Call for Papers: Rome’s Forgotten Poetry

Rome’s forgotten poetry:

Poetic production between community-based art, folklore, and avant-garde entertainment


Panel in the 13th Celtic Conference in Classics, Lyon 15-18 July 2020


Poetry was an omnipresent element of cultural practice of the Roman world. The corpus of ‘published’ (literary) poetry that survives until the present day, to a very large extent, was the product of individuals who, as members of Rome’s ruling classes or their protégés, would find a medium for personal expression and declaration of feelings and beliefs in their poetic compositions, a way to demonstrate artistic skills and aspirations, a ticket to the limelight, etc. Persius’ first satire, for example, is abundant in references to this role of literature in the 1st c. AD: the satirist finds in his little book the way to express his innermost thoughts (1.120), whereas the majority of poets publish their work in the hope of public attention (1.26-77). 

Not all of the poetic activity of the Romans was made public, however. Poetry was written also casually and shared among friends, either expressing affection or wittiness, as Cicero (Fam. 12.16) tells us about one of his friends. And although the surviving remnants of published evidence is more easily accessible to us, poetic activity was documented more conspicuously in everyday life in the Roman world. For one, messages conveyed in verses inscribed in the walls of Pompeii testify to this, whereas verse inscriptions are visible and tangible reminders of poetic compositions that belonged to the people outside the educated elite and beyond the city of Rome.

Beyond its production, poetic activity was also apparent in recitations and manifold performances that are not necessarily best described as examples of dramatic or performing genres. In a notorious passage, Livy (7.2.1-8) explores the development of what one might loosely describe as forms of scenic entertainment in its various manifestations before the paradigmatic shift associated with Livius Andronicus. However, performances of this type with casual verse composition and exchanges between actors have survived until much later, with the participation and active as well as passive involvement of people regardless their social class. Petronius (Sat. 90) reports such a poetic recitation without the expected results, whereas Persius again in his first satire gives examples of poetic recitations that provoke his criticism (1.15-23, 88-90). All these examples elevate Latin poetry from compositions that were merely produced for publication, recitations and performances with specific settings, and artistic products associated with an educated upper class, to a predominantly cultural activity which was inclusive, with the engagement of people that we do not need to understand as historically or socially determined communities.

Disentangling the widespread, shared cultural practice  from dogmatically imposed social and spatial constraints, we propose to examine the poetry of ‘the people’ in its own right, while including its social dynamics, with a view to how poetry as a cultural activity interacted with society, which role(s) it played to its heterogeneous audiences, and how the Romans construed poetry by perpetually interacting with it. Thus, we will look into the poetics of these compositions and enquire into the extent to which people complied to traditional norms and genres. From a different angle, it is also possible to investigate this evidence and examples as parts or variables of ‘popular culture’, exploiting the framework that has been developed recently by Horsfall (2003), Toner (2009), and Grig (2017). Finally, research on literary developments and poetic compositions as cultural activities will contribute to a better understanding of the Roman poetic landscape, as well as of the Roman literary culture (Fantham 1996). Overall, we believe that this approach is designed to bridge the gap between composition and activity in our studying of Roman poetry, considering literary production across social, ethnic, and linguistic groups.

Within this context, we would like to invite proposals for a panel in the 13th Celtic Conference in Classics (Lyon, 15-18 July 2020). Proposals can address themes and answer questions related, but not limited, to:


  • Evidence for documented but not survived poetic activity and its reception in the historical, social, and literary context.
  • Poetic compositions shared within communities and networks without any intention to be published can be examples of this.
  • Poetic compositions publicly displayed (e.g. inscriptions), but not published.
  • Testimonia of oral composition.


  • Poetics of the poetry of the people: stylization; metres and canons; compliance with or divergence from the traditional forms?
  • Themes in the poetry of the people: love, death, wittiness, satire.
  • Short poetic compositions that cannot be defined in terms of genre.

Poetry as cultural activity

  • Forms and contexts of poetic recitations and performing acts in their historical and literary contexts; the evidence for mime.
  • Literary production that is deliberately associated with or disassociated from social classes and its implications. Poetic composition beyond the city of Rome.
  • Poetic production and/against consumption; different compositions in private/public spheres of cultural activities; was the consumed poetry the same or correspondent to the poetry they composed and/or published?
  • Poetry of the people and interaction with the historical, social, and political contexts. E.g. Suetonius (Ner. 39.1) reports the short compositions against Nero that people circulated or posted.


Confirmed speakers:

Yelena Baraz (Princeton University)

Hans Bork (Stanford University)

Maria Jennifer Falcone (University of Pavia)

Jan Kwapisz (University of Warsaw)

Marie Ledentu (Université Lyon III – Jean Moulin)

Luke Roman (Memorial University)

Christoph Schubert (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität)


Please, send your abstracts (300 words) to either of or both the organisers: Dr Andreas Gavrielatos ( and Professor Peter Kruschwitz ( by the 28th February 2020. We aim to complete the selection of papers by the Ides of March.

Due to some secured funding, a limited amount of money will be used to support participants towards travel expenses and/or registration fees. Priority will be given to those without a permanent post, independent researchers, scholars from under-represented groups, etc.

