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Eris vs. Aemulatio. Competition in Classical Antiquity

Thursday 16 June 2016 - Saturday 18 June 2016
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden
Vossius conference room


The two-sided nature of competition attracted notice already in antiquity. Hesiod reflected on the both the positive and negative effects of competition in human society, mentioning some of the wide variety of endeavors in which competition, or "Strife," as he names it, manifested itself: in warfare and politics, to be sure, but also in the pursuit of livelihoods, professional skills, and artistry (Works and Days 11-32).

Competition took many forms: rulers competed with their peers and with historical and mythological predecessors; artists of all kinds emulated generic models and past masterpieces; philosophers and their schools vied with one another to give the best interpretation of the world; athletes and performers strove for victory in front of huge crowds at Olympia and elsewhere. Discord and conflict resulted, but so did innovation, social cohesion, and political stability. In Hesiod's view Eris was not one entity but two, the one a "grievous goddess," the other and "aid to men."

Our conference aims not so much to collect individual case studies of competitive endeavors as to examine broader questions about the functioning and effect of competition in ancient society, in both its productive and destructive aspects.

The conference is the ninth in the series of the Penn Leiden Colloquia on Ancient Values, initiated by Ralph Rosen and Ineke Sluiter. The results of previous colloquia have been published by Brill in the series Mnemosyne Supplements.

This conference is funded by: the Royal Durch Academy (KNAW), Leiden Universiteit Fonds, LUCAS, University of Pennsylvania Department of Classics and Center for Ancient Studies, Scaliger Institute.

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