The year is 416 B.C., and Socrates and Plato are getting drunk.
The most important poet in Athens has just won a poetry contest and so he's throwing a party.
But it's not just any party... he's invited the brightest minds in the city to partake in a time honored tradition.
To join him in a night of fine wine and conversation -- and to tackle some of the most pressing philosophical questions of the time.
They will recline on couches, sipping wine from richly decorated cups while they make their speeches…
This was the Symposium... an event where the best minds meet to discuss all manner of things, from the nature of love to the origins of the universe… to discuss the most important ideas of the day.
But the tradition has faded away -- modern “symposiums” are usually nothing more than glorified trade conferences...
And more worryingly, people don't want to actually talk about essential topics... well, at least not most people... but the fact that you are here, means that you are interested, you are engaged and that real conversation is important to you.
Now, Classical Wisdom is bringing back one of western culture’s oldest traditions... and you are invited to join:
Streaming Live | October 24-25, 2020 (starting 10am Saturday / starting 11am Sunday)
NB: You will receive all the recordings after the event, so you can watch or re-watch at your convenience.
You are invited to join an online Symposium with some of the greatest thinkers on the ancient world... brought together with a bit of ingenuity, modern technology and ancient vineyards.
Immerse yourself in the Classical World for a weekend of wit and wisdom (and wine!) that will return you to the present world refreshed and inspired by the Ancients.
Join our live streaming conference to partake in inspiring conversation with leading authors and distinguished professors in Ancient History, Philosophy and Mythology. It will begin with a morning of engaging and insightful presentations on the topics of Power and Politics. Then, each afternoon, you can indulge in the revered Classical Experience of the Symposium: brilliant discussion with the grape of Gods.
We will recreate this unique experience with an online wine tasting and presentation followed by a stirring panel discussion.The wine included ticket option has closed to ensure it is shipped within time, but we will be suggesting alternative wine pairings for those who wish to take part... or even get into the spirit of the event.
It will be a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring Symposium which will also shed light on both ancient and contemporary Power and Politics.
12 SPEAKERS, 1 WEEKEND OF ANCIENT WISDOM
-- (All times Eastern Daylight/ New York Time) --
Saturday October 24, 2020
10am Liz Gloyn | Monsters, Power And Control
11am Neville Morley | Thucydides, Power and Negotiation
12am Lisa Anderson-Zhu | Power and Politics in Art
1:30pm James S Romm | Philosophers, Kings, and Philosopher-kings
2:30pm Michael Fontaine | How to Drink: A Classical Guide toImbibing
3:30pm LIVE: Wine Tasting | Bonner Private Wine Club
4pm LIVE PANEL: How Has the Concept of Power Changed?
Liz Gloyn, Neville Morley and James S Romm
Sunday October 25, 2020
11am Adriel M. Trott | How Slavery Threatens the "Political" in Aristotle's Polis
12pm Donald Robertson | Politics and Anger in Marcus Aurelius
1pm Mary Townsend | Power and Pleonexia: The Desire for More
2pm Aaron Smith | Morality and Political Power
3:30pm Mary Naples | The Thesmophoria: Feminine Consciousness in Ancient Greece
4:30pm Massimo Pigliucci | How to be a Stoic when Facing Modern Politics
5:30pm LIVE: Wine Tasting | Bonner Private Wine Club
6pm LIVE PANEL: What Power Does the Individual have in Politics?
A.A. Long, Massimo Pigliucci and Donald Robertson
*Schedule may be subject to change
Is there an art to drinking alcohol? Can drinking ever be a virtue? The Renaissance humanist and neoclassical poet Vincent Obsopoeus (ca. 1498–1539) thought so. In the winelands of sixteenth-century Germany, he witnessed the birth of a poisonous new culture of bingeing, hazing, peer pressure, and competitive drinking. Alarmed, and inspired by the Roman poet Ovid's Art of Love, he wrote The Art of Drinking (De Arte Bibendi) (1536), a how-to manual for drinking with pleasure and discrimination.
