Ancient Studies



Presentation of the Minor in Ancient Studies

Monday, November 1, 2010, 4:30 PM, Seelye 204
Meet the Program faculty, learn about the courses offered, and more! Refreshments provided.


Thursday, April 1, 2010
Aila: A Roman Port on the Red Sea
S. Thomas Parker, History, North Carolina State University

Archaeological Institute of America Russell Lecture,
presented by the AIA-Western Massachusetts Society

4:30 pm, Amherst College, Pruyne Auditorium (Fayerweather 115)
Various ancient sources mention a city called Aila that was one of the great international ports of the Roman empire. Founded by the Nabataean Arabs in the first century B.C., Aila flourished as a major emporium between the Roman empire and its eastern neighbors. Luxury products such as frankincense, myrrh, and spices were transferred between ships and camel caravans for transport into the Empire. Direct Roman rule began in A.D. 106, when Aila became the southern terminus of the via nova Traiana, a major road connecting Syria with the Red Sea. About A.D. 300 the famous X Fretensis Legion was transferred from Jerusalem to Aila, suggesting the strategic importance of the city. Aila continued to flourish through the Byzantine period (4th-6th centuries), then surrendered to Muslim forces in 630. Although various sources located Aila near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, its exact location remained a mystery. In 1994 an archaeological project directed by the speaker rediscovered ancient Aila, now within the modern city of Aqaba in southern Jordan. Above all, the project aims to reconstruct the economy of Aila through both excavation of the city and a regional survey of its hinterland. Excavations between 1994 and 2003 revealed major portions of the ancient city, including domestic complexes, cemeteries, the city wall, and an apparently early Christian church. This putative church, erected ca. A.D. 300, could be the oldest purpose-built church in the world. A wide array of artifacts recovered by the project is suggestive of the international trade that passed through the port and of several local industries. Faunal and botanical remains also reveal much about the ancient urban economy. Finally, the surface survey recorded other archaeological sites that place the city in a broader regional context. Professer Parker received degrees from Trinity University (TX) and UCLA (M.A. and Ph.D.), and his areas of specialization are the history and archaeology of the Roman Empire, including the Roman army and frontiers, Roman Arabia, pottery, and economy. He has conducted fieldwork in Jordan, Israel and Cyprus, and since 1994 has been Director of the Roman Aqaba Project, Jordan. For further information about the lecture, contact Geoff Sumi of the AIA-WMS.


Homer and the Foundation of Classical Civilization

Monday, March 1, 2010 - 4:30 pm, Seelye Hall 201

Professor Peter Ahrensdorf, Political Science, Davidson College

While Homer has always been regarded as a poet of the first rank, it is forgotten today that such political philosophers as Thucydides, Plato, and Machiavelli considered him to be a foundational political, moral, and philosophic thinker as well. According to Herodotus, Thucydides, and Socrates, Homer was the theoretical founder of Greek civilization. He guided the Greek's understanding of the gods and of their relation to human beings. He provided them with a common moral understanding. He shaped their imaginings of human and divine greatness. By reflecting on Homer, we can begin to understand what set classical Greek civilization apart from other civilizations, and why classical civilization has inspired such intense admiration but also such intense hatred for the last 2500 years. More specifically, by studying Homer we can recognize the two most distinctive and fundamental features of classical civilization: first, its humanism - that is, its celebration of human excellence over divine greatness - and secondly, its philosophic rationalism - that is, its elevation of the contemplative life of the mind over the political and military life of action.

Peter Ahrensdorf is Professor of Political Science and Affiliated Professor of Classics at Davidson College. He is the author of three books: The Death of Socrates and the Life of Philosophy: An Interpretation of Plato's Phaedo (SUNY Press, 1995); Justice Among Nations: On the Moral Basis of Power and Peace, co-authored with Thomas L. Pangle, (University Press of Kansas, 1999); and Greek Tragedy and Political Philosophy: Rationalism and Religion in Sophocles Theban Plays, (Cambridge University Press, 2009).  He is currently under contract with Cambridge University Press to write a book on Homer entitled, Homers Education of the Greeks: the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Foundation of Classical Civilization.

This lecture is presented by the Program in Ancient Studies and co-sponsored by the Departments of Classical Languages and Literatures, English Language and Literature, Government, and Philosophy, the Program in Comparative Literature and the Lecture Committee at Smith College. Get the poster

Rome Reborn

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Presentation of the Minor in Ancient Studies

Monday, October 26, 2009 - 5 pm, Dewey Hall Philosophy Lounge
Meet the Program faculty, learn about the courses offered, and more! Pizza and beverages provided. Get the poster

Rome Reborn

Making Cultural Heritage Virtual: Rome Reborn and Other 3D Modeling Projects at the University of Virginia

Thursday, April 2, 2009 - 5 p.m. in Hillyer Graham

A lecture by Bernard Frischer, professor of classics and art history and director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia.

This talk will consider how archaeologists and architectural historians around the world are increasingly finding it useful to create digital 3D models as illustrations of their research results. Once finished, the models can themselves become research tools supporting new insights and discoveries. 3D digital models of ancient Rome and of several historical American sites recently created at the University of Virginia will be presented to exemplify both uses of 3D models. Frischer has overseen many significant modeling projects, including Rome Reborn, the virtual recreation of the entire city of ancient Rome within the Aurelian Walls, which is now available on the internet through a collaboration with Google Earth and a host of others.

The project aims to give viewers a vivid look at ancient Rome at its height in 320 A.D. Professor Frischer's Rome Reborn project is the cover story in the December 2008 issue of Computer Graphics World. As described in that story, "[T]he historically accurate digital re–creation—which melds the wondrous technological achievements of the past with those of the present—offers a comprehensive, holistic perspective of this amazing city. The most impressive aspect of this re–creation is the sheer scale of the model: It encompasses 7000 carefully reconstructed, detailed period buildings... And when this virtual model is completed in the spring of 2009, users will be able to explore the ancient cityscape, structures, and alleyways in real time and in high resolution. What's more, all the imagery and information will be rendered interactively within the user's Internet browser."

Professor Frischer will introduce the us to his unprecedented reconstruction of ancient Rome. The lecture, accompanied by images, will bring this extraordinary ancient city to life in a most imaginative way and be of great interest to those in a range of disciplines, including art, computer science, history and archaeology.

This event is presented by the Program in Ancient Studies and co-sponsored by the Program in Archaeology and the Departments of Art, Computer Science and History and the Lecture Committee at Smith College. Read the press release. Get the poster.