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Department of Classics and Classical Reception

Mgr. Alena Sarkissian Ph.D. - head
prof. Jan Bažant CSc., Mgr. Daniela Čadková Ph.D., Mgr. Jakub Čechvala Ph.D., Doc. PhDr. Jana Kepartová CSc., Mgr. Matěj Novotný, Mgr. Eliška Poláčková,

The Cabinet for Greek, Roman and Latin Studies of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences was founded in 1953 with the aim to study the antiquity as conceived by the scholarship of the time, i. e., especially the classical Greek and Latin as well as ancient history. After 1968, the inclination towards the classical antiquity was further strengthened thanks to Professor Pavel Oliva and Assistant Professor Jan Burian, specialists on the ancient history and distinguished figures of Institute of History who found refuge in the Cabinet after their home institution got heavily politicised. In the 70s and 80s, studies of classical antiquity in the Cabinet embraced more fields of research, including ancient literature and classical archaeology. After 1989, with the whole range of scholarship returning to universities, the fields of research in the Czechoslovak Academy were redefined in order to avoid undesirable duplications. The former Cabinet was renamed the Institute of Classical Studies and in compliance with scholarly trends in the world it newly focused its attention on ancient traditions. Apart from researching Latin language and literature in Czech lands, it was to concentrate on other aspects of classical cultural heritage reception. After 1989, the department staff numbers were heavily reduced and it focused especially on two fields of research: ancient traditions in visual arts and in Czech theatrical culture from the beginnings of Czech statehood till present days. Along with the new specialisation, the department also responded to technological progress and it began to make systematic use of digitalisation and internet in its scholarly output.

Focus of research
The department of ancient traditions concentrates on the research of ancient traditions in Czech culture, especially in three key areas: the theatre, visual arts and epigraphy. In all the three fields, the data collected and analysed were not addressed before by Czech scholarship, although studies of ancient traditions have occupied important place among important themes of scholarly attention throughout the world in recent decades. The subjects of research are studied from the point of view that on the one hand brings Czech culture and European tradition closer together and on the other points out to specific traits of Czech application of that tradition. Czech culture’s response to the ancient tradition is quite a special one, for it uses the cultural heritage to very specific ends that are determined historically, politically and socially. The department of ancient tradition presents its research output in the framework of single projects via on-line databases encompassing both pictures and texts. In addition, it publishes a periodical Eirene once a year.

The projects
Study of modern productions of ancient dramas examines especially translations, adaptations and productions of ancient dramas, not only in Czech setting, but also in European and global context. The principal aim of the project is to accumulate relevant data, to create a local database and to ensure its compatibility with standards of partner projects Network of Research and Documentation of Performances of Ancient Greek Drama, Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama. All data collected in the databases are offered for practical use by scholars and general public and serve as sources of data for other scholarly projects that examine reception of ancient culture in past and present. In these days, actualisation of data, their confrontation with results and developing of new approaches and methods continue, as well as its application in recent international research in the reception of ancient tradition (conferences, symposia, summer school, members’ sessions of the Network of Research and Documentation of Performances of Ancient Greek Drama).

Ancient inspiration in visual arts aims at full documentation and complex analysis of ancient heritage in Czech visual arts from the beginnings to the present. This heritage is understood as constant, multi-layered confrontation of the Czech milieu with various centres of diffusion of Greco-Roman culture and as its active appropriating. The upshot of the project will encompass treatments of all periods of the historical process of crucial importance not only for a shaping of Czech cultural tradition, but also for the place Czech lands took in European cultural context, formed as it was precisely on the basis of ancient tradition. From the very beginnings of research into ancient tradition in Czech culture, it was clear to us that it is not possible to concentrate solely on monuments of Czech provenance, although these are the main focus of our interest. Czech lands have always been a part of some greater whole, wherefore we have decided to make accessible not only monuments created in our territory, but also closely related collections. The database is accessible here.

The Antiquity in inscriptions of Czech provenance gradually documents and analyses ancient heritage in epigraphic culture of Czech lands from the first inscribed monuments till present days. The term “inscription” is defined as a text written on durable material such as stone, metal, burned clay, bone, ivory, plaster, mosaic, but also drawings and paintings, tapestries and coats of arms. Each inscription is transcribed on the basis of the original (if preserved), manuscripts or publications, translated into Czech, accompanied by a short commentary, and dated and localised as precisely as possible. Every entry is equipped with bibliographic citation and keywords. The “ancient heritage” encompasses both formal (language, stylistic, metrical etc.) and content-related (mythological, historical etc.) reference to ancient, especially Roman paradigms, regardless of the reference’s being conscious or not.

The outcome of the project will be studies about “the second life” of the ancient world in inscriptions in Czech milieu that have not as yet attracted much attention. Only then it will be possible to study the ways through which the ancient thematic got into Czech inscriptions. This aspect of the second life of the ancient world in our country will then be confronted with ancient heritage in culture of inscriptions in other central-European countries.

Given the absence of collection of inscription of Czech provenance whence it would be possible to excerpt the inscriptions inspired by the antiquity, it is necessary not only to study each inventory made at departments of auxiliary sciences of history, but also to go through various memory institutions and monuments, such as castles, palaces, galleries etc. Furthermore, it will be necessary to study inscriptions hidden in various literary manuscripts, dean’s registers, church memory books, art-history publications etc.

The database The Antiquity in culture of Czech inscriptions is the first electronic epigraphic database published in the Czech Republic. It may be accessed here.

International collaboration
The Department of ancient traditions in Czech culture cooperates closely with the projects Network of Research and Documentation of Performances of Ancient Greek Drama and Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama.