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Tazuko Angela van Berkel

Reciprocity is a modern concept used in classical scholarship to denote the principle and practice of voluntary requital, both of benefit-for-benefit (positive reciprocity) and of harm-for-harm (negative reciprocity). The concept originated in the discipline of economic anthropology, but has been fruitful in the analysis of social, erotic, financial, political, and religious life in the Greek world. As a principle, reciprocity structures the plot of Homeric epics and Attic tragedy. It is also a phenomenon reflected on in diverse genres: its political meaning is explored in Homeric depictions of leadership crises and in Xenophon’s leadership theory. Presocratic cosmologies and early Greek historiography experiment with reciprocity as an explanatory principle. Attic tragedy and moral philosophy expose the implications and shortcomings of the ethical norm of reciprocity.

Reciprocity is a modern concept used in classical scholarship to denote the principle and practice of voluntary requital.1 Although the principle applies to both the requital of benefit-for-benefit (positive reciprocity) and of harm-for-harm (negative reciprocity, for instance revenge or retaliation), most debate has focused on positive reciprocity as an economic and interpersonal principle. The underlying intuition, that giving goods or rendering services imposes upon the recipient a moral obligation to respond, appears to be a universal.


Douglas Cairns

“Emotion” is a vernacular rather than a scientific concept. The experiences that are called emotions in English are a subset of a wider range of affective experiences. Categories of particular emotions similarly constitute families whose members are by no means homogeneous. As perceptions of the world and of ourselves, emotions are richly permeated by cognition. As syndromes of multiple factors, they have an event-like structure that lends itself to narrative explanation. Historical analysis of emotion(s) thus requires close attention to conceptual history and to contexts, both immediate and cultural/historical. Classicists can explore the historical contingency of “emotion” in Greek and Latin, both in the theories of the major philosophical schools and in a variety of literary texts. But emotion history now uses a much wider range of literary, documentary, visual, and material evidence. Understanding emotion is an essential aspect of many early 21st-century approaches to Classics, especially in ancient history, classical literature and rhetoric, and ancient philosophy, just as the visual and physical remains of the classical world are rich in emotional implications and deeply entwined with the representation, performance, and pragmatics of ancient emotion.


Philodemus (c. 110 Gadara, Syria–c. 35 bce Naples?) was an Epicurean philosopher. Philodemus eventually settled in Italy, where he was mentioned by Cicero as a companion of the Roman politician L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a composer of elegant verse and a good explainer of Epicurean doctrine, along with Siro, with whom he had a school of Epicureans in Naples that included a number of Roman poets in the circle of Vergil and Horace. Some of Philodemus’ epigrams were anthologized in the Garland of Philipp and became known to early modern scholars in the Palatine Anthology. His philosophical writings were unknown until they were found, in the 18th century, to be the vast majority of the book-rolls discovered in excavations of the “Villa of the Papyri” in Herculaneum.

The philosophical books of Philodemus so far known cover a wide variety of topics and show a particular interest in theology and religious observance; arts such as rhetoric, poetics, music; vices such as flattery, anger, greed, arrogance, and the character types of those who suffer from them; the history of other philosophical schools, such as the Platonic Academy and the Stoa, as seen in short biographies of their leading figures; longer, almost hagiographical accounts of the lives of the early Epicureans, and letters indicating their relations with one another. In these books Philodemus is frequently seen defending the interpretations of Epicurean doctrine by his own revered teacher Zeno of Sidon. He also stresses the manner in which an Epicurean school should be conducted, with a culture of “frank criticism” among junior and senior members and an understanding that, when one initially feels that a wise teacher is being unfair, overly critical, or even angry, it is the result of pedagogical strategy.