27280 - Seminars (1) (G.C)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The seminar is meant to be strictly related to the objectives of the degree course. The student will acquire specific skills and notions to address pivotal and methodological issues in cultural anthropology.

Course contents

The seminar aims to train in the analysis, commentary and contextualization of texts from multicultural backgrounds such as Egypt, Arabia and Mesopotamia in the Graeco-Roman period, and to help students in addressing methodologically relevant issues in anthropology and religious history, including the appreciation of gender roles. At the end of the course students will be able to understand the potential and limits of papyri and akin documents for analysing intercultural relations. Students will also be acquainted with tools and digital infrastructures for research on ancient documents.

The seminar (30 hours) is divided into two macro-sections.

I. Two modules (3 weeks, 18 hours) by the teacher. Each module, dedicated to a specific topic, includes an annotated reading (in translation) of a specific group of texts on papyrus, ostrakon or tablet from the Hellenistic and Roman Eastern Mediterranean, or transmitted by manuscript tradition, particularly important in the field of anthropology and the history of the religions of the ancient Near East in the Graeco-roman period.

I.1. The gods of Rome, the gods of Persia (9 hours). Roman religion in the fringes of the Empire. What Rome prescribes to the soldiers to worship, and what the soldiers really worship, in a remote outpost on the Euphrates. A reading of the Feriale Duranum

I.2. Ptolemy's dreams (9 hours). The recluse in the temple of Serapis in Memphi, his (also erotic) dreams, his legal problems, the books he read, and the relationship with the twins he cared for. A glimpse of daily (sacred) life in Ptolemaic Egypt.


II. One module (2 weeks, 12 hours) of group presentations by the students, coordinated by the teacher. The students will choose themes for the presentations among those listed below; otherwise, pending the teacher’s approval, they will propose others, preferably linked with the previously discussed subjects.

II.1. Narratives of healing dreams. The most famous neurotic in antiquity, Aelius Aristides, and the dreams sent by the god Asclepius to Pergamum to help him heal his imaginary illness.

II.2. Women who write, women who act. The lives and agency of Egyptian women, Greek women, and Roman female citizens in Egypt through the letters written by them or about them: family management, business management, power relations and legal status.

II.3. Magic in daily life. Filters of love, curses, magical objects and voodoo in Greek and Roman Egypt.


Mandatory readings for attending and non-attending students


1. General introduction

  • A. Bowman, L’Egitto dopo i Faraoni, Firenze, Giunti 1997, capitoli 1, 2, 5, 6. [Biblioteca DISCI: Storia antica: ESAMI CONS 0135 o ESAMI PRES 0037; BDU ESAMI OO00 10416]


2. Readings on individual sections [available in teaching materials]:

  • I.1 – P. Xella, Religione e religioni in Siria-Palestina, Roma, Carocci 2007, pp. 69-94
  • I.2 – E. Bresciani, La porta dei sogni. Interpreti e sognatori nell'Egitto antico, Torino 2005, pp. 93-162
  • II.1 – F. Maltomini, I papiri e la magia antica, «Atene e Roma» 2008, pp. 221-237
  • II.2 – L. Migliardi Zingale, Storie di donne nel II sec. d.C., «Atti Accademia Ligure di Scienze e Lettere», s. VI (2002) 5, pp. 441-455


Excepting Bowman's chapters, the abovementioned material will be found in Virtuale and in the IOL platform, together with several papers discussed during the course and further material to set up the presentations.

Non attending students will add one volume or three articles among those indicated and uploaded in the platform Virtuale. In order to guarantee the achievement of the objectives of the seminar, it is advisable to agree in advance on the choice with the teacher.

Teaching methods

The course is divided into two phases:

(a) Presentation, by the teacher, of a series of significant texts, with relevant bibliography (3 weeks, 18 hours);

(b) In the last part of the course (2 weeks, 12 hours), presentation (in the form of a paper or presentation) by the students (in working groups) of other texts according to the seminar topics, to be agreed with the teacher together with the working bibliography.

Pending the number of students willing to make a presentation over a chosen topic, the final distribution of hours may vary. The teacher, if necessary, will offer further teaching modules on the themes discussed above, either by himself or entrusted to invited external speakers.

Assessment methods

The assessment will be on a pass/not pass basis and will be based on regular participation in the classes (all parts) and participation to a working group, with presentation of a paper and discussion in the classroom. For those who will be unable to participate in the classes there will be a recording, available on line. The presentation will take into account, and explicitly refer to, the mandatory readings (see above, items 1. and 2.), if and when relevant with the topic of the presentation itself.

As an alternative to the work for the presentations, for those who will not be able to present their work in class (or for those who do not attend) it will be possible to complete the foreseen workload by taking an oral interview that will focus on the texts in bibliography (see 'Readings' 1. and 2.) and a choice of readings (3 articles or one volume) among those indicated in the teaching materials as supplementary readings, to be agreed upon with the teacher.

The assessment will therefore be based on:

- the ability to comment on the texts, i.e. the ability to identify, date and contextualise the documents;

- mastery of content;

- the ability to synthesise and analyse issues and problems;

- the ability to express oneself adequately and in the language appropriate to the subject matter.

The student's ability to discuss the documents and to express an organic vision of the themes dealt with in the class with a good command of expression and specific language will allow him/her to achieve the credits.

Gaps in exposure, inappropriate language, lack of orientation within the bibliographic materials offered during the course will be evaluated negatively and will not allow the achievement of the credits.

Teaching tools

The lessons will be held with Powerpoint presentations. All texts presented and discussed in classwill be available in IOL.

Office hours

See the website of Giulio Iovine