking a Master of Arts, focusing on the intersectionality of exile and gender throughout Ovid’s textual corpus. With 9 years of Latin and 3 years of Ancient Greek language study, Stephanie has developed a keen interest in early Roman Empire poetry and Greek Lyric poetry. Her research interests include gender, marginalisation, and intertextuality, concepts which are crucial to her current study of Ovidian literature.

26 April

Edward Jeremiah, The University of Melbourne

Divine Envy and Generosity in Cosmological Arguments between Neoplatonists and Christians

Christianity and Neoplatonism both assume that God created the world because he lacks envy and wanted to share his goodness with creation. This principle becomes a bone of contention in arguments between Christians and Neoplatonists as they battle over whose account of creation is most consistent with the idea of a good and generous god. At stake are questions like the following: How much involvement does the creator God have in creation? Does he delegate the job of creation to a class of intermediary gods; and Do human races have different human natures, which might constrain their freedom and prevent them from fully accessing the good life? Dr Jeremiah will explore the general character and logic of such debates as they appear in the literature, with special attention to Cyril of Alexandria’s Against Julian, a work which defends Christianity against the emperor Julian’s attacks on it in his Against the Galileans.

Edward Jeremiah teaches Greek and Latin at Melbourne University and is currently helping to translate Cyril’s Against Julian into English for the first time. He has worked on the Aëtiana Project, which aims to lay new foundations for the study of the history of philosophy, as a post-doctoral researcherHe is the author of The Emergence of Reflexivity in Greek Language and Thought (Brill, 2012).

3 May

Monique Webber, The University of Melbourne

An Exploration of Rome's Horrea piperataria

The Horrea Piperataria – or ‘Pepper Warehouse’ – is a shadowy presence in our understanding of Rome’s imperial forum.  Built by Domitian in the late first century CE, it had been reduced to ashes by the end of the second century.  In the early fourth century, what little remained of the horrea vanished as the Basilica of Maxentius occupied its site.  Rome’s emporium of herbs and spices from across the Empire has, perhaps unsurprisingly, received little attention in scholarship.  However, this presentation will demonstrate that interrogating what little we do know about the Horrea Piperataria reveals not only the nature of this site but also its role in shaping social identity.  Adopting a post-colonial lens, ‘An Exploration of Rome's Horrea Piperataria’ reconstructs the socio-cultural encounters of this site and how these shaped external experiences of the city’s imperial power landscape.

Monique Webber is a Teaching Specialist in Ancient World Studies at The University of Melbourne, Australia.  Her research centres on the impact of urban environments upon cultural expression.  Embracing international urban cultures from the ancient to the contemporary eras, this focus encompasses Monique’s broader interests in fine art, design and society.  Monique’s teaching practice embraces technology, object-based learning and inquisitive models to create engaging virtual and physical learning environments.  She is also active in academic community engagement and contemporary art and architectural criticism.

10 May, 6-7 pm

Jana Mokrišová, University of Cambridge

Forged Connections: Bronze and Iron in Pre-Archaic Southwestern Anatolia

Our understanding of the adoption of ironworking in the Aegean has long been based on the flow of finished objects between Cyprus and Early Iron Age centres such as Athens, Lefkandi, and Knossos. The investigations have thus exclusively relied on the evidence from western Aegean shores. This talk will suggest that the region of Ionia, located in western Anatolia, should be added to the list of early innovators and that this process took place here during early stages of the Early Iron Age, as new evidence increasingly points to several indications of an early use of iron. The new datasets therefore call for at least a fine-tuning, if not a reconsideration, of the established models. Additionally, they further challenge the narrative of the Ionian migration, as local developments seem to pay central role to the processes of adoption and adaptation. In particular, these early contexts seem to attest incorporation of Late Bronze Age local crafting (bronze working) knowledge; they draw on connectivity between the different western Anatolian regions; and they emerge not only in Ionia, but in Lydia and Caria as well. This talk will therefore present a quick overview of bronze working in Anatolia, explain the possible interplay between bronze and iron working traditions in the region, and highlight aspects of cultural and technological continuity and change in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age.

Jana Mokrišová is an archaeologist specialising in western Anatolia and the eastern Aegean from the Late Bronze Age to the Archaic period and theoretical approaches to mobility. Her current research develops specific aspects of ancient mobilities, such as the application of landscape approaches and issues of technological transfer with a particular focus on the role of iron. She holds a PhD in Classical Art and Archaeology (University of Michigan), and is Research Associate at the University of Cambridge for ‘MIGMAG: Migration and the Making of the Ancient Greek World’ (ERC Consolidator Grant; University of Vienna) and for the 'Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the Large Mediterranean Islands' (Fitzwilliam Museum) research projects.

17 May

National Archaeology Week

For National Archaeology Week the University of Melbourne will be presenting the work of six of our postgraduates, showing the depth and innovation of our researchers at a time when opportunities for field work are severely limited. The six speakers will be giving short presentations on the following topics:

The Hellenic Museum Digitization Project (Thomas Keep)

The Bronze and Early Iron age occupation of South Montiferru and North Campidano Valley (Laura Pisanu)

Fara South - Re-Examining a Century-Old Excavation (Paula Phillips)

A spatial analysis of griffins in the Late Bronze Age east-Mediterranean (Emily Simons)

The Road to Ritual: Philistine Architecture and Material Culture (Madaline Harris-Schober)

Interdisciplinary Engagement with Bab adh-Dhra’ Artefacts through Object-Based Learning (Gemma Lee)

24 May

Giulia Torello-Hill, The University of New England and Andrew Turner, The University of Melbourne

The Lyon Terence: Illustrator and Editor

The Lyon Terence, edited by the Fleming Jodocus Badius Ascensius in 1493, was the first printed edition of the plays of Terence to include a full cycle of woodcut illustrations. Illustrated manuscripts of Terence from the Middle Ages are well known and have been studied extensively, but the Lyon Terence has been unjustly overlooked.  This paper builds on the recently published The Lyon Terence: Its Tradition and Legacy (Brill 2020) to look closely at the interplay between woodcut illustrations and commentary. Although the identity of the artist who oversaw the design of the Lyon Terence’s iconographic plan is unknown, close correspondences between the commentary and the illustrations suggest a symbiotic dialogue between artist and editor.

