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Growing up Motherless in Antiquity: A Conference on Mother Absence in the Ancient Mediterranean - 26-27-28/05/2016, Basel (Switzerland)



The last forty years have witnessed a vast reclamation project in ancient history, as scholars have worked to recover the lives of historically muted groups, particularly those of women and children. The result is an impressive body of work collecting the traces ancient women and children have left behind, as well as a sophisticated epistemology of the biases, gaps, and silences in the historical record. From this perspective, the absence of ancient mothers has represented an ineluctable reality and a methodological hurdle, but rarely a subject of study in its own right. Yet the evidence suggests that mother absence was not merely a secondary artifact of bias or artistic and historiographical conventions; it was also a primary condition of antiquity, one whose root causes, social articulations, and psychological effects have never been fully described or explored, even as it had a profound effect on ancient family life and the experience of childhood.


FECHA/DATE/DATA: 26-27-28/05/2016


LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Basel (Basel, Switzerland)


ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Prof. Dr. Sabine R. Huebner (Universität Basel) - Dr. David M. Ratzan (New York University)


INFO: call - web -






THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016

15:30 SABINE R . HUEBNER (Basel ): Welcome and Introductory remarks


16:00 TOSHA DUPRAS (Central Florida): Maternal mortality and orphans: A bioarchaeological assessment of growing up motherless in ancient Egypt

16:30 CHRISTIAN LAES (Antwerp / Tampere): Crucial and vital decisions: Caring for infants after mother’s death in childbed

17:00 DAVID M. RATZAN (New York University): The economics and outsourcing of ancient mother-work

17:30 General Discussion

18:00 Reception at Departement für Altertumswissenschaften (“Rosshof”), Petersgraben 51

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2016


9:30 RENÉ BLOCH (Bern): Moses: Motherless with two mothers

10:00 SARIT KATTAN GRIBETZ (Fordham): Mourning for mother: The topography of mother absence in rabbinic literature and piyyut

10:30 General Discussion

11:00 Coffee Break


11:30 FIONA McHARDY (Roehampton): The risk of violence towards motherless children in ancient Greece

12:00 ROSALIA HATZILAMBROU (Athens): Being motherless in classical Athens: The evidence of Attic forensic oratory

12:30 Lunch

14:00 ANGELIKI TZANETOU (Illinois, Urbana-Champaign): Motherly absence in Euripides’ reunion plays

14:30 SUSANNE MORAW ( Jena): Absent mothers by choice: Upper class women in classical Attic vase painting

15:00 General Discussion

15:30 Coffee Break


16:00 SABINE R . HUEBNER (Basel ): The last will of Alcestis: Motherless children and their widowed fathers in Roman Egypt

16:30 JUDITH EVANS GRUBBS (Emory): A long way from home: Motherless children in slave sale contracts

17:00 VÉRONIQUE DASEN (Fribourg ): Who cares for motherless children? Wet nursing in the Roman world

17:30 General Discussion

20:00 Dinner

SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2016


10:00 ELINA PYY (St. Andrews): Growing up motherless, growing up to be a hero: Motherless children in Virgil’s Aeneid

10:30 MARGHERITA CARUCCI: The journey of a motherless child in the decoration of the Roman house

11:00 SANNA JOSKA (Tampere): Motherless empire? The Antonine dynasty, imperial children, and imperial policy at the death of Faustina the Elder

11:30 General Discussion

12:00 Lunch


13:30 GEOFFREY NATHAN (New South Wales): The wicked stepmother in late antique imperial politics: A reevaluation

14:00 MARIA DOERFLER (Duke): Wayward mothers, saintly children: Late ancient reading strategies in pursuit of the absent parent

14:30 Discussion

15:00 DAVID M. RATZAN (New York University): Closing remarks


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