Contours and Expressions of the Self in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures

Event date: May 27 - May 31, 2018

    Maren Niehoff, Organizer (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
    Alfons Fürst, Co-Organizer (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)
    Gretchen Reydams Schils, Co-Organizer (University of Notre Dame)
    Ishay Rosen-Zvi Co-Organizer (Tel Aviv University)
    Joshua Levinson Co-Organizer (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)


    The objective of the conference is to examine the growing scholarly consensus that new, intensified or modified notions of the Self emerged in the Greco-Roman period. Assembling a group of experts from different fields, we ask whether and how new notions of the Self emerged across “pagan”, Jewish and Christian cultures. What prompted philosophers, exegetes, biographers, theologians, artists and law-makers to conceive of human beings as individuated selves, with a sense of their own subjectivity and an urge to reflect upon themselves? How did authors position themselves in their text and address the reader in a more personal way? What role did religion, Stoicism and the revival of Platonism play? Looking at literary and material evidence, we will investigate if and how a koine of the Self emerged in the imperial period.

    To what extent did local cultures transform their traditional notions, paving the way for specifically Greek, Jewish or Christian perspectives, which were formed in dialogue with adjacent cultures? With the ascendancy of Rome, the establishment of monarchical forms of rule and subsequently the Christianization of the empire universal structures became available, which created new channels of communication and challenged traditional roles in society. The individual was confronted with new social and intellectual options, yet also with a loss of political power and democratic self-expressions. Intellectuals were thus prompted to define their role on a new scale, often taking recourse to the private sphere. These themes will be explored in different sessions on the following topics: “Between Center and Periphery: Constructing the Self in the Roman Empire”, “Contours of Interiority”, “Trajectories of Interiority”, “The Self in Action: Society, Law and Liturgy” and “Philosophical Reflections on the Self”.


    The Conference is sponored by: 

    The European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, The EU project and The Notre Dame Workshop on Ancient Philosophy (




    The conference will feature two key-note lectures:


    Clifford Ando, "Self, Society, Individual and Person in Roman Law"  


    Catharine Edwards, 'The epistolographic Self: Letter-Writing, Empire and Identity” 





    Albert Baumgarten Bar Ilan University“Choosing one’s social identify – choosing one’s Self?”
    Eve-Marie Becker Aarhus University“Paul's (Subjective) Self in and around his Letter to the Philippians"
    Paula Fredriksen The Hebrew University of Jerusalem“Augustine and the Introspective Conscience of the West.”
    Alfons Fürst Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität MünsterOrigen on Individuality and Self-Agency
    Yair Furstenberg The Hebrew University of Jerusalem“The Rabbis against ethics of self-perfection in tractate Avot”
    Sarit Kattan Gribetz Fordham University“Constructions of the Self through Time”
    Karen King Harvard Divinity School“He sees himself within himself as in a mirror”: The Double Self in The Sophia of Jesus Christ.
    David LambertUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill“Emerging Contours of the Self in Ancient Bible Translation."
    Joshua Levinson The Hebrew University of JerusalemGetting Away with Murder: The Lethal Subject in Rabbinic Law and Literature
    Carlos Lévy  l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)Ovid and the fluidity of the self : a Roman innovation?
    Francoise MirguetArizona State University Dis-Embedding the Inner Self: The Emergence of Interiority in Hellenistic Judaism
    Yonatan Moss The Hebrew University of Jerusalem“The Ancient Christian Literary Self: Between Individual and Collective Models”
    Laura Nasrallah Harvard Divinity School“The worshipping Self: Christians and Jews and the liturgical spaces of late antiquity”
    Maren Niehoff The Hebrew University of JerusalemDifferent Modes of the Self in Genesis Rabbah
    Judith Perkins University of St. Joseph“Precarious Voices Speak Back”
    Ilaria RamelliAngelicum- Durham - Oxford "Origen's Strategies of Self-Fashioning and Their Competing Receptions"
    Gretchen Reydams SchilsUniversity of Notre Dame“How to 'become like god' and remain oneself”
    Matthew RollerJohns Hopkins University“Selfhood and exemplarity: fashioning yourself after your model, and your model after yourself.” 
    Ishay Rosen Zvi Tel Aviv University“Midrashic Selves”
    Youval Rotman Tel Aviv University“The relational self in late antiquity”
    Jörg RüpkeUniversity of Erfurt“Urban Selves: Before and Beyond”
    Charles StangHarvard UniversityDoubled Selfhood in Late Platonism
    George Boys StonesDurham University“The Self and the Soul in Middle Platonism”
    Sharon Weisser Tel Aviv University"The personal identity of the Stoic wise man"