The Meaning of Hair in the Ancient Mediterranean – Professor Marguerite Johnson
Hair is a powerful symbol in ancient Greece and Rome, revealing extensive insights into specific aspects of their culture. This talk discusses the various meanings of hair in both Greek and Roman warfare, including a discussion of the Spartans’ attention to their hair before battle, to the Romans’ anxiety over the so-called unruly and outrageous hair of their enemies (evident in their accounts of Libyan, Ethiopian, Celtic and Gallic hair). Additionally, the Greek and Roman obsession with other people’s hair as a topic of ethnographical analyses and observations is also considered, including some of the outrageous accounts of uncanny hair (including tales of hirsute women). In short: ancient views on hair have their roots in ethnicity and in race, and these long, intertwining locks need to be untangled.
Marguerite Johnson is a cultural historian of the ancient Mediterranean, specialising in sexuality and gender, particularly in the poetry of Sappho, Catullus, and Ovid, as well as magical traditions in Greece, Rome, and the Near East. She also researches Classical Reception Studies, with a regular focus on Australia. In addition to ancient world studies, Marguerite is interested in sexual histories in modernity as well as magic in the west more broadly, especially the practices and art of Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton. She is Honorary Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Queensland, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
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