Arguing that moderation, not abstinence, is the key to lasting sobriety, and that drinking can be a virtue if it is done with rules and limits, Obsopoeus teaches us how to manage our drinking, how to win friends at social gatherings, and how to give a proper toast. But he also says that drinking to excess on occasion is okay―and he even tells us how to win drinking games, citing extensive personal experience.
Michael Fontaine is the Professor and Associate Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, Cornell University, New York and author of many books, including: “How to Drink: A Classical Guide to Imbibing”, “Pig Wars” and “How to tell a Joke” (coming soon).
Modern politics has gotten increasingly polarized, with social psychologists warning us that people on either side of the divide see those on the other side as stupid or evil. The rise of the 24hr news cycle, and then of social media, has made conversation near impossible, often turning encounters into shouting matches. This sort of behavior is no longer typical of internet trolls, it has now escalated to some of the highest positions in public office. The whole thing is undermining democratic discourse in open societies and preparing the ground for populist or downright authoritarian regimes. What are we to do?
The ancient Greco-Roman philosophy of Stoicism, updated to the cultural milieu of the 21st century, offers a path forward. Stoics are cosmopolitan, they see the entire human race as a brotherhood and sisterhood of people who, ideally, use their ability to reason in order to improve society. Stoicism teaches both tolerance and endurance of other people’s behavior, but also that the ability to reason correctly , and grasp of how the world works (as opposed to our wishful thinking about it) are moral virtues that need to be actively cultivated. While Stoicism is certainly not a magic bullet to quickly solve a complex situation like the one we are facing, its study and practice will go a long way toward making us see more clearly what we should and should not do. It also reminds us that our efforts are up to us, but the outcomes of such efforts are not, and we need accept them with equanimity.
Massimo Pigliucci is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life. Pigliucci has a PhD in Evolutionary Biology and Philosophy and his research interests include the philosophy of science and the practical philosophy of Stoicism.
Power has many methods of control; monsters are one powerful way of enforcing social conformity. They patrol the lines between what is and what is not possible, and what is and is not allowed. In this talk, Dr. Liz Gloyn will explore the ways that monsters and the monstrous were deployed in ancient society as a way of reinforcing social norms and expectations. She will also take a brief look at the ways that some of these classical monsters are still with us, and the role that they now play in contemporary society.
Liz Gloyn is a Reader in Latin Languages and Literature at Royal Holloway, the University of London, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and author of Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture and The Ethics of the Family in Seneca.
"Politics and Anger in Marcus Aurelius." The Stoics believed that anger is one of the most dangerous emotions and they provide a great deal of advice on overcoming it. Donald will discuss how Marcus Aurelius, as Roman emperor, employed Stoic philosophy and psychology, throughout The Meditations, to master his own feelings of anger, in the face of history-shaping events that were often outside of the control even of the most powerful man in the known world.
Donald Robertson is a writer, trainer, psychotherapist, and an expert on the relationship between modern cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and classical Greek and Roman philosophy. He is also the founder of Modern Stoicism and the author of ‘How to Think Like a Roman Emperor’.
Thucydides’ work has long been associated with attempts at understanding the nature and dynamics of power. The most prominent example is the Melian Dialogue, and its claim that ‘the strong do what they can, and the weak just have to endure it’, widely cited as a foundational statement of Realism in International Relations but also discussed in relation to internal politics – most recently, as justification for the plans of Senate Republicans to press ahead with the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice.
There is no dispute that Thucydides intended his work to be relevant to future generations, even if he couldn’t foresee future circumstances or the extent of changes over time, and it’s equally clear that ‘power’, its nature, use and abuse, was a recurring theme in his analysis of the world. The question is how we are supposed to engage with his work and draw lessons from it? Are we just vicarious spectators or powerful participants?
Neville Morley is the Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter, UK and author of many books, including: Classics: Why it Matters (2018), The Roman Empire: Roots of Imperialism (2010), Trade in Classical Antiquity (2007), Thucydides and the Idea of History (2014). He is currently working on his latest book, “What Thucydides Knew”.
