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Wykład dr Marco Vespa

Wykład dr Marco Vespa

Serdecznie zapraszamy na wykład, który wygłosi dr Marco Vespa: „TAMING HUMANS. OBSERVATIONS ON PLAY AND RITUAL FROM AN ANCIENT GREEK CASE STUDY”. Wykład odbędzie się 18.01.2023 o godz. 12:00 w sali nr 7.

Dr Marco Vespa

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Department of Classical Studies


Taming Humans.

Observations on play and ritual from an ancient Greek case study


Studies in cultural anthropology and the history of religions have long explored the relationship between ritual and play, between culturally structured manifestations of worship and forms of entertainment equally patterned by precise rules.

In this presentation, we will attempt to investigate another particular form of human behaviour, organised warfare, in relation to a peculiar form of military training built on an experience of violent play between fellow garrison members. We will try to highlight the central elements of what can be defined as a true playful ritual from the analysis of a particular culture, the classical Greek culture, and of a specific text, a philosophical and political treatise on leadership written in the first half of the 4th century BCE by Xenophon.

How did ancient Greek culture envisage the relationship between war, as a form of ritualised violence, and play? If in the famous scenes of the funeral games in honour of Patroclus the epic tradition of the Homeric poems has provided important evidence of a particular form of sociality in war through the representation of competitive contests, áthla, between heroes, it is more difficult to trace in the Iliad, as elsewhere, the presence of play, paidiá, in the narrative of the experience of war.

In this perspective, a very singular testimony can be found in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia (II, 3, 17-20) in which a division of the Persian military contingent is described as engaged in a ludic-mimetic representation of war as a form of military training. An in-depth analysis of the structural elements that make this form of training a ludic experience will allow a better understanding of the narrative function and ideological relevance of the episode recounted by Xenophon in the detailed analysis of the different strategies of governing men in war offered by his treatise.