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The network for the study of archaic and classical Greek song: a brief history


Early in the third millennium Ewen Bowie and André Lardinois began contemplating a society or network that might bring together scholars of all generations interested in exchanging ideas concerning the Greek melic, iambic and elegiac poetry of the archaic and classical periods. In 2001 André Lardinois had become a member of the European network for the study of ancient Greek history, and Ewen Bowie had been a member of the International Plutarch Society since its meeting in Oxford in 1989. Each saw how these rather different organisations worked and could see the advantages of creating something similar for what is often loosely called ‘lyric poetry’. They met and discussed the idea together in Oxford in May 2006. Ewen Bowie initially envisaged a Society for History of Ancient Greek Song, but its acronym was not propitious. A significant step forward was taken at the annual meeting of the APA held at San Diego from January 4 to 7 2007: Lucia Athanassaki, Ewen Bowie, André Lardinois, Richard Martin and Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi met to discuss possible formats for such a network, and some of them had a long and useful discussion about these over dinner with Frances Titchener, Secretary of the International Plutarch Society. They subsequently drew up a list of sixteen scholars who could make up the core group of such a network and help to organise conferences in the future: Lucia Athanassaki, Egbert Bakker, Toni Bierl, Debby Boedeker, Ewen Bowie, Claude Calame, Willy Cingano, Jenny Clay, Bruno Currie, Leslie Kurke, André Lardinois, Richard Martin, Greg Nagy, Dirk Obbink, Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi, and Ian Rutherford.

At the international conference on archaic and classical choral song, organised by Lucia Athanassaki at the University of Crete, Rethymno, from 24 to 27 May 2007, the network was first officially launched. Many of the core group members attended, and it was there that some important decisions were formalised: there should be a website, where publications and events related to Greek lyric poetry in the archaic and classical age could be posted; membership should be free and should be open to all (i.e. it was not to be a solely European network); and conferences would be organised annually, with ‘core group’ conferences alternating with larger, open conferences. Papers at ‘core group’ conferences would be delivered only by members of the ‘core group’ or invited speakers, chiefly on a chosen theme but with the option of members reporting on their current research activities; attendance would be open to other interested scholars who were in some sense local to the venue. For the larger conferences there would be an open call for papers and papers would be selected on the basis of abstracts by its ‘core group’ organiser in consultation with other members of the ‘core group; a few (but only a few) papers would be delivered at open conferences by members of the ‘core group’. The papers of open conferences would be published.  The business of the network would be managed by two chorēgoi, selected from among the core group members.

The first chorēgoi were Ewen Bowie and André Lardinois; Ewen was succeeded by Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi in 2011, André by Lucia Athanassaki in 2016, Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi by Tim Power in 2017, one of several scholars invited to join the core group in the network’s first decade (others were Felix Budelmann, Giambattista D’Alessio, Andrew Ford, Nadine Le Meur-Weissman and Xavier Riu).

For the first three years the network received an internationalisation grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) in collaboration with Stanford and Oxford University. Its website was originally based at Radboud University, Nijmegen, and managed successively by webmasters Eveline Rutten and Vanessa Cazzato. In 2019 the website moved to Rutgers University, NJ.

The first ‘core group’ conference was organised by Ewen Bowie at Corpus Christi College, Oxford on 20 and 21 June 2008 on the theme ‘Time and space in early Greek elegiac, iambic and lyric poetry’. The conference attracted some 40 other scholars from the UK, accommodation for ‘core group’ members was dispersed among several colleges, and there was a dinner in Corpus and another in a nearby restaurant. Generous funding for speakers’ accommodation and meals, and for setting up a website, was obtained from the Dutch Research Council and from Oxford’s University Fell Fund.

Conferences have since ensued annually as follows:

‘The Look of Lyric’, an open conference at Delphi from 16 to 20 July 2009, funded by Stanford University and the Dutch Research Council and organised at the European Cultural Centre of Delphi by Richard Martin and Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi.

