Humanities Salon Ancient cities series: Carthage, Athens, Rome

The Sydney Humanities Salon, in conjunction with Sydney Ideas, will be running a series of three talks on the ancient cities of Carthage, Athens and Rome. All welcome. No need to RSVP.

Venue: Sydney Law School foyer, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus.

Time: 6.00pm to 7.30pm


Monday 23 May, 2011

Dr Richard Miles

In 146 BC, after three protracted and bloody wars, the city of Carthage was finally captured by the Roman legions. In an infamous act of ruthless brutality Carthage was razed to the ground and a curse placed against any future attempts to settle on the site of the city. Yet just a century and half later, the emperor Augustus re-built Carthage as the new capital of the Roman province of Africa. In this session I will explore the extent to which the memory of Carthage as Rome’s greatest and most dangerous enemy continued to colour how this new Roman city was portrayed by Roman and Greek authors. As well as highlighting the ongoing influence of Carthage as an anti-type through which Romans writers could explore aspects of their political and cultural identities, such an approach also underlines the importance of physical landscapes as repositories of memory in Roman thought.

Ancient Cities: Athens, Gift of Athena

Tuesday 7 June, 2011

Dr Alastair Blanshard

The Greek historian Thucydides once tried to imagine a world where all memory of Athens had faded and only the ruins of the civilisation remained. What a grand impression future viewers would have of the city, he thought, and … how wrong they would be.

In this session, we will explore the myths that we tell about Athens. It will examine the legacy of Athenian culture. In particular, we will focus on looking at the darker side of that legacy. We like to imagine the Athenians as devoted to freedom and the spirit of reason. Certainly there is much to praise about Athens, but the city could also be violent, irrational, xenophobic, misogynist, and brutally imperialist. This session is devoted to exploring both sides of the Athenian story.

Ancient Cities:The city of Rome: From caput mundi to mirror of princes and beyond

21 June, 2011

Dr Paul Roche

This lecture will trace both the urban development of the city of Rome and some of the ways ancient Romans thought about their city from the period of late republic (second century BC) to the early empire (first century AD). This was a period of radical change, which saw the physical transformation of the city from something of a diplomatic embarrassment to the glittering capital of a Mediterranean world empire (‘beggaring description and never again to be imitated by mortal men’ as a late eye-witness puts it). This metamorphoses was accompanied by a shift in the way urban development itself was conceived, from a concept with limited horizons beyond the unit of the building itself to a more explicit concern with moving people through larger, consolidated units of urban space. Rome’s topography was intrinsic to her politics, culture, religion and self-definition; a theme tracked in this lecture is how the city offered itself as a metaphor or a mirror: of family (self-) esteem, of world empire, of the emperor’s image and his care for his people, and of the care for the individual human soul.

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