_Ad Fontes Ipsos Properandum!_ Law, Economy, and Society in Ancient Sources

Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, IHAC, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China
16.01.2020 - 17.01.2020
Sven Günther / Wang Zhengyu, Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC), Northeast Normal University

From 16 to 17 January 2020, the International Conference: “Ad Fontes Ipsos Properandum! Law, Economy, and Society in Ancient Sources” was held at the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China). The participating scholars came from China and around the world, to celebrate IHAC and its director with academic talks and discussions.

Ever since its foundation, IHAC has been a trendsetter with regard to the studies of ancient civilizations. Established in 1984 by Lin Zhichun, it has become the cradle of Altertumswissenschaften in China with its special focus on, and education in, the analysis and interpretation of ancient source material. Under the current director and honorandus Zhang Qiang, IHAC, and Classics in particular, it has advanced its research and teaching focus by developing expertise in all auxiliary sciences of history, particularly epigraphy and numismatics with special emphasis on legal, economic and socio-political aspects of Greco-Roman times. On occasion of the 35th anniversary of the foundation of IHAC and Professor Zhang’s 60th birthday, the participants took a look at current developments in ancient source studies and especially auxiliary sciences of history, to promote discussion about the future perspective of IHAC’s hallmark, in China and the world.

In the opening session, held by Zhang Qiang, Director of IHAC, SVEN GÜNTHER (Changchun), Vice-Director of IHAC, gave an opening lecture entitled “Boeckh, Mommsen, Droysen, and Source Studies at IHAC” and reviewed the history of Classics in China. Not only many foreign missionaries but also some Chinese scholars set milestones in the late 19th and during the 20th century: e.g. Ma Xiangbo (1840-1939), Zhou Zuoren (1885-1967), Luo Niansheng (1904-1990) and the founder of IHAC, Lin Zhichun (1910-2007). He connected these root-laying activities with the early development of ancient history as a subject, particularly August Boeckh and his Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, Theodor Mommsen and the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, and Johann Gustav Droysen and his Historik, which all are linked with current developments at IHAC. Finally, he pointed out that IHAC focuses on the Humboldtian idea of teaching and researching, ut omnes unum sint.

After the opening ceremony, the international exhibition of Roman coins named “Scenarios of Power – Roles and Actions of Roman Emperors” was opened, jointly designed and organized by students of IHAC and of the Institute for Classical Archaeology at the University of Erlangen, Germany under the direction of Elisabeth and Sven Günther. The exhibition included more than 50 color posters with Chinese, German, and English descriptions and texts, with QR codes to the full online exhibition with additional features.[1]

The conference had four main sessions: 1. Motifs in Ancient Literature and Images; 2. Law and Society in Greece and Rome; 3. Economic Behavior and Performance; 4. Numismatics in Context.

In the first session, WANG YIXIN (Nankai) talked about the motif of Potiphar’s wife, using methods of motif studies and narratology to discover the transfer and transformation of tales between different cultures. In the discussion, the other participants mentioned further examples of such motif migration and reminded of the importance of a close examination without a fixed theoretical framework. ELISABETH GÜNTHER (Changchun) focused on how to read theatrical gestures in ancient images and texts by analyzing the different modes in comedy-related vase paintings and contemporary literary texts. Her argument, to decipher vase images and their language not by applying advices of rhetorical treatises but within their own semantic sign system received support from philologists who mentioned the intentional use of gestures in extant literary texts. GUO ZILONG (Changchun) examined the modes of republished texts in the Attic Orators, particularly the adaption due to changing socio-political circumstances by Antiphon (5th century BC) and Demosthenes (4th century BC). The remaining question, which orator showed more rhetorical skills, was debated afterwards, especially in light of the other prominent example, Cicero, his speeches, and rhetorical treatises (e.g. De Inventione)

In the second session, CHARLES CROWTHER (Oxford) discussed the Athenian judicial regulations for Phaselis in IG i3 10 by adding epigraphical notes on the letter forms and suggestions for the interpretation of this key text for the relations between Athens and its allies in the First Athenian League. His dating to the Peloponnesian War was supported by remarks by Sven Günther who interpreted the installation of the archon polemarchos as a judicial institution in cases involving Phaselites as a measure suitable for an emergency situation. PÉTER KATÓ (Changchun) analyzed wealthy Coans around 200 BC based on the epigraphic evidence and set their benefactory behavior into the context of Hellenistic social history since the rich evidence of the island of Cos offers a useful tool to question socio-political behavior and common assumptions on euergetism. The discussion focused on the networks and communication processes behind, and before, the actual decision of taking part in benefactions, as can be seen in quite some sources where one observes a different economic potential of some benefactors. HENDRIKUS A. M. VAN WIJLICK (Beijing) examined the water-course regulations on the Iberian Peninsula as evidence for the spread of Roman law in the provinces, particularly in terms of procedural law. To what extent these regulations reflect an attempt of Roman authorities to take over control of recently acquired provinces, was debated in light of the evidence in the 2nd century BC where epigraphic sources show how the Roman power dealt with different polities and political systems that came under their control.

