Innovating Objects? Reading spolia in Greek and Latin literature

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For the workshop's program, see here.


One of the ways in which cultures in the ancient world get into contact with new artifacts is the well known habit of plundering and taking home (precious) objects from the defeated enemy. Traditionally this praxis has been studied in terms of war and pillage. Recently the emphasis of scholarly research has shifted from the battlefield itself towards the impact of these new artefacts for the societies that obtained them through their despoliation.

In this workshop a number of long and significant spolia scenes from Greek and Latin literature, which report the act of taking away spolia or the display of spolia in a victory pompe or triumph, often in the form of an ekphrasis, stand central. Each passage will be discussed by two specialists from different backgrounds (historians, archaeologists, literary critics and linguists). The aim of the workshop is to combine and cross-fertilize different approaches, so as to come to a better understanding of this intriguing phenomenon.

A key-concept to understand the impact of these objects is appropriation. Investigating the dynamics of appropriation allows us to understand the way in which these artefacts were incorporated in the own society; a process in which they had to change from foreign/outside to domestic/inside. The idea of anchoring might play an important role here.

Photo by Dnalor_01. From: Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0).


The workshop aims at bringing together classicists with ancient historians & archaeologists on the anthropological theme of cultural appropriation through objects. As such it is distinctly explorative. We will organise a follow-up meeting later in 2021 in order to work towards an Euhormos publication.