Past Event

John Ma on The Late Hellenistic Polis and Rome

January 18, 2018
7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Columbia University Faculty House


If you would like to join us for the dinner with the speaker before the lecture (beginning at 6:15pm in Faculty House), please email our rapporteur, Jeremy Simmons (, by 4:00pm, Monday, January 15th. As in previous years, dinner is payable only by check to "Columbia University" (the cost is $30).

The evening will begin with drinks at 5:45 PM at the first floor lounge of Faculty House, followed by dinner at 6:15 PM. Prof. Ma’s lecture will begin promptly at 7:30 PM.

The polis at the crossroads? The late Hellenistic period (say 150-31 BCE) saw both the intensification of polis life, along lines that emerged during the Hellenistic period, and the encounter of the poleis with a hegemonical ruling power, the Roman Republic.  The two simultaneous developments are richly documented, especially in the epigraphical record for the period (for instance, the long decrees from Priene, recently reedited by W. Blümel [2014], or the pair of well-known and complementary decrees for citizen politicians of Kolophon, honoured with statue monuments in the shrine at Klaros). This material allows for the exploration of crucial, interrelated developments: democratic culture, elite behaviour, and interaction with Rome. These matter for three reasons. Firstly, because they form a chapter—gripping because of dynamic, unstable developments— in the long history of the Greek-city state as a history of institutional practice and of political ideas; secondly, because Roman reaction to these developments locked in features that would determine the shape of the Roman empire; thirdly, because Roman political thought, at a seminal moment of its elaboration, may have responded to debates and conversations going on in late Hellenistic contexts. This paper proposes rapid syntheses, soundings, and explorations of these issues.