Homer and the Good Ruler: The Reception of Homeric Epic as Princes’ Mirror through the Ages

Event Date: 
22 May 2015 to 25 May 2015
University of Ghent
We have the pleasure to invite contributions to an international conference organized by the classicsdepartment at Ghent University on “Homer and the Good Ruler: The Reception of Homeric Epic as Princes’ Mirror through the Ages”.
Confirmed participants: William Desmond (Maynooth), Irene De Jong (Amsterdam), Barbara Graziosi (Durham), Lawrence
King (Trinity University),Damien Nelis (Geneva), Filippomaria Pontani (Ca’ Foscari)
One of the main themes of Homer’s Iliad, as the ancient Greeks themselves recognized, is goodgovernment and its opposite. But “the Odyssey as well has much to do with the theme of kingship,more than is usually acknowledged. We must bear in mind Odysseus’ kingly status in order toappreciate the full resonances of the portions of the poem in which he plays the beggar,” as Richard Martin observes (1984: 43). Agamemnon, Achilles, Nestor, Odysseus, Hector and Priam: all of theHomeric heroes could serve as examples in bonam and in malam partem for the ideal behavior of aruler in different societies and at different times. Homer was revered in antiquity as the ultimateauthority on all things ethical, and the great mirror of the condition humaine, and was thus a fixturein the elite education of antiquity. Moreover, the great poetic riches of Homeric epic ensured that Homer always remained on the curriculum of the political orator, and hence statesman, since heprovided examples of each rhetorical style.
Indeed, throughout the whole period of classical civilization and beyond, the Homeric epics aredrawn upon time and again when the education of the wise ruler is being discussed. From Solon,who appropriates the Homeric Catalogue of ships, through Plato’s Socrates, who, reluctantly, banishes the divine bard from his projected ideal state and the curriculum of his guardians. And fromAlexander, who strove to be an alter Achilles, and slept with a copy of the Iliad under his pillow through to Philodemus’ epicurean treatise
On the Good King according to Homer and Dio Chrysostom’s Kingship Orations. The Homeric heritage as Fürstenspiegel  thus knows a long and richreception, which stretches even beyond the Greek world. We may think of Cicero, Quintilian and the Augustan poets in the Roman world, and later of Mediaeval and Renaissance reception of the epicsas ideal reading for the ideal ruler. How did the Byzantines use the Homeric epics, for instance, inrhetorical education and imperial oratory? And how did Homer fare under the Christians, in Byzantium and beyond?
Submission date for papers: 
01 Jul 2014