Penn-Leiden Conference on Ancient Value XI: Call for Papers

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

Call for Papers

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 11-13, 2020, 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 seeks papers addressing 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 invite abstracts for papers (25 minutes) that address any general or specific instances, from Greece and/or Rome, in which the value of labor is a central theme. 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.

Selected papers will be considered for publication. Those interested in presenting a paper are requested to submit an abstract of c. 300 words with a select bibliography, as an email attachment, no later than Saturday, September 30th, 2019,

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).