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The Subject of Antiquity:

Contours and Expressions of the Self in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures (Research Group Conference)

Event date: May 28 - May 31, 2018

    Maren Niehoff (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
    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 will feature two key-note lectures:


    Catherine Edwards, 'The epistolographic Self: letter-writing, empire and identity”


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




    Jörg Rüpke

    “Urban Selves: Before and Beyond”

    Carlos Lévy 

     "Is the poet Lucilius the inventor of the Roman self?"

    Matthew Roller

    “Selfhood and exemplarity: fashioning yourself after you model, and your model after yourself.” 

    Judith Perkins 

    “Precarious Voices Speak Back

    Eve-Marie Becker 

    “Paul's (Subjective) Self in and around his Letter to the


    Al Baumgarten 

    “The Changing Self from the Bottom Up: New Directions in Religious Life in Late Antiquity”

    Karen King 

    “He sees himself within himself as in a mirror”: The Double Self in The Sophia of Jesus Christ.

    Maren Niehoff 

    Different Modes of the Self in Genesis Rabbah

    Sarit Kattan Grivetz 

    “Constructions of the Self through Time”

    Paula Fredriksen 

    “Augustine and the Introspective Conscience of the West.”

    Teresa Morgan

    “The development of the Christian idea that 'faith' is a thing of the mind and heart” 

    David Lambert

    “Emerging Contours of the Self in Ancient Bible Translation."

    Francoise Mirguet

    Dis-Embedding the Inner Self: The Emergence of Interiority in Hellenistic Judaism

    Laura Nasrallah 

    “The worshipping Self: Christians and Jews and the liturgical spaces of late antiquity”

    Ishay Rosen Zvi 

    “Midrashic Selves”

    Joshua Levinson 

    Getting Away with Murder: The Lethal Subject in Rabbinic Law and Literature

    Youval Rotman 

    “The relational self in late antiquity”

    Yoni Moss 

    The Ancient Christian Literary Self: Between Individual and Collective Models”

    George Boys Stones

    “The Self and the Soul in Middle Platonism”

    Gretchen Reydams Schils

    “How to 'become like god' and remain oneself”

    Sharon Weisser 

    "The personal identity of the Stoic wise man"

    Yair Furstenberg 

    “The Rabbis against ethics of self-perfection in tractate Avot”

    Alfons Fürst 

    Origen's Concept of Self-Determination against its Stoic and Aristotelian Background

    Charles Stang

    Doubled Selfhood in Late Platonism