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Upcoming Lectures


Sunday, March 26, 2023

Cultural Affinities and the Legacy of Cyrus the Great

Reza Zarghamee

Ancient Iranian-Elamite assimilation is a contentious subject of recent scholarship regarding the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Increasingly, scholars are focusing on the cultural debt that the early Persians owed to the Elamites.

Cyrus the Great (c. 600–530 BCE) stands at the center of this scholarly discourse, as several prominent historians have argued that the Persian imperial founder should be regarded either as an ethnic Elamite or as a Persian who self-identified as an Elamite for political purposes. The basis for this dispute rests in interpretations of his title, “King of Anshan,” and the origins of his name.

Without denying the importance of the Elamite cultural legacy, might caution be advised with respect to such Elamite-centric theories? Focusing on overlooked evidence, including that of a religious character, the presenter will demonstrate why the traditional view of Cyrus the Great as a fundamentally Persian king is likely correct.

Dr. Reza Zarghamee is the author of Discovering Cyrus: The Persian Conqueror Astride the Ancient World.

This event will be held at Meaza Ethiopian Cuisine: 5700 Columbia Pike / Falls Church / VA / 22041

The luncheon begins at 2 pm, and the lecture at 3 pm

Cultural Affinities and the Legacy of Cyrus the Great
Additional Attendee(s)

Slave Collar

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Ancient Slavery and Early Christians

Katherine Wasdin

Slavery was an omnipresent part of life in the ancient Mediterranean. One of its most brutal artifacts is the Zoninus collar, a late antique Roman metal collar designed to be worn around the neck of an enslaved person. One such collar that survives to this day bears a tag that identifies the wearer as owned by Zoninus and is decorated with a palm frond, indicating that Zoninus was a Christian.

The Pauline Epistle of Philemon (one of the books of the Christian New Testament), which accompanies the escaped slave Onesimos as he is returned to his owner Philemon, attests to a worldview about slavery among the earliest Christians. In contrast to the spiritual liberation promised by the new Christian religion, those who find themselves in actual slavery are to remain there.

While slaves were seldom able to tell their own stories, scholars have increasingly examined our available evidence, like the Zoninus collar, to tease out their experiences. This talk will explore the legal and social impacts of slavery in ancient Greco-Roman society and then turn to the role of actual and metaphorical slavery in early Christianity.

Katherine Wasdin is an Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland.



Sunday, May 21, 2023

Life In Athens During the Plague

Diane Cline

Sponsored by the Hellenic Society Prometheas

The plague of ancient Athens (430-426 BCE) caused a humanitarian crisis of suffering which seemed “almost beyond the capacity of human nature to endure” (Thucydides 2.50.1).

Using sensory archaeology, we visit the familiar topography and monuments of Athens from the perspective of the refugees from Attica and Plataea, and the urban Athenians who already lived inside the walled city.

The intensity of suffering was amplified by experiencing unexpected sensory stimuli in once familiar places, transposing pleasure gardens, monument-lined streets, and sanctuaries, many less than 30 years old, into a landscape of tragedy and death. We are reminded that archaeological monuments can have many uses and interpretations during the period of their use.

Diane Cline is Associate Professor of History and Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at George Washington University

This event will be held at Tandoori Nights Restaurant/ 10312 Willard Way / Fairfax / VA / 22030

The luncheon begins at 2 pm; the lecture begins at 3 pm

Roman Emperor

June 14, 2023 at 8 pm via Zoom

Emperor in Rome, Deity in the Provinces

Barbara Burrell

Sheer familiarity has blinded classicists and historians to the oddity of the Roman imperial cult. Countless cultures across the globe had rulers who were either gods (e.g. Egypt and Japan), descended from gods (Shang dynasty China, the Inca), or in some way super-human (the Yoruba, the Aztec). In all these cases, however, the king's divinity was most clearly recognized within the core region which he ruled, and most strongly manifested in his capital.

The Roman emperor, however, was supposed to be so honored only in the periphery, not in the center. Hailed as a god by provinces, cities, and citizens of his empire, he was allegedly treated as a mere mortal in Italy, and especially in Rome.

This lecture will re-open this question, and examine the material evidence that the living emperor presented himself, if not as a god, at least as a god-to-be in his capital, Rome.

Barbara Burrell is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati


Wednesday, July 12 at 8 pm EST via Zoom

The King is Dead, Long Live the King: Murder, Poetry, and Scribal Culture in Ancient Egypt

Margaret Geoga

Sponsored by the DC Chapter of ARCE

The Teaching of Amenemhat is the only work of ancient Egyptian literature to depict the murder of a king. Narrated by the assassinated pharaoh Amenemhat I, the poem is unique in both its dark subject matter and its great popularity among ancient readers in Egypt and Nubia, particularly among scribes and scribal apprentices.

While most of the previous scholarship on “Amenemhat” has focused on the poem’s composition, this lecture, in contrast, shifts the focus from the birth of the poem to its afterlife, in order to investigate who was reading “Amenemhat” in antiquity, how its readers interpreted the poem, and how and why interpretations changed over the approximately 1000 years of the poem’s circulation.

This presentation will include an exploration of how the education of scribes led to differences in their interpretations of the poem, and an examination of what happened over time to account for these textual changes.

