Corpus Christi College Oxford

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Voiceless, Invisible, and Countless: Subordinates and Subordination in Archaic and Classical Greece

Project Leads: Samuel Gartland (CCC) and David Tandy (Leeds/Tennessee)

Contributors include: Paul Cartledge (Cambridge), Lucia Cecchet (Mainz), Anthony Edwards (UC- San Diego), Sara Forsdyke (Michigan), Deborah Kamen (Washington), Rebecca Futo Kennedy (Denison), David Lewis (Nottingham), Sarah Murray (Toronto), Hans van Wees (UCL), Julien Zurbach ((École Normale Supérieure, Paris)

The transmission of subordinated voices to us from ancient Greece has been difficult. Part of the reason for this is the modern diffidence towards these voices, preceded by premodern disdain for them. We are acutely aware also that in antiquity many groups were silenced by the circumstances of their lives and this silence was amplified in later reception. In recent years there have been excellent efforts to capture the voices of women, of slaves, of soldiers, and so on. But what did these various and numerous groups, especially those who are underrepresented in scholarship, hold in common? Is it possible to define broadly and comprehensibly the subordinated in archaic and classical Greece? Social historians have been focused on individual groups; there has not been a great Coming Together of the sort we propose.


Most people belonged to one of these voiceless groups, but recovering their existence is particularly difficult. Some groups we cannot hear about because they are not subjects of surviving discourses; some groups were systematically ignored or deliberately excluded from the historical record. But it is still possible to recover something of their experiences. For example, urban and rural manual labourers can be located in the archaeological record and in accidental literary survival; their lives and perhaps even the meaning and intentions of their lives can be reconstructed and represented. All those who also have only partial or zero legal rights can benefit from renewed revelatory efforts, and particularly from a process which seeks to co-ordinating efforts across the groups more effectively, witnessing commonality (and communality) in their experiences, wherever possible. 


These are the uncounted, the ἀνάριθμοι. They were of no account, uncounted when they lived, though countless in their vast numbers. They are doubly subordinate and subordinated, first by their treatment in their own life spans, second in their reception by the generations to follow. This project aims to find out more about many of these subordinated groups. What were the ‘natural’ structures in place, the techniques used by subordinators that created or perpetuated the stations of the subordinated? What did these subordinated groups have in common? Was it the spaces they inhabited? Was it the spaces between themselves and those by whom they were subordinated? 


The project brings together senior and junior scholars from North America, United Kingdom, and Europe, many of whom have already begun a conversation about subordination in various forums, and bring a range of literary, historical, and archaeological approaches to the discussion.


The project has been generously supported by the University of Leeds, the Craven Fund, and the Charles Oldham Fund of Corpus Christi College.


Image: Female baker at oven (Tanagra, c.500BC) ©Louvre (MNE1333)

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