Contours and Expressions of the Self in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures

Sun, 27/05/2018 to Thu, 31/05/2018



Maren Niehoff (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Alfons Fürst (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)
Gretchen Reydams Schils (University of Notre Dame)
Ishay Rosen-Zvi (Tel Aviv University)
Joshua Levinson (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)


The objective of the conference is to examine the growing scholarly consensus that new, intensified or modified notions of the Self emerged in the Greco-Roman period. Assembling a group of experts from different fields, we ask whether and how new notions of the Self emerged across “pagan”, Jewish and Christian cultures. What prompted philosophers, exegetes, biographers, theologians, artists and law-makers to conceive of human beings as individuated selves, with a sense of their own subjectivity and an urge to reflect upon themselves? How did authors position themselves in their text and address the reader in a more personal way? What role did religion, Stoicism and the revival of Platonism play? Looking at literary and material evidence, we will investigate if and how a koine of the Self emerged in the imperial period.

To what extent did local cultures transform their traditional notions, paving the way for specifically Greek, Jewish or Christian perspectives, which were formed in dialogue with adjacent cultures? With the ascendancy of Rome, the establishment of monarchical forms of rule and subsequently the Christianization of the empire universal structures became available, which created new channels of communication and challenged traditional roles in society. The individual was confronted with new social and intellectual options, yet also with a loss of political power and democratic self-expressions. Intellectuals were thus prompted to define their role on a new scale, often taking recourse to the private sphere. These themes will be explored in different sessions on the following topics: “Between Center and Periphery: Constructing the Self in the Roman Empire”, “Contours of Interiority”, “Trajectories of Interiority”, “The Self in Action: Society, Law and Liturgy” and “Philosophical Reflections on the Self”.

The conference will feature two key-note lectures:

Clifford Ando, "Self, Society, Individual and Person in Roman Law"  
Catharine Edwards, "The epistolographic Self: Letter-Writing, Empire and Identity” 


Program >


The Conference is sponsored by The European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, The EU project and The Notre Dame Workshop on Ancient Philosophy (



Albert Baumgarten, Bar Ilan University
Eve-Marie Becker, Aarhus University
Paula Fredriksen, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Alfons Fürst, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Yair Furstenberg, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Sarit Kattan Gribetz, Fordham University
Karen King, Harvard Divinity School
David Lambert, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Joshua Levinson, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Carlos Lévy, l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)
Francoise Mirguet, Arizona State University
Yonatan Moss, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Laura Nasrallah, Harvard Divinity School
Maren Niehoff, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Judith Perkins, University of St. Joseph
Ilaria Ramelli, Angelicum- Durham - Oxford
Gretchen Reydams Schils, University of Notre Dame
Matthew Roller, Johns Hopkins University
Ishay Rosen Zvi, Tel Aviv University
Youval Rotman, Tel Aviv University
Jörg Rüpke, University of Erfurt
Charles Stang, Harvard University
George Boys Stones, Durham University
Sharon Weisser, Tel Aviv University