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Leaders and Leadership from Homer to Polybius

16th - 17th September 2016 at St Andrews

Booking | Programme

Greek authors showed a keen interest in political and military leaders and the dynamics of leadership.  The practical and theoretical legacy of this interest is clear from the number of English terms which derive from Greek words for ‘leader’ or types of leadership (‘hegemony’, ‘strategy’, ‘demagogue’, ‘tyrant’, ‘monarch’…).  And then there are the historical leaders whose exploits and decisions in Greek texts have become emblematic or exemplary (Cleisthenes, Themistocles, Pericles, Brasidas, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great...) But there has been little attempt to draw together the many different strands of Greek writing about leadership in order to see how far certain assumptions and ideas emerge or change.  Can we speak of a ‘discourse’ of leadership which cuts across genres and periods?  Do Greek texts in any way anticipate the new sub-discipline of ‘leadership studies’ and its various inflections (sociological, political-scientific, business-managerial). Can ‘leadership studies’ illuminate or be illuminated by the ancient Greek material? Can we detect specifically didactic or homiletic functions in Greek writing about leadership?  Given the lineaments of patriarchy in antiquity, what are we to make of those moments when historical and literary women show leadership in Greek texts?  We tend to associate good leadership with success and victory: but Greek texts often discuss the importance of leadership in defeat or adversity.  What are the features and functions of this interest in leadership within a context of failure?  These are just some of the questions which the conference will aim to explore.


Day 1, Friday 16 Sept.

Arts Lecture Theatre and foyer until 5.45, then Swallowgate

3.00pm: Tea/coffee and conference registration

3.40pm: Kleanthis Mantzouranis (St Andrews): welcome and introduction to the conference’s key themes

4.05pm: Keynote speaker: Emily Greenwood (Yale): ‘Genres on the frontiers of gender: paradoxes of female leadership in ancient Greek literature’ 

5.45pm: Drinks reception

7.00pm: Dinner in local restaurant 

Day 2, Saturday 17 Sept.  

Swallowgate 11

9.30am: Jamie Dow (Leeds): ‘Persuasive Leadership in Non-Ideal Circumstances - Aristotle's Rhetoric on the defects of audiences’  

10.30am: Roger Brock (Leeds): ‘Xenophon on man-management’ 

11.30am: Tea/coffee

12.00am: Kleanthis Mantzouranis (St Andrews): ‘Bad leadership and the limits of power in Herodotus’  

1.00pm:   Lunch

2.00pm:   Carol Atack (Warwick): ‘Leading by example: Isocrates on mimesis and the transmission of virtue’

3.00pm:   Jon Hesk (St Andrews): ‘The pathologies of leadership in Homer and Greek tragedy’ 

4.00pm:   Tea/coffee

4.30pm:   Nicholas Wiater (St Andrews): 'Hellenistic ideas of leadership: Polybius' leaders in context'

5.30pm:   Roundtable discussion of prospects and themes (chair: Jon Hesk)

6.00pm:   Conference ends

6.30pm:   Dinner in local restaurant


You must please register by emailing by 11 September 2016 at the latest.  In your email, please indicate whether you wish to attend dinner on either or both nights (estimated cost of each dinner: £20) and specify any special dietary requirements.  Please also let us know if you have special access requirements.  If you wish to stay overnight, you will need to make your own arrangements.  Accommodation options can be found and booked via


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Research Seminars

Please direct enquiries to

Roger Rees, 
School of Classics,
University of St Andrews,
St Andrews KY16 9AL.


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