11th Celtic Conference in Classics

I just spent a few marvellous days in St. Andrews at the 11th Celtic Conference in Classics. Now, as I am on my way back, I would like to take the time to sum up my impressions.


My paper belonged to the panel on mythography that had as its title Mythography not Mythology: commentaries and boundaries. We touched on an amazingly wide range of topics that came from a broad chronological framework. The panel was roughly divided into four thematic blocks.

The first block contained a variety of papers that focused on case studies and examples from Greek texts. In this context, we began with papers that gave us insight into the commenting tradition and its link to and/or usage of mythography.

  • In my paper (Mythography: Commenting on Homer or Collecting Mythological Stories? Apollo Smintheus as a Case Study), I tried to show how the complex nexus of comments about one special passage from Homer (Chryses’ prayer in book 1 of the Iliad) was transmitted, alluded to and reworked from Strabo to Aelianus.
  • We also examined in the second talk (Pelops in Lesbos: Analysis of the Scholion to Iliad 1.38 and Hamburg Papyrus 199 (Mythographus Homericus)) to what extend comments preserved in a very indirect way, for instance reworked in the scholia to the Iliad or preserved in papyrological fragments can provide information about non-standard versions of a myth. Our example here was a Lesbian version about the hero Cillus, who was the charioteer of Pelops. This version, linked to the topography of the Troad, must have developed in answer to a panhellenic version that was linked to Olympia.
  • The commenting tradition on Pindar’s poems was also the topic of the next paper (Erginus, Protogeneia and Cycnus: Three Mythographical Narratives in the Scholia to Pindar). From several examples we could see how diversified the commenting tradition was, as each of the examples showed the many different ways, in which one line or expression in Pindar’s text could be explained. The focus could be on paraphrasing Pindar’s text in simpler terms. This could be done with a more or less direct link to the primary texts. Parts of the comment could also be composed by more or less independent phrases, where the scholar shows his skills and knowledge by providing additional information.
    • In these two papers we got the newest insights into the state of affair about the mysterious but fascinating Mythographus Homericus.

A second block was created by papers that were not primarily focusing on commenting but on other literary activities linked to mythography.

  • A very interesting perspective was given by the analysis of a papyrus with a collection of anecdotes with either mythographical or ethnographical contents (Challenging the Borders between Mythography and Historiography in the Papyrus P.Oxy. II 218). It was especially tantalizing to see how one can work on a text, for which the author remains unknown. Nonetheless, we can observe his deep understanding of several traditions that he could associate freely and blur for us the boundaries between mythography, ethnography and paradoxography.
  • In a further paper (Diodorus’ Authorial Mythography) we also looked at Diodorus and how he shaped the mythological accounts, while transmitting them, for his own literary and political agenda. At the end of the paper, we were presented with a witty observer of his time, who felt the great changes the Augustan age brought and acknowledged it in his careful selection and composition principles.
  • The focus on the author at work was also dealt with by the paper on Ps-Apollodorus (Cohérence et diachronie dans la Bibliothèque du Pseudo-Apollodore). Similarly to what can be observed in Diodorus, it is worth investigating the voice of the author in Apollodorus’ Library. He is a mind that worked independently from his sources and reworked and selected information from their texts according to his own convictions, and literary principles. If we do pay attention to this, besides the study of Apollodorus’ sources, we may gain access to other more submerged version of a given narrative.
  • When speaking about a tradition, to which people can allude or which can be played with, we have also to investigate how this form of knowledge was learned and how widespread it was. This question was raised by the talk on the evidence from school texts (Learning (through) Mythography). We saw through these fascinating scraps of papyri how mythography was also part of the class room, either on the teachers’ or on the pupils’ side.
  • How widely mythological lore was know and how fully it belonged to ancient culture was demonstrated by the paper on paroemiographical texts (Between Myth and Exegesis: Mythography in the Paroemiographical Tradition). We were told how in Zenobius’ collection, some sequences of the explanations, given for proverbs that have their roots in mythology, can be seen as witnesses about previous mythographers such as for instance Hellanicus.

