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Past events


Cosmic Magic: Astronomy, astrology, and Graeco-Egyptian Cultural Interactions

Graeco-Aegyptiaca and Ourania Network joint workshop in London and on Zoom

University of Birmingham / University College London / Palladion Műhely

3–4 June 2024
Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL


Eva Mol (University of York), Does this look Egyptian to you? Style and perception in Roman Pompeii

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #3/6
Palladion Műhely / UCL

May 28, 2024. 17:00 (CEST)

Many things that look Egyptian to our contemporary eyes were found in Roman Pompeii. Either defined by style (such as Egyptian-looking sphinxes) by subject, (such as Nilotic scenes), or by material (types of faience or stone imported from Egypt). What different roles did the wide variety of Egyptian-related objects play in the houses of Pompeii and can we get any access to how these were perceived? For a long time, all such objects were either interpreted as exotic or belonging to the cult of Isis, however, we nowadays realise their actual life-paths are much more complex. Due to its preservation, Pompeii is one of the best case studies to look at this complexity in object use. If we take the use context seriously, we can learn much about Roman style perception and about the dynamic ways in which ‘foreign’ objects were integrated in Roman communities.


Caitlín Barrett (Cornell University), Household Archaeology and the Domestication of Empire: Egyptian Landscapes at Pompeii

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #3/5
Palladion Műhely / UCL

April 30, 2024. 18:00 (CEST)

“Nilotic scenes” – Roman depictions of imagined Egyptian landscapes – are important sources for the iconography and material constitution of Roman imperialism. Because these images are most commonly found in household contexts, they provide an opportunity to explore the embeddedness of imperial ideology within everyday life. This paper uses a case study from the archaeology of household gardens to explore the human impact of this “domestication of empire.” In the garden of the large private dwelling known as the “House of the Ephebe” at Pompeii, a series of imagined “Egyptian” landscapes decorated an outdoor dining installation. These Egyptian riverscapes shared space – and interacted with – a complex assemblage of architecture, wall paintings, statuary, and vegetation. All of these elements worked together to shape the experiences available to the people who used this garden. Simultaneously faraway and familiar, the garden’s imagined landscapes transformed domestic space into a microcosm of empire and encouraged their occupants to engage in open-ended ways with changing constructions of imperial, local, and cultural identities.
Previous work on this assemblage, including my own, has focused on the ways that adult diners would have interacted with these images. This paper also considers some ways that this garden assemblage could have shaped the experiences of a different group of viewers: namely, ancient children, for whom these images of empire would have participated in their early socialization.

Ian Moyer (University of Michigan), ‘Deliberating in the open: the public areas of the Ptolemaic Egyptian temple as sites of politics and law’

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #3/4
Palladion Műhely / UCL

March 26, 2024. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

This paper explores the evidence for councils and courts of Egyptian priests deliberating in the open areas of the temple – a political and juridical function that is comparable to the uses of public places such as the agora or forum in other societies.

Svenja Nagel (Universität Würzburg), ‘Erotic Spells in the Demotic and Greek Magical Papyri: Ritual Techniques and Cultural Traditions’

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #3/3
The Palladion / UCL

February 27, 2024. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

A vast corpus of Demotic and Greek magical handbooks with collections of recipes as well as activated texts and objects produced in the course of magical rituals is preserved from Graeco-Roman Egypt. Spells concerned with the field of sexuality and love form a major part of the categories represented in these sources. According to our definition, ‘erotic magic’ comprises all those ritual practices that are intended to manipulate an individual’s own sexual life and/or that of others, gain control over it and optimise it, including its associated bodily and social functions. Accordingly, the main purposes of these rituals are: to gain or improve one’s own attractiveness, sexual performance and pleasure; to control the sexual life of other persons, e.g. by preventing them from having sexual relationships with others; and especially, to induce someone to crave sexual intercourse or a lasting sexual relationship with the user of the spell him- or herself.
This paper is based on interdisciplinary research conducted within the collaborative DFG project „Sexual dynamis and Dynamics of Magical Practice in Graeco-Roman Egypt: Erotic Spells in the Greek and Demotic Magical Papyri (PGM and PDM) and their Cultural Traditions”, and will present some results of this project. After providing an overview of the different categories of erotic spells with their characteristics and development, the second part will be dedicated to a more detailed discussion of selected examples of spells, and shed light on their ritual framework and rationale as well as underlying Egyptian and Greek traditions and their reciprocal interference.

Hans van Wees (University College London), ‘Greek soldiers in Saite Egypt: myths and realities’

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #3/2
The Palladion / UCL

January 23, 2024. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

Herodotus’ story of how Psammetichus I and the Saite dynasty came to power with the help of Greek hoplite mercenaries has generally been taken quite seriously by historians of ancient Greece and even by some historians of Late Period Egypt. Assyrian and Egyptian evidence shows, however, that this tale was little more than a myth, typical of the way in which ancient Greeks tended to represent themselves as vastly superior in warfare to non-Greeks. This paper puts together textual and material evidence from Egypt, Assyria and the Greek world to assess in more realistic terms what role Greek soldiers played in Saite history and what role overseas military service played in the economies and societies of archaic Greek city-states.


