Category Archives: Ancient Religions

Northern Association for Ancient Philosophy 2014 – University of Leeds

The Northern Association for Ancient Philosophy Annual Meeting 2014

Department of Classics, University of Leeds

Monday April 7th – Tuesday April 8th 2014

Venue: The Brotherton Room, Special Collections, Brotherton Library
Monday April 7th
Parkinson Court, Parkinson Building, University of Leeds
Dr Brian D. Prince (Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford)
“The Forms as Powers in Plato’s Phaedo.”
Professor Mario-Jorge de Carvalho (Department of Philosophy, New University of Lisbon)
“A ‘Radiological’ Approach to Pausanias’ Speech (Plato’s Symposium).”
4.30pm-4.50pm: tea
Mr Nicolo Benzi (PhD candidate, Department of Classics and Ancient History, Durham)
“The semantics of noos, noein and their derivatives in the poetry of Xenophanes and Parmenides.”
5.50pm-6.20pm  Business meeting
Evening: Conference Dinner — University House, University of Leeds
Tuesday April 8th
The Justice, Ethics and Conventions of War in Ancient Thought
with the centenary conference: ‘Classics and Classicists in WWI’, April 8th-10th 2014
Professor Neville Morley (Department of Classics and Ancient History, Bristol)
“Might and Right: Thucydides on the ethics of deterrence and pre-emption.”
11.15am-11.45am coffee
Professor Malcolm Schofield (Faculty of Classics, Cambridge)
“Deciding ethically: Cicero on war and tyrannicide (and other problems).”
The ‘Classics and Classicists in World War I’ Centenary Exhibition opens Monday April 7th 1.00pm at Special Collections, The Brotherton Library, Parkinson Building.
For information on NAAP 2014 and Classics and Classicists in WWI:

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Workshop at Durham University on Ancient Historiography, Science, and Theology

 Paradigm and Method in Ancient Historiography, Science, and Theology

 A CAMNE Workshop at Durham University

 3–4 May 2013





Under the auspices of the Centre   for the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East (CAMNE), the Department of Classics and Ancient History at Durham University is pleased to host an interdisciplinary workshop entitled ‘Paradigm and Method in Ancient Historiography, Science, and Theology’, 3–4 May 2013.  This workshop seeks to develop a scholarly dialogue concerning the epistemological assumptions, writing strategies, and methodological applications employed by ancient authors of historical writings, scientific and technical compositions, and theological works.  Papers will be delivered by a group of scholars whose academic interests pursue the interrelationships between various disciplines of knowledge in ancient cultures.

All events will take place at the Department of Classics and Ancient History, Durham University, 38 North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3EU. This workshop is open to the public, and there is no cost to participate.  Any enquiries can be directed to the organizer, Phillip Horky (  Postdoctoral students are particularly encouraged to attend the workshop.



(Ritson Room/CL007, Dept. of Classics and Ancient History)

4:00pm–4:15pm: Introductory Remarks by Phillip Horky (Durham University)

Afternoon/Evening Session: Chaired by Luca Castagnoli (Durham University)

4:15pm–5:15pm: Chris Pelling (Christ Church, Oxford University)

‘Herodotus and the Hippocratics’

5:15pm–6:15pm: Phillip Horky (Durham University)

‘The First Words of Pythagoras’ Physics? Diogenes Laertius on Heraclitus on Pythagoras’

6:15pm–6:45pm: Coffee & Tea Break (Seminar Room/CL108)

6:45pm–7:45pm: Stefan Schorn (KU Leuven)

‘Theophrastus on Jewish Sacrifice’

8:00pm: Dinner for speakers


(Ritson Room/CL007, Dept. of Classics and Ancient History)

8:30am–9:00am: Coffee & Snacks (Seminar Room/CL108)

 Morning Session: Chaired by John Moles (Newcastle University)

9:00am–10:00am: Nicolas Wiater (University of St. Andrews)

‘History with(out) Gods: A Fresh Look at Polybius and Theology’

10:00am–11:00am: Thorsten Foegen (Durham University)

‘Memory, Methodology, and Morality: Links between Ancient Technical Writing and Historiography’

11:00am–11:30am: Coffee & Snacks (Seminar Room/CL108)

Morning/Afternoon Session: Chaired by Amy Russell (Durham) 

11:30am–12:30pm: Lucas Herchenroeder (Durham University)

‘Polybius and Political Causality: the Case of the Hannibalic War’

12:30pm–1:30pm: Luke Pitcher (Somerville College, Oxford University)

‘The Doctor’s Dilemma: Polybius, Science, and Philosophy’

1:30pm–1:45pm: Closing Remarks by Lucas Herchenroeder (Durham University)

This workshop is generously supported by the Department of Classics and Ancient History and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Durham University.

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Preview of ‘Pythagoreanism in the Early Academy: the Question of Appropriation’

As promised, here is preview of the paper I’ll be giving in the Plato’s Academy Conference at the University of Athens on 14 December (9:30-10:10 in the Ioannis Drakopoulos Auditorium), on the modalities of ‘appropriation’ of Pythagorean philosophy in the Early Academy:

Antisthenes at the British Museum

Antisthenes of Athens, at the British Museum

From the very earliest sources in Athens, we see diverse approaches to the ‘appropriation’ of Pythagoreanism: the Socratic philosopher Antisthenes of Athens, who celebrated the rhetorical dexterity of Pythagoras, and who cast him as a figure whose activities exemplified the claim that ‘to discover the mode of wisdom appropriate to each person is the mark of wisdom’ (τὸν γὰρ ἑκάστοις πρόσφορον τρόπον τῆς σοφίας ἐξευρίσκειν σοφίας ἐστίν).[1]  Here, Pythagoras’ civic performances in Croton – whatever historical veracity they might obtain – seem to be elicited in order to demonstrate his exemplarity as an orator, a πολύτροπος who, like Odysseus, is able to intuit the best way to speak to his audience, and tailor his speech accordingly.[2]  This, according to Antisthenes, is a sort of higher order wisdom in itself, under which fall other sorts of wisdom.  But even from the earliest response to Pythagoreanism, in the dialogues of the Socratic Antisthenes, we can see that Pythagorean wisdom was, itself, inherently thought to be appropriable to the object of its persuasion.[3]

