21st Century Ephebes

DSC_0611The Center for Hellenic Studies held the second annual Ephebe’s Journey workshop on August 1st and 2nd. The workshop, intended for students with an interest in civic participation and leadership, introduced them to one of the ancient world’s most lasting legacies: democracy.

Each session focused on what it means to “become a citizen and a leader”, both in ancient Greece and modern America. Through a reading of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, a viewing of The Young Victoria (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2009), and working with Professors Norman Sandridge (Howard University) and Kenny Morrell (Rhodes College), the students explored civic questions such as a young person’s role in their community, but also the notion of ephebeia in fifth- and fourth-century Athens.

As thought-provoking as the readings were, the highlight of these two days were the spontaneous discussions and debates that spurted from students’ interactions. Every one of them heartily shared anecdotes and ideas, discussing their very own “transformations” into leaders in different contexts of their lives, and picking the process apart in order to better understand it.

Are artists leaders? How does one give back to the community? What is tyranny in the ancient world? How does one give a voice to the oppressed? A lot of questions arose during these round table discussions, some of them we couldn’t answer — showing us that this discussion is an ongoing one, and as Dr. Sandridge joked, this exchange between the students and the Center is meant to be a “long-term relationship.”

The workshop closed on a discussion about the importance of the humanities, and what the youngest generation can do to promote them.

We would like to express our gratitude to Thomas Henderson (who joined us via videoconference) for an inspiring lecture on Athenian ephebeia — no one will forget his breathtaking reconstitution of the Ephebe’s Oath; many thanks as well to Caroline Stark for sharing her experiences with us, and of course, a special thanks to Norman Sandridge and Kenny Morrell for leading us on this journey.

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