A third block was dedicated to the Latin mythographer Hyginus and contained a fascinating group of papers on Hyginus. Although the text is transmitted in a very problematic way, the colleagues who study this text showed us how much we can still gain from it about the author behind it.

  • We had a very convincing paper on the arrangement of the anecdotes, in which I was particularly interest because of my own interest in the question of arrangement/ordering of collections (Le (deuxième) cycle thébain d’Hygin: étude de l’organisation narrative des fables 66 à 76).
  • We also focused on the sources of Hyginus, either Greek or Latin (Commenting on Hyginus). The case studies from this joint-paper were taken from tragedies, and I found it particularly enriching to have an outlook on Latin tragedies, which is very seldom done.
  • We also dealt with some thoughts about how the anecdotes are composed and that the way they narrate the storis is focusing on the heroes themselves, rather than on the story, the setting or the gods (Condensing Mythological Material: What Does Mythology Mean in the Pseudo-Hyginus Epitome Called Fabulae?).
  • We saw in the last paper (Lycurgus in fabula. The Eventful Afterlife of Greco-Roman Drama in Hyginus) how this could be done, as the paper focused on a case study dedicated to Lycurgus. This paper also reminded us of the visual sources that authors had at their disposal and which contributed to the tradition, from which they could take their inspirations.

A last block was opening up our perspective and focused on examples from far beyond Antiquity.

  • One of them focused on the reception of Palaephatus and his way of reinterpreting and rewriting myths. It was in the Renaissance and especially through Spanish scholars that Palaephatus went as far as Mexico in the form of visual representations of Centaurs (Le voyage de Palaephate de la Grèce au Mexique: les routes et chemins de la réception).
  • We also saw how puzzled the first modern editors and collectors of mythography were when dealing with the texts that were at the centre of our panel (Les Opuscula mythologica de Thomas Gale (1671-1688): stabilité et variabilité du corpus mythographique ancien). Here too, I found the paper very suggestive, as it focused on collecting, however from a completely different angle. So it allowed us to think further on this literary activity and the modification it underwent during the ages.

Many thank to all – especially to the two organisers – for this panel!



Helgoland and Tacitus

A few weeks ago, I spent some wonderful sunny days in Helgoland, in the North of Germany. While walking around the island and admiring the amazing scenery,  I stumbled upon this panel which told me about previous, even prehistoric occupation of the place:


So, back home, I checked Tacitus and read those lines about the Suevi tribes located on the shore of the North Sea:

nec quicquam notabile in singulis, nisi quod in commune Nerthum, id est Terram matrem, colunt eamque intervenire rebus hominum, invehi populis arbitrantur. est in insula Oceani castum nemus, dicatumque in eo vehiculum, veste contectum…

none of these tribes have any noteworthy feature, except their common worship of Ertha, or mother-Earth, and their belief that she interposes in human affairs, and visits the nations in her car. In an island of the ocean there is a sacred grove, and within it a consecrated chariot, covered over with a garment… (Tac. Germ. §40, transl. Perseus Library)

Several scholars believe that this island with the sacred grove is Helgoland, even if the interpretation has also its opponents. At least the findings of prehistoric tumuli suggests that the island was known and used by humans for religious purposes.



Some more personal notes

I am still reading Morson’s The Words of Others and very much enjoy it.

When reaching the chapter “Burden of the Future” (p.189), I was frowning my eyebrows. Morson describes in this chapter a situation, in which a person discovers much later that words or thoughts that he or she created for a given occasion have already be expressed long ago. This person gets then the feeling, according to Morson, that they have been stolen from him / from her in advance. While reading these lines, I wondered whether this may really happen? Could that be possible: given the almost infinite combinations of words to create meaning, or to express one’s thoughts, was it possible to fall twice on the same formulation, by chance, so to say, or at least without having any intention to do so?

I read further, without giving much thought to my doubts, eager to discover the rest of the book.

At page 238, I get puzzled and smiled. We are now in the chapter entitled “Lists and Crumbs”. Morson quotes here an extract from Francis Spufford’s The Chatto Book of Cabbages and Kings, a work that I totally ignored before reading this chapter. The end of the quote goes as follows:

“Crumbs should not be scorned; from time to time they have been made into a very satisfactory banquet in themselves.”

