Past Lectures

Thursday, April 18                            4:30 p.m.                Gregory Staley, University of Maryland     


Aristotle and Freud have taught us to read Sophocles’ Oedipous Tyrannos as a story of recognition and self discovery.  Seneca, a Stoic philosopher who emphasized the imperative to “know ourselves” and who wrote the only surviving version of Oedipus’ story by a Latin author, would, we might have expected, have been drawn to Oedipus for these same reasons.   His version of Oedipus, however, replaces the hero’s courageous and almost psychoanalytic search for self with a series of scenes which the Romans called monstra: the wise man Tiresias consults the entrails of animals and finally calls up from Acheron the spirit of Oedipus’ father, Laius, in order to reveal the truth about who Oedipus is and what he has done. Seneca has long been condemned for turning this story into the literary equivalent of the public spectacles Romans enjoyed in the arena and the circus.  Lessing in his Laokoon (1766) wrote that “a theatre is surely not an arena.”

The Sophoclean process of self-discovery could be staged as a public and dramatic event; in imperial Rome such an act could only be private and internal. To create theater, Seneca had to transform the revelation of the truth from a verbal and dialogic form in Sophocles into a series of monstra, vivid events which search for the truth in the signs of nature, the signs of the body. For Seneca as a Stoic and as a prominent figure at Rome, truths are hidden and need to be inferred. The search for truth is quite literally “scrutiny,” the probing of the hidden and inward. I would suggest that for Seneca “scrutiny” is in its primary sense an act of extispicium that only metaphorically becomes an act of self-analysis. His Oedipus returns to the reality behind the metaphor.

Tuesday, April 16                                  4:30 p.m.                                Lindsay Oxx, Amherst College
                                                                                                                       Class of 2014


Ms. Oxx unlocks a museum mystery by examining how and why one slab of the Mead's renowned Assyrian palace reliefs was incorrectly restored in the 1850's and does not belong with the others.  She demonstrates how this "alien" element, only recently recognized, sheds light on the reception and interpretation of these reliefs when they first arrived in bucolic Amherst from exotic Mesopotamia.

In January 2013 Ms. Oxx delivered a version of this lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Seattle, WA, as part of the first Undergraduate Paper Session.  Her lecture at the Mead is co-sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America, Western Massachusetts Society.

Thursday, April 11th   5:30 p.m.  Professor Alexandra Carpino,    Northern Arizona University 


Intricately engraved bronze mirrors not only symbolized the status, prosperity and superiority of their owners but they also reinforced the cultural importance of adornment, marriage and the family in aristocratic Etruscan society.  While their polished obverses provided multiple opportunities for self-transformation, the changeless scenes on the non-reflecting sides functioned as a sophisticated form of visual communication within the domestic sphere, evoking the values, beliefs, aspirations, and fears of their patrons and users.  Not surprisingly, their themes varied considerably, from the joys, challenges, and tensions of family life to reflections on beauty, fertility, heroism, power, fate and immortality.
In this talk, I will focus on some of the narratives that embodied the Etruscans’ social and cultural expectations about motherhood, a subject that appears on mirrors produced throughout Etruria between the fifth and early third centuries BCE.  While most of these scenes proclaim a close bond between mothers and their sons, others illustrate moments rife with tension and hostility, portraying women whose behavior transgresses social and cultural paradigms.  Sometimes, as in the case of Uni (Hera), who rejected her baby son Sethlans (Hephaistos), there is a positive outcome to the conflict that is portrayed, but at other times, the hostility results in a horrific act: matricide.  The broader implications of the mirrors’ matricide myths will be at the center of my discussion, which will focus, in particular, on the scenes that depict the moment just before Cluthumustha (Klytaimnestra) dies at the hands of her grown son, Urusthe (Orestes).  What justified the inclusion of this shocking confrontation on these objects of beauty and transformation?  To whom was the narrative directed, and how does it correlate with the apparent privileges enjoyed by elite Etruscan women?  By comparing the mirror representations to the story’s treatment in funerary and religious art, it will become clear that their functional context—the domestic sphere—played an important role not only in terms of the narrative’s visualization but also with respect to its message to their users, individuals very much like Klytaimnestra herself.         

