Speaker: Jason König (University of St. Andrews)

This paper opens with some reflections on the challenges and opportunities involved in bringing ancient responses to mountains into dialogue with their modern equivalents. It then looks more specifically at the ways in which the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean envisaged the connections between mountains and identity, with reference among other things to ancient Greek and Roman notions of environmental determinism and their impact on the depiction of mountain communities, and ancient notions of civic and regional identity. I focus especially on a series of texts that represent underappreciated sources for the history of mountains, including the Euboean Oration of the Greek orator Dio Chrysostom, with its account of mountain-dwellers in conflict with the city, and the Res Gestae of the late antique historian Ammianus Marcellinus, with his sensationalistic manipulation of ancient traditions of mountain ethnography. I use those sources both to argue for continuities between ancient and modern and also to draw out some of the things that made ancient engagements with mountain geography distinctive and in some cases quite alien from their modern equivalents.
Jason Konig is Professor of Greek in the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews. He has published widely on the Greek literature and cultural history of the Roman empire. He has been working recently on a Leverhulme-funded project (2017-2023) entitled ‘Mountains in ancient literature and culture and their postclassical reception’. Publications include a volume jointly edited with Dawn Hollis entitled Mountain Dialogues from Antiquity to Modernity (Bloomsbury, 2021), and a book forthcoming with Princeton University Press in spring 2022 entitled The Folds of Olympus: Mountains in Ancient Greek and Roman Culture.

IHR Seminar SeriesLondon Group of Historical Geographers