While reading this, I remember a situation back in 2005, – or was it 2006–, when I said to someone who was inquiring about how I dealt with an unfavourable decision:

“They give me crumbles, I shall make a feast out of it!

That comes pretty close to the feeling that something has been stolen in advance…


Interesting way of dealing with fragments

I just received an announcement about a British Academy Network entitled “The Art of Fragments”. I copy the description here. The person in charge is Dr Laura Swift from the Open University in London. Looks interesting…


Thanks to the generous support of the British Academy, we are delighted to announce the launch of a new collaborative network bringing together academics and creative practitioners around the theme of ‘fragments’. We aim to use the form of the fragment, and the concept of fragmentation, as a springboard for creative opportunities. The network will support and showcase recent or ongoing projects where academics have worked in partnership with artists, and will provide a forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities for this type of collaborative work.

This is the launch event for the network, and its aim is to lay groundwork for discussions or partnerships that will continue over the next year. It will focus on themes of general interest, including:

– Why are fragments artistically inspiring?

– Finding the right partner

– Managing the relationship with project partners

– The funding landscape

– Organisations which support or facilitate collaborative work

Attendance is free, but places are limited so booking is essential.

We particularly welcome involvement from creatives of all types and from early career academics (defined by the British Academy for this scheme as those within 10 years of the award of their doctorate) who are interested in collaborating with the creative sector and/or in the creative potential of fragments.

To learn more or book your place, see here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-art-of-fragments-network-launch-event-tickets-45387322704?ref=estw

If you are unable to attend the launch event, but would like to stay  informed about the network and any activities over the next year, please contact me (laura.swift@open.ac.uk).


I am looking forward to hearing more from this Network. Unfortunately I am no longer within the timespan of 10 years after my PhD.

Quotationality and Quotability

I stated to read a book by Gary Saul Morson (Professor of Slavic Languages, Northwestern University) on quotations entitled “the Words of Others”


I have noticed this title during the revision of a contribution I was writing together with a colleague on ancient quotation practices. I decided to explore it in more details as a reaction to a comment that has been made about our contribution. I am now almost half through it and it is, for me, a refreshing new approach as the book presents the point of view from someone who is only loosely related to Classics.

Here some thoughts:

First I was surprised to see that the first chapter was dedicated to anthologies and calls them museums of utterances. This is certainly a very nice formula, which makes a very good point. But I was puzzled, as I would not have started this way. When thinking of a museum (in its modern understanding), I think of a place where items are presented to a visitor (or viewer) in a static way. They have been collected, from different places or sources, and stand now together in a new environment, for which they were not created in the first place. There can certainly be a narrative in a museum according to which the items are arranged and ideally viewed by the visitor, but the items themselves seem to play a rather passive role and are contemplated, admired or studied.  Up to now, I saw quotations in a more active role, used by a speaker with a certain purpose to enhance his utterance. They have therefore to fulfil a function for the speaker, and this is the reason where they are made. So there seems to be three layers here: the original text or utterance to which the textual sequences belong, then the instances where these textual sequences are quoted – once or several times – within new utterances or texts. At some point then, these reused sequences are gathered in anthologies, and for this we have to take for granted that quotations are used more than once, so that they may be believed worthwhile to be assembled. A Classicist would certainly not start with the anthologies, as textual reuses – well, let’s say quotations – are much older than anthologies

