Penn-Leiden Colloquium on Ancient Values XII

Penn-Leiden Colloquium on Ancient Values XII

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, nighttime, and labor. All earlier colloquia have resulted in edited volumes published by Brill publishers (see list below).


The topic of the twelfth colloquium, to be held at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, June 20-22, 2023, will be: Meanings and Values of the Sacred in Greco-Roman Antiquity.

The exploration of ‘the sacred’ originates as part of a broader research initiative. We anticipate two complementary events, the Penn-Leiden colloquium XII (University of Pennsylvania, 2023) focused on ancient Greece and Rome to be followed by a second conference, Meanings of the Sacred in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond (King’s College London, 2024). This call is for the first event only.

The Sacred is undertheorized as an operative category in Greco-Roman antiquity. Was it a universal category, or was it locally and culturally circumscribed? Is it conceptualized differently in the Greek and Roman linguistic and cultural milieus or is there a dialogue between them? Do the conceptualizations of ‘the sacred’ and their roles in religious life develop and change over time? Is ‘the sacred’ a conservative or receptive area of cultural meaning? In other words, was ‘the sacred’ a common and homogenous phenomenon in the context of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean, or is it a promising window into the definitive interplay between ‘thick description’ and ‘thin coherence’?

Beyond concepts, how did people of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds experience ‘the sacred’? And how did they structure the experience in words, in ritual and performance, and in architecture? Do geographic boundaries or cross-boundary networks play a part in the conceptualization and practice of ‘the sacred’? Is the Mediterranean region a useful framework for contextualizing Greek and Roman conceptions and practices of ‘the sacred’?

For the twelfth Penn-Leiden colloquium, we invite abstracts for papers (20 minutes + 10 min. discussion) that address the meaning(s) and values of ‘the sacred’ in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds along these lines. We hope to bring together junior and senior researchers in all areas of classical studies, including literature, philosophy, linguistics, history, and visual and material culture, and hope to discover the significant points of intersection and difference between these areas of focus.

Selected papers will be considered for publication by Brill Publishers. Those interested in presenting a paper are requested to submit a 1-page abstract, by email, by Monday, December 5th, 2022.

Contact (please copy each with email correspondence):

Dr Kim Beerden                             Prof. Jeremy McInerney                         Dr Irene Polinskaya
Institute for History                         Dept of Classical Studies                       Dept of Classics
University of Leiden                        University of Pennsylvania                      King’s College London             


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: The Values of Nighttime in Classical Antiquity: Between Dawn and Dusk (2020, edd. James Ker and Antje Wessels).

2021: Valuing Labor in Antiquity (in preparation, edd. Miko Flohr and Kim Bowes)