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Knowledge, Wealth and Power in the Ancient World (CLA3279)

30 credits

What was the place and role of experts and expertise in ancient society? How did figures like doctors, seers and the designers of buildings and machines, make a living, build their reputation and their wealth? How were they viewed by the social and political elites and how did they fit into patterns of civic and royal patronage? What impact did these aspects of the world they lived and worked in have on their ideas and the ways they articulated and communicated them? The role of experts and the status of expert knowledge has recently become politically contentious, devalued and derided in various contexts, what light can the ancient world shed on current trends?

The course will focus on three groups of experts already picked out as enjoying international reputations, ‘invited all over the boundless world’, in Homer’s Odyssey, that is specialists in medicine, divination and construction. All groups which have left rich evidence of their ideas and practices as well as being richly reflected in wider material from the ancient world. Their fortunes will be traced through the classical Greek, Hellenistic and Roman worlds into late antiquity.