I was also amused by Morson comparing quotations with food. This happens in the context of his introduction of the notion of quotationality. He believes that certain utterances acquire a kind of quality that suggests to the hearer the characteristic of otherness, which make them think that these utterances are quotations (that is Morson’s quotationality). The listener may be right or wrong about his feeling. If he is right, he identifies a quotation, and if this is not clearly signalised by the speaker, he may have reached a further lever of understanding (or takes part in a more elaborated form of communication with the speaker). If he is wrong, he may have defined a textual sequence or an utterance as a quotation for which there is no original wording. Sometimes quotations (for which there was once an original, which they repeat) lose their quotationality. This is the case, if the formula enters a given language as foreign food may become part of another culture. He uses the example of pizza and sushi, which were first typically foreign, available only in special stores or in restaurants run by those belonging to the foreign culture, but become over time part of more everyday food, and language. If this happens to textual sequences Morson call them “former quotations”. This is also a tricky aspect for Classicists: how can we deal with textual sequences that we modern readers see as a quotation of a previous work, but which may not be used by the author as quotation? Indeed a given formula may have entered the common language and was used without quotationality in antiquity. But as we modern readers have no longer access to this process and can read only a very small portion of ancient literature, we may indeed see a given formula as typically of a source and hence as quotation from this source, because we lost all the other instances, where this formula was reused.

Finally, there is the notion of quotability: this is the quality an utterance in a given text may have so that it may become a quotation. Morson mentions three elements: the formula must be brief, easy to remember and it must be able to stand for its own. This has two consequences for Classicists. First, it is the place where Morson introduces the distinction between quotation and citation. For him a citation is a repetition of a textual sequence that lacks the three criteria of a quotation. It is an extract of a text that has been reused for a given purpose. This may be done several times, but the passages selected to be reused may not always be brief (some such repetition can take several lines). Moreover they are not particularly easy to remember and finally they are not meant to stand for their own but keep their link to the original text where they come from. With quotations this is different. They often get a life of their own, because of the three criteria, and in some cases, the original context and/or the original speaker are forgotten. If we accept this difference, there is a further difficulty for Classicists. If we are reading a work, in which a quotation is used as a Morson-quotation, standing for its own and having lost, in antiquity, its link to the original, would we not misread the author using it by establishing that he is reusing parts of a work we were able to identify, because it is the only one we have kept with this formula?

As a summary, we may for the time being say:

  • Quotationality seems to belong to the speaker who wants his listener/reader to react in a certain way to his utterance, namely seeing in it a textual reuse (a quotation).
  • Quotability, on the contrary, is a characteristic of a given formula enabling it to stand out in a text and to be reused as such.

I am looking forward to discover the second part of the book!


Digital Humanities: one year ago

While in Köln DH people gather for the DHd 2018 conference, under the nice title “Kritik der digitalen Vernunft”, I have been reading a nice contribution from Prof. Pierre Chiron from the Université Paris-Est Créteil, who I happened to meet one year ago, while being in Paris, actually at the very moment when he published the article. So, it is a pity that I had to wait one year before discovering this piece of writing!

You find the contribution at la vie des Classiques.

It is an interesting essay on the advantages and the challenges of the digital technologies to which we are now used, often without fully understand the ways they may influence our behaviours in the long term. His focus lies on the educational environment and, perhaps a little surprisingly, he finds a way back to one of the ancient systems of rhetorical education (the progymnasmata) to describe his vision of new learning practices, where digital tools may play a crucial role.

Classics and DH in Rome

Well again an announcement for a conference. The programme cleverly mixes DH and Classics. Have a look!

Textual Philology Facing Liquid Modernity:

Identifying Objects, Evaluating Methods, Exploiting Media

Sapienza Università di Roma

Dottorato in Filologia e storia del mondo antico

Dipartimenti di Scienze dell’Antichità e di Studi greco-latini, italiani, scenico-musicali

18th-20th April 2018

Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, Aula Odeion

Organising committee:

Andrea Chegai (Sapienza Università di Roma)

Michela Rosellini (Sapienza Università di Roma)

Elena Spangenberg Yanes (Sapienza Università di Roma-Trinity College Dublin)

Wednesday, 18th April 2018

15:00 Institutional greetings

15:30 Michela Rosellini – Elena Spangenberg Yanes, Introduction

Session 1. Sorting Methods in Critical (Digital) Editing:

Panel A. Classical and Late Antique Philology – chair Michela Rosellini

16.00 Dániel Kiss (Budapest, Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem), New media for the edition of Latin classics

16:30 Justin Stover (University of Edinburgh), Material transmission: the study of textual traditions in a Digital Age

