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Honour in classical Greece: esteem, status, identity, and society in ancient Greek literature, life, and thought

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - HCG (Honour in classical Greece: esteem, status, identity, and society in ancient Greek literature, life, and thought)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-12-31

This project’s aim was to challenge the established view of honour within Classical Studies and Ancient History as as a scarce non-material commodity, pursued mainly by men in small-scale, face-to-face communities in more or less aggressive forms of zero-sum competition, intimately bound up with assertive, traditional forms of masculinity, and vulnerable especially to assaults on the chastity of women. On such views, honour has very specific normative characteristics; it is typical only of some forms of social organization; it is associated with certain particular types of action, motivation, and personality; and it is the focus only of competition, not of co-operation or social cohesion, associated only with hierarchy and inequality, and not with egalitarian motivations. We have sought to (a) broaden the interpretative paradigm and learn from other disciplines; and (b) to conduct a more careful examination of a wider range of primary phenomena. Our main objectives have been (a) to investigate ancient Greek understandings of honour by encompassing the semantics of all relevant terms, the scripts to which they refer, and the metaphors which contribute to their conceptualization; and (b) to locate those understandings in a thorough investigation of the role of honour in Greek politics and society, in particular in the areas of social norms and community values; the history of emotions; Athenian law; the public economy of honour and the euergetical system; the ancient economy; and ancient political theory.

In investigating honour in all these aspects our overall aim is nothing less than a new and comprehensive study of the social psychology of the ancient Greeks, as it is manifested in the greatest works of archaic and classical Greek literature, in the ethical and political theory of Aristotle and others, and in the ethical, social, and legal discourse of the classical Athenian democracy. In doing so, we are analysing a phenomenon that has lost none of its potency as a force that is – as contemporary epidemiology, sociology, and moral/political philosophy attest – just as important in our own societies as it was for the classical Greeks.
The project’s research, events, and publications to date have made very substantial progress towards these ends.

The opening public lectures (by epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot; philosopher Axel Honneth; literary scholar Edward Mendelson, and sociologist Richard Wilkinson) attracted very large audiences and their recorded versions have been extensively viewed online. These set the agenda for the project, established it in the intellectual life of Scotland’s capital, and allowed us to link our work with the wider intellectual and interdisciplinary traditions that have inspired it. Public lectures and further events feature prominently in the project’s website, alongside blog posts, book reviews, project publications, profiles, and press coverage, together with links to associated projects.

Two PhD and two post-doctoral fellows have been recruited, each from an outstanding field of applicants. All four appointees are of the highest calibre, offering individual research projects of outstanding promise and originality on (respectively) atimia in Athenian law (Rocchi); honour in the family in classical Athens (Mazzinghi Gori); honour in Aristotelian philosophy (Mantzouranis); and political and military honour with specific reference to the Athenian strategia (Zaccarini). The PhD students started in September 2018 and January 2019 respectively and have demonstrated steady progress towards the completion of their theses via submission of regular and timeous drafts of their work. Mazzinghi Gori has one chapter forthcoming in a project publication. The postdocs commenced their employment in September 2018 and each has submitted several draft chapters of their project monograph to the PI (Cairns) for feedback. One (Zaccarini) has had one project article published to date, with others in press; Mantzouranis has completed two articles (on aspects of Aristotle’s Politics) jointly with the PI and Co-I (Canevaro) and has further items in press. To date, Cairns has published five items deriving from research on the project and Canevaro one. Each has many more items in press or in preparation and together they have made substantial progress in planning and drafting their joint project monograph. Cairns and Canevaro have together given over 50 project-related seminars and lectures since January 2018.

A major intended output of the project was an remains a substantial volume of essays deriving from the project’s workshops and international conference. The first workshop (philosophy) took place in April 2019, the second (literature) in September 2019; but the third (June) 2020 has had to be postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as has the conference scheduled for September 2020. At present, it is impossible to predict when these (and other) events will be able to go ahead.

Since September 2018 the project has run a weekly reading group (now operating online), dedicated to key ancient and modern texts and attracting many participants from beyond the project membership. Similarly, the project’s ad hoc seminar programme has been augmented by contributions by scholars from elsewhere attracted by the project’s ground-breaking research agenda (8 such visitors to date). HCG has also benefitted from participation in events promoted by associated projects, including a workshop on hybris, ancient and modern, in Dresden in June 2019 funded by the award of an Anneliese Maier Research Prize to Cairns, and public lectures and a conference (in 2019) on Slavery and Honour in Ancient Greece, funded by a Royal Society of Edinburgh grant to Edinburgh colleague, David Lewis (with Cairns and Canevaro as co-applicants; now in the course of publication with Edinburgh University Press). The project has also welcomed three longer term visitors, Christopher Degelmann (HU Berlin), funded by the Maier Prize, Benjamin Keim (Pomona, USA), funded by the (US) National Endowment for the Humanities, and Øyvind Rabbås (Oslo), using institutional research funds. A fourth (Bernadette Banaszkiewicz, Marburg, funded by the Maier prize) has been forced by the pandemic to participate remotely in project events to date.
Publications to date reflect the aims and objectives stated above in going ar beyond existing paradigms of honour in Classical Greece. Progress in that regard has been greatly facilitated by the project’s breadth of coverage and by its innovative interdisciplinary methodology. Inspiration has been derived in particular from work in economics, epidemiology, philosophy, psychology, and sociology on the fundamental role of intersubjective recognition and mutual esteem in human social interaction. Though in each of these fields the insights on which we draw have been developed over the past twenty years or more, we believe that their integration in a single project (and especially a Classics and Ancient History project) goes substantially beyond the state of the art in our field.

By the end of the project, we expect to publish (as main project outputs)
One joint monograph (Cairns and Canevaro)
One volume of collected papers (edited by Cairns and Canevaro)
Two PhD theses (Mazzinghi Gori and Rocchi)
One monograph on Aristotle (Mantouranis)
One monograph on the Athenian strategia
Website; blog-posts; outreach articles (e.g. in popular press)

We also expect to publish, as spin-off items,
One collected volume on Slavery and Honour (Cairns and Canevaro, with D. M. Lewis)
One collected volume on Hubris, Ancient and Modern (Cairns, with E. Sadler-Smith and N. Bouras)
A substantial number of articles and book chapters (all participants).