Margaret Geoga is the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania

Previous Lectures

Archaeology and the Utopian Temple of Ezekiel

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Archaeology and the Utopian Temple of Ezekiel

Stephen Cook

Interaction with old and new archaeological discoveries is indispensable in understanding the utopian temple of Ezekiel 40–48. Numerous problems in interpreting the prophet’s vision of an ideal sanctuary complex trenchantly elude understanding, apart from archaeology’s mine of evidence. Included among the sites and finds especially helpful in elucidating Ezekiel’s intricate symbolic design are Sumerian cylinder seals; the Mari Investiture Panel; finds at Khirbet Qeiyafa, including temple models; the Ain Dara temple; ivories from Arslan Tash; the Tell Tayinat temples; the Arad temple, and; the Motza temple.

This talk will highlight selected examples of the use of this evidence in addressing key problems and interpretive issues in the study of Ezekiel’s utopian complex. After interaction with ancient finds, the formidable temple complex of Ezekiel emerges as a masterwork of symbolic architectonic design.

Stephen Cook is a Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at the Virginia Theological Seminary.


Sunday, October 16, 2022 

Discoveries At Nefertiti's Sun Temple

Jacquelyn Williamson

Jay Adams Memorial Lecture

This event is sponsored by the DC chapter of ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt)

Stone relief fragments were recently excavated from Kom el-Nana at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt, the site of Nefertiti’s Sun Temple. They date to approximately 1350 B.C.E., the period when Pharaoh Akhenaten closed Egyptian temples and dismissed the priesthood, declared the sun deity Aten as the true God, and with his wife Nefertiti established a new capital of Egypt at Amarna.

In an illustrated presentation, Jacquelyn Williamson reconstructs the architecture, art, and inscriptions from the site to demonstrate Kom el-Nana is the location of Queen Nefertiti’s ‘Sunshade of Re’ Temple as well as another more enigmatic structure there that served the funerary needs of the non-royal courtiers at the ancient city.

The art and inscriptions provide new information about Queen Nefertiti and challenge assumptions about her role in Pharaoh Akhenaten’s religious movement dedicated to the sun god Aten.

Jacquelyn Williamson is Associate Professor of Art and Archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean World at George Mason University

This event will be held at Meaza Restaurant: 5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

The luncheon begins at 2:00 PM; the lecture begins at 3:00 PM.


Sunday, November 13, 2022

20,000 Leagues Under The Wine-Dark Sea

Emily Egan

This event is sponsored by the Hellenic Society Prometheas

This presentation takes a deep “dive” into depictions of marine life in the art of Late Bronze Age Greece (ca. 1600–1100 BCE). Amid a survey of sea creatures, including octopods, dolphins, and fish, special attention is given to the enigmatic argonaut motif and its appearance in the wall paintings of the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at Pylos

New research at the Palace of Nestor suggests that argonauts were not simple ornaments but powerful royal symbols, on par with more fearsome Aegean “totems” like lions and griffins. This lecture interrogates this new theory and the evidence that underpins it and also demonstrates how the painted forms of the creatures, when viewed closely, offer a rare insight into the thought processes and working methods of Greek Bronze Age artists.

Emily Egan is an Assistant Professor of Eastern Mediterranean Art and Archaeology at the University of Maryland.

This event will be at Yayla Bistro: 2201 N. Westmoreland Street, Arlington, VA 22213

The luncheon begins at 2:00 PM; the lecture begins at 3:00 PM.

Petra and the Nabataeans

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Marvin Rogul Memorial Lecture

Petra and the Nabataeans

Barbara A. Porter

The Nabataean kingdom, at its zenith, controlled territory from Damascus in Syria to Hegra in northern Saudi Arabia, and its capital was Petra (ancient Raqmu) in southern Jordan. Nabataean sites— explored scientifically now for more than a century— provide insights into these ancient peoples who controlled the trade routes from southern Arabia and whose kings are known from the early second century BCE to 106 CE when the Roman rule took over.

An overview of the main Nabataean sites will be presented along with some ancient texts as well as recent archaeological discoveries. The new Petra Museum (inaugurated in the spring of 2019) will be featured given its signature objects from the Petra region and comprehensive presentation.

Dr. Barbara A. Porter was the director of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman (ACOR) from 2006 to 2020. She is now an independent scholar in Washington, D.C.

Exile Return

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Exile and Return: The Birth and Defining Moments of Ancient Judaism

John Ahn

Co-Hosted by BASONOVA, BAF, B'nai Israel Congregation and the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies

What was the impact of involuntary and voluntary forced migration on Judaism, a diaspora religion? Without the historical experience of the exile and return, Judaism would not exist.

In the midst of political collapse and the annexation of the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the sixth century BCE, how did a kingless and kingdom-less people maintain authority and coherence? With the return of exiled Judahites from Babylon and those who fled to Egypt, plus others from smaller satellite nations like Moab, complications arose in articulating a post-exilic, “normative” Judaism.

A compromise was reached through the formulation of the final form of the Hebrew Bible. The text became the doctrinal constitution of a new state: defining laws, stipulations, and narratives with poems and other writings on post-exilic citizenship. Two seminal, opposing views dominated the conversation and redaction process: the orthodox/conservative (Persian Jews) and liberals (Egyptian Jews).

John Ahn is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Howard University School of Divinity