The Seminar Week ‘Demokratia and Res Publica’ was took place online (20-22.9.2021), in English, directed by Professor Emeritus Kostas Buraselis and Dr. Giorgos Mitropoulos, in the context of the European program CIVIS and under the auspices of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). In total, eleven selected students (post-graduate and PhD candidates) participated originating from four CIVIS Universities (NKUA, La Sapienza Università di Roma, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Aix-Marseille Université). They have greatly benefitted from the inputs of invited professors of Ancient History from NKUA and also from foreign Universities, such as Assoc. professors Nikos Giannakopoulos and Sophia Aneziri (NKUA), Francesco Camia (La Sapienza Università di Roma), Prof. Andrew Erskine (University of Edinburgh) and the researcher Paschalis Paschides (NHRF, Athens).

    The aim of this CIVIS Seminar Week of Ancient History, the first of its kind, was to examine different phenomena, but comparable to each other, which are attested both in ancient Greece and Rome. Moreover, certain persons that brought together these social structures were examined, and a search for precedents, models and traditions behind their actions was carried. It was a novel and demanding process, because the participants had to collect and interpret evidence from two different geographical regions and seemingly very different social structures. In this way, they had to compare phenomena from two distinct worlds, in essence, with their own socio-economic organization, their socio-political hierarchies, their institutions and their gods.

The Seminar Week started (20.9.21) with the Welcome Note by the Rector of the University of Athens, Meletios-Athanasios Dimopoulos, and the Introduction by professor Kostas Buraselis (NKUA) who set the main lines of the seminar, the search for affinities, differences and contacts between Greece and Rome, thus placing the participants on the footsteps of Polybios and Plutarch.

The first lecture was given by Jorge Barbero (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), who made a comparison between the reforms of Cleisthenes in Athens and the Gracchi in Rome. It was an original topic, which demonstrated the multifaceted consequences of these reforms in time, their shared impact on the people of Athens and Rome, and their various interpretations by modern researchers.

After the ‘revolutionary’ lecture, the Seminar Week continued with the presentation of Kostas Fakkas (NKUA) on a specific event and a turning point in the history of the Greco-Roman interstate and intellectual relations, the embassy of the three philosophers to Rome in 155 B.C., Carneades, Critolaos, and Diogenes, representing the Academic, Peripatetic, and Stoic traditions respectively. They went to the – soon-to-be – rulers of Greece in order to negotiate, and in this way, the senators were able to admire Greek oratory and philosophy and assess their impact before their very eyes. In the light of this event, the famous quote of Horace Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit is better understood.

  The Seminar Week carried on with the presentations of two PhD students from La Sapienza Università di Roma, both of them analyzing the interaction of Roman magistrates with the Hellenophone provinces. Firstly, Valentina Vari gave an illustrating lecture on the organisation of the newly-instituted province of Achaea and that of Macedonia in the ‘transitional’ period from 146 B.C. to A.D. 14. She provided ample epigraphic evidence on the presence and the actions of the provincial governors of these provinces, as well as their honours offered by the Greek communities. Afterwards, Giulia Maria de Angelis focused on the province of Asia and especially on the attempts of Publius Rutilius Rufus and Lucius Licinius Lucullus to protect the inhabitants of the province from the extortions of the publican (tax farmers). In the discussion that followed, it was investigated whether there could have been Greek local collaborators with the publicani.

The first day ended with the presentation of Nikos Kostopoulos (NKUA), who demonstrated the evolution of the Greek Agora in the Roman period and rightly pointed out its importance for the public life of the cities and the fact that every Agora had a distinct development in time. For example, the organization of the Agora of Roman Sparta was considerably different from that of Roman Athens. N. Kostopoulos also remarked the incorporation of new buildings in the Agoras, such as the macella and the temples for the imperial cult.

The second day (21.9.21) began with the presentation of Matilde Bertoncelli (Aix-Marseille Université), on the acquisition of Roman citizenship by prominent Greeks on the island of Kos. M. Bertoncelli made a comparison between Greek politeia and Roman citizenship, and she presented ample epigraphic evidence which attested the diffusion of the civitas Romana in the island, and the inclusion of the new citizens in the imperial hierarchy. A prominent place in her examination was reserved for C. Stertinius Xenophon, the privileged doctor of Claudius and a kind of imperial ‘miniature’ in the island. Through this examination, it became clear the importance of Roman citizenship for the individual, who gained precious social prestige.

Afterwards, a session entitled ‘Concepts and practices of war in Ancient Greece and Rome’ started, in which David Garcia Dominguez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) presented a complete overview of the notions of στάσις and bellum civile. D. Garcia Dominguez indicated the differences between these concepts, tried to explain how these contradictions between the Greek and Latin notions can be interpreted and proposed a distinction on the basis of the Greek model of the city-state which is centered on a familial ideology within the polis and the Roman model of an entire empire in which a frequent enfranchisement of non-Romans, with the award of Roman citizenship, took place.

The second day concluded with the presentation of Dionysis Christoforidis (NKUA) on the comparison between the Greek and Roman camps during the Hellenistic/Republican period. Through this lecture, light fell on the different importance military camps had for the Greeks and the Romans: the Greeks incorporated these structures into the physical environment, while the Romans formed and adapted them to their benefit. D. Christoforidis rightly understood that the Roman camp was a symbol of the Roman power and authority and Greek writers such as Polybios had already recognized its efficiency and encouraged the Greeks to imitate its organization.

The third day (22.9.21) started with the session ‘Religious Aspects and Monarchic Policies’, where Nicolas Katsaras (NKUA) presented the cult of Isis between the Hellenistic and the Roman world. N. Katsaras explained the way the cult of Egyptian Isis developed in time and Isis became a goddess who could be adopted by the Romans. This was not an easy process, as the Roman state often considered her as a hostile symbol of the East, of Egypt especially, but in the end Isis became one of the most popular goddesses of the Roman Empire.

The second lecture of the session was given by Dr. Giorgos Mitropoulos (NKUA), in which he compared the cases of refusals of cultic honours by Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors, a phenomenon that can be named conventionally recusatio cultus. The denial of cultic honours is detected in rare cases in the Hellenistic period, only to be systematically employed as a strategy by the Roman emperors. In any case, through this ‘art’ of refusal, the ruler, king or emperor, adopted a more modest and, in the end, more acceptable cultic image.

Finally, the presentations were concluded with Lucia Diez Rogriguez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), who made a comparison between the social inclusion of women in 5th century Athens and 2nd century Rome through participation in the cultic life of these cities. It seems that cult offered local women a way out into the public life, which they could not have achieved otherwise, as they were not members of the political bodies in these societies. A concluding discussion and wrap-up of the seminar was made under the co-ordination of Kostas Buraselis, Giorgos Mitropoulos and Francesco Camia.

To sum up, all lectures proved to be original, reached fruitful conclusions and were followed by very enriching discussions thanks also to the useful contributions of Greek and other European professors of Ancient History. A great variety of comparative topics was examined, which can be classified in 1) socio-political, 2) topographical and 3) cultic ones. Through the comparative aspect between the evidence from Ancient Greece and Rome that the Seminar Week adopted as its main line of thinking, the participants were able to indicate similarities and of course differences between these societies that shaped the Western world. The CIVIS Program as a whole has greatly benefitted from this first attempt to co-ordinate and organize a CIVIS Seminar Week of Ancient History under the organization of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and it is therefore hoped that this CIVIS initiative will continue in the future with more Seminar Weeks and conferences of Ancient History between the participating Universities.


Prof. Emeritus Kostas Buraselis

Dr. Giorgos Mitropoulos