The Subject of Antiquity: Contours and Expressions of the Self in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures


September 1, 2017- July 1, 2018


Organizers: Ishay Rosen-Zvi and Maren Niehoff 


There is a growing scholarly consensus that new notions of the self emerged in Greco-Roman Antiquity, which prompted philosophers, artists, lawmakers and biographers to conceive of human beings as individuated selves, situated in specific cultural and historical contexts. We wish to examine these emerging discourses of the self, and their interaction and expressions in the material and textual culture of Greeks and Romans, Jews and Christians.

While such an intellectual project seems very much a scholarly desideratum, it is also a complex challenge, since its successful achievement is contingent upon bringing together scholars from disparate disciplines. The constraints imposed by existing academic frameworks are thus often an impediment to its realization. We believe that the Institute provides the most suitable venue for a joint venture to explore the potential of combining various areas of research in order to achieve new understandings of this phenomenon.

The proposed research group consists of leading experts and one young scholar in the fields of Greek philosophy, Roman law and literature, Early Christianity, Jewish Hellenism and rabbinics. Most of us are in the process of embarking on book projects in new areas, which require intensive collaboration with colleagues in adjacent fields. Working closely together for a year-long period will enable us to shed new light on areas and genres which have regularly been studied in isolation. We hope to highlight both shared understandings across religious boundaries as well as culturally distinct types of self-fashioning.




  • David Lambert, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Joshua Levinson, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Teresa Morgan, University of Oxford
  • Gretchen Reydams-Schils, University of Notre Dame