CFP: Pathos and Polis

Pathos and Polis: The Pragmatics of Emotion
in Ancient Greece

International Conference for Classicists and Archaeologists
11.-14. October 2017, Topoi-Haus, Freie Universität Berlin

[…] it is not only necessary to consider how to make the speech itself demonstrative and convincing, but also that the speaker should show himself to be of a certain character and should know how to put the judge into a certain frame of mind. For it makes a great difference with regard to producing conviction […] that the hearers should be disposed in a certain way towards him.
Arist. Rhet.  2,1,2-3

In his Rhetoric, Aristotle identifies pathos alongside ethos and logos as one of the three rhetorical appeals. Yet, skillful play with affects and moods is by no means limited to the realm of orators and politicians, but can be found in various areas of communication and interaction throughout Greek antiquity: be they political propaganda or sentimental epitaphs, expressive drapery or gestures of pathos, solemn sympathy or passionate excess in the context of rituals. In all of these instances, emotion can serve as an element of cohesion within a group (e.g. the polis) or as a means of excluding outsiders. As such, they can be understood to be crucial instruments in the construction of collective identity.

The conference “Pathos and Polis” focuses on modes in which pathos formulas and other affect-stimulating elements were used in ancient Greek media and practices in order to inflect communication (i.e. win over an audience and/or gain their attention). Using an interdisciplinary approach, it seeks to highlight how different aesthetic, rhetorical, and performative means helped to generate particular emotions or moods and thereby enhanced the desired effect of the respective communicative act.

The organizers welcome 30-minute papers from all relevant disciplines (Ancient History, Classics, Classical Archaeology, Philosophy, Linguistics, and Media Studies) that deal with the use of emotions and affective elements in all types of communication and interaction in the ancient Greek world. Potential subject areas include but are not limited to:

•    concepts and discourses on the use of pathos
•    affect-enhancing strategies in written sources
•    affect-enhancing strategies in visual media
•    the iconography of emotional communication
•    the exploitation of emotions in politics
•    collective emotions as factors in the formation of identities
•    socio-political consequences of affective behaviours

Please submit your proposal of no more than 300 words (English or German) along with a short CV (max. 1 page) to the organizers by January 8, 2017. We hope to be able to provide travel and accommodation allowance.

Vibeke Goldbeck (
Sven Page (
Viktoria Räuchle (