Penn-Leiden Conference on Ancient Value XI

Penn-Leiden Colloquium on Ancient Values XI: Valuing Labor in Greco-Roman Antiquity

The Penn-Leiden Colloquia on Ancient Values were established as a biennial venue in which scholars could investigate the diverse aspects of Greek and Roman values. Each colloquium focuses on a single theme, which participants explore from various perspectives and disciplines. Since the first colloquium in Leiden (in 2000), a wide range of topics has been explored, including manliness, free speech, the spatial organization of value, badness, ‘others’, aesthetic value, the past, landscapes, competition and the night. All conferences (full list below) have resulted in edited volumes published by Brill Publishers.


The topic of the 11th colloquium, to be held in Leiden June 17-19, 2021, is:

Valuing Labor in Antiquity.

Work, as activity or as discourse, has seen far less attention in antiquity than it has in adjacent historical periods. Elite authors often leap over work to focus on its products - natural abundance, civic splendor, material luxury. Legal categories like tenancy or slavery have deflected attention away from the often shared nature of work in favor of distinctions in legal status; while the literary topoi of labor - from idle shepherds to divinely-guided craftsmen to stout peasants - are poorly integrated into modern explorations of poetics and literary histories. Similarly, the growing interest in ancient economic history has veered away from the nature, organization and practices of labor in favor of its outputs.

This conference will adress the practices and discourses of work, skill and craft in antiquity. The conference seeks not only to illuminate little-described aspects of labor, but also to set the evidence for those practices in a critical, culturally-contingent context which considers how the evidence for work is refracted through particular cultural lenses. The “value” of labor here is imagined as not only economic, but cultural, aesthetic and/or discursive. Subjects of particular interest thus include the poetics and literary construction of work and skill; the framing, or elision, of non-elites’ labor by and for elite audiences in texts as well as in iconographic representations of work in painting and sculpture; and deeper explorations of specific kinds of work - from goldsmithing to harvesting to artistic “making” -  in their “thick” socio-cultural, economic, literary and/or historical contexts.

We hope to bring together researchers in all areas of classical studies, including history, economics, literature, philosophy, and visual and material culture, with a view to discovering points of intersection and difference between these areas of focus.

Click here for pdf of the program





Valuing Labor in Antiquity


11th Penn-Leiden Colloquium on Ancient Values


17-19 June 2021






14:00 CET (8:00 EST) Walk-in


14:30 – 16:00 CET (8:30 – 10:00 EST) Opening and Keynote Lectures


14:30 Welcome and Introduction to the conference


14:40 Lauren Hackworth Petersen (University of Delaware) – On Valuing Roman Art and the Labor of Art Making


15:20 Ineke Sluiter (Leiden University) - The Exemplary Craftsman


16:30 – 17:50 CET (10:30 -12:30 EST) Session A: Labor in Theory


16:30 Tazuko van Berkel (Leiden University) - Valuing labor from a systemic point of view: ancient Greek theoretic discourse on the division of labor


17:10 John Mulhern (University of Pennsylvania) - Πόνος and Πονέω in Aristotle


18:30 – 19:50 CET (13:30 – 14:50 EST) Session B: Valuing Craftsmen in Ancient Greece


18:30 Helle Hochscheid (University College Roosevelt, Utrecht University) – Foreign labor, common ground. The value of metic craftsmen in archaic and classical Athens


19:10 Natacha Massar (Art & History Museum, Brussels) – The craftsman’s view. Labor and (self)-appreciation as reflected in signatures


19:50 – 20:30 CET (13:50 -14:30 EST) Virtual Drinks (speakers only)




14:00 CET (8:00 EST) Walk-in


14:30 – 16:30 CET (8:30 – 9:50 EST) Session C: Contextualizing Urban Work and Labor


14:30 Antiopi Argyriou-Casmeridis (Royal Holloway University of London) – Professionals as paradeigmata of arete in Hellenistic honorific decrees


15:10 Miriam Groen-Vallinga (Radboud University Nijmegen) – Work and labor networks of the Roman upper-class household


15:50 Christel Freu (Université de Laval) – Who’s afraid of wage labor? Analyzing some texts of the Second Sophistic


17:00 – 18:20 CET (11:00 – 12:20 EST) Session D: Labor, Identity and the Urban Community


17:00 Sarah Levin-Richardson – Emotional Labor in Antiquity: The Case of Greco-Roman Prostitution


17:40 Fanny Opdenhoff (Hamburg University) – The Tombstone of Amabilis the Sculptor at Bordeaux


19:30 – 20:50 CET (13:30 – 14:50 EST) Session E: The meaning of work


19:30 Bettina Reitz-Joosse (University of Groningen) - Meaning in the Making: Literary Depictions of Glass Production in Roman Imperial Literature


20:10 Ralph Rosen (University of Pennsylvania) – Galen on Hands and the Teleology of Work


20:50 – 21:30 CET (14:50 – 15:30 EST) Plenary Discussion




14:00 CET (8:00 EST) Walk-in


14:30 – 16:30 CET (8:30 – 10:30 EST) Session F : Rural labor and Greco-Roman Poetry


14:30 André Lardinois (Radboud University Nijmegen) – Doing what is right: the appreciation of agrarian labor in Hesiod’s Works & Days


15:10 Amelia Bensch-Schaus (University of Pennsylvania) – A Labor of Love: Theocritus’ Attentive Audience


15:50 Riemer Faber (Waterloo University) Labor in the Locus Amoenus: Agricultural Industry as Premise of Pastoral Leisure


17:00 – 18:20 CET (11:00 -12:20 EST) Session G: Rural labor and Roman Archaeology


17:00 Nicole Brown (Williams College) – Work Underfoot: The Rustic Calendar Mosaic of Saint-Romain-en-Gal


17:40 Liana Brent (University of Pennsylvania) and Tracy Prowse (McMaster University)– Rural Labor and Identity at Vagnari in Southern Italy


18:20 – 19:00 CET (12:20 – 13:00 EST) Concluding discussion


Attendance is free but please register via before June 10th, 2021. We will send the zoom-link to all registered participants shortly before the conference.




Conference organizers:

Miko Flohr, Leiden:

Kim Bowes, UPenn:


Earlier Penn-Leiden Colloquia:

2000: ‘Andreia’— Manliness and Courage in Classical Antiquity. (published in 2003, edd. Ralph Rosen and Ineke Sluiter).

2002: Free Speech in Classical Antiquity (2005, edd. Ineke Sluiter and Ralph Rosen).

2004: City, Countryside, and the Spatial Organization of Value in Classical Antiquity (2006, edd. Ralph Rosen and Ineke Sluiter).

2006: KAKOS: Badness and Anti-Values in Classical Antiquity (2008, edd. Ineke Sluiter and Ralph Rosen).

2008: Valuing Others in Classical Antiquity (2010, edd. Ralph Rosen and Ineke Sluiter).

2010: Aesthetic Value in Classical Antiquity (2012, edd. Ineke Sluiter and Ralph Rosen).

2012: Valuing the Past in the Greco-Roman World (2014, edd. James Ker and Christoph Pieper).

2014: Valuing Landscapes in Classical Antiquity (2016, edd. Jeremy McInerney and Ineke Sluiter).

2016: Eris vs. Aemulatio: Competition in Classical Antiquity (2018, edd. Cynthia Damon and Christoph Pieper).

2018: Between Dusk and Dawn: Valuing Night in Classical Antiquity (in preparation edd. James Ker and Antje Wessels).