2013 Spring Research Symposium Abstracts

Sunoikisis is pleased to announce the undergraduate presenters for the Center for Hellenic Studies Spring Research Symposium on Saturday, April 27. The Center for Hellenic Studies will host and webcast the symposium. The symposium schedule is forthcoming.

CHS Main Building

“Faction politics and the transfer of power at the Accession of Marcian (450 C.E.)”

Walter Beers, University of Richmond

Following the death of Theodosius II in 450, an undistinguished military tribune, Marcian, was elevated as his successor. The strange circumstances surrounding Theodosius’ death and Marcian’s rise to power have not received as much attention as they deserve, given their concurrence with the climax of the most divisive theological conflict of the 4th-5th centuries, the miaphysite controversy. Building on previous scholarship on Marcian’s accession (notably the work of Richard Burgess and Kenneth Holum) and adding insights derived from careful examination of available prosopographical data, this paper attempts to make a comprehensive reconstruction of the factional loyalties of civil, military, and ecclesiastical power-players in the decade leading up to Marcian’s accession. I argue that data suggest that a major defeat of imperial forces by the Huns in 447 precipitated the downfall of a powerful faction of Gothic generals who had dominated the imperial military hierarchy since early in Theodosius’ reign. The resulting power vacuum was filled by Zeno, an Isaurian warlord, but Zeno was soon in open revolt against the emperor. Simultaneously, the wholesale victory, with imperial support, of the miaphysite Alexandrian faction over its dyophysite Constantinopolitan rivals at the second Council of Ephesus (449) produced a faction of disgruntled dyophysites likely led by Theodosius’ estranged sister, Pulcheria. Cooperation between the dyophysites, the Goths, and Zeno, I conclude, resulted in the choice of Marcian as emperor and, ultimately, the divisive Council of Chalcedon (451) and the rise of the warlord emperors of the later 5th century.

“Dike, and the lack of it: The roles of the Erinyes and of Apollo in the House of Laius and the House of Atreus in the tragic plays of Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles”

Sarah Chouhudry, Harvard University

The Furies, in Aeschylus’ trilogy are often perceived as a representation of an excessive and rather vindictive form of justice. Their focus on blood crimes (i.e. matricide and patricide) seems to further reinforce this idea. There is an implicit expectation of complete obedience from children to their parents, and in terms of the broader picture this is seen to be parallel to the perspective of the older generation of gods (Furies, Titans, Moirae) in contrast to the younger generation of gods (Olympian gods, like Apollo and Athena). The trial of Orestes, and his subsequent acquittal at the trial moderated and judged by Apollo and Athena in the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides are understood as a superior form of justice through the court system, which supersedes the primitive, vengeful form of justice dealt by the Erinyes.

In this paper, I argue that this demarcation is not as clear, and that, moreover, it is the Erinyes who show restraint, display awareness of the lack of evil intention of the guilty person, uphold justice and bring kleos to one who would by common understanding appear to be ineligible (i.e. Oedipus, who had committed patricide and incest, but is buried at Colonus). On the flip side, Apollo goads Orestes into matricide, misleads Oedipus into murdering Laius, and uses sophistry to conclude the trial in Orestes’ favour. From this I conclude that many of Apollo’s disturbing actions go unnoticed, and that the Erinyes are scapegoated by the gods and humans alike.

“Harming your friends to harm your enemies: Reading Achilles in Euripides’ Medea”

Florencia Foxley, Haverford College

Medea’s identity as a heroic figure in Euripides’ eponymous play is critical to understanding her act of infanticide because of how does not conflict with, but interacts with her identity as a mother. This paper argues that heroic identity in Medea is one in which a hero causes pain to himself, his friends, and his enemies—reaching back to an older heroic ideal evident in Achilles of Homer’s Iliad. I begin setting up the similarities between Achilles and Medea by exploring the number of verbal echoes between similes describing each of these heroes. I then move onto Professor Nagy’s explanation of Achilles’ ties of philia to Patroclus and the other Achaeans in The Best of the Achaeans is central to the development of my argument that similar ties of philia, in which the hero figure ends up responsible, directly or indirectly, for the death of the person most dear to him, exist and are an essential driving force to the plot of Medea. I closely examine the usage of the word φίλτατος in the Iliad and in Medea, providing convincing evidence that Medea’s relationship with her children is akin to that of Achilles and Patroclus. Although the trajectory of how Achilles and Medea harm those dearest to them differs, I believe that understanding the parallels of these relationships explains how an act of infanticide fulfills the definition of a hero elucidated above and offers a new and compelling way of interpreting a mother’s decision to murder her children.

“An osteological and historical study of three Roman funerary urns at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum Collection”

Monika Lay, Johns Hopkins

There are three Roman funerary urns on display at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum which would benefit from further study. With the help of people in many disciplines and fields, I hope to gather more information on the context and history of the urns and the remains that they hold. More research was done on the history of how the artifacts came into the museum collection. Also, a comparison of the decorations and inscriptions on the urns to those of comparable museum collections was be done in an attempt to date them. Osteological research was done with the advice of Dr. Valerie DeLeon, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions with the Functional Anatomy and Evolution Department. As part of this study, the minimum number of individuals (MNI) present in each compartment of each urn was calculated. An inventory of the identifiable bones was made, and any visible pathologies were noted. I also tried to determine the sex and approximate age of the individuals. The weights of the remains were taken as additional data, to corroborate the MNI and the sex determination results. Hopefully, careful analysis of the bones will help us learn about the lives and burial practices of the Romans and more knowledge will help ensure that the remains are housed in a safe and appropriate manner.