Artistic demonstrations of power by political leaders in the ancient, and modern, world range in scale from macro to micro, from monumental architecture to the designs of coins that are used at all levels of society. The publicly placed visual culture of a society helps to reinforce ruling power by demonstrating not only who controls things like wealth, land, natural resources, and labor, but also access to artists, designers, and planners who can create, subtly or overtly, visual propaganda. Persons operating outside the sphere of political power can also express their power, however, by means of breaking the statues and monuments erected by politicians and rulers to recarving or effacing their portraits and inscriptions.
The Ancient Mediterranean Art collections at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, are particularly strong in examples from Ptolemaic-Roman Egypt and the city of Rome that show the support and the subversion of political power. Ptolemaic art, part of the visual revolution galvanized by Alexander the Great, was able not only to create new visual culture, but also to code-switch to the earlier artistic vernacular of Pharaonic Egypt. By using the established visual style as needed, the Ptolemies situated themselves as a true Egyptian ruling dynasty, while also employing Greek-style artistic representations of themselves as rulers and conquerors. Portraits of the Roman Imperial family, standardized and distributed throughout the empire, supported political cohesion over vast territories, while grand, private monumental tombs created for families with long political dynasties demonstrated a centuries-long connection to wealth and power through their prominent placement and decadent decorations. Demonstrations against political power in the collection focus on destruction or recarving of ruler portraits and destruction of elite private monuments.
Lisa Anderson Zhu is the Associate Curator of ancient art of the Mediterranean, 5000 BCE–300 CE, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.
James S Romm is the James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Classics at Bard College in Annandale, NY. An acclaimed classical historian and Stoic, he is the author of several books including, “Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero”, “Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great”, “the War for Crown and Empire” and the editor and translator of “Seneca's How to Die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life”.
We want a political system that exercises power only in ways that are moral. But as Socrates and Plato argued in ancient Greece—and Ayn Rand argued in 20th-century America—we also need to interrogate and sometimes radically rethink our conception of morality, because ultimately that is what shapes, for better or worse, our view of the proper use, scope, and goals of political power.
Aaron Smith is an Instructor and Fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. He received his PhD in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University where his research focused on Aristotle’s theory of knowledge. Prior to joining the Ayn Rand Institute in 2013, he was a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he taught ancient Greek philosophy, moral theory, and epistemology. His article “The False Promise of Stoicism” and his podcast addressing Ayn Rand’s deep admiration for Aristotle were featured earlier this year on Classical Wisdom.
The American political system in its founding joined citizenship to race and by extension to slavery: to be a citizen, and thus to have power, to have a role or say in what the community does, was to be white, and to be white was to be one who could not be enslaved. A similar structure is put to work in Athens when Solon defines citizenship in terms of being born to citizen parents, rather than by having a certain amount of wealth, thereby including the demos in citizenship at the expense of a clearer division between Greeks—who could not be enslaved, and barbarians, who could. When Aristotle then proceeds to defend not only political community, but the life of engagement in politics, he confronts the Athenian concern that rule is always about mastering others. Aristotle has to show how political rule is not master rule and he does so by showing how political rule includes the ruled in the rule and how it rules for the benefit of the ruled. From the Athenian view of slavery as being excluded from the rule and from Aristotle’s account of political rule as involving the ruled in the rule, slavery seems to be exclusion from the rule.
Aristotle presents three regimes that could be taken to be his recommendations for rule: the mixed regime that includes the poor and the wealthy, the middle regime that tries to make the poor and the wealthy more middle class, and the so-called “city in prayer”. Each of these regimes in one way or another is susceptible to excluding some and, by excluding, making those people slaves to the regime. This presentation will consider the ways that such exclusion is not entirely cordoned off by Aristotle, even though he aims to defend political life as distinct from mastery. What follows is that Aristotle’s accounts of these regimes puts this possible exclusion—the threat or specter of slavery—on display in order to build into political life the concern that the rulers actively work to avoid excluding some from the rule. If political life is not to become master rule, it must be actively work to avoid excluding those in the city from having a say in the regime.
