Presenter: Dr Estelle Strazdins (University of Melbourne)

In this presentation, I will focus on the literary and physical appropriation of the cultural memory attached to tombs and its use to engage a hypothetical future by elite Greeks in the Roman Empire. Tombs are monuments designed to construct and preserve personal identity and memory. As such, their function in literature is often as a medium through which to muse on an individual’s fame and its potential longevity. For Imperial Greek writers, tombs and their inscriptions become vehicles through which to commune with illustrious men from the past and symbols of both the desire to create immortal fame and the impossibility of ever truly achieving this aim. In this, the past is revealed as a tool to be exploited in one’s personal assault on the future, and the site of identity and ideological conflict that is represented by any monument becomes a means of asserting one’s own authoritative view. At the same time, the awareness that one’s ability to control future reputation is poor at best adds both a sense of pathos and a self-reflexive playfulness to these men’s commentary on the quest for lasting fame, which in itself is a feature of ‘second-sophistic’ culture. I will concentrate on two examples: Arrian’s use of the tomb of Achilles in his Anabasis of Alexander and Herodes Atticus’ apparent physical appropriation of the grave stelae for the fallen at Marathon for his personal use. Through my presentation of these tombs and their physical or literary manipulation, I hope to elucidate the anxiety over personal commemoration that is a feature of the cultural production of elite Greeks in the Roman Empire.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at