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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Evidence on Trial Public Lecture - The Evidence of Beauty: classical Greek history in and beyond text

14th December 2015, 18:15 to 19:15, Kingsley Barrett Room, Calman Learning Centre, Lower Mountjoy, Durham University, Professor Robin Osborne, FBA (University of Cambridge)

It is a commonplace that the conclusions that we come to are determined by what we count as evidence. This lecture explores the way in which that is true not only with regard to what particular items of evidence we exploit, but what kinds of evidence we use. Taking the world of classical Greece as his example, Robin Osborne shows how the different sorts of evidence that scholars have considered, and the different questions that they have asked of them, have led to the writing of histories that are no joined up and are in various ways in conflict. The partiality of our histories not only reduces the people of the past at best to two-dimensional figures, it impoverishes the very analytical skills that studying the history of periods in which we have less emotional engagement should properly encourage. This lecture is a clarion call for historians to get out of the archive and the library, into the art gallery and the museum, taking their textual questions with them, and for archaeologists and art historians to get out of the museum and art gallery and into the library and the archive, taking their material questions with them.

Robin Osborne is Professor of Ancient History in the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of King's College Cambridge and of the British Academy. After an undergraduate and graduate education and a research fellowship in Cambridge Robin Osborne taught for 15 years in Oxford before returning to the Chair of Ancient History in Cambridge in 2001. His published work ranges across Greek history and classical archaeology and he has edited and co-edited a number of seminal collections including Art and Text in Ancient Greek Culture, Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy, Rethinking Revolutions in Classical Greece (all edited with Simon Goldhill) and Art's Agency (ed. with Jeremy Tanner). With Professor P.J. Rhodes he is responsible for two volumes of Greek Historical Inscriptions (2003 and forthcoming). His most recent monograph is The History Written on the Classical Greek Body (Cambridge 2011), some of the issues raised in which he will be revisiting in this lecture.

This lecture is free and open to all.


Map – The Calman Learning Centre is denoted at building number: 43.

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