The Legacy of Greek Political Thought Network held an international research workshop at the University of Reading, 2-3 December 2011.
The Network is open to anyone whose research includes the many ways in which the political thought of ancient Greece has been represented, deployed, challenged or creatively transformed in subsequent cultures. For this workshop, generously funded by the British Academy, the rubric was to investigate lesser-known such transformations. Accordingly we investigated such diverse objects as Lutheran pacifists, German film-makers, democratic or anti-democratic theorists of various periods, and the military career of Socrates. Each panel generated substantial discussion and we were thus very grateful to the Departments of Classics, Politics and History, who provided frequent tea-breaks.
The workshop concluded with plans to meet again in Bristol next year, and to undertake a special issue of the Classical Receptions Journal. The Network would like to thank all the speakers, delegates, funding bodies, and office staff involved.
Thinking the Olympics: the classical tradition and the modern Games (London: Bloomsbury/Bristol Classical Press, 2011) is the first book to focus on the theme of tradition as an integral feature of the ancient and modern Olympic Games. Just as ancient athletes and spectators were conscious of Olympic traditions of poetic praise, sporting achievement, and catastrophic shortcoming, so the revived Games have been consistently cast as a legacy of ancient Greece.
The essays here examine how this supposed inheritance has been engineered, celebrated, exploited, or challenged. Deriving from a range of disciplines including cultural history, classics, comparative literature, and art history, the essays address aspects of the Games as varied as oratory, praise poetry, ideas of victory and defeat, the athletic body, neoclassical painting and architecture, and contemporary advertising. The Athens Games in 2004 were widely represented as a return to ancient, and modern, origins; the Beijing Games in 2008, meanwhile, saluted a radically different ancient civilisation. What is the Olympic future for ancient Greece?
Barbara Goff and Michael Simpson have collaborated on several ground-breaking works on classical reception, including most prominently Crossroads in the Black Aegean: Oedipus, Antigone and dramas of the African diaspora (Oxford: OUP, 2007) and most recently ‘Voice from the Black Box: Sylvain Bemba’s Black Wedding Candles for Blessed Antigone’, in Helene Foley and Erin Mee ed., Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage (Oxford: OUP, 2011). They are currently working on a study of classics in the British Labour movement.