News | 16 July 2014

Studying Death in Ancient Greece with Karen Bassi



Why study mortality in ancient Greece?

“We are investigating the link between the quality of one’s life and the contemplation of one’s death in ancient Greece, with an eye to its relevance for comparative study across cultures, disciplines, and historical periods,” explains Karen Bassi, UCSC Professor of Classics and Literature–a specialist in ancient Greek literature and history.

UC Santa Cruz received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to undertake a summer institute investigating the history of mortality in ancient Greek culture.

“The topic of the Institute is framed by the Promethean conundrum that humans know they will die but must nevertheless go on living,” Bassi explained.

“The prospects of fearing, facing, and evading death can be found in scholarship on all aspects of ancient Greek culture, including literature, philosophy, religion, art history, the history of medicine, and archaeology.”

Bassi added that the focus of the institute ranges from an exploration of how the ancient Greeks faced death, to current debates over the worth of an individual human life and the question of what is worth dying for.

Titled Mortality: Facing Death in Ancient Greece, the program brings college and university teachers together with graduate students and experts to examine material from a broad range of ancient Greek literary sources, archaeological remains, and historical periods. The four-week institute kicked off last week…

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