The fact of the appropriability of Pythagoreanism to its audience, evident in Antisthenes’ fragments, might help to explain why Pythagoreanism was so open to diversity of interpretation in the intellectual culture of late 5th-Century BCE Athens.  Indeed, other intellectuals within the circle of Socrates were approaching Pythagoreanism with what might seem to us to be more exotic exegetical strategies.  Another associate of Socrates, Aristippus of Cyrene, also focused on Pythagoras’ disclosure of the truth, but he cleverly employed an explanatory strategy based in allegorical etymologization of the sort found in the Derveni Papyrus and Plato’s Cratylus.[4]  In a work entitled On the Natural Scientists, Aristippus claimed:

…he was named Pythagoras because he, no less than the Pythian, orated

the truth.”

Πυθαγόραν αὐτὸν ὀνομασθῆναι ὅτι τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἠγόρευεν οὐχ ἧττον

τοῦ Πυθίου.

(D.L. 8.21 = SSR IV A 150)

This strategy of interpretation of Pythagoras’ name, which was associated with riddling speech elsewhere in this period, is all the more striking given Aristippus’ refusal elsewhere to ‘solve a riddle’ (λῦσον αἴνιγμα), on the grounds that it already offers us enough trouble in its current ‘bound-up’ state (δεδεμένον).[5]  Was Aristippus joking in the first case, or being flippant in the second?  Perhaps Aristippus was aping a method of allegorical interpretation practiced by natural scientists of the stripe of someone like Metrodorus of Lampsacus, who was associated with Anaxagoras and the φυσικὴ πραγματεία in the traditions, and who engaged in forms of metonymical explanation of Homeric characters, both human and divine.[6]  We cannot be sure.[7]  Be that as it may, this testimonium shows that etymologization was a possible vehicle for explaining what the name Pythagoras – and potentially, by extension, Pythagoreanism – meant to some late 5th and early 4th Century BCE intellectuals engaged in current methods of critical analysis.

[1] V A 187 SSR.  Cf. Zhmud 2012: 46-47.

[2] Of course, this tradition tends to be associated with Socrates more broadly, if we are to see in the discussion of legitimate rhetoric as ‘leading the soul’ (ψυχαγωγία) in Plato’s Phaedrus (271a-272b) as Socratic.

[3] The tradition that associates Pythagoras with excellence in oratory remains strong throughout the 4th and early 3rd Centuries BCE, being adopted by Dicaearchus (F 33 Mirhady) and Timaeus of Tauromenium (apud Justin 20.4), and extensively elaborated upon by Iamblichus’ source (Timaeus?) at VP 37-37.

[4] On allegorical exegesis in the Derveni Papyrus and its relationship to etymological exegesis in the Cratylus, see, inter alia, Struck (2004: 29-59).

[5] D.L. 2.70 = SSR IV A 116.

[6] DK 61 F 2, 4, and 6.

[7] Probably, much rides on what it means to ‘solve’ a ‘riddle’, which is difficult to contextualize for Aristippus.  Boys-Stones and Rowe (2013) note that Socrates apparently refused to split hairs by appeal to eristics of the sort practiced by Eubulides, and that Antisthenes (DK 29 A 15, not in SSR), when presented with Eleatic arguments that being is unmoved, walked around rather than try to solve the five arguments given by Zeno, considering proof ‘through activity’ (διὰ τῆς ἐνεργείας) more concrete than proof ‘through arguments’ (δὶα λόγων).

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Landy on Girard and His Acolytes

My friend Josh Landy at Stanford has, with characteristic pizzazz, demolished Girardian hermeneutics in a recent article (published in the online journal Republic of Letters).  I encourage everyone to take a look at it: whether you agree with Landy’s arguments or not, it is laugh-out-loud good (notice that I did not use the acronym: now that I’m living in the UK, where acronyms multiply like rabbits, I refuse to use them except for business purposes).

Girard and Material Monism

I met Girard only once, at Stanford, and I would tend to agree with Landy’s characterization.  He did betray a lack of detailed knowledge and sensitivity to nuance in his reading: when he spoke about the Dionysiac aspect of Ancient Greek culture, he used Euripides’ Bacchae in a perplexingly straightforward way, as though Bacchae were, simply put, an evidentiary means by which one could induce broader general traits of the ‘Ancient Greeks’ and obtain an objective grounds for dismissal of Greek ‘immorality’.   He obviously knew nothing about, for example, the material evidence of Bacchic-Dionysiac communities (e.g. from burials) or textual evidence (e.g. from the Derveni Papyrus) which complicates the story much further.  Hmmphh.  It always struck me as odd that, while, as Landy notes, Girardian interpretations are meant to be ‘generative’, they are strikingly reductive at the same time.  See above about acronyms, which, too, generate without limit (if you doubt this, come to the UK), but often reduce the content to something easy to recognize, if virtually impossible to explain (and possibly obscuring what lies underneath).  Landy closes the article by comparing Girard’s ‘scientific’ approach to literature with material monism, eliciting the ghost of Thales.

My only real disagreement with Landy lies in his dismissal of Kill Bill 1.  The aristeia scene at the end is simply uncanny.  And if we’re forced to take sides…Cindy Crawford any day of the week.

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