Zoographein: Depicting and Describing Animals in Ancient Greece, Rome, and Beyond

Mon, 08/28/2017

Greek and Roman culture is replete with verbal and visual descriptions and depictions of animals, from Herodotus’ gold-digging ants or Pliny’s bestiary to Greek vase painting or the decoration of Roman houses and gardens. Research on ancient zoological knowledge has traditionally centered on identifying animal species in texts and images, determining the various sources of such knowledge, and relating these inquiries to their broader socio-historical and philosophical contexts. While these approaches can be fruitful, they often operate on the assumption that verbal and pictorial testimonies always record and illustrate specific information, echoing concrete ancient zoological knowledge.
This conference takes a decisively different approach.  We propose to consider depictions and descriptions of animals as methods of inquiry in and of themselves, rather than illustrations of knowledge ex post facto. Thus, for instance, Aristotle’s account of gregarious animals at the start of Historia Animalium may serve as a mode of understanding humans’ position within the animal world, rather than an account of ancient discoveries. In addition, ancient zoographers’ views might have been shaped by encounters with animals in contexts and media other than 'scientific' study or simple observation in nature. In this sense, we seek to consider visual and textual sources as creative and active modes of representation and thereby forms of knowledge production, rather than reflections of it.

Sponsored by: the Departments of Classics, History of Art and Visual Studies, Philosophy, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, History, and Religious Studies; Archaeological Institute of America; Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; and the Cornell Dairy Center for Excellence.



Department of History of Art, Classics Department

In collaboration with the research network ZOOMATHIA

International Conference


ZOOGRAPHEIN – Depicting and Describing Animals

in Ancient Greece, Rome and Beyond

September 8-10, 2017

Ithaca, NY


Friday, September 8

Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) Conference Center 229

8:30-9:00         Registration, coffee

9:00 – 9:30      Welcome and Introduction: Athena Kirk, Annetta Alexandridis

9:30-11:00       Panel I: Generation and Parenting

Chair: Tad Brennan, Cornell University

9:30-10:15       Clara Bosak-Schroeder, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign "Queer Reproduction in Georgics 4 and Brian Britigan’s Golden"

10:15- 11:00    Cristiana Franco, Università di Siena "Animal Mothers"

11:00-11:15     Coffee

11:15-12:45     Panel II: Transformation of Bodies – Translation of Knowledge

Chair: Verity Platt, Cornell University

11:15-12:00     Chiara Blanco, Cambridge University "Flying from a Dead Shell: The Metamorphosis of the Butterfly and the Soul of the Dead" 

12:00-12:45     Günther Schörner, Universität Wien "Dead Animals: The Representation of Sacrificed Animals in the Roman Empire"

12:45-2:00       Lunch

2:00-3:30         Panel II, continued

Chair: Jeffrey Rusten, Cornell University

2:00-2:45         Anna Uhlig, University of California Davis "Θρώισκων κνώδαλα: Satyr Choruses and the Theatrical Body"

2:45-3:30         Oliver Hellmann, Universität Trier "Animalizing Human Virtues: Aelian’s Rewriting of Animal Ethology"

3:30-3:45         Coffee

3:45-4:45         Keynote, ILR Conference Center 423

Courtney Roby, Cornell University "The Animal Body Multiple: Organs to Swarms"

5:00-6:00         Reception, ILR Conference Center Lobby


Saturday, September 9

A. D. White House, Guerlac Room

9:00-10:30       Panel III: Observing and Creating Nature

Chair: Courtney Roby, Cornell University

9:00-9:45         Hans Wietzke, Carlton College "Another Species of Mimesis: The Function and Aesthetics of Aristotle’s Zoological Diagrams"

9:45-10:30       Arnaud Zucker, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis "The Rise of a Standard Depiction of Animals in the First Greek Zoological Handbook (Aristophanis Epitome Historiae Animalium)"

10:30-10:45     Coffee

10:45-12:15     Panel III, continued

Chair: Athena Kirk, Cornell University

10:45-11:30     Annetta Alexandridis, Cornell University "Nature’s Workshop: Tongs and Pot-Sherd Skins"

11:30-12:15     Lorenz Winkler-Horaček, Freie Universität Berlin "Wild and Domestic Animals – Constructed Natural Environments in Roman Villas"

12:15 - 1:30     Lunch

1:30-2:30         Optional visit of Herbert F. Johnson Museum

2:30-3:30         Keynote II

Andrew Moisey, Cornell University "Ancient and Modern Perspectives on Ants"

3:30-3:45         Coffee

3:45-5:15         Panel IV: The Aesthetics of Animal Anatomy: Horses

Chair: Annetta Alexandridis, Cornell University

3:45-4:30         Alexandre Blaineau, Rennes "The Ideal Horse in Simon and Xenophon’s Treaties. Anatomic Knowledge, Aesthetic Reflection, Reception of a Model"

4:30 -5:15        Rosanagh M. B. Mack, University of Reading "Celebrating Horse Breeding on the Coinage of Larisa in the Fourth Century B.C."


Sunday, September 10

A. D. White House, Guerlac Room

9:00-11:30       Panel V: Zoological Fantasies

Chair: Arnaud Zucker, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis

9:00-9:45         Verity Walsh, Stanford University "Categories in Chaos: Aristotelian Taxonomy and the Creatures of the Epistola Alexandri ad Aristotelem"

9:45-10:30       Valeria V. Sergueenkova, University of Cincinnati "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Thinking About Animals in Herodotus’ Historie"

10:30-10:45     Coffee

10:45-11:30     Robert Cioffi, Bard College "The Phoenix’ (Un)mentionables: Writing Landscape and Identity in Achilles Tatius"

11:30-12:00     Concluding Remarks: Athena Kirk, Annetta Alexandridis

12:00-1:00       Lunch

Zoographein book cover