Corpora Mutata: Modifications and Transformations of the Body in Classical Antiquity (22nd Annual Gr
Keynote Speaker: Brooke Holmes
Conceptions of the body feature prominently in many aspects of Greco-Roman antiquity. Body transformations, purposeful and unintentional, visible and invisible, play a major role in the Greek and Roman understanding of themselves and their societies. Within the realm of literature, the centrality the body and its transformation to conceptions of the individual is on display in the opening lines of and throughout Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as well as in the work of Apuleius. Body modification is linked to identity in depictions of the other in ethnographic accounts, such as that of Egyptians and Persians in Herodotus’ Histories, or Caesar’s descriptions of Gauls and Britons in the Bellum Gallicum. Transformations of the body are prominent in Greek drama, from Oedipus’ injured feet and self-inflicted blindness in Sophocles’ tragedies, to the transformation of Pentheus’ physical appearance in Euripides’ Bacchae, to the comical disguising of Dionysus in Aristophanes’ Frogs.
Beyond the literary sphere, war-wounds, corporal punishment of slaves and criminals, and disease affected daily life both for the victims and those around them. Offerings and prayers were made to the gods in response to sickness and injury, and Cos and Epidaurus enjoyed positions of prominence as both sanctuaries and centers of healing. Magic was employed to transform bodies, both for good or for ill, as seen in curse tablets and magical papyri. The pollution and purification of the body play a significant role in Greek religion and determined access to sacred spaces; among early Christians, the traditional Jewish practice of circumcision became one of the first controversies in discussions of inclusion and exclusion within the Christian community. Questions about the relative stability and permanence of body and soul are explored by philosophers, while the development of medicine and its occasionally controversial practices demonstrates changing conceptions of the physical body.
LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA, USA)
ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Sarah Teets; Matt Pincus; Jovan Cvjetičanin
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