In the third session, LIU JUN (Changchun) demonstrated how the so-called barbarian kingdoms as trade partners were viewed in Athens, and how the Bosporan kings applied a behaviorial pattern and strategy beyond Greekness and Barbarousness for strengthening trade in the Black Sea Region, especially in terms of using distinctive iconography of non-Greek traders in the Piraeus, the main port of Athens, and different forms of negotiating honors with economic intentions. The question of how these behaviorial patterns are different from so-called inter-Greek trade remained open for further studies. IRENE BERTI (Heidelberg) presented her current research on the production of writing materials based on Greek inscriptions from Delos where arguably wooden writing tablets were more often used for accounting than papyri, and many other writing materials are present in the extant records while Kai Ruffing argued strongly for including other metal plates such as lead tablets used for recording, what might be covered in the Greek terminology used in the records (chartes). KAI RUFFING (Kassel) discussed the market thickness and the specialization in craft and trade in the Roman Empire based on Greek inscriptions and papyri, and pointed out the existence of a sufficient demand and an adequate purchasing power in the source material, especially in Ostia and Pompeji. Yet in the discussion he also showed that market thickness does not create a strong gap between city and hinterland but that one can rather observe different levels of market thickness fitting to the particular needs at the respective area. STEFANIE SCHMIDT (Zürich/Berlin) talked about the distribution of goods in Roman Syene, with Aswan as an important hotspot, and discussed the role of custom dues and officials in both long-distance and inter-regional trade. However, the role of the alabarches in the taxation process and the exact modes of custom declaration remained unresolved due to the lack of source material. In the fourth session, SVEN GÜNTHER analyzed new numismatic evidence for understanding and interpreting the Civil Wars between Cleopatra and Mark Antony and Octavian in the East where one can observe how local (elite and military) audiences rather than Rome were targeted by both iconography and legends. He particularly built his argument on a new bilingual coin of Cleopatra and Mark Antony and the Ephesus issues of Octavian in 28 BC which both, in his interpretation, focused on local Eastern communication processes and should not be read within the traditional urban framework of the Res Gestae, published after the death of Augustus in 14 AD. The paper of FRANCOIS DE CALLATAY (Brussels) who was unfortunately absent, was read by Hendrikus A. M. van Wijlick. It gave a summary of the various roles played by ancient coin collectors and researchers for Greco-Roman history from 16th to 21st century. Finally, LI QIANG (Changchun) demonstrated how the gold solidus was used in Byzantine diplomatic strategy since Byzantium was in contact and confrontation with different ethnic groups and powers in its long history. The questions after the talk mainly focused on the terminology applied to solidus coinage, e.g. how phoros = tribute reflects the framework of Byzantine hierarchical thinking in dealing with foreign polities.

After the four sessions, the participants discussed the future development of IHAC, and Classics in China. With its focus on researching history from the original sources, based on a profound education in both ancient and modern languages, and by applying new questions from their different cultural backgrounds to the source material, the high potential of students and young researchers was outlined frequently. That the 35th anniversary of IHAC occured in combination with the 60th birthday of its current director, Zhang Qiang who has himself worked intensively on ancient sources (Thucydides and epigraphy) may thus be a good omen.

Conference overview:

Opening Remarks

Sven Günther (IHAC, NENU, Changchun): Boeckh, Mommsen, Droysen, and Source Studies at IHAC

Opening of Exhibition “Scenarios of Power – Roles and Actions of Roman Emperors”

First Session: Motifs in Ancient Literature and Images

Wang Yixing (Nankai): The Diffusion Path of an International Motif: The Wife of Potiphar

Elisabeth Günther (DAI Travel Scholar 2019/20): Ad Imagines: Reading Theatrical Gestures in Ancient Images and Texts

Guo Zilong (IHAC, NENU, Changchun): Republished Texts in the Attic Orators

Second Session: Law and Society in Greece and Rome

Charles Crowther (The Queen’s College, University of Oxford): Athenian Judicial Regulations for Phaselis: IG i3 10

Péter Kató (IHAC, NENU, Changchun): The Anatomy of an Elite: Wealthy Coans around 200 BC in the Context of Hellenistic Social History

Hendrikus A.M. van Wijlick (Peking University): Water-courses on the Iberian Peninsula: Roman Private Law in the Provinces

Third Session: Economic Behavior and Performance

Liu Jun (IHAC, NENU, Changchun): Beyond Greekness and Barbarousness. Behavioural Pattern and Strategy for Intercultural Trade in the North Black Sea Region

Irene Berti (PH Heidelberg): Prices, Production and Technology in the Greek Inscriptions from Delos

Kai Ruffing (University of Kassel): Market Thickness and the Specialization in Crafts and Trades in the Roman Empire: The Evidence of the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri

Stefanie Schmidt (Univ. Zürich / FU Berlin): Production and Distribution of Goods in Roman Syene

Fourth Session: Numismatics in Context

Sven Günther (IHAC, NENU, Changchun): Cleopatra & Mark Antony vs. Octavian: New Documents for, and Interpretations of, the Civil Wars in the East

François de Callataÿ (Royal Library Brussels) (in absentia): A Short Summary of the Various Roles Played by Ancient Coins Writing Greco-Roman History from the 16th to the 21st Century

Li Qiang (IHAC, NENU, Changchun): Solidus in the Byzantine Diplomatic Strategy

Final Discussion: Future of Classics at IHAC and in China

[1] See, http://www.klassischearchaeologie.phil.fau.de/ausstellungen/machtszenarien-scenarios-of-power-eine-numismatische-ausstellung/welcome-to-our-international-exhibition-of-roman-coins/ (11.02.2020).

Tagungsbericht: _Ad Fontes Ipsos Properandum!_ Law, Economy, and Society in Ancient Sources, 16.01.2020 – 17.01.2020 Changchun, in: H-Soz-Kult, 25.02.2020, <www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-8655>.
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