CLASSICS PRESENTS ... 2015-16 Speakers

A poster from Dr. David Sedley's talk

Recollection in the "Timaeus"

This paper argues that Plato's Timaeus provides neglected support for what has come to be called (usually by its critics) the ‘mouthpiece theory’. Many theses defended or assumed by the principal speakers in his other dialogues are in the Timaeus owned by Plato himself as parts of a global system. One such case turns out to be anamnesis. Its presence in the Timaeus, once noticed, promises to enhance our understanding of this celebrated theory."

Humanist topographies: poetry and place in Renaissance Florence and Naples

This paper explores the reception of the classical poetics of place and space by humanist authors within the context of the broader renewal of classical spatiality that was being carried out in literary and architectural media in the cities of Renaissance Italy. Specifically, it examines the Silvae of Angelo Poliziano (1454-1494), and the Lepidina and Garden of the Hesperides of Giovanni Pontano (1429-1503). Poliziano, who alludes in his poetry to the Medici villas at Fiesole and Poggio a Caiano, combines intertextual density with richly erudite topological memory in his collection entitled Silvae. The culminating poem in this sequence, the Nutricia, at once confers extraordinary privilege on Florence as the “mother of poets” and reflects more broadly on the contingency and mobility of literary locations. Giovanni Pontano pursued his career in Aragonese Naples and owned villas in the region that feature prominently throughout his poetry. His epithalamial eclogue entitled Lepidina draws on a range of classical models in tracing a neo-mythological map of contemporary Naples. Garden of the Hesperides, a Virgilian didactic poem on the cultivation of orange and citrus trees, employs spatial figures to challenge the supremacy of classical poetry. In both Poliziano and Pontano, the humanist rhetoric of restoration (instauratio) accompanies the boldly irreverent ambition of replacing the revered sites of antiquity with contemporary poetic places.

A poster from Dr. Luke Roman's talk

A poster from Dr. Anthony D'Elia's talk

'Veros et priscis digniores triumphos Romae ducendos': 
                                                              Ancient Spectacles in Renaissance Rome

This paper explores the reception of ancient spectacles and blood sports in early fifteenth-century Rome. Two humanists at the papal curia, Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) and Flavio Biondo (1392-1463), studied Roman topography and correctly identified the ancient ruins that still dominated medieval Rome. Chief among these ruins was the Coliseum. Its original purpose as an amphitheater for the games had been forgotten for close to a thousand years. Poggio and Biondo compared physical remains to discussions in ancient sources, copied inscriptions, and complained of the neglect and wholesale destruction of ancient monuments by contemporary Romans. They also saw classical continuity in the festive games and papal ceremonies of Renaissance Rome. Less melancholic than Poggio, Biondo saw ancient Rome, and the imperial triumph in particular, as a model for the struggling papacy and Christian rulers: “Would that one or more Christians followed the example of the emperor, who entered on a two-wheeled chariot, shining in gold, silver, and gems.” 

Unveiling the Greek Sphinx

The Greek Sphinx always has been a fascinating topic. Since the Renaissance until the present day there has been much speculation about the figure. Its encounter with Oedipus as well as the famous riddle are the main part of the mystery, and its true nature and function have never been clearly explained. We shall see that the key lies in its Near-Eastern background, in particular the "Kerubs" in the Old Testament. However the images on Greek vases and Oriental objects are at least as important as the texts and a major source to solve the riddle.

A poster from Dr. Thierry Petit's talk