AIA Lecture Hosted by the UMass Classics Department
University of Massachusetts      Campus Center Reading Room

Wednesday, April 3                               5:30 p.m.                  Dr. Christine Kondoleon, MFA, Boston

The Classics Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,
will host its 9th annual David Grose lecture


presented by Dr. Christine Kondoleon, George and Margo Behrakis Senior Curator of Greek and Roman Art of the Ancient World, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Aphrodite always had serious competition from her son Eros, the Greek god of desire. He was the darling of ancient artists who expressed the popular fascination of his irresistible power in poetry and art. Eros was active everywhere in Greek and Roman daily life, and his interferences in the affairs of gods and mortals were as much a cause for celebration as for lamentation. Christine Kondoleon discusses ancient perceptions of Eros and his role in the realm of human desire, sex, and love.
School of Management, room 137

Thursday, March 28                             5:00 p.m.                      Richard Buxton, University of Bristol

Metamorphosis has been a major theme of myths and texts since classical antiquity. In this lecture Richard Buxton will explore a particular aspect of the theme, namely its ambiguity: in many narratives, determining how - and indeed whether - a transformation has occurred may be left open to the interpreter.  Examples will be drawn from authors ranging from Homer and Ovid to Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Kafka and du Maurier.

Smith College, Browsing Room, Neilson Library

 Wednesday, March 27                        5:00 p.m.                 Kathleen Lynch, University of Cincinnati


During the Archaic and Classical periods (ca. 600-350 B.C.) the potters of Athens produced high-quality finewares, some of which were decorated with figured scenes (Attic black-figure and red-figure). While Athenians certainly used Athenian pottery in their daily lives for dining, offering at sanctuaries, and as gifts in their graves, a large proportion of Athenian pottery was exported to the west and east. The western consumers of Athenian pottery, especially the Etruscans in Italy, have been the focus of extensive study, but their eastern consumers have not. This paper will focus on the pottery exported to Anatolia with brief comments on the presence of Athenian pottery in North Africa and the Levant. Particularly interesting is that the peak of importation of Attic pottery in the east was during the period of Persian rule. Despite their enmity with Athens in this period, the Persians eagerly bought and used Athenian pottery. The role of Attic pottery at Gordion, which was the Phrygian capital and subsequently became a provincial center under the Persians, will receive special discussion since the quality and quantity of Athenian pottery at this inland site near Ankara defies expectations. An examination of Athenian pottery in the various cultural centers of Anatolia shows that non-Greek residents of the east were not passive recipients of whatever Athenian pottery made it their way. Instead, Athenian potters savvily marketed their wares to their eastern customers, and a comparison of the western and eastern markets underscores the shape and image preferences of the easterners. These preferences, in turn, can help us understand the cultural meaning and use of the imported Athenian pottery in Anatolia.

Smith College, Stoddard Auditorium                     4:15 p.m. ~ Refreshments in the Alumnae House

Tuesday, March 26                              4:30 p.m.                         Jonathan Master, Emory University


Beginning with the complaints of Batavian revolutionary Julius Civilis about the insulting returns provincial soldiers receive on behalf of their massive contribution to the Roman Empire, this lecture asks whether Tacitus’ Histories may actually support the claims of this antagonist.  It will explore whether the meager rewards the Roman Empire offers its subjects contribute to the chaos of AD 69, the year of the four emperors.   

 Amherst College, Chapin Hall, room #201

Thursday, March 7th                                                                Lynne Lancaster, Ohio University


In this lecture I examine a building technique used in Roman North Africa for constructing vaults by means of small hollow terracotta tubes that are inserted one into another and “glued” together with mortar. By examining this unique building technique, she demonstrates how the building industry in North Africa was intimately connected with the production of olive oil destined for Rome and how the use of these tubes ultimately resulted in the creation of new forms of vaulting not found elsewhere in the empire. Recent field surveys have produced a wealth of new information regarding ancient agricultural technology for olive production, ceramic production for the amphoras containing the olive oil, and also fine ware production. The proliferation of the vaulting tubes was also part of this period of economic growth related to increased agricultural production. This unique construction technique eventually was adopted elsewhere in the western Mediterranean, including Rome and Ravenna, where it was used to construct the dome of the famous Byzantine church of San Vitale. Through a series of interconnected technologies, the necessity to provide food for Rome ultimately resulted in a vaulting technique that created spectacular new architectural achievements.