Fear in Ancient Culture

The 15th Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature 2020 University of Reading, Department of Classics
Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th of June 2020

The Department of Classics at the University of Reading is delighted to host the 15th Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL) in 2020. The theme for this year is Fear in Ancient Culture.

This year’s AMPAL includes a tour of the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, our departmental museum founded by Percy and Annie Ure. In addition to the museum’s permanent display, we are proud to present two temporary displays: the British Museum’s Spotlight loan on the theme of Helen and Achilles: beauty, heroism & the fall of Troy, and an inaugural student exhibit, Fear Beyond Words.

We are delighted to announce that the AMPAL 2020 Keynote Speech will be delivered by Professor Fiona McHardy (University of Roehampton). The speech will be open to all university members and the general public.

Fear is a driving force behind human action that can push people to exceed their own expectations or prevent them from acting at all. As a powerful motivator and emotion, fear has a pervasive presence in ancient life and thought, which is also reflected in literature in multiple ways relating among others to motivation, social interaction and power dynamics. Furthermore, as early as Aristotle’s Poetics, fear had already been understood as a ruling force and a powerful notion even for the construction of literary genres, especially of tragedy. While evaluating the ancient literature as an integral part of understanding such a concept, the diverse influences of different fields of study, such as literary criticism, political theory, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, can add valuable insights.

In this context, AMPAL 2020 invites presentations on fear from literary or interdisciplinary approaches. Questions as to how fear can be defined, who, how and why, causes fear, how fear is related to other aspects of ancient thought, how the sense of fear grows or fades, how this notion forms the interaction among humans or between mortals and gods,

and the role of language in the creation of a fearful or fear-free context, are all considered to be substantial aspects of this year’s theme.

Suggested topics on fear may include, but are not limited to:

  • Fear and literary criticism, meta-poetical or reception analysis
  • Fear and other emotions; fear disguised as other emotions; fear and the sense of respect; fear and related notions and experiences; fear and the five senses or other body reactions
  • Cognitive and behavioural approaches to fear, and emotions in general
  • Fear and the manipulation of memory
  • Fear and the construction of myth and heroic profiles or/and social or political identity
  • Fear and power play; the control of political dynamics; the promotion of political agendas and ideas
  • Psychoanalytical approaches to fear; gendered fear; fear as a significant aspect of rites; fear as anxiety
  • Fear of the other (Orientalism, Amazons etc.); philosophical approaches to fear; fear and the fundamental existential questions
  • Depictions and illustrations of fear in ancient art and material culture
  • Aspects, perceptions and depictions of fear in late antique and early Christian literature and thought; reception of the ancient concept of fear in early modern literature

The Department of Classics at Reading invites postgraduates of every level to submit an abstract of 250-300 words for a 20-minute paper followed by 10-minute discussion by the 21st of February 2020. Abstracts should be sent as an unnamed PDF to Please include your name, university affiliation, programme and year of study in the body of your email and not in the abstract.

AMPAL 2020 is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students in any relevant discipline as well as to the general public. Details on the registration fee, the conference dinner and other relevant procedures will be announced in due time. All welcome!

Further information on the exact location of the conference and other events attached to AMPAL 2020 can be found at its website.

Please keep an eye on AMPAL 2020 website and to AMPAL Facebook and Twitter for further announcements. Feel free to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and spread the word!

Ure researchers show Cyprus in 3D

Through the “Cyprus: 3D” project Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology researchers are highlighting the Ure’s Cypriot holdings and investigation their research and pedagogical value. From among its 100+ artefacts from this Mediterranean island, 19 terracotta figurines of the Kamelarga style from Kition have been chosen for this project. The figurines, which date from the Cypro-Archaic period (750-480 BC), represent worshipers holding food, animals, shields and musical instruments. Such figurines have been interpretedTraditionally as ex-votos, but the loss of their archaeological context leaves many questions yet to be answered.

We captured these figurines through photogrammetry to get virtual 3D models, which we later edited and 3D printed. We printed them in different textures, sizes and colours, as some of the original terracottas were found fragmented, with and without traces of paint, etc. Our goal was to encourage the handling of these replicas and to analyse our audience’s reactions. Cyprus: 3D was the common thread throughout our calendar of educational activities for 2018-2019: we have incorporated our figurines in many events to promote the collection as part of our outreach programme and audience development, in which older teenagers and families had the chance to play with our prints as a way to have a better understanding of Cypriot ancient culture. We encouraged responses from the participants with questions about what the figures looked like, who they might represent, what genders they might reflect, what each figure was carrying, with follow-on questions such as why they might be carrying these attributes.

Claudina Romero Mayorga

Learners from different backgrounds, ages and learning abilities engaged with our resources in similar ways: they overlooked the printing quality in some of the replicas and embraced the opportunity to touch and “play” with copies of fragile artefacts that are usually safeguarded inside our cases. The sense of touch provide us with a “tactile reality”, sensations capable of generating mental images that are important for communication, aesthetics and concept formation. Audience interpretations of the artefacts —in terms of gender, status, attributes, etc.—largely matching the theories of the excavators and scholars that have been studying Cypriot material for decades. Learners “played” with the replicas, allowing us to create different slow-motion animations that tried to evoke ancient rituals and behavioural patterns from a civilisation now long gone. With these animations #TheVotives, our team of Cypriote musicians, has developed quite a following on twitter.


[i] Calendar of activities in a slide