The registration for the hybrid conference Living Streams: New Perspectives on Ancient Rivers (Swedish Institute at Athens. 13th-14th of September 2022) is now open. The organizers envisage it as a dialogue among scholars from different backgrounds (archaeologists, classicists, historians) on the physical and cultural aspects of ancient rivers in the ancient Mediterranean and beyond. The conference is generously funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
If you would like to attend in person, please write directly to the organisers: Dr Krešimir Vuković ([email protected] and Dr Giacomo Savani ([email protected])

Living Streams: New Perspectives on Ancient Rivers

Rivers were central in the rise and development of ancient societies. Famously, rivers like the Indus, the Tiber, and the Nile defined borders, identities, and whole cultures. However, there are countless ancient rivers that we usually overlook from a modernist perspective.  For example, many Greek thinkers envisaged the world as encircled by an endless river, the Ocean. Also, the construction of aqueducts in Roman towns can be seen as an attempt to blur the boundaries between human-made and natural waterscapes. This conference aims to study the variety of ancient rivers and their fluvial environments from several different perspectives, reflecting the complexity of fluvial phenomena.

Modern researchers apply different approaches to the study of ancient rivers. For example, archaeologists and geologists use scientific methods to analyze the physical aspects of ancient remains, monuments, and landscapes. Literary scholars tend to approach riverine landscapes using a more conceptual approach. The recent paradigm of ecocriticism, alongside advances in digital humanities, has begun to open new avenues for understanding human to non-human relationships in ancient texts. Finally, environmental historians use various scientific methods to reconstruct the properties of water and the ancient climate.

This conference explores ancient rivers’ physical and mythological character and representations of river fluidity. By reconstructing tales of rivers, gods, animals and plants connected to them, we seek new approaches to these fluid environments, living beings in their own right.

The speakers will focus on how river ecologies changed over time and how they were perceived and transformed into narratives. The aim is to bring together archaeological perspectives on the material relations at the heart of these socio-ecological systems alongside literary investigations on the narrative patterns associated with them (as they
relate to structures and motifs, as well as aspects of gender).

Provisional programme:

Day 1, 13th September 2022

09.00–09.05 (Eastern European Summer Time) Welcome and opening remarks

09.05–09.40 Krešimir Vuković (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
and Giacomo Savani (University of St Andrews): The Living Streams: River
myths in the Anthropocene

09.40–11.15 Session 1: The Tiber

09.40–10.20 Andrea Brock (University of St Andrews): Early Rome: A view
from the river

10.20–11.00 Duncan C. Keenan-Jones (University of Queensland): Tiber
flooding and rainfall: Comparisons with other central Italian rainfall

11.00–11.15 Discussion

11.15–11.30 Break

11.30–12.50 Session 2: Rivers and Northern Frontiers

11.30–12.10 Tyler Franconi (Brown University): Environmental change and
Roman military policy on European riverine frontiers

12.10–12.50 Csaba Szabó (University of Szeged): The Danube and the Roman
Empire: Ecology, history and religion of a river

12.50–1400 Lunch

14.00–16.30 Session 3: Rivers on the Margins

14.00–14.40 Henry Clarke (University of Leeds): Landscape relationships
in the Durius River Valley: Reconstructing ancient lived experiences
using rivers as conceptual units of study

14.40–15.20 Katherine A. Crawford (The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia):
Modelling the correlation between rivers and settlement persistence on

15.20–16.00 Emma Aston (University of Reading): Rivers as boundaries in
ancient Thessaly

16.00–16.30 Discussion

19.00 Conference Dinner (restaurant tbc)

Day 2, 14th September 2022

09.00–12.10 Session 4: Engaging with Rivers

09.00–09.40 Jasmin Hettinger (RomanIslam Hamburg/University of Leipzig):
From horn to cornucopia: Ancient narratives on the taming of wild rivers

09.40–10.20 Judith Bunbury (University of Cambridge): Ancient management
of the Nile in Egypt

10.20–10.35 Break

10.35–11.15 Amanda Kelly (University College Dublin): The river rise –
The ancient Kairetos in Crete

11.15–11.55 Marguerite Ronin (CNRS): Rivers as dynamic crossroads of
opportunities and risks

11.55–12.10 Discussion

12.10–13.10 Lunch

13.10–14.45 Session 5: Rivers in Ancient and Modern India

13.10–13.50 Andreas Ammann (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich):
Fighting (on) rivers – Hydaspes, Hyphasis and Indus in Curtius Rufus’
‘Historiae Alexandri Magni’

13.50–14.30 Milinda Banerjee (University of St Andrews): Being or
object? Competing river ontologies in India

14.30–14.45 Discussion

14.45–15.00 Break

15.00–16.50 Session 6: Rivers and Aquatic Entities

15.00–15.40 Jay Ingate (Canterbury Christ Church University): ‘Spooky
action at a distance’ or gods in the plumbing? Exploring the contrast
between modern and Roman water infrastructure

15.40–16.20  Betsey A. Robinson (Vanderbilt University): Impossible gods
and troublesome nymphs

16.20–16.50 Discussion

16.50–17.00 Closing Remarks

The organizers:
Dr Krešimir Vuković (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Dr Giacomo Savani (University of St Andrews)