Gamble Auditorium, Mount Holyoke College                                                     South Hadley, MA

Thursday, February 28th                                                            Amanda Wilcox, Williams College

Members of the Roman elite relied on correspondence to conduct business of all sorts, but to modern ears, their letters rarely sound businesslike. Rather, Roman correspondentsused euphemistic vocabulary and subtle rhetoric to blur or finesse differences in opinion,policy, and status, and constantly to disavow self-interested motivations. This lecturefocuses on two of Cicero’s letters (Ad familiares 5.7 and 13.16) that exemplify his skill as a correspondent and suggest its limits.
Smith College, Dewey Hall Common Room                                               Northampton, MA


Tuesday, November 27th              4:00 p.m.                 Alison Brown,  Royal Holloway College

                                                       Classical Legacy Lecture 


Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies- Reading Room  (413-577-3600)

650 East Pleasant Street     Amherst                              Free of charge and open to the public

Thursday, November 15th    4:30 p.m.                           Luca Grillo, Amherst College


Smith College, Seelye Hall 106

Thursday, November 1st                                                                                David Ferry '46

From the College Event Calendar:

"One of America's best poets, David Ferry '46, will read from his work on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 4 p.m. in the Cole Assembly Room (Red Room) of Converse Hall. Ferry's latest, just-published book is "Bewilderment" (University of Chicago Press), which is a finalist for this year's National Book Award for poetry. The public is cordially invited."

Mr. Ferry is not only a distinguished poet in his own right but also has translated Horace and is now translating Virgil's Aeneid.  He is the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Thursday, October 18th          4:30 p.m.                      Jacques Perreault, Universite de Montreal

The Kilns of Thasos: an Island Potter's Workshop in Ancient Greece (6th c. B.C.)

Pottery Production increased greatly during the Archaic period in the Greek world and we know of many different styles and production centres.  Unfortunately, very few pottery workshops of this period have been found.  A team of French, Canadian and Greek archaeologists excavated the only known pottery workshop on the Northern Greek island of Thasos, and one of the very few in Greece.  This lecture will present the results of the excavation of this workshop, where apart from the impressive quantity of vases uncovered, all structures necessary to the production of pottery have been found.  We will examine the particular architectural features, the extremely diversified production, and the distribution of the workshop's production in the North Aegean and the Black Sea.


Amherst College, Paino Lecture Hall, Beneski Earth Sciences Building                              campus map

Thursday, September 20th      5:00 p.m.                        Sarah Morris, UCLA

Passing Children Through the Fire: Ritual Infanticide in the Ancient Mediterranean

Smith College, Graham Auditorium

see campus map, building #5, Hillyer Hall - Graham Hall

 Tuesday, September 11    4:30 p.m.                           Christopher B. Krebs, Stanford University

A Dangerous Book?  How Tacitus's Germania Became the Nazis' Bible.

Christopher B. Krebs studied classics and philosophy in Berlin, Kiel (1st Staatsexamen 2000, Ph.D. 2003), and Oxford (M.St. 2002).

He has taught at University College (Oxford), École Normale Supérieure (Paris), and Harvard University and was the APA fellow at the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae in Munich in 2008-2009.

Prof. Krebs’ visit is sponsored by the Department of Classics, the History Department, the Department of  German, the European Studies Program, and the Lucius Root Eastman 1895 Lecture Fund, Amherst College.

Pruyne Lecture Hall, 115 Fayerweather, Amherst College                                            campus map


Thursday, September 13 - Saturday, September 16

     Caesar: Writer, Speaker and Linguist

This conference brings together the contributors to The Cambridge Companion to Caesar, co-edited by Luca Grillo (Amherst College) and Christopher Krebs (Stanford University). In accordance with the aim of Cambridge Companions, the conference aims simultaneously to advance research on Caesar and to make it available to a broader public. Specifically, we want to further the appreciation of Caesar as a versatile intellectual, by taking various approaches – narratological, rhetorical, linguistic, and historical – to his oeuvre. Caesar as general and politician still fascinates the general public and scholars alike, as he has for generations. But contemporaries also celebrated him as a leading intellectual, and we can still discern this Caesar in the fragments of his orations, linguistic treatises, and polemic pamphlets, letters to friends and the senate, and, of course, his famous Commentaries. This Caesar has most recently started to enjoy a much-deserved comeback, as proved by recent publications and by his inclusion in the new AP Latin programs; but much more work remains to be done.

Amherst College                                                                                   For more information click here

Thursday, April 5
Title: TBA
Speaker: Jeffrey Hurwit (University of Oregon)
Location: Graham Hall, Smith College
Time: TBA
Sponsor: Archaeological Institute of America, Western Massachusetts Society.

