Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar / Uncategorized


With two interesting presentations, the GIS brought a successful end to the term!

The first speaker was Tommaso Longo. He is visiting here for this term. He is a third year Phd Student at the University of Milan. His research is about the debate on physis and nomos in the ancient history of ethical and political thought. Today Tommaso talked about physis and nomos, politogonies and progress through some very interesting case studies. With respect to Classical Antiquity, scholars have disputed whether and to what extent ancient authors endorse an idea of progress. But to define what progress is and what is not is like opening Pandora’ s box for its being far from a monolithic concept. Thus, the definition of progress leaves room for endless and passionate discussions between “sceptics” and “progress proponents”. Tommaso analysed and assessed the politogony sketched by Archelaus (cf. Hipp. Ref. 1.9.5-6) in comparison with Critias’ Kulturentstehungslehre and other accounts as well. Does this account propound a reading of human history through the lenses of progress and if not what is its theoretical function? Tommaso pointed out that as in any historical reconstruction, the answer should be searched within the textual evidence at our disposal. But in addition to this admittedly technical textual analysis, Tommaso also showed through his case studies that ancient reflections encompass philosophical puzzling issues that are similar to ours, by approaching them from profoundly different perspectives.

Our second speaker was Gabriele Rota who is now in his third year of PhD study. He did his BA at the University of Padua in Italy and then came to Cambridge for MPhil and PhD. His dissertation is about the textual transmission of Cicero’s letters to Atticus. Today he talked about “Quid stemmata faciant. Some introductory remarks on the transmission of Cicero’s Epistulae ad Atticum”. Since Petrarch’s rediscovery at Verona in 1345, Cicero’s Epistulae ad Atticum have engendered a lively scholarly debate. Their difficult Greek and Latin text – often hopelessly corrupt – is in itself a serious obstacle to criticism and interpretation; their transmission throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages is fragmentary and obscure for the most part; and in the 15th century, stemmatic boundaries were repeatedly muddled by the radical intervention of some of the greatest humanists then in Florence: Coluccio Salutati, Niccolò Niccoli, Leonardo Bruni and Poggio Bracciolini. In the presentation, Gabriele tried to answer two major questions: (1) To what extent was Paul Maas correct in contending that there is no remedy against contamination? This could be extended, of course, to several other contaminated textual transmissions beside Ad Atticum. (2) How do the difficulties that a corrupt text poses relate to the (theoretical and practical) impossibility to trace a stemma codicum which could, in turn, make better sense of the corrupt readings in the manuscripts? Gabriele pointed out that W. S. Watt and D. R. Shackleton Bailey, the most recent editors of Ad Atticum, had focused on emendation only, relying on Håkan Sjögren’s admirable but flawed recension for all that concerned transmission. Regarding this, Gabriele asked ‘was it sensible to do so?’ and offered his own answer to this question.


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