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 Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research expertise is predominantly in ancient Mediterranean cultural studies, particularly in representations of gender, sexualities, and the body. She also researches Classical Reception Studies, and ancient magic. Marguerite has published on magic, particularly the portrayal of witches, in Greek and Latin literature and was dramaturg on professional productions of Theocritus’ Idyll 2 (‘The Sorceress’) in 2019 and Euripides’ Medea in 2021. She also researches and publishes on the Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton, with whom she has held a fascination since childhood. Marguerite delivers one of the few undergraduate courses on ancient occultism (AHIS2370: Magic and Witchcraft in Greece and Rome) and supervises several PhD students working on aspects of historical and literary magic.
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