The Body of the Combatant in the Classical World

A one-day colloquium at the University of Bristol, 10th July 2018
Supported by The Institute for Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition, University of Bristol.

This one-day interdisciplinary colloquium invites participants to explore the depiction of the human body as a weapon in Greco-Roman texts. Discussion will focus on the representation of the body of the combatant – the warrior as professional soldier, hero, opponent – in literature and art, as well as in the sphere of reception from antiquity to modernity.

The socio-political centrality of warfare in ancient cultures (particularly Sparta, and the Roman Republic) made the act of wounding and being wounded fundamental skills for the human (male) body. Young boys were educated not simply to be men, but instruments of hostility; Roman politicians (in)famously displayed their battle scars in the Senate. This colloquium encourages participants to look beyond the politics and strategy in ancient texts which concern warfare, and to adopt a somatic focus on the individual experiences of battle.

Across historiography, poetry, tactical and religious texts, and artworks, similar questions arise concerning the perception and function of the soldierly corpus:

What happens to the body during/after assault?
How much autonomy is it granted, and to which body parts?
To what extent is it rendered (in)vulnerable?
How are these bodies conceived of by the soldier himself and non-combat personnel?
What can language choices, imagery and context tell us about the Greco-Roman world’s most effective technology?
To what extent does the corporeal experience of war undercut cultural, historical and scientific differences?

The Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol
10th July 2018, 10:00 – 17:00
The colloquium will be free to attend, but places must be reserved. Email Dr Hannah-Marie Chidwick, hc6198 [at], for more information.

Introduction & Panel 1: 10:00 – 11:30
Wounds, Wounding and the Warfare Environment
Chair: Juliette Harrisson (Newman)
• Elaine Sanderson (Liverpool): “Emboldening the Body: Constructive Wounding in Lucan’s Bellum Civile”
• Rodrigo Gomez (Coimbra), “Some remarks on the evolution of medical knowledge in the military treatises of Late Antiquity (4th-7th centuries)”
• Marian Makins (Temple): “Pain, Pollution and Power: The Somatic Experience of the Dead in Roman Civil War Poetry”
Coffee break: 11:30 – 11:45
Interlude: 11:45 – 12:10
What Makes a Military Body?
• Helen Snell (Independent artist): “Fighting Fit”
Panel 2: 12:10 – 13:00
Men at Arms: Military Masculinities
Chair: Hannah-Marie Chidwick (Bristol)
• Sara Tirrito (Nantes/Turin): “The Handsome Combatant is the Unarmed one: the Body of the Combatant as a Weapon in Dio Chrysostom”
• Ben Angell (Oxford): “Fetishising the Roman Soldier: White Nationalism and the Roman Army Veterans: the perception of the post-combat body”
Lunch break: 13:00 – 14:00 (lunch not provided)
Panel 3: 14:00 – 15:15
Arms and Armour: Body Technologies
Chair: TBC
• Elizabeth Mitchell (Harvard): “The Body in Adamantine Pieces: Cupids Holding Armour on Roman Sarcophagi”
• Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones (Cardiff): “Persian Horseback Warriors: Dress and the Portable Environment”
• Effimia Stavropoulou (Warwick): “Eteocles’ Armour and the Erinys in Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes”
Coffee break: 15:15 – 15:30
Panel 4: 15:30 – 16:45
Scars, Strength and Status
Chair: TBC
• Korneel Van Lommel (Antwerp): “Stoicism and War Wounds”
• Jane Draycott (Glasgow): “Reconstructing and Repairing the Body of the Combatant: The Commission, Design and Manufacture of Assistive Technology for Wounded Soldiers and Veterans”
Close: 16:45 – 17:00