‘Reperformance and transmission of archaic and classical Greek lyric poetry’. a core group conference at Soeterbeeck near Nijmegen, the Netherlands, from 24 to 27 June 2010, funded by the Dutch Research Council and Radboud University, Nijmegen, and organised by André Lardinois.

‘Authorship, authority, and authenticity in archaic and classical Greek song’, an open conference at New Haven from 6 to 9 July 2011, funded by the Yale Department of Classics and by a generous gift of the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund at Yale University, and organised by Egbert Bakker.

‘New Developments in Greek Lyric’ a core group conference at the Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington DC, from 15 to17 July 2012, funded by the CHS and Harvard University and organised by Greg Nagy.

‘The reception of Greek lyric poetry 600 BC-AD 400: transmission, canonization, and paratext’, an open conference at Reading University from 6 to 8 September 2013, funded by Reading and Oxford Universities and jointly set up by Bruno Currie and Ian Rutherford.

‘Sappho in the third millennium: New approaches, readings and the brand-new Sappho’, a core group conference at the Römerstiftung Dr. René Clavel, Landgut Castelen near Basel, from 26 to 28 June 2014, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation/Schweizerischer Nationalfonds (SNF), Max Geldner-Stiftung, Römerstiftung Dr. René Clavel, the University of Basel and organised by Anton Bierl.

‘The genres of archaic and classical Greek poetry: theories and models’, an open conference at UC Berkeley from 24 to 28 September 2015, funded by UC Berkeley and organised by Leslie Kurke.

‘Myth and Greek Lyric’, a ‘core group’ conference at San Servolo, Venice, from 8 to 10 October 2016, organised by Willy Cingano and funded by Università Ca’Foscari, Venezia, and Venice International University, San Servolo.

‘Culture and Society in “the lyric age” of Greece’, a joint meeting of the ‘core group’ with the European network for the study of ancient Greek history at Princeton from 8 to 9 September 2017, organised by Andrew Ford and Nino Luraghi and funded by Princeton University.

‘Lyric and the sacred’, an open conference at the Anargyrios and Korgialenios School,  Spetses, from 27 June to 1 July 2018, co-organised by Lucia Athanassaki and André Lardinois and funded by the University of Crete and Radboud University, Nijmegen.

‘The lyric bestiary’, a core group conference at University of Paris X-Nanterre from 13 to 15 June 2019, funded by the University of Paris X-Nanterre and organised by Nadine Le Meur-Weissman.

‘Performing texts’ is an open conference planned for 1 to 5 July 2020 at the Anargyrios and Korgialenios School, Spetses, funded by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies and organised by Greg Nagy in collaboration with Lucia Athanassaki and Tim Power. The organization of the conference will be administratively and logistically supported by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece (CHS Greece).

The first volume to come out of a conference organised by members of the network was Archaic and Classical Choral Song: Performance, Politics and Dissemination, edited by L. Athanassaki and E. Bowie, Berlin 2011. The network subsequently started its own mini-series within Mnemosyne Supplements, some of them available in open access: 

The Look of Lyric. Greek Song and the Visual, edited by V. Cazzato and A. Lardinois, with an Introduction by A.E. Peponi (Mnemosyne Suppl. 391; Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song vol. 1), Leiden 2016.

The Newest Sappho: P. Sapph. Obbink and P. GC inv. 105 Frs. 1-4, edited by A. Bierl and A. Lardinois (Mnemosyne Suppl. 392; Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song vol. 2), Leiden 2016.

Authorship and Greek Song: Authority, Authenticity, and Performance, edited by E. Bakker (Mnemosyne Suppl. 402; Studies in Archaic and Classical Song vol. 3), Leiden 2017.

The Genres of Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models, edited by L. Kurke, M. Foster and N. Weiss (Mnemosyne Suppl. 428; Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song vol. 4), Leiden forthcoming.

The Reception and Transmission of Greek Lyric Poetry, 600 BC – 400 AD, edited by B. Currie and I. Rutherford (Mnemosyne Suppl. 430; Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song vol. 5), Leiden forthcoming.

Greek Lyric and the Sacred, edited by Lucia Athanassaki and André Lardinois, in preparation.