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18.-19. Januar 2024


Universität Graz

Material Culture(s) and the Second Sophistic

Archaeological, epigraphical, and philological perspectives on urban and domestic space in the Imperial period

Material Culture(s) and the Second Sophistic
Material Culture(s) and the Second Sophistic

Zeit & Ort

18.-19. Januar 2024

Universität Graz, Universitätspl. 3, 8010 Graz, Österreich

Über die Veranstaltung

Workshop “Second Sophistic”, Graz, 18th-19th January 2024

Alice Landskron / Markus Hafner, University of Graz, Institute of Classics


Archaeological, epigraphical, and philological perspectives on urban and domestic space in the Imperial period

Sophistic representation and the performance of contemporary culture within the Roman Empire took place primarily in urban spaces. In addition to public places such as theatres, temples, gymnasia, fora and other meeting places, aristocratic houses could also serve as spaces of representation and performance of paideia. Especially public speech before an audience could be effectively celebrated in the architectural context of an urban environment. A great number of monuments and inscriptions testify to the special role of the sophists and their euergetism.

Materiality in the context of the Second Sophistic expresses itself particularly in the decorative design of urban spaces and buildings, including statues, sculptures or representations from myth and history, which manifest the educational claim on a visual level. Buildings were designed in view of sophistical performance and shaped the cityscape. This phenomenon can be traced particularly in cities of the Greek East but is also tangible in the West of the Empire: the focus of the workshop will be – admittedly, yet not exclusively – on cities in Asia Minor. Overall, cities and entire regions competed for first place in the world of sophistry.

From a literary point of view, it is interesting to see to what extent sophistic texts evoke imaginary images of cities to emphasize their knowledge of material antiquities and topographies in the sense of a material classicism and to secure their sophistic authority by referring to canonical contents and imaginary spaces of paideia. City speeches, e.g., are full of references to material artefacts as well as urban spaces and offer ekphrastic descriptions of public places such as temples, gymnasia, squares or other spaces destined to sophistic performance.

The workshop will examine the various entanglements of material and textual spheres in the urban culture of the Imperial period from archaeological, epigraphic, and philological-literary perspectives. In addition to archaeological evidence and physical objects, literary testimonies and epigraphic material will complement the picture of the great impact sophistic practices had in the urban contexts of the Imperial period. Additionally, the workshop will explore to what extent material legacies can be linked to literary evidence and, more generally, to the ‘Second Sophistic’ – a rhetorical and stylistic term that increasingly denotes a cultural current of the Greco-Roman Imperial period. In addition to a critical examination of this terminological phenomenon and its increasingly expansive use, the usefulness of such an umbrella term is discussed to grasp the convergences of material and textual spheres in the urban culture up to Late Antiquity. Furthermore, we address the question to what extent urban architecture and artistic artefacts in the urban context, especially of the 1st–3rd centuries AD, correlate as expressions of paideia with epigraphic and literary evidence.

Based on this multidisciplinary perspective, the workshop aims to shed new light on the material cultures of urban spaces and their medial representations as well as interactions between material testimonies and literary texts, including archaeological sites, objects and texts that have received less attention so far in this context.

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