Ancient Cosmos: Concord among Worlds

September 20, 2013 - September 22, 2013
Department of Classics and Ancient History, Durham University

Ritson Room/CL007
38 North Bailey
Durham DH1 3EU
United Kingdom

All speakers:

Ahmed Alwishah
Pitzer College
Luc Brisson
Centre Jean Pépin (UPR 76)
Jacqueline Feke
University of Chicago
Durham University
Donald Lavigne
Durham University
Grant Nelsestuen
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Pauliina Remes
Uppsala Universitet
Gilles Sauron
Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)
Malcolm Schofield
Cambridge University
Edmund Thomas
Durham University

Organisers:

Durham University

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Ancient Cosmos: Concord among Worlds

A CAMNE Conference at the Department of Classics and Ancient History, Durham University

‘The cosmos of a polis is manpower, of a body beauty, of a soul wisdom, of an action virtue, of a speech truth, and the opposites of these make for acosmia.’

 - Gorgias, Encomium of Helen 1

Cosmos is a term that encompasses a wide variety of meanings and applications in the ancient world, each of which, broadly speaking, implies the ‘order’ that things can have.  As the sophist Gorgias of Leontini attests, cosmos can refer to the most proper (or best) order of many sorts of things, including those made up of many constituent parts (city-states, bodies, and speeches) as well as those that seem to be unified (souls, actions).  But its application in antiquity goes far beyond the list given by Gorgias: in Homeric poetry (Od. 8.489), as elsewhere in later poetry and literary criticism, being kosmios entails the proper arrangement and truth of a speech act.  Ornamental dress is designated kosmêma by Xenophon (Cyr. 7.3.7), which reflects a broader concern with proper cosmetic arrangement that also applies to sculpture and architecture.  Cosmos also featured in novel ways of thinking about citizenship in Imperial Rome: for Martial (VII. 41), the cosmicus is a new arrival in the Roman mundus, a kindred concept to the cosmos which reaches back to the early Roman stage.  In philosophy, natural science, and theology, from Heraclitus and Plato to Proclus and Origen, cosmos refers to the world-order that is held together through forces of opposition, equilibrium, and measure.

The Department of Classics and Ancient History at Durham University, in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East (CAMNE), seeks to pursue a better understanding of the various modalities that cosmos took on throughout the ancient world, from its pre-Greek origins in the Near East to its role in the articulation of Christian theology in the later Roman Empire.  Please visit the Conference Website at workofmemory.wordpress.com for further information.

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September 18, 2013, 10:00pm BST

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