17:00 Coffee break

17:30 Caroline Macé (Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen), About sirens and onocentaurs, best manuscripts, fluid traditions and other myths

18:00 Paolo Monella (Università di Palermo), L’edizione sinottica digitale: una terza via

18:30 Discussion

Thursday, 19th April 2018

Session 2. Philologists and Texts Floating in the Net – chair Paolo Trovato

09:00 Paola Italia (Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna), Fake texts e Wiki edizioni. Per una filologia digitale sostenibile

09:30 Lorenzo Tomasin (Université de Lausanne), Qualche tesi per la filologia nell’epoca della novità digitale

10:00 Claudio Lagomarsini (Università degli Studi di Siena), Un progresso obsoleto? La trasmissione online dell’epica medievale

10:30 Coffee break

11:00 Research Group “Nicoletta Bourbaki” (Benedetta Pierfederici, Salvatore Talia), La narrazione della storia in Wikipedia: pratiche, ideologie, conflitti per la memoria nell’Enciclopedia libera

11:30 Claudio Giammona (Sapienza Università di Roma) – Elena Spangenberg Yanes, Dalla stampa al digitale, dal digitale alla stampa: Internet e la tradizione indiretta

12:00 Discussion

Session 1. Sorting Methods in Critical (Digital) Editing:

Panel B. Lachmann’s Legacy – Chair Claudio Giammona

15:00 Federico Marchetti (Università di Ferrara) – Paolo Trovato (Università di Ferrara), The study of codices descripti as a Neo-Lachmannian weapon against the notions of mouvance and textual fluidity

15:30 Ermanno Malaspina (Università di Torino), Edizioni digitali critiche (cioè lachmanniane) di testi classici a recensio complessa in xml: il rebus delle lezioni da mettere o non mettere in apparato

16:00 Coffee break

Panel C. Medieval Philology – chair Lorenzo Tomasin

16:30 Raymund Wilhelm (Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt), Elisa De Roberto (Università degli Studi di Roma Tre), Stephen Dörr (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg),La banca dati del Dizionario dell’antico lombardo (DAL). Il trattamento delle varianti filologiche

17:15 Odd Einar Haugen (Universitetet i Bergen), The critical edition in Old Norse philology: Its demise and its chances of revival

17:45 Matthew Driscoll (Københavns Universitet),Textual and generic fluidity in Late Medieval and Early Modern Iceland

18:15 Discussion

Friday, 20th April 2018

Panel D. Musical Philology – chair Andrea Chegai

09:00 Fabrizio Della Seta (Università degli Studi di Pavia), La filologia dell’opera italiana tra testo ed evento

09:30 Federica Rovelli (Beethovens Werkstatt, Beethoven-Haus Bonn), Prospettive digitali per l’edizione dei quaderni di schizzi di Beethoven

10:00 Eleonora Di Cintio (Sapienza Università di Roma), Filologia di un’opera empirica: per un’edizione critica digitale della Penelope di Cimarosa et alii(1794-1817)

10:30 Coffee break

Round table. Matching Editions and Traditions – chair Andrea Chegai

11:00-12:30 Monica Berté (Università degli Studi “G. d’Annunzio” Chieti – Pescara), Lino Leonardi (Università degli Studi di Siena), Ermanno Malaspina, Paolo Trovato

12:30 Michela Rosellini, Conclusions

Conference on Prosgymnasmata

Let’s start the year with the announcement of a conference!

This one is on the prosgymnasmata, a term which designate a series of handbooks containing instructions for rhetorical exercises. This kind of works are also highly relevant with regard to ancient quotation practices.

