Honor and Shame in Classical Antiquity
Thirteenth Annual Graduate Conference in Classics Friday, March 20, 2020
The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Keynote Speaker: Margaret Graver, Dartmouth College
Virtue, Cicero argues, seeks no other reward for its labors and dangers beyond that of praise and glory. From the earliest days of the ancient Mediterranean, the pursuit of honor and avoidance of shame have shaped societies’ value systems. Achilles wages war according to a strict honor code, while Hesiod’s personified goddess, Shame, is the last to depart the earth as a rebuke of humanity’s wickedness. Far from belonging to the static code belonging to an aristocratic warrior class, as was once understood, honor and shame are increasingly seen as part of a complex and polyvalent ethical system. They manifest themselves not only in the heroic self-assertion of ancient epic but also in a variety of other arenas, such as, for example, philosophical treatises, gender relations and sexual mores, the lives of enslaved peoples, Athenian law and politics, the performance of Roman state identity, and religious belief. Thus, they are pervasive throughout literature, thought, and society in the ancient world.