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HIST7112: Ancient Youth

Dr Riet van Bremen

Neoi, young men between the ages of 20 and 30, were one of the most important age groups in the Hellenistic Greek world—the period with which we will be mainly concerned. Their cultural identity had deep roots in the historical and mythical past. Models of heroism clustered around the neos as a type: in myth, in historiography, in ritual and iconography. As a group, neoi were a structural element of civic society, associated with the gymnasium, physical exercise and competition, and with military activity. Recent work on Hellenistic warfare has emphasized their importance as a military force within Greek cities, with the ephebeia as a preparatory phase. Much of the evidence for neoi, especially that of iconography, myth and ritual, has been ignored or misread because of the almost exclusive focus in modern scholarship on the earlier, and transient, phase of ephebeia and on the initiation rituals associated with this phase of life. In this module we will interpret initiation rituals and the myths that ‘explain’ them as part of a much more prolonged phase of young male socialization and training, and question the use and validity of ‘Black Hunter’ models of structural opposition, ephebic exclusion (and marginality) and subsequent integration into the world of the adult male citizens. We will look closely at images of young heroes, beardless gods (Apollo, Hermes) and daimones (Kouretes, Korybantes, etc), with a particular focus on Hellenistic literature and visual imagery.

Assessment method

HIST7112A/B: 2 X 2,500 word essays

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