Richard Hunter (University of Cambridge), ‘Penultimate thoughts: choliambic verse in Graeco-Roman Egypt and beyond’

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #3/1
The Palladion / UCL

November 28, 2023

This paper considers the relatively few examples of choliambic verse, other than the fables of Babrius, which survive from the imperial period; it considers both the resonance of choliambs at this date and the possible reasons for their rarity. The texts examined include two major inscriptions from Egypt and the choliambic poems found in the oldest version of the (Egyptianising) ‘Alexander Romance’.

‘Naukratis: new fieldwork and new results’
Lecture by Alexandra Villing (British Museum)

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #2/7
The Palladion / UCL

June 27, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

Alexandra Villing will discuss her recent fieldwork and monograph on the site of Naukratis, which she carried out together with Ross Thomas, and which has the potential to transform our understanding of this important archaic Greek site in Egypt.

‘Imagining a Greek Home for an Egyptian Goddess: Time, Landscape, and Architecture in Greek Sanctuaries to Isis’
Lecture by Lindsey Mazurek (Indiana University, Bloomington)


Graeco-Aegyptiaca #2/6
The Palladion / UCL

May 30, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT) online

When Isis first arrived on Greek shores in the 3rd century BCE, her new followers had to build sanctuaries appropriate to an Egyptian goddess. In the process of imagining a place for their Greek Isis to dwell, devotees came up with a wide range of eclectic solutions that intertwined local needs, imperialist fantasy, and fantastical chronology. These sanctuaries do not draw from contemporaneous Egyptian art and architecture, but rather from Greek stereotypes about Egypt and the Nile River. Isis’ Greek temples, I argue, allowed Greek devotees to imagine Egypt in a way that responded to their own experiences as provincial subjects of the Roman Empire.

I begin with a brief overview of Isis’ and Sarapis cults’ arrival in Greece in the early Hellenistic period. Then, I turn to literary evidence, in which Greco-Roman authors from Herodotus to Pliny the Younger characterize Egypt as a timeless and strange place and highlight its unique flora and fauna. I next trace the popularity of these ideas in wall paintings and mosaics, where depictions of the Nile convey ideas of otherness and imperial control. I conclude by discussing the sanctuaries of the Egyptian gods at Marathon and Gortyna. The sanctuary at Marathon combines imaginative architecture that resembles Pharaonic Egyptian temples, archaizing sculpture that evoked a timeless Greco-Egyptian past, and a riverine setting that recalled the Nile Delta. At Gortyna, the sanctuary includes both an underground water crypt that echoed the Nilometers used to measure the river’s annual flood and cattle statuettes that personified the river’s waters. Taken together, this evidence suggests that Greek devotees used sanctuary spaces to explore Greek conceptions of Egypt as an imagined, far-off, and ancient place that they could control in much the same way that Rome controlled and imagined Greece.

Sara Sallam, Fake Gold

Listening to Tutankhamun

Online screening of multidisciplinary artist Sara Sallam’s short film I Prayed For The Resin Not To Melt, followed by a discussion with the artist.

The Palladion / ELTE

26 May 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT) online

I Prayed For the Resin Not To Melt offers an alternative record of Tutankhamun’s first encounter with the archaeological apparatus, narrated from his imagined perspective. It accentuates the violence that he was subjected to in the name of scientific study by re-enacting the procedures performed on his mummified body. By relying primarily on an audio-centric form of retelling, Sara Sallam avoids replicating the invasiveness of the operations that took place in his tomb. Addressing the viewers’ auditory senses is also an attempt to bypass the dominant public gazing practices, which have been desensitised by the notions of gold and treasure typically associated with this discovery.

The event aims to ’listen’ to Tutankhamun both through the films’ audio-visual effects and through a discussion of the context and meaning of the inscriptions on Tutankhamun’s funerary mask. Rather than offering ready-made answers, we hope to raise awareness of archaeological and museological ethics and stimulate discussion. The event will be moderated by Kata Endreffy (Palladion) and Kata Jasper (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest).

Cover © Sara Sallam, Fake Gold. Replica of Tut’s tomb, Giza 2016.

‘Egyptian Herakles and Syrian Aphrodite? Disentangling perceptions of Phoenician art and religion in the Greek tradition’
Lecture by Carolina López-Ruiz (University of Chicago)

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #2/5
The Palladion / UCL

April 31, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

In this talk I will offer some thoughts on the entanglement of Phoenician and Egyptian cultures, and focus on the impact this phenomenon had in the perception of Phoenician art and religion in ancient Greek traditions and modern scholarship.

