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Conference | 11th Penn-Leiden Colloquium on Ancient Values

Valuing Labor in Antiquity

Thursday 17 June 2021 - Saturday 19 June 2021

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.


Confirmed speakers include: Antiopi Argyriou-Casmeridis, Amelia Bensch-Schaus, Tazuko van Berkel, Liana Brent, Nicole Brown, Riemer Faber, Cristel Freu, Miriam Groen-Vallinga, Helle Hochscheid, Lauren Hackworth Petersen, André Lardinois, Sarah Levin-Richardson, Natacha Massar, John Mulhern, Fanny Opdenhoff, Tracy Prowse, Bettina Reitz-Joosse, Ralph Rosen, and Ineke Sluiter.


The full conference programme and timetables can be found here.


Attendance is free but please register via penn.leiden.xi@gmail.com before June 10th, 2021. We will send the Zoom-link to all registered participants shortly before the conference.


This conference was originally scheduled to take place 11-13 June 2020, but has been postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Conference organizers
Miko Flohr, Leiden: m.flohr@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Kim Bowes, UPenn: k.bowes@sas.upenn.edu

Penn-Leiden Colloquia on Ancient Values
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 have resulted in edited volumes published by Brill Publishers.

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).

Conference programme

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