Societies in Transition: Ancient and Modern Perspectives

Soc Tran

On far-away shores, but a mini-conference of great interest at Macquarie University: Societies in Transition: Ancient and Modern Perspectives. Contributors will consider, in particular, the importance of networks in enabling resilience in ancient societies, with a keynote address – ‘Promised lands: Greek and Hebrew colonization’ – by Prof. Irad Malkin.

Date: Wed. 2nd September 2015 (9.00-13.00)

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Remarkable ancient Greek sites that still endure


A new list for the new year…

Although it is a key contention of ours that the emphasis on the total ruin and complete collapse of cities through history is a misconception worth challenging (the fact is that civilisations tend to be much more resilient than is usually allowed for), here is a catalogue of 25 ancient Greek cities that no longer exist… except for those ones that do… cities such as Marseille and Alexandria etc. continuously occupied for millennia…

Anyway, if nothing else the list certainly does show how extensive the ancient Greek colonisation of the whole Mediterranean (and beyond) was.

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Malaria and the fall of Rome

Storage jars from LugnanoIt took a bit of digging (appropriately enough), but we found this BBC page that reviews work by Prof. David Soren (University of Arizona). Assessing remarkable remains from the large children’s cemetery found at Lugnano, Soren considers the impact a deadly epidemic might have had on the Eternal city as the empire declined.

We should note that the theories presented here are far from universally accepted; for example, see W.V. Harris’ review of the book that resulted from this research project and his argument that the evidence for an epidemic of malaria is entirely indirect and its impact on Rome overstated.

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CRISIS! The identification, analysis, & commemoration of crises in the ancient world

Crasis on Crisis 2015A parallel initiative to note is the forthcoming master class & one-day conference on Crisis, and the memory of crisis,  hosted by the University of Groningen’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies in Culture, Religion and Society of the Graeco-Roman World.

On  February 5th & 6th (2015), there participants will focus on how the ancients coped with crisis. Using a broad understanding of the concept, this meeting brings together literary, material, as well as environmental and documentary sources to consider what is known about the definition, nature, perception, and commemoration of crises in the ancient world.

For further details go to:

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Ancient stories in the 2014 news

Straying slightly from our main theme, but perhaps it is appropriate to include a review of ‘ground-breaking’ archaeology stories that made the news in 2014. The story of cholera-plagued vampires is one highlight.

Night Pyramids

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Rome – still the great beauty?

Satchi & Satchi mock adMore on the difficulty of balancing ancient and modern – in Rome and beyond. A piece in The Independent prompted by recent complaints from Tommaso Pincio in/on the Eternal City.

It also brought this story from 2010 to mind – ‘commercialising the Colosseum‘.

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The Oldest City – 7,000 Years Young

View from Byblos CastleThe ‘truly ancient’ Phoenician city of Byblos (noted briefly in an earlier post). An excellent piece on piece on life in this beautiful Lebanese site – the challenges of living in an ‘age-old and modern’ city, 7,000 years old!

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The World’s 10 Riskiest Cities

Pearl River Delta, ChinaAlthough this site is an ‘academic’ exercise, we must always remember the human stories behind the examples of endurance we note. Think of others and the hard lives so many lead – even still – as depicted in this piece from The Guardian’s ‘Resilient Cities‘ page (devoted to discussion around how cities can futureproof themselves against catastrophic events of all kinds).

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Athens… Delphi… reflecting on ancient life

Theatre in Delphi

Athens and Delphi are not quite ‘lost’ cities, but Ben Lerwill (in a piece from the National Geographic) offers some reflections on modern life – and the achievements of the ancients – as he weaves his way around these legendary Greek sites.

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Culture under attack… culture endures…

Tammam Azzam, Freedom Graffiti (2013)

Well worth checking out UNESCO’s Culture Under Attack photo exhibition (May 12-June 15), which “shows the effects of war and armed conflict on cultural heritage”, but also highlights “the reconstruction efforts and the resilience of the people involved in saving damaged heritage.”

Among the provocative images selected was Tammam Azzam’s ‘Freedom Graffiti’, which superimposed Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ onto the walls of a war-torn building, symbolising the spirit and fortitude of the Syrian people. For a little more on Azzam’s ‘golden ghost’ see the piece by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian last year.

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