This workshop aims to create a new approach to the origins of the earliest Greek scientific thought in light of the material and archaeological contexts of archaic Ionia.

Dates of workshop: 22nd to 23rd March 2018
University of Cambridge

Call for papers

The land of Ionia became the cultural, economic and intellectual powerhouse of the Greek world between the 8th and 6th centuries BC. During this era of intense pan-Mediterranean trade and interaction, Ionian cities began monumentalising their settlements and sanctuaries, they set up colonies around the Black and Mediterranean Seas, and ultimately they became embroiled in wars and revolts against the major terrestrial force of the era, the Persian empire. In addition, these cities were intellectual incubators, and many of the earliest identifiable philosopher-scientists (especially Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, later Pythagoras, Heraclites, Xenophanes, Melissus, Anaxagoras) were active in or originated from this region, or from its colonies. How, then, can we explain this florescence of intellectual production, known more generally as the ‘Ionian Enlightenment’? To what extent were these ideas generated by international connections, or by the specific social contexts of Ionia? In what ways did the material and natural environment of archaic Ionia play catalyst for philosophy? Can the same dynamics or concerns – those experienced by philosophers, tyrants and humble city-dwellers alike – be documented in the material imprint left by the contemporary society? Modern archaeological research now offers the opportunity for a richer insight into Ionia’s industrial and knowledge economy, but so far the archaeology of the region has been studied according to isolated material categories (ceramics, metals, terracottas, sculpture etc.). Similarly, textual studies of early Greek science and philosophy have, for the most part, ignored any potential insights from primary archaeological data. A surprising and hidden lacuna thus lies between apparently allied disciplines, a void which nonetheless offers opportunity for radical new methodologies which treat these distinct research traditions.

This workshop aims to create a new approach to the origins of the earliest Greek scientific thought in light of the material and archaeological contexts of archaic Ionia. Through participation in cross-disciplinary dialogue, we shall consider how it is possible to identify correlation between the natural and spatial characteristics of archaeological evidence and ancient textual discourse. Our objective, therefore, is to explore the ‘ideascapes’ and ‘material worlds’ which inhabited the archaic plain, and to uncover the relationship between these two concepts, which fundamentally drove the ‘Ionian Enlightenment’ in synergy.

The organisers invite abstracts for papers at this workshop from a range of disciplines, including but not limited to: Ancient History, Ancient Literature, Ancient Philosophy, Anthropology, Bioanthropology, Classics, Classical Archaeology, History of Architecture (Bauforschung), History of Art, Landscape Archaeology, and Numismatics.

Abstracts of no more than 400 words should be sent by e-mail to the organisers by Friday 29th September 2017, and notifications of acceptance will be announced at the start of October 2017. Continue reading “Call for papers”


All sessions to be held in G.21, Faculty of Classics, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge

Thursday 22nd March

2:00pm Registration and coffee

2:45pm Introduction and welcome

SESSION 1 – Chair: Anja Slawisch

3:00pm History and prehistory of the collective political organisation of Ionia
Olivier Mariaud

3:40pm Cultural Preconditions of Ionian Self-Enlightment
Katarina Nebelin

4:20pm Political philosophers, not political-philosophers. The early Milesian Philosophers: An archaeology of reception
John Brendan Knight

5:00pm Drinks reception – all welcome
Museum of Classical Archaeology

Friday 23rd March

SESSION 2 – Chair: Martin Millett

9:00am Geoarchaeology Meets Philosophy in Miletos: The Possible Impact of Nature and Environment on Thales and Anaximander
Alexander Herda and Helmut Brückner

9:40am Polykmetos kai polytimos: metallurgical knowledge in archaic Ionia
Marek Verčík

10:20am Coffee

SESSION 3 – Chair: Gunnar Seelengtag

10:40am Alignments of Greek temples and the full moon: an astronomical perspective on the openings in the gable of the Artemision in Magnesia
Sara Wanek

11:20am From Croesus to Cyrus: Ionian social and cultural environment in the mid-sixth century
R. Gül Gürtekin Demir and Özlem Şimşek Özer

12:00pm General discussion

12:30pm Lunch

SESSION 4 – Chair: Alan Greaves

1:30pm Cults and religion in northern Ionia from Homer and Hesiod to Xenophanes of Colophon: An archaeological and textual reconstruction
Ergün Lafli

2:10pm Reckoning with the gods: changing patterns of votive deposition in Ionian sanctuaries (7th/6th – 5th/4th c. BCE)
Anja Slawisch and Michael Loy

2:50pm Coffee

SESSION 5 – Chair: Robin Osborne

3:10pm Being human – or slightly beyond?
Vera Sichelschmidt

3:50pm Motion as principle
Robert Müller

4:30pm Final discussion

5:00pm Close

7:00pm Dinner for workshop speakers and chairs
Churchill College


Contact us with queries at

Workshop organisers: Anja Slawisch and Michael Loy.