Programme Colloque 2017 DEF

Here the programme:

Thursday 18th January
 I Premiers aperçus des pratiques : les documents papyrologiques
 9:45 Raffaella CRIBIORE: The Versatility of Progymnasmata: Evidence from the Papyri and Libanius
10:15 Lucio DEL CORSO: Rhetoric for Beginners (and Dummies) in Graeco-Roman Egypt. A Survey of Papyrological Evidence
10:45 Pause
11:00 José Antonio FERNANDEZ DELGADO & Francisca PORDOMINGO: La pratique des Progymnasmata dans les sources papyrologiques (et leur présence dans la littérature)
12:00 Jean-Luc FOURNET: Éthopées entre culture profane et christianisme
 II Pratiques progymnasmatiques et cognition 
14:30 Emmanuelle DANBLON: Les exercices de rhétorique à l’école de Bruxelles
15:00 Julie DAINVILLE & Benoit SANS: L’éloge paradoxal : regards croisés sur deux expériences bruxelloises
16:00 Pause
16:15 Victor FERRY: Exercer l’empathie : une limite de l’ethopoeia et une méthode alternative
16:45 Jeanne CHIRON & Pierre GRIALOU: « Connais-toi toi-même », les Progymnasmata comme entraînement métacognitif
Friday 19th January
III Les Pratiques entre passé et présent
9:15 Danielle VAN MAL-MAEDER: Des Progymnasmata dans la déclamation – des Progymnasmata à la déclamation
9:45 Sandrine DUBEL: Défense et illustration de la paraphrase
10:15 Anders ERIKSSON: Writing and teaching a contemporary progymnasmata textbook 10:45 Pause
11:00 Natalie Sue BAXTER: Imitatio, Progymnasmata, Paideia, and the Realization of Ancient Ideals in Modern Education
11:30 Jim SELBY: Aphthonius, Coherence, and Cohesion: The Practice of Writing
12:00 Ruth WEBB: L’exercice de l’ekphrasis : des Progymnasmata aux étapes ultérieures de la formation de l’orateur
 IV Pratiques contemporaines
14:30 David FLEMING: A role for the Progymnasmata in U.S. postsecondary English Education today
15:00 Marie HUMEAU: Pratiquer les Progymnasmata à l’université aujourd’hui : de l’exercice de style à la réflexion sur le discours
15:30 Christophe BRECHET: Les enjeux des Progymnasmata pour les humanités, ou pourquoi les humanités doivent refonder la formation rhétorique dans l’enseignement supérieur
Saturday 20th January
V Parcours : les pratiques à travers les siècles 
9:15 Silvana CELENTANO: Quintilien et l’exercitatio rhétorique : entre tradition et innovation
9:45 Rémy POIGNAULT: Exercices préparatoires pour éloquence princière dans la correspondance de Fronton
10:15 Eugenio AMATO: La pratique des Progymnasmata dans l’école de Gaza
10:45 Pause
11:00 Marcos MARTINHO: Emporius : les Progymnasmata entre exercice scolaire et outil oratoire
11:30 Luigi PIROVANO: Emporius and the practice of Progymnasmata during Late Antiquity
12:00 Marc BARATIN: La place et le rôle de la traduction latine des Progymnasmata du Ps.-Hermogène dans l’œuvre de Priscien
VI Parcours : les pratiques à travers les siècles (suite)
14:30 Francesco BERARDI: Diversité des pratiques didactiques en Grèce et à Rome : réflexions sur le lexique des Progymnasmata
15:00 Jordan LOVERIDGE: The practice of the Progymnasmata in the Middle Ages: Education, Theory, Application
15:30 Diane DESROSIERS: An muri faciendi ? La pratique des Progymnasmata dans l’œuvre de François Rabelais
16:00 Pause
16:15 Trinidad ARCOS-PEREIRA: The presence of Progymnasmata in Spain in the 16th century
16:45 María Violeta PEREZ-CUSTODIO: Teaching more than Rhetoric: Progymnasmata Handbooks in Spain during the Renaissance
17:15 Manfred KRAUS: La pratique des Progymnasmata dans les écoles du XVe au XVIII e siècle au travers des traductions latines d’Aphthonios
17:45 Discussion et conclusions
The poster can be found here and the summaries of the papers here.

Elien en contexte!

A few days ago, I attended my first conference on Claudius Aelianus, organised by Arnauld Zucker and Marco Vespa from the University of Nice. As I just started the project, it was a timely occasion to meet scholars, who worked on Aelianus previously. The papers met all my expectations and I learned a lot about this author, the research questions linked to his works and the fascinating context, in which he lived and worked.