Tuesday, March 27
Title: Investigating the Surface: Hairstyles of the Athenian Caryatids
Speaker: Katherine Schwab (Fairfield University)
Location: Pruyne Lecture Hall, 115 Fayerweather, Amherst College
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Sponsor: Department of Classics, Amherst College
Katherine Schwab brings the eye of an artist to her study and reconstruction of Greek sculpture.  Her drawings of the east and north metopes of the Parthenon, permanently installed in the Parthenon Gallery of the new Acropolis Museum, reveal details that contribute to a deeper understanding of this building's whole sculptural program.  Recently she has turned her attention to the Caryatids of the Erechtheum, the sculpted female figures that served as supports in the south porch of this Acropolis temple.  Their intricate hairstyles are among the most decorative elements of this temple. With the help of student volunteers, Professor Schwab has brought new evidence to bear on the technique and meaning of these elaborate hair arrangements.

Wednesday, March 7
Title: The Unsolved Mystery of the Agora Bone Well; Abstract
Speaker: Susan Rotroff, Washington University
Location: Fayerweather 115 (Pruyne Lecture Hall), Amherst College
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Sponsor: Archaeological Institute of America, Western Massachusetts Society. Hosted by Amherst College Classics Department.

Monday, March 5
Title: Sophocles and Athenian Politics
Speaker: Sarah Ferrario (Catholic University of America)
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Location: Browsing Room, Neilson Library, Smith College
Sponsor: Department of Classical Languages and Literatures, Smith College


Wednesday, December 7
Title: Apuleius in the Renaissance
Speaker: Julia Haig Gaisser (Bryn Mawr)
Location: Reading Room, Renaissance Center, University of Massachusetts
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Classics Department at UMass
For more information, please contact Elizabeth Keitel

Thursday, December 1
Title: From Ben Hur to Nascar: Fans, Fame, and the Roman Circus
Speaker: Sinclair Bell ( University of Northern Illinois)
Location: Herter Hall, Auditorium 231, UMass Amherst
Time: 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Sponsors: UMass Classics, UMass Art History, and the Archaeological Institute of America, Western Massachusetts Society

Tuesday, November 15
Title: Making Up a Woman in Ancient Greece
Speaker: Ada Cohen (Dartmouth College)
Location: Gamble Auditorium, Art Building, Mt. Holyoke College
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Co-sponsored: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and the Art History Program

Monday, November 14
Title: Re-conquering the West: Warfare and Politics in Ostrogothic Italy
Speaker: Dr. Maria Kouroumali (Byzantine Studies, Hellenic College/Holy Cross)
Location: Skinner Hall, #216, Mount Holyoke College
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Sponsors: Departments of History and Classics, MHC; Department of Classics, SC; Departments of History and Classics, AC; Department of History, UMass; Five Colleges, Inc.

Thursday, October 27
Title: Reconstructing Antiquity: Sex, L
ies and Politics: Portraits of Rome's Bad Empresses
Speaker: Eric Varner (Emory University)
Location: Gamble Auditorium, Art Building, Mt. Holyoke College
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Sponsor: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
Reception to follow

 Monday, October 24
Title: Procopius of Caesarea, enigmatic historian of the emperor Justinian
Speaker: Geoffrey Greatrex (University of Ottawa)
Location: 202 Skinner Hall, Mt. Holyoke College
Time: 4:15 p.m.
Sponsor: Departments of History and Classics at Mount Holyoke in addition to Five College support. For more information about Professor Greatrex
For more information: please contact Professor Shawcross

 Saturday, October 22
Event: An Afternoon with an Archaeologist
Site-mapping field trip at the Smith College Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station. An exciting opportunity to experience hands-on how a field archaeologist maps and surveys an archaeological site.
Trip Leader: Matt Emerson
Location: Smith College MacLeish Field Station (Whately MA)
Time: 1:30-4:30
Sponsor: Archaeological Institute of America, Western Massachusetts Society
For more information please contact Matt Emerson or Scott Bradbury
FieldTripPoster -- Refreshments Served

Tuesday, October 18
Title: Reconstructing and Testing Ancient Linen Body Armor: The Linothorax Project
Speaker: Gregory Aldrete, (University of Wisconsin, Green Bay)
Location: Gamble Auditorium 106B , Mt. Holyoke College
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Archaeological Institute of America, Western Massachusetts Society
Please contact Paula Debnar for Dutch-treat dinner.

Monday, October 17
New England Ancient History Colloquium (NEAHC)
Deliberative Oratory in the
Annals and the Dialogus
Keynote Speaker: Christopher van den Berg (Amherst College)
Commentary by: Elizabeth Keitel (University of Massachusetts)
Location: UMASS Boston (Campus Center, Room 3545, 100 Morrissey Blvd.)
Time: 5:30-6:30 Gathering and Dinner by pre-arrangement
7:30-9:30 Discussion of paper