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The Australian National University

Seminar | Welcome, Stranger? Attitudes to outsiders in Mediterranean antiquity


Tuesday, 18 April 2017 - 4:30pm - 5:45pm


Seminar Room 1, Sir Roland Wilson Building


Professor Greg Horsley
Antigone brought before Kreon. Red-Figure vase by the Dolon Painter (South Italy, c. 400-380 BC). Now held in the British Museum. Reproduced from V. Ehrenberg, Sophocles and Pericles (Oxford, 1954), Frontispiece.


The notion of the stranger in historical, literary, mythic and other contexts is ubiquitous across cultures and periods; yet who qualifies as a stranger may manifest itself differently. After brief allusions to some instances in 19th and 20th century literature and history, the paper will focus on Graeco-Roman antiquity, sampling Homer, Greek tragedy, historians.

In considering who counts as a stranger, some questions of etymology are pertinent: Latin hostis/hospes, the multi-valent Greek xenos, etc. Cultural expectations of reciprocity are fundamental: does xenia (‘guest-friendship’) trump being a xenos (foreigner)?

Hostility to the other finds particular expression (at times localised, at times orchestrated from the centre) in Roman attitudes towards those with diverse religious adherences, especially from the East. Sometimes former insiders who became outsiders seek to be accepted again.

Other topics to be canvassed may include: refugees in antiquity, the nature of ancient asylia, Alexander and the unity of mankind, racial and social/linguistic drivers of discrimination leading to being a stranger in one’s own country, and whether strangers/outsiders ever become fully insiders—strangers no more.

As a conclusion to the paper, the theme title and accompanying picture will be considered for its ambiguity.

Greg Horsley has taught Classics in five universities in Australasia (1975- ), and is currently the longest-serving Professor of Classics and Ancient History in that region (UNE, 1995- ). His interests are in anything Greek, from Homer to Julian, not least the crossover between pagan, Jewish and Christian antiquity. He has worked on epigraphical texts in Pisidia (Turkey) for many years, and published two volumes of inscriptions (2000 [with S. Mitchell], 2007). In the decade of the 1980s he produced the first five volumes of the series New Documents illustrating early Christianity. In 2011 he co-authored (with I. Johnston) the first-ever complete English translation of one of Galen’s seminal works, the 14-book Method of Medicine. The lexicography of post-Classical Greek is a longstanding interest. He is currently at ANU on a short-term Fellowship at the Humanities Research Centre.

This seminar is free and open to the public. All welcome.

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