Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology

Displaying Many Wounds

The Portrayal, Significance and Symbolism of War Wounds in Late Antiquity

26Nov2018 16:00 - 17:00


OIKOS lecture in cooperation with Ancient History ACASA by Dr Philip Rance (Frei Universität Berlin)


In many societies, past and present, a visible wound sustained in battle can variously signify heroism, masculinity, sacrifice, authority or entitlement. This paper seeks to elucidate conceptions and perceptions of late antique warfare, warriorhood and military historiography in light of a growing body of medico-historical scholarship devoted to “traumatology” in other periods and/or cultures over the last 20 years.

Attitudes to injuries

The focus of previous research lies in the identification of types of combat injury and the study of medical, surgical and pharmacological texts relating to their treatment. This enquiry explores various non-medical dimensions of and attitudes to military injuries, wounds, disabilities, disfigurements and scars, including literary, socio-cultural, moral, rhetorical, remunerative and legal perspectives, as portrayed or expressed in, for example, historical literature, epic poetry, law codes, oratory and military treatises.

Late Antique Aesthetics

The paper focuses primarily on Late Roman/Early Byzantine sources concerning war in the Mediterranean basin and Near East between the 4th and 7th centuries, partly with the aim of identifying common traits of a late antique “aesthetic” in the conception and depiction of combat injuries, but also with a view to encouraging consideration of similar themes in the study of neighbouring martial cultures.


Dr. Philip Rance studied History and Classics at the University of St. Andrews, where he was awarded his Ph.D. He has taught ancient and medieval history and Greek language and literature at universities in the United Kingdom and Germany, and held senior research fellowships at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, Koç University Istanbul, Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel and Freie Universität Berlin, where he is currently a Visiting Scholar. He has published widely on Greek, Roman and Byzantine military literature, its manuscript tradition and reception.

Venue: UvA/Doelenzaal

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Published by  Faculty of Humanities