‘Composing Magical Formularies in Late Antique Egypt’
Lecture by Raquel Martín-Hernández (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #2/4
The Palladion / UCL

February 28, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT) online

The so-called Greek Magical Papyri form one of the most interesting and strange groups of ancient texts surviving on papyrus from the Roman period. They were published as individual texts almost since their discovery, but re-edited as a corpus thanks to the joint efforts of a group of scholars under the leadership of K. Preisendanz (1924–1928). The edition of these texts has been fundamental for the study of magical and vernacular religious practices in Greco-Roman Egypt. In recent years, the project “Transmission of Magical Knowledge in Antiquity”, based in Chicago, has been working on a new critical edition of the Greco-Egyptian magical formularies in which the study of the text is combined with information offered by the material study of the books themselves. Until recently, scholarship has tended to view the magical papyri as a monolithic block; thanks to the Chicago project, we are learning to see just how varied and diverse these papyri are. Written mostly in Greek, these texts constitute one of the most interesting, and still largely untapped, resources for the study of Greco-Egyptian cultural interaction in the Roman Empire.

My lecture belongs in this trend of research. I aim to provide an overview of the preserved Greco-Egyptian magical formularies, discussing their particularities and similarities. Certain magical books in particular will be studied in order to present ideas on how magical knowledge was transmitted in Roman Egypt, and for whom the production of such magnificent books may have been destined.

‘Eggstraordinary Objects: Ostrich Eggs as Luxury Items in the Ancient Mediterranean’
Lecture by Tamar Hodos (University of Bristol) 

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #2/3
The Palladion / UCL

January 31, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

Decorated ostrich eggs were traded as luxury items from the Middle East to the western Mediterranean during the second and first millennia BCE. The eggs were engraved, painted, and occasionally embellished with ivory, precious metals and faience fittings. While archaeologists note their presence as unusual vessels in funerary and dedicatory contexts, little is known about how or from where they were sourced, decorated and traded. Researchers at Bristol University, Durham University, and the British Museum have established techniques to identify where the eggs originated and how they were decorated, while researchers from Bristol, Cranfield, Ghent, Leuven, and Newcastle Universities have assessed comparative methods to identify pigments. This talk shares the results of our studies, revealing the complexity of the production, trade, and economic and social values of luxury organic items between competing cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world.


‘Herodotus as an historian of religions and polytheism: the Egyptian matrix’
Lecture by Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge (Collège de France, FNRS)

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #2/2
The Palladion / UCL

November 29, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

My lecture aims at addressing some well-known passages of Herodotus’s Book 2 about the origin of the gods and the place of the divine in his inquiry. The fact that these passages, crucial for the modern historian of religions, are embedded in the developments on Egypt is related to the Greek vision of the depth of Egyptian time, but the overall framework remains purely Greek and refers to what we call “Greek religion”.

‘Seeing double: visualizing creation on Graeco-Egyptian stone dishes’
Lecture by Kata Endreffy (Palladion Műhely – ELTE) 

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #2/1
The Palladion / UCL

October 25, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT) online

Correspondence, translation or convergence? The talk focuses on relief-decorated stone dishes, a unique and relatively little-known set of objects from Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and looks at how the concept of creation is expressed in their diverse iconographical repertoire through a coherent fusion of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman images of renewal and triumph.

‘The interactions of Egyptian- and Greek-language astronomy: new sources and open questions’
Lecture by Marina Escolano-Poveda (University of Manchester) 

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #1/6
The Palladion / UCL

June 28, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT) online


‘Theogonies and Theomachies in Egypt, Greece and Elsewhere. Comparisons, Connections and Speculations’
Lecture by Ian Rutherford (University of Reading) 

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #1/5
The Palladion / UCL

May 24, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

‘Akhmîm-Panopolis – City of the weavers from Late Antiquity to the Arab Middle Ages’
Lecture by Cäcilia Fluck (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) 

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #1/4
The Palladion / UCL

April 26, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

‘Diocletian’s porphyry workshop. New images for the Tetrarchic rulers made in Egypt and the role of local craftsmanship in their conception’
Lecture by Marianne Bergmann (Universität Göttingen)

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #1/3
The Palladion / UCL

March 22, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

‘Demotic Egyptian traditions of the war of the gods and giants’
Lecture by Joachim F. Quack (Universität Heidelberg)

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #1/2
The Palladion / UCL

February 22, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)

‘Visual bilingualism in Graeco-Egyptian amulet gems’
Lecture by Véronique Dasen (Université de Fribourg)

Graeco-Aegyptiaca #1/1
The Palladion / UCL

January 25, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT)


Veronika Kulin: The contest of Athena and Poseidon 
Árpád M. Nagy: Pyramus and Thisbe: Echo Ovidiana

Myth in image and text#2
Lecture series organized by the Palladion and the Department of Greek and Latin at ELTE, Budapest 

December 6, 2021. 16:00
Budapest, Múzeum krt. 4/F, 212. / online

Judit Beszkid: Variations on virtue. The heroes of the Calydonian boar hunt
Patricia Szikora: Script – image. Phaidra’s confession(s) to Hippolytos

Myth in image and text #1
Lecture series organized by the Palladion and the Department of Greek and Latin at ELTE, Budapest

November 29, 2021. 16:00
Budapest, Múzeum krt. 4/F, 212. / online

Featured image: Raphael (1483–1520): The school of Athens. Vatican, Palazzo Apostolico. Source: Wikipedia / Public Domain.