Adriel M. Trott is the Chair and Associate Professor in Philosophy, at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana and author of Aristotle on the Matter of Form and Aristotle on the Nature of Community.
Throughout ancient Greece, women came from far and wide to gather in their cities to celebrate the Thesmophoria, the oldest and most widespread of all Greek religious festivals. Scholars believe that its expansive nature was testament to its primeval origins. Primarily a fertility cult, the Thesmophoria ushered in the sowing season and was one of a series of fertility cults devoted to human as well as crop fertility.
The festival honored Demeter, goddess of the harvest and her daughter Persephone, queen of the underworld. Although they held the festival in high esteem, men were expressly forbidden--sometimes to the point of death--from attending any portion of the three to ten day long event. This presentation explores why a women’s fertility festival in hyper-patriarchal ancient Greece was given such high prominence in the greater society.
Mary Naples, MA, is the On-going Contributing writer at Classical Wisdom and owner of the website: www.femminaclassica.com
A.A. Long is the Chancellor's Professor Emeritus of Classics and Irving Stone Professor of Literature Emeritus, and Affiliated Professor of Philosophy and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Long is often credited with spearheading the revived interest in Stoicism as well as other ancient philosophies and has written several books on the topic, including How to be Free: An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life.
Why are humans almost never satisfied with what they have? Even after major successes, why do we continue to find new avenues of desire? Plato wrote many works that explore aspects of our desire for more, always more, the kind of wanting that was known as “pleonexia” in ancient Greek. In his most famous work, the Republic, Plato explores the relationship of our infinite desires to what justice is in both the individual and the political world.
For Plato, pleonexia can act as a springboard to greater things, but it can also run wild if focused on trivialities. Socrates calls out Plato’s elder brother, Glaucon, for his rejection of a simple life, but also seeks to show him how to transform his desire for power over other people into a desire for rational self-control. Offering a sharp critique of pleonexia’s role in tyranny and in the pursuit of endlessly more money, Socrates ends by inviting us to transform our pleonexia into a pursuit for the highest possible version of what we want: the Good Itself.
Mary Townsend is the Assistant Professor at St. John's University, Department of Philosophy and author of The Woman Question in Plato's Republic.
Date & Time
Oct 24, 2020 10:00 AM - Oct 25, 2020 7:00 PM
Classical Wisdom Limited
Most people today don’t realize it. They don’t understand that we are perched on the shoulders of giants. Shoulders that have shaped our culture, our myths, and our literature. Shoulders that are the very foundations of western civilization. They look at their iPads and forget that the view from where we stand is because of all those who came before us. And while the vista from our elevated position is wonderful, we need to take a moment to appreciate and learn where we came from.
Furthermore, these original thoughts and ideas that have survived the centuries are no less profound than when they were first written. The giants sought the answers to the most important questions asked. Questions that are still asked. They just wrote on stone tablets, instead of electronic ones. And while technology and scientific knowledge march on, the truths in these original works still prove relevant.
The process of thinking, for instance, has proved critical. A way to look at and investigate the world. From the Socratic method to Euclid’s propositions, the Ancient Greeks and Romans installed logic, a tool to understanding. At the same time, the Epic poets and competing dramatists gave us exquisite, powerful and tragic stories. Compelling legends that still inspire artists, writers and intellectuals. Then the meticulous historians put our contemporary times in perspective. They illustrated the cyclical nature of society, the revolutions, elections and corruptions. They remind us that, in fact, we haven’t changed much at all.
Founded in 2010 by Anya Leonard and Bill Bonner, Classical Wisdom was initially presented by Les Belles Lettres English, a partner of Les Belles Lettres, a prestigious French publishing house located in Paris. Les Belles Lettres has been around for almost a 100 years and is still dedicated to accurately translating the ancient works.
Here at Classical Wisdom, we love the classics and we hope to encourage that enthusiasm for the ancient books in others. We strive to take these beautiful ideas outside of the classroom, beyond academia and straight to people’s homes. Our goal and motto is to bring ancient wisdom to modern minds.