NOSTOI: Traditions about Mediterranean Settlement.


Traditions about Mediterranean Settlement

All Souls College, Oxford, May 6th-7th 2016


nostos in ancient Greek is one of the nouns meaning ‘return’ (kathodos is more appropriate for exiles). It can be used in neutral contexts, but is often emotionally charged, because Greeks of all periods were often forced to go abroad and leave their poverty-stricken places of origin, of which they retained wistful memories, sometimes expressed in cult and ritual. (The purely modern word ‘nostalgia’ is made up of ‘return’ + ‘pain’, German ‘Heimweh’). nostos has a special sense ‘return [of Greek heroes from the Trojan War]’. In this sense it gave rise to a poetic genre, the Nostos poem (note caps.), of which Homer’s Odyssey is only the most famous example. Many heroes who, like Odysseus, had fought at Troy, were claimed by the foundation legends of Greek cities across the Mediterranean. For the student of colonial myths of identity, the more interesting heroes are those who – unlike Odysseus – failed to return to their places of departure, but founded new cities instead, especially but not only in the Greek ‘west’ (South Italy and Sicily). Archaeologists and students of ethnicity have, naturally, directed their attention at nostoi traditions. This conference will bring together literary scholars, historians and archaeologists to examine a key concept in ancient Greek culture.

Detailed programme.

Friday May 6th 

Registration (9.30-10)

Session 1

  • Simon Hornblower, All Souls: Welcome; introduction and explanation of theme of conference (10-10.30; no discussion)
  • Robert  Fowler, Bristol University: The nostoi / Nostoi and Archaic Greek Ethnicity (10.30-11.15)

Coffee break (11.15-11.30)

Session 2

  • Giulia Biffis, The University of Edinburgh and UCL: Nostos and the construction of personal identity (11.30-12.15)
  • Nick Lowe, Royal Holloway, London: Nostoi, narratives and emotions (12.15-1p.m.)

Lunch in Hall (1.00-2.00)

Session 3

  • Robin Lane Fox, New College, Oxford: Locating myths: from Macedon to India (2-2.45)
  • Catherine Morgan, All Souls: Nostoi and material culture in the area of the Classical-Hellenistic Adriatic: questions and approaches (2.45-3.30)

Tea break (3.30-4.00)

Session 4

  • Nicholas Purcell, Brasenose College, Oxford: Mediterranean perspectives on departure, displacement, and home (4.00-4.45)
  • Irad Malkin, Tel Aviv, Visiting Fellow of All Souls, spring and summer terms 2016: Nostos and the right of return home: Homeric heroes and Greek emigrants   (4.45-5. 30)

Drinks reception in Old Library (5.30-7.00)


Saturday May 7th

Session 5

  • Guglielmo Genovese, University of L’Aquila, Italy: Nostoi as heroic foundations in southern Italy: Epeios and Philoktetes (9.30-10.15)
  • Naoise Mac Sweeney, Leicester University: Failed Nostoi and foundations: Kalchas and the Lokrian Ajax (10.15-11)

Coffee break 11.00-11.15

Session 6

  • Tanja Scheer, Göttingen University: Women and Nostoi (11.15-12.00)
  • Stephanie West, Hertford College, Oxford: Odysseus’ eclectic itinerary, OR How the Odyssey gets the best of both (or rather several) worlds (12.00-12.45)

Final session

  • Robert Parker, New College, Oxford: Concluding remarks (12.45- 1.15)

Lunch in Hall.



If you wish to attend, please register by e-mailing Please indicate if you expect to come for LESS than the full day and a half. Registration deadline: February 29th 2016. The academic part of the conference will be held in the Old Library. But numbers are restricted because of fire regulations, so registration will be on a first come, first served basis, and will close before Feb 29th, if the maximum number is reached earlier.