Song and Poetry in Greece and the Near East: Re-framing Orality

song and poetry

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20–21 July 2022

Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford
The Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies
66 St Giles’
OX1 3LU Oxford

This international conference explores the interface between orality and writing in Classical and ancient Near Eastern poetry. The theme is widely and hotly debated in individual fields, but cross-disciplinary discussion remains sporadic, despite a growing interest in the literary connections between Greece and the Near East, and within the broader Near East. The conference aims to promote sustained dialogue between Classicists and Assyriologists, Hittitologists, and West Semitic and Biblical scholars. It explores the relation between the written word and its voiced performance, and how that relation affects poetic composition, textual transmission and cross-cultural diffusion. Organised by Dr Bernardo Ballesteros (Oxford) and Prof Ian Rutherford (Reading), the event is generously sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust and the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford.


To register for in-person attendance, please email Ellie Galloway specifying any dietary requirements at

The conference will be livestreamed, and the links for the remote audience to view the conference are below:

Day 1 Morning:

Day 1 Afternoon:

Day 2 Morning:

Day 2 Afternoon:


Day 1: Wednesday 20 July 2022

09:00–09:20: Welcome coffee

09:20–09:30: Introduction


Session 1

09:30–10:15: Ian Rutherford (Reading), ‘Mobile singers, musical networks and hybrid styles. The transmission of song 2000-500 BCE’

10:15–11:00: Lorenzo Verderame (Rome ‘La Sapienza’) ‘Learning to speak Sumerian’

11:00–11:15: Coffee break

Session 2

11:15–12:00: Dahlia Shehata (Würzburg) ‘Between tradition and innovation: composition and performance of Old Babylonian Sumerian and Akkadian Poetry’

12:00–12:45: Michele Cammarosano (Napoli ‘L’Orientale’) ‘Orality and performance in Hittite Anatolia’

12:45–14:00: Lunch


Session 3

14:00–14:45: John Screnock (Oxford): ‘Can we distinguish writtenness and orality in ancient Hebrew poetry?’

14:45–15:30: Jonathan Ready (Michigan) ‘Scribal performance and the Ptolemaic papyri: alternatives and rejoinders’

15:30–15:45: Tea break


Session 4

15:45–16:30: Shirly Natan-Yulzary (Gordon College, Haifa & Beit-Berl College) ‘Performance and orality in Ugaritic epic literature’

16:30–17:15: Martina Astrid Rodda (Oxford) ‘Homeric ‘Post-Orality’ and other poetic traditions: lessons to be learned?’

Day 2: Thursday 21 July 2022

9:00–09:30: Welcome coffee


Session 5 

09:30–10:15: Martin Worthington (Trinity College, Dublin) ‘Orality in Performance – implications for Babylonian literature’

10:15–11:00: Laura Massetti (Harvard & Oxford) ‘Pindar’s ring-compositions: Indo-European inheritance between orality and writing’

11:00–11:15: Coffee break

Session 6

11:15–12:00: Jacqueline Vayntrub (Yale) ‘Orality and the Bible’s displaced voices’

12:00–12:45: Bruno Currie (Oxford) ‘Theognis, rhapsodes and the concept of the authentic text’

12:45–14:00: Lunch


Session 7

14:00–14:45: Anna Glenn (LMU Munich) ‘Old Babylonian Sumerian hymnic poetry as liturgy’

14:45–15:30: Domenico Giordani (UCL & Oxford) ‘Shaping the Saturnian: structure and performance’

15:30–15:45: Tea break


Session 8

15:45–16:30: Selena Wisnom (Leicester) ‘The dynamics of repetition in Akkadian literature’

16:30–17:15: Bernardo Ballesteros (Oxford) ‘Performance and composition in Homeric and Near Eastern epic’