Lucile Myers, The University of Queensland
'Celebrating the Transgressive: Charles Townley and the Collection of Intersex Sculptures in
Eighteenth-Century Britain’

Few figures dominate the collection of antiquities in England in the eighteenth century like Charles Townley. Over the course of three tours of Italy, Townley and his agents acquired some of the most significant Graeco-Roman sculptures to enter Britain. Today, the Townley Marbles form an important part of the Greek and Roman Department of the British Museum. This paper focusses on one type of sculptures collected by Townley, namely his collection of sculptures of Hermaphroditus and other intersex divinities. These works included a recumbent nursing intersex sculpture, an ancient well-head decorated with scenes of sexual conquest, including the rape of an intersex youth, and a carved marble herm. I will detail what we know about the nature, provenance and acquisition of these sculptures. My paper also discusses the reasons for Townley’s collecting of them and the nature of their display in his collection. It contrasts his display practices with his contemporaries. Unlike other collectors, Townley did not attempt to minimise or hide the transgressive nature of this material. Instead, he used these sculptures as part of his own self-presentation to show his morally liberal leanings. In examining this aspect of Townley’s use of intersex sculptures, we can see the way in which the ancient world could be used to make explicit and validate non-normative moral positions.

Dr Justin Pigott, The University of Auckland
'These Heaven-Bound Dung Beetles”: Late Roman Attitudes towards Slaves Entering the
Clergy'

The fourth-century theologian Gregory of Nazianzus considered the entry of slaves and freedmen into the clergy as debasing the church, calling bishops drawn from slave stock ‘heaven-bound dung beetles’. Such sentiments were shared by the broader church hierarchy and imperial government of the day with council canons, episcopal rescripts and imperial laws all prohibiting the ordination of slaves. However, despite these proscriptions, the ordination of slaves was widespread. Indeed, on more than one occasion we find Gregory himself ordaining slaves. That we find such inconsistency is unsurprising. The act of slave ordination struck at the heart of tensions between traditional Roman social practice and the emerging Christian institution. By exploring the nature of such tensions, the post-Constantinian church’s opposition to slave ordination and the drivers that led men such as Gregory to ignore its prohibition, this paper seeks to provide fresh insight into the social contours of Christianisation.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

The zoom link for the online seminars will remain the same for the entire semester. To receive the Zoom link and to remain updated on future events, please email admin-hapi@uq.edu.au. Enquiries about the seminars may be made to Associate Professor David Pritchard.

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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 https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity

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