School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Corporal obscenity in Antiquity conference

Event description

The Classical body split open: corporal obscenity in Antiquity

‘The Classical body split open: corporal obscenity in Antiquity’ aims to examine corporal obscenity in Antiquity across literature, history, anthropology, philosophy, art and archaeology, epigraphy and ancient medicine.

The event will explore and attempt to answer the following questions:

  • What happens when the classical body breaks open? 
  • What are its connections with popular culture, symbolism and collective rituals? 
  • How does ancient obscenity interact with the ethics, aesthetics, common sense and legislation in its own historical context? 
  • How are bodies which do not conform to the classical ideal marginalised?

Obscenity in the Greek and Latin world

Alongside the well-known and reassuring image of the classical body as represented by its neoclassical reinterpretation, there stands a well-established classical tradition that portrays that very same body as distorted, disembowelled, obscene.

Shoulder to shoulder with dios Odysseus comes deformed Thersites; alongside the sublimity of choral lyric are the bodily fluids of the Iambos; the same years that produce the Athenian ideology of kalokagathia also witness the obscenity of the comic genre.

Obscenity looms large in the Latin world as well: not just in literary texts, but in inscriptions and artistic representations. Silver Latin literature famously turns the golden lines of the Aeneid into brutal civil war and sees Trimalchio concocting a stew out of Pentheus.

Key speakers

We welcome our keynote speakers from across the United Kingdom.

  • Dr Amy Coker (University of Manchester)
  • Dr Mark Bradley (University of Nottingham)
  • Dr Ian Ruffell (University of Glasgow)

Conference programme

The full conference programme is now available to download.

Fees and funding

The conference is free to attend but all delegates must register in advance.

Student bursaries

Thanks to the generosity of the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities and the Classical Association, we are able to offer several postgraduate student bursaries for the conference to assist with travel and accommodation.

In order to be considered for bursary, send an email to the Conference Organiser at the address below. Please state your contact details (name, affiliation, title/topic of your doctoral thesis) and how the conference will be helpful to your research.

The deadline to apply for the bursary is Tuesday 20 October.

Register online

Please register to attend via Eventbrite.

The deadline for registration is Wednesday 21 October.

Register online via Eventbrite

Conference dinner

The conference dinner will be held at nearby restaurant Spoon from 7pm. Please register online in advance if you wish to join us.

Register for the conference dinner

Further information

Please contact the Conference Organiser if you have any questions.

Sebastiano Bertolini

Conference Organiser

  • School of History, Classics and Archaeology
  • University of Edinburgh

Contact details


The conference rises from the collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews.


Corporal obscenity in Antiquity conference

Corporal obscenity in Antiquity will be assessed at this student-led conference from 23-24 October 2015.

Meadows Lecture Theatre and Teviot Lecture Theatre
School of History, Classics and Archaeology
William Robertson Wing, Old Medical School
Teviot Place