In an era of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ it can seem like no form of media should be entirely trusted. While these issues are a modern problem, exacerbated by the unprecedented rise of social media, evidence from the ancient world produces a similar ‘truthiness’: an upside-down world or alternate reality that is latent, barely below the surface of the present and just beyond the borders of civilization and norms. Unlike utopias, which are placeless or displaced, many of these imagined dystopic or feigned worlds are presented as dangerously close to their contemporaries.
The conference will include papers from graduate students working across and between disciplines related to the ancient Mediterranean and its surrounding regions in order to explore the relationships between fact and fiction, order and chaos. From representations of alternate realities in ancient drama, painting, and sculpture, to disparate histories and archaeological evidence, we will discuss the motivations behind, and effects of, the absurd, inverted, and alternative.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1ST
SCHERMERHORN 807 & 825
5 PM KEYNOTE BY DR. PATRICK R. CROWLEY
"Specters of Greece on Roman Sarcophagi"
6-8 PM RECEPTION
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2ND
10:00-10:15 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS - MARIA DIMITROPOULOS
10:15-11:45 PANEL 1 - IMAGINED REALITIES
RESPONDENT Shenda Kuang, Columbia University
Julia Irons, University of Vermont, “Insomnia Terrent: The Dreaming and Waking Worlds of the Aeneid”
Alessandro Giardini, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, “Finding Caucasus: Manipulation of Space, Manipulation of History in Eratosthenes and Apollonius of Rhodes”
Davide Napoli, Harvard University, “A Sophistic Utopia: Herodotus’ Ethiopia”
11:45-12:00 COFFEE BREAK
12:00-1:00 PANEL 2 - APPEALING TO THE SUPERNATURAL
RESPONDENT Müge Arseven, Columbia University
Michael Anthony Fowler, East Tenn. State University, “Bad Blood? The Sacrifice of Polyxena in Archaic Greek Art”
Michael D’Amato, University of California, Riverside, “The Economy of Magic in Roman Hadrumetum”
2:00-3:30 PANEL 3 - PLAYING POLITICS
RESPONDENT Deborah Sokolowski, Columbia University
Kieren Johns, University of Warwick, “Absurd Authority and Imperial Inversions: Imperial Expectations in the Reign of Elagabalus (218-222 A.D.)”
Mark Van Horn, University of Pennsylvania, “The Sons of Commios: Fabricating Identity in Pre-Roman Britain”
Nicole Nowbahar, Rutgers University, “The Attraction of Armor to Cross-dressing Emperors”
3:30-3:45 COFFEE BREAK
3:45-4:45 PANEL 4 - COMEDY AS COMMENTARY
RESPONDENT Mary-Evelyn Farrior, Columbia University
Erez DeGolan, Columbia University, “God Plans and Humans Laugh: Humor and the Talmudic Account of the Destruction of the Temple”
Allison McCoskey, Brown University, “When the Cat’s Away: The Social Inversion of Ramesside Egypt in Parody”
4:45-5:00 CLOSING REMARKS - KARIN E. CHRISTIAENS
Karin is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in the study of the eastern Mediterranean under the Roman Empire. Her dissertation investigates the urban topography of Greek poleis under Roman rule, with a focus on the proliferation and architectural transformation of built public spaces mediated by series of gateways.
Maria is a Ph.D. candidate working primarily on Greek art and architecture in the Archaic and early Classical periods. Her dissertation is an iconographic study of mythological murders within families in Greek art; it will examine each artifact in its original contexts of production and reception, identify trends in iconographic schemata, and interpret what these images communicate about classical Athenian society.
Alex is a Ph.D. candidate working on sculpture in Roman and pre-Roman Italy. He is interested in the material culture of religion and the transmission of artistic ideas to and from Italy. His dissertation focuses on the sculpted bodies of mortals and gods in central Italian sanctuaries in the Hellenistic period.
Geoffrey is a second year Ph.D. student in the Classics department. His research interests cover a broad range of texts, genres, and themes, but are centered generally on Greek literature from the Hellenistic period to Late Antiquity, both prose and poetry. At Columbia, he hopes to further develop his research into the Greek literature of the Roman empire.
Dept. of Art History and Archaeology
Nikki is a third year Ph.D. student whose interests include the pottery of Classical Athens, ceramic studies, iconography, and the impact gender had on funerary and religious rituals.
Brian is a Ph.D. candidate studying Etruscan and Roman art. His dissertation casts new light on Etruscan bronze candelabra, considering the ways their finial statuettes address viewers in both individual bodily terms and as members of an encompassing social body.
Please send abstracts or questions to