“Nothing in excess: Religious Moderation in Euripides’ Bacchae”

Kristen Roper, College of William and Mary

In the Bacchae, Euripides uses the chorus to highlight the importance of religious moderation by providing the audience with three distinct examples of ritual worship in Pentheus, Agave and the Theban women, and the chorus of Lydian women. Pentheus’ lack of religious worship and Agave’s overindulgence demonstrate religious immoderation. Euripides establishes Pentheus’ impiety through violence, which leads to the king’s insanity (618-20, 629-30). Likewise, Agave reveals her overzealous worship with impious sacrificial practices (740-9, 1120-36). Although Dionysus forced his madness upon the Theban women it is their actions that indicate their impiety, not the madness itself. In contrast, the chorus displays religious moderation by asking Dionysus for assistance against Pentheus’ uncontrolled rage (1020-3, 1034-5) while disapproving of Agave’s infanticide (1160-2). The religious moderation of the chorus indicates their recognition of naturally occurring dualities innate in Dionysus and his ritual practices (656, 860-1, 1190-1). Although Euripides makes it clear that the mastery of these naturally occurring dualities as well as knowledge of τό σοφόν is unattainable for mankind (200-3), it nevertheless remains a worthwhile goal that pious individuals should seek to comprehend as demonstrated by the chorus (1004-10; contra. Reynolds-Warnhoff 1997). In this fashion, Euripides allows his audience to witness the destructive power of impious ritual worship through Agave and Pentheus while simultaneously emphasizing the chorus as the paradigm of ritual piety.

“Matriarchal Marketing: The Emperor, The Empress, and The Army”

Jenni Royce, University of South Florida

During the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211 CE), his wife Julia Domna received the title of Mater Castrorum, or Mother of the Camp. Although this title suggests that the Empress had a close relationship to the Roman military, recent research has found that it was issued by the Imperial administration and that it was minted onto coins that were distributed to civilian populations not the military. This led to the conclusion that the idea of the Empress being close to the military was a way for the Imperial family to convince civilians that they had the backing of the military and thus gain their support.

My research investigates the continued use of this title following the deaths of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. I examined Roman coinage and inscriptions to determine whether the title was used in the same way for later empresses. I found that unlike with Julia Domna, the title is not found on any published coins. Instead it is found solely in inscriptions, used not only by the imperial administration but by Roman provincials and the military. This means that later emperors used the Mater Castrorum title to strengthen the bond between themselves and the military.

“Interpreting the VMFA’s Düver Terracottas”

Janelle Sadarananda, University of Richmond

In the seventh century BCE, the Greeks at Corinth invented a system of roofing that used terracotta tiles. This technology quickly spread across the Mediterranean world to Asia Minor. During the sixth century BCE at Düver, a city in central Anatolia, a set of terracotta plaques painted with lively and engaging decoration adorned two buildings of unknown function. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) purchased a set of terracottas from Düver in 1978. This set includes fifteen figural plaques made from identical molds, each featuring a horse, rider, and griffin. Though the figures are molded identically, each plaque is individually and uniquely painted. The influence of artistic styles from East Greece, Lydia, and the Achaemenid Empire is clearly evident in the decorative details of the plaques. East Greek pottery styles including Wild Goat, Chian, and Klazomenian, which were adopted and adapted in Lydian art and conveyed to central Anatolia, influenced the composition of the terracottas and their painted decoration. Other details, like the dress of the riders, the wings of the griffins, and the triskeles symbols on the hindquarters of the horses, represent an appropriation and blending of artistic styles. The form and tack of the horses has parallels in Lydian art, while the details of the griffins combine Eastern and Western features. Overall, the figural plaques in the VMFA’s collection of architectural terracottas from Düver represent art that looks very Lydian in a Phrygian context. Further analysis of the cultural influences that shaped the decoration of these terracottas reveals that their artists were familiar with a variety of styles from East and West, but the creative and innovative combination of these artistic styles is entirely Anatolian.

“Narrative Structure in Pliny’s Epistulae: Letter 9.14 and the amicitia-arc

Rachel Thomas, Ohio University

The overarching narrative structure in Pliny’s Epistulae demonstrates a clear, deliberate decision with respect to book themes and letter placement in a way akin to a work of fiction. Letters first appearing in Book 1 are doubled in Book 9, often sent to the same recipients. Prominent among these is Tacitus, a studiosus like Pliny, to whom more letters are addressed than any other individual. In spite of this, letter 9.14, the last letter addressed to him, is often overlooked in modern scholarship. A close examination, however, reveals not only Pliny’s final farewell to Tacitus in the Epistulae, but also his artistry in treating the Epistulae as a distinct literary unit with a logical ending.

By comparing prior letters sent to and about Tacitus, it becomes clear that while certain letters are doublets, 9.14 is an endpiece to an entire class of letters. A brief examination of its commonalities with the amicitia-literature of Seneca and Cicero shows that thematic ties bind the letter closely to a preexisting tradition. Further, its position within the narrative arc of the Epistulae contributes to our understanding of its function.

Through these methods, I argue that it is, in fact, a vital mechanism within the narrative framework of the Epistulae, serving to punctuate the innovation of Pliny’s design and his constructed ideal amicitia with Tacitus. As a result, a brief analysis of a short letter gives insight not only into the author, but also into the practice and function of literary exchange among studiosi.