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The social and cultural construction of emotions: The Greek paradigm

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Emotions as the constructs of society and culture

An analysis of documentary sources such as inscriptions and papyri from 800 BC to 500 AD provides evidence of the history of particular emotions and their manifestations. This can help increase awareness of the importance of emotions in Classical studies.

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Human emotions have the power to influence social relations. This warrants them as socially relevant and as instigators of cultural change. As related to the Classical world, emotions have primarily been examined through their literary and artistic representation. While providing useful insights, the works in study are limited to those produced by educated males of a higher social rank and in a few urban areas. An EU-funded project, EMOTIONS (The social and cultural construction of emotions: The Greek paradigm) has examined documentary sources which have never before been studied in relation to emotions. These sources embody a vast array of social strata, age and class. They have also been widely circulated over time and space. The documents were examined on the basis of a homogeneous set of questions. By studying texts and images, it is evident that both words and images bring out emotion, stimulate memory and also impact reasoning and decision-making. The increased significance of emotional display in public during this period is evident. Historical sources are not only discerning records of the past but also complex sources of information that establish empathy and an emotional community. Results of selected sources from the Greek world were collected, translated and presented in a searchable database. This can be useful for a cross-disciplinary study of emotions since it facilitates research in the disciplines of history, linguistics, sociology, philosophy, religious studies, literary studies and anthropology.


Inscriptions, papyri, EMOTIONS, Classical studies, Greek

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