Badius was already an authority on Terence—in 1491 he published an innovative edition of Terence and his late-antique commentator Donatus. Donatus’ brief notes on delivery of specific lines are usually taken as pedagogical advice on diction. Instead, this paper contends that, under the supervision of Badius, the artist of the Lyon Terence visually interpreted Donatus’ prescriptions as encompassing gestures, gaze orientation and bodily movement, following the consolidated tradition of Quintilian. Arguably, the Lyon Terence could elicit in the Renaissance reader a different level of engagement, providing a detailed linguistic and cultural explanation of Terence’s text to the learned audience, while in turn offering a pictorial narrative to the leisured reader, who could see the plot unfolding before his very eyes.

Giulia Torello-Hill is a Lecturer in Italian at the University of New England. She specialises in the reception of classical drama in the Renaissance. Her research explores the interplay between exegesis of ancient texts, iconographic tradition and performance practice in Renaissance Italy. She has held fellowships from Villa I Tatti the Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence (2015-16) and the Renaissance Society of America and Kress Foundation (2018). She has recently co-authored with Andrew Turner The Lyon Terence: Its Tradition and Legacy (Brill, 2020) and has embarked on a new collaborative project on drama, music and orality in Renaissance Ferrara.

Andrew Turner is a researcher at the University of Melbourne, where he lectures on Latin literature. His research focuses on the transmission of Latin texts in the Middle Ages, and in 2011-12 he was a visiting fellow at the Flemish Academic Centre in Brussels, where he undertook a study of classical literary scholarship in mediaeval Flanders. His most recent research has focused the commentary traditions on the classical dramatists Terence and Seneca; besides his extensive work with Giulia Torello-Hill, he currently is part of a major research project on the first mediaeval commentary on Seneca’s dramas by Nicholas Trevet.

26 July

Tamara Lewit, University of Melbourne

History from Below Adult Height: Researching Roman Children and Engaging Children with Romans

While there is a large and rapidly growing body of scholarship on Roman children, there are still few studies of children in rural contexts, mainly because our textual sources mainly relate to urban life. Yet, since the great majority of the Roman population would have lived in the countryside, it is important to consider how we can investigate the lives of the many rural children. Further, scholarly work on children is overwhelmingly written for adults, and in the second half of this talk I will discuss a project to engage modern children with the Classical past through the children’s novel The Boy Who Stepped Through Time. In collaboration with author Anna Ciddor, I have acted as a researcher for this novel, seeking ways to accurately present history from a child’s perspective.  The project aims to generate relationships between young modern readers and Roman children – represented by the fictional characters of a slave boy and young elite girl living in a Roman rural villa - and to form a bridge of empathy between the children of the past and present.

Dr Tamara Lewit is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at The University of Melbourne, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London. She specialises in the study of the late antique economy, particularly production of wine and oil. Her upcoming publications include ‘Young children in the Roman farming economy (western Mediterranean): Evidence, problems and possibilities’ in Divergent Economies in the Roman World edited by D. Van Limbergen, D. Taelman & A. Hoffelinck (Ghent, 2021) and the historical website for children ‘Tamara’s Secrets’ to accompany the novel The Boy Who Stepped Through Time. She recently published “What was it like to be a child in the Roman Empire?” for the online University of Melbourne magazine Pursuit.

2 August

Elizabeth Pemberton, LaTrobe University

A Cache of Terracotta Figurines in Corinth: Problems of Style, Iconography and Function

9 August

Dawn LaValle Norman, Australian Catholic University

The Emergence of the Female Voice in Ancient Philosophical Dialogues — from Plato to Augustine

16 August

Frederik Vervaet, The University of Melbourne

Constitutional Innovation During the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE): Some Unintended Consequences

23 August

Tim Murray. The University of Melbourne

Archaeological Theory and the History of Australian Archaeology

30 August

Dan Rankin, The University of Melbourne

Mice Against Elephants: Sacred Inviolability and the Negotiation of Royal Power in the Early Hellenistic Period

6 September

Robert Turnbull, The University of Melbourne

Arabic Translations of ‘Caesarean’ Texts of the Gospels in the Sinai:New Finds

13 September

6:00-7:00, NB Zoom event

Alexandra Morris, Teesside University

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield: Tutankhamun and Disability

27 September

Josephine Verduci, The University of Melbourne

Near Eastern Crescent Pendants and the Encoding of Social Memory

4 October

Hyun Jin Kim, The University of Melbourne

Were the Greeks Racist?

11 October

6:00-7:00, NB Zoom event

Ben Salisbury, University of Birmingham

P. Clodius Pulcher and Public Opinion at a Local Level in the Late Republic

18 October

Rachel Popelka-Filcoff, The University of Melbourne

Peering into the Past: Viewing Archaeology Using Analytical Science Approaches