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Ancient World Seminar: Noel Lenski (Yale), "The Status of Teachers in Late Antiquity"

Wanneer:ma 27-05-2019 16:15 - 17:30
Waar:Room 123, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Oude Boteringestraat 38, Groningen
Lecture Noel Lenski
Lecture Noel Lenski


Recent work on late ancient slavery has argued for the ongoing importance of servile labor in the late antique educational system: the argument is made that the Classical Roman slave society of the first century BCE, which had relied primarily on slaves for the training of youth, continued to flourish into the fifth century CE. This presentation will argue that this new theory has little to recommend it. The disappearance of slave educators is beyond doubt at the level of the grammaticus, who was overwhelmingly servile in the first century BCE but almost exclusively free by the fourth. A comprehensive look at epigraphic sources for lower level teachers reveals that the same can be said at the level of magistri ludi / διδάσκαλοι. Epigraphic and textual data studies reveal that even the educational attendants referred to as paedagogi / παιδαγωγοί were increasingly drawn from the ranks of the freeborn, particularly in the eastern Empire. Much of this shift occurred in the context of a professionalization of the teaching industry that assigned greater privileges and prestige to educators even as it moved their activities into the economic marketplace. Four possible reasons for the shift are hazarded: an increased emphasis on education’s role in moral and spiritual development; the growing prestige of higher learning as a path to social and economic success; changes in the broader labor market that opened many positions to freeborn workers; and a general decrease in the reliance on slaves and slavery in all sectors of the late Roman economy.

About the speaker

Noel Lenski focuses on Roman history and particularly the history of the later Roman Empire. He is interested in power relations as these played themselves out at all levels of society, from emperors to slaves. His research ranges broadly across Late Antiquity and includes studies in political, military, social, economic, religious, cultural and art history. His two monographs, on the emperors Valens and Constantine, explore the limits of imperial power in light of reader response theory and life-worlds theory. He has also published extensively on the history of slavery in antiquity and is currently working on a translation of the Visigothic Law Code into English.