First Valentin Decloquement focused on the presence of Homer in Aelianus’ works and showed how Aelianus, like others – for instance Philostratus-,  played with well-known Homeric questions. These authors could take position, more or less parodically, in some of the controversies, and they could even defend their own original answers in others if they liked to. Aelianus’ works allow therefore an interesting view on the reception of the reception of Homer’s poems and this aspect of their works can also be seen as an answer to previous Homeric scholarship, especially the one developed in connection with the library of Alexandria. In this respect, Valentin’s presentation allowed me to see some connections between my previous research on Demetrios of Scepsis and the new one on Aelianus.

Then, there was a whole cluster of interventions on Aelianus’ way of using the animal world to speak about human behaviours. Tim Whitmarsh emphasised the distance Aelianus maintains between the two realms, especially in similes. He compared Aelianus’ approach to the one hinted at in Ps-Lucians, Lucius or the Ass, probably a Greek precursor of Apuleius’ Golden Ass. In allowing a form of metamorphosis, the author of this text, blurs the boundaries between the human and animal world and can experiment about this other world and the lost of identity that this may bring, either on the level of human/animal or concerning, when seen from a different angle,  an individual’s feelings of belonging to the Roman empire (or identity) or not. Emily Kneeborne developed this by comparing Aelianus’ use of the animal world with the one of Oppian. It has often been stated that Oppian’s and Aelianus’ works were close and that they shared common sources, but Emily’s presentation was enlightening as she showed in a well-documented analysis how differently the two authors worked and explored the animal examples to speak about human behaviours. This was then again expanded by Arnauld Zucker. He demonstrated how Aelianus keeps a difference between humans and animals despite the anthropomorphic vocabulary he often uses. The difference Aelinaus draws between the two worlds is much more subtle than acknowledged so far. It is based on a different definition of “animals”, which focuses more on the concept of “sophia” rather on the one of “logos” and this allows us to see how this author’s attitude to the notion of “nature” changed.

Finally, there was the presentation of Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén. She works on quotations, especially in Athenaeus and Aelianus, which made her contribution particularly relevant to my own project. She showed us, as did Emily, who individually Aelianus could use shared material.  Her case study came from Athenaeus. It has often been stated that in some passages, Aelianus was very close to Athenaeus and that the Deipnosophistai could have been Aelianus’ sources. However, it was used, most of the time, as a critique blaming Aelianus for not having quoted Athenaeus faithfully. Lucia showed, on the contrary, how theses presumed irregularities were actually made on purpose by Aelianus. Changing the reused passages, by adding elements, by modifying attributions, or by merging ideas, allowed him to compose his own statements, despite the permanent references to previous authors and their achievements. She also presented her long-term research project on quotations in the imperial period. The intermediary results can be seen on the website of the project ( inoriega.es ). It is already now an amazingly helpful tool for further research on quotations practices in antiquity! But the project should hopefully be developed in a second phase, where each of the 8’807 collected quotations will be analysed with regard to the purpose for which is what quoted, the relation to the original passage and the degree of literality!

Unfortunately the last speaker  (Lionel Gourichon) could not attend the conference and his paper was read by Marco Vespa. It was, however, meant to open up the perspective and to deal with the animals mentioned in Aelianus’ work. The research focused on birds and compared the evidence archaeologists gathered about the presence and exploitation of birds in Antiquity and what Aelianus told us about them. Comparing the two approaches was very interesting, but also highlighted the fact that, when compared to other works on animals from Antiquity, the one from Aelianus remains a literary endeavour, showing the marks of his time. It was a work of compilation, which was not primarily based on observations. This is of course not a critique, but rather a reminder to see his work as a product of his time.

Finally I would like to thank the organisers for having made possible these enriching encounters!


Last day in Bucharest

I just spent four marvellous months in Bucharest. Here some highlights!

Bucharest and its treasure:

Constanta and the Black Sea:

and finally Transylvania:

I could, of course, add many more, but it is perhaps worth to go and have a look for yourself!