Events program

Like Frogs around a Pond: Maritime religion in ancient Greek culture

A lecture by Dr Amelia Brown (University of Queensland)


6:30pm - Wednesday March 22, 2017
CCANESA Boardroom
Madsen Building, level 4, room 480
The University of Sydney


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The ancient Greeks were never politically unified before the rise of Rome, yet they succeeded in developing and maintaining a common culture all around the Mediterranean coasts ‘like frogs around a pond’ (Plato Phaedo 109b). Modern scholars struggle to explain how the ancient Greeks could have shared such strong bonds of religion, language and identity, despite a homeland of separate city-states, and large-scale migration and intermarriage with other ancient peoples around the Mediterranean sea. This lecture looks to the everyday practices of archaic and classical Greek maritime religion for an answer, focusing on the widespread cults of seafaring saviour gods and the rituals practiced at harbors and aboard ships for safe arrival ashore. I argue that the religious system of sailors and travellers helped the ancient Greeks develop and maintain their common culture all around the Mediterranean sea. Cults of seafaring gods like Aphrodite, Apollo, Hera, Poseidon and the Dioscuri were carried from port to port around ancient Greece, to the Greek colonies, and into foreign cities, yet this maritime religion and carriage of cults ‘on the winedark sea’ is not well understood today. The sources are very widely scattered, from ancient testimonia for seafaring rituals of embarkation, accurate navigation and safe arrival on shore, to the archaeological remains of shipwrecks, harbourside sanctuaries and votive offerings. Bringing this evidence back together, however, reveals a durable yet flexible network of travelling rituals and beliefs which bound the ancient Greeks together in unexpected and close-knit ways, even across great distances and without political bonds.

Dr Amelia Brown is Senior Lecturer in Greek History and Language in the Classics and Ancient History discipline of the School of Historical & Philosophical Inquiry, at the University of Queensland, Australia. She currently holds a Discovery Early Career Research Award from the ARC to research the impact of sailors and travellers on the development of ancient Greek religion and identity. Before coming to UQ in 2010, she was Hannah Seeger Davis Fellow in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University. In 2008 she received her PhD in Ancient History & Mediterranean Archaeology from the University of California at Berkeley, with a dissertation on the history of Corinth in Late Antiquity. Her current research focuses on Late Antiquity, Greek religion and Mediterranean maritime history, particularly in Roman Corinth, Thessalonike and Malta. She has excavated at Halasarna (Kos), Polis (Cyprus), Ancient Messene and Corinth, and is currently completing books on Corinthian history and Mediterranean Maritime Religion.

The lecture will be followed by light refreshments.

This is a free event. For catering purposes, we ask you to register.


For bookings please click here here or contact us on: arts.aaia@sydney.edu.au / (02) 9351 4759

Directions can be found here and parking details here .



Professor James C. Wright - The 2017 AAIA Visiting Professor

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The Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens is pleased to announce that the 2017 AAIA Visiting Professor will be Professor James C. Wright. Professor Wright will be visiting Australia from August 14 - September 22.

James C. Wright is the Director, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece as well as holding the William R. Kenan Jr. Chair at the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College Pennsylvania U.S.A. He holds his degrees from Bryn Mawr (Ph.D. and M.A.) and Haverford College (B.A.). His research interests are the pre- and proto-historic Aegean, Greek architecture and urbanism, land use and settlement, archaeological method and theory, and cultural geography; Professor Wright has conducted archaeological research in Greece since 1973, at the American School’s excavations at Ancient Corinth, the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea, Kommos on Crete, and since 1981 has been involved in several projects in the Nemea region. He is currently the Director of the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project.

Information on tour dates and seminar topics will be posted in the near future.