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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History


Dr Myrthe L. Bartels

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COFUND Junior Research Fellow in the Department of Classics and Ancient History

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Myrthe Bartels studied Classics at Leiden University, the Netherlands, and received her PhD from the same university in 2014. Subsequently, she was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Visiting Scholar at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh (2014-2015), Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Erfurt (2015-2017) and International Fellow at the New Europe College (IAS) in Bucharest (2017-2018). She also received two research scholarships from the Fondation Hardt pour l'étude de l'antiquité classique in Vandoeuvres (2014, 2018).


Myrthe Bartels' research centres on Plato and the later Platonic tradition until the early modern period, with a special focus on ethics, politics and music, and their assumed mutual implication. Her monograph Plato's Pragmatic Project. A Reading of Plato's Laws (Steiner Verlag, 2017), which is based on her Leiden dissertation, appeared in the series Hermes Einzelschriften. It offers a reading of Plato's Laws that accords the structure of the work central importance for understanding the philosophical implication of its legislative project.

Her research project in Durham investigates the idea that music and its elements represent moral human character types, and the reception of this idea in the musical writings of Renaissance and Baroque antiquarians, humanists and musicologists. It analyses how the characterizations of music which we find in Plato and Aristotle (and the later ancient musicological tradition going back to them) are structured by underlying moral assumptions, and how these moral assumptions influence their conception of what music ultimately is. The social, historical and musical context of the Renaissance and Baroque (when the ancient Greek texts were being rediscovered) being vastly different, the aim is to explore how the early modern authors engage with the moral dimension of music present in the ancient texts, to what extent their own reflections on music exemplify a concern with norms and morality, and how this in turn influences their view of their own contemporary music.

Research Interests

  • Ancient ethics and political philosophy
  • Ancient Greek law
  • Ancient Greek music
  • Ancient Greek philosophy
  • Aristotle
  • Classical reception in the Renaissance and Baroque
  • Greek literature
  • Plato


Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Bartels, M.L. (2012). ‘Senex Mensura. An Objective Aesthetics of Seniors in Plato’s Laws’. In Aesthetic Value in Classical Antiquity, eds. R.M. Rosen and I. Sluiter. Brill. 133-158.

Journal Article

Book review

Newspaper/Magazine Article