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Summer School

August 24–September 2, two daily sessions: 10–12h & 14–16h at Dorotheenstr 24, 10117 Berlin culminating in the conference September 4–5 at Unter den Linden 6, 10117 Berlin


Wisdom literature in East and West


Glenn Most (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa/University of Chicago)

Michael Puett (Harvard University)


This course explored three bodies of wisdom literature from antiquity: classical Greece, the ancient Near East, and early China.  We explored the similarities and differences between these traditions, and discussed how we could account for the similarities.  In the case of classical Greece and the ancient Near East, the similarities have at times been explained through cultural transmission.  But in the case of China, such explanations are far less persuasive.  By exploring these three traditions, we gained a sense of the implications of different comparative approaches to exploring ancient literary traditions.


Participants: Tomás Bartoletti (University of Buenos Aires/Humboldt-University Berlin), Gaston J. Basile (University of Buenos Aires), Thomas Crone (University of Bonn), Andrew Y. B. Hui (Yale-NUS College Singapore), Fabio Pagani (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities), Luke Parker (University of Chicago), Paolo Visigalli (Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich), Kenneth W. Yu (University of Chicago), Jenny Zhao (University of Cambridge)



Interrogating the Antique Visual Tradition and Its Legacy


Jaś Elsner (Corpus Christi College, Oxford/University of Chicago)

Finbarr Barry Flood (Institute of Fine Arts & Dept. of Art History, NYU)


The course explored the conceptual and material redeployments of an inherited and highly regarded antique visual tradition in the formation and rise of the major new religions of antiquity — especially Christianity and Islam, but with an eye to Judaism, Manichaeism, and the continuity/ending of the pagan polytheist cults. It engaged with recent conceptions of a 'long late antiquity', including debates about how to situate Islam and the development of Islamic art in relation to the artistic traditions of the antique world: not only Greek and Roman or even Sasanian, but also in their regional manifestations in Arabia, Syria etc. and even further afield to Kushan South Asia and the inceptions of Buddhist/Jain/Hindu art.  It focused above all on the extraordinary holdings of the Berlin collections, where we conducted much of the course hands-on, but also on the complex modern historiographies and investments in the varieties of relevant fields.


Participants: Philippa Adrych (Magdalen College, Oxford), Alzahraa K. Ahmed (New York University), Nadia Ali (British Museum, London/Wolfson College, Oxford), Robert Bracey (British Museum, London/Wolfson College, Oxford), Katherine Cross (British Museum, London/Wolfson College, Oxford), Dominic Dalglish (Wolfson College, Oxford), Jorge Elices (University Autonoma of Madrid), Stefanie Lenk (British Museum, London/Wolfson College, Oxford), Maria Lidova (British Museum, London/Wolfson College, Oxford), Khaled Malas (New York University), Katharina Meinecke (University of Vienna), Corinne Mühlemann (University of Bern), Fatima Quraishi (New York University), Rachel Wood (British Museum, London/Wolfson College, Oxford)



Medicine and concepts of the body in ancient Greece


Philip van der Eijk (Humboldt University Berlin)

Brooke Holmes (Princeton University)


Ancient Greek and Roman medicine has often been claimed to provide the first evidence of systematic intellectual engagement with the living body as an object of inquiry, management and intervention. In this regard, Greco-Roman medicine has long been held to be closer to contemporary understandings of health, disease and bodily functioning than the medical traditions of other ancient civilizations. More recently, doubts have been raised about the uniqueness and unique impact of Greco-Roman approaches to the body. And in today’s multicultural medical market place, non-Western medical traditions seem to have gained significant ground in informing current medical thinking and practice. What are the consequences of such changes for the legacies of Greco-Roman medicine in a globalized world?  What is distinctive about the Greeks’ engagement with the body, compared to that of the ancient Near East and early China? How do we explain the specificities of Greek medical approaches to the body? We were looking at two major, representative chapters in the history of Greco-Roman medicine: the first medical encounters with the human body in the classical period, usually associated with the name of Hippocrates (5th and 4th century BCE), and the great synthesis of medical knowledge and experience found in the works of Galen of Pergamum (2nd century CE).


Participants: Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi (University of Oxford), Marc Dietrich (Lumière University Lyon 2), Sara Hobe (Albert-Ludwig University Freiburg), Georgia-Maria Korobili (Humboldt-University Berlin), Stephanie Magowan (Royal Holloway University of London), Oksana Maksymchuk (University of Arkansas), Laura Takakjy (University of Texas, Austin), Franziska Weise (University of Cologne), Leihua Weng (Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma), Ákos Zimonyi (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest)



Pre-modern society in global comparison


Peter Bang (University of Copenhagen)

Walter Scheidel (Stanford University)

Aloys Winterling (Humboldt University Berlin)


This course was intended as an exercise in world (social) history. We explored a range of comparative and global approaches to the study of the social and political order of Greco-Roman society. Universal emperors and courts, the formation of imperial elites and cosmopolitan cultures, urbanization and slavery, and other themes helped us locate the Roman empire in a wider Eurasian context, from the Han dynasty China to the early modern empires of the Mughals and Ottomans. Though the Roman Empire is often thought of as the foundation of Europe, Europe is understood as essentially lacking an all-embracing empire. We thus considered the thesis that Roman history unfolds at a different scale, that of imperial world history.


Participants: Heba Abd El Gawad (Durham University), Raffaella Da Vela (University of Bonn), Kristina Heubach (Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt), Milinda Hoo (Christian-Albrecht-University Kiel), Krishna Kanchith Ravi (English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad), Sienna Kang (Stanford University), Victoria Rotar (University of Wales Trinity Saint David), Alexander Skufca (Florida State University, Tallahassee), Goda Thangada (University of Chicago), Nadine Viermann (University Konstanz/Ruprecht-Karl-University Heidelberg), Zhongxiao Wang (Leiden University)



Reading the Rigveda from the Inside Out


Joshua T. Katz (Princeton University)

Christopher Minkowski (Balliol College, University of Oxford)


In this course we read selected hymns of the Rigveda, the oldest preserved text in an Indian language, while we gained an understanding of the history of reading the work, both in an ancient way and in a modern academic one.  For one thing, we learned how Indian scholars made sense of the Rigveda by means of a battery of textual techniques and interpretative strategies, such as etymological derivation and lexicography, grammatical analysis, hermeneutic theory, and inventive interpretation. In tandem with this, we considered what advances in comparative philology over the past two centuries have told us about the prehistory of the work.  The course was thus intended to be an intellectual history of two kinds of philology, via close engagement with the canonical text par excellence of ancient India, the darling of Romantic-era philologists.  Participation in the course required at least one year of background in Sanskrit, and preferably two.


Participants: Andrea Acri (National University of Singapore), Christopher R. Austin (Dalhousie University, Halifax), Alina T. Lettner (University of Kassel), Nabanjan Maitra (University of Chicago), Barbora Sojkova (Charles University, Prague)