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Ancient Cosmos: Concord Among Worlds
A CAMNE Conference at Durham University (20-22 September 2013)


Department of Classics and Ancient History, Durham University, 38 North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3EU, England

‘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. Several speakers from our weekly Thursday Research Seminars throughout the academic year have delivered presentations on the topic of cosmos in the ancient world. The 2012-13 Research Seminar concludes with an international conference held 20-22 September 2013 in Durham on the topic of ‘Ancient Cosmos: Concord among Worlds’, which will feature dedicated panels of distinguished speakers on various sub-topics as well as presentations by our two keynote speakers, Luc Brisson (CNRS) and Malcolm Schofield (Cambridge University).

Conference Programme

All presentations take place in the Ritson Room/CL007, Department of Classics and Ancient History, 38 North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3EU.

Friday, 20 September

3:45pm-4:00pm: Introduction by Phillip Sidney Horky (Durham University)

Panel: Cosmos, Arrangement, and Order

Chair: Christopher Rowe (Durham University)

4:00pm-5:00pm: Donald Lavigne (Durham University/Texas Tech University): ‘The Kosmos of Thersites’

5:00pm-6:00pm: Phillip Sidney Horky (Durham University): ‘When Kosmos became the Cosmos’


Chair: Marijn Visscher (PhD Student, Durham University)

6:00pm-7:15pm: Luc Brisson (CNRS): ‘Kosmos in Plato’s Laws’

7:15pm-7:45pm: Drinks at St John’s College

7:45pm- : Dinner at St John’s College

Saturday, 21 September

8:30am-9:00am: Coffee/Tea (CL 108)

Panel: Cosmos Constructed

Chair: Arnaud Macé (Université de Franche-Comté)

9:00am-10:00am: Edmund Thomas (Durham University): ‘Ancient Architecture in Southern Italy and the Music of the Cosmos’

10:00am-11:00am: Gilles Sauron (Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)): ‘La représentation du cosmos dans les décors romains, de Varron à Hadrien’

11:00am-11:30am: Coffee/Tea Break (CL 108)

Panel: Cosmos Extended

Chair: George Boys-Stones (Durham University)

11:30am-12:30pm: Grant Nelsestuen (University of Wisconsin – Madison): ‘Agronomy and Cosmonomy in the Roman Republic’

12:30pm-1:30pm: Jackie Feke (University of Chicago): ‘Ptolemy on Good Order in the Heavens and in the Soul’

1:30pm-3:45pm: Lunch

3:45pm-4:00pm: Coffee (CL 108)

Panel: Cosmos and the Human

Chair: Sarah Broadie (University of St Andrews)

4:00pm-5:00pm: Pauliina Remes (Uppsala University): ‘Cosmic and Human Agents in Plotinus’

5:00pm-6:00pm: Ahmed Alwishah (Cambridge University/Pitzer College): ‘Avicenna on God’s Knowledge of the Universe and Human Cognition’

6:00pm-6:30pm: Coffee/Tea Break (CL 108)


Chair: Nicolò Benzi (PhD Student, Durham University)

6:30pm-7:45pm (Keynote Speaker): Malcolm Schofield (Cambridge University) ‘Diakosmêsis’

7:45pm – : Dinner at St John’s College

Sunday, 22 September

Morning (TBC): Guided Architectural Tour of Durham Cathedral, given by Edmund Thomas (Durham University)

Those who have questions about the conference should contact the organizer, Phillip Horky (Phillip.Horky@Durham.ac.uk), for further information. There is no cost for participation in the conference, which is open to the public. Accommodations and meals will take place at St. John’s College, Durham. For registration (including accommodation and meals), click on the Ancient Cosmos Registration and Booking Form.

From http://workofmemory.wordpress.com/

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