Skip to main content Skip to navigation

CfP: The Sense(s) of Athletics


The Sense(s) of Athletics in the Ancient Mediterranean World

Call for Papers

Thursday-Friday, April 28th-29th 2022, to be held online via MS Teams.


Keynote speakers:

Jo Day (University College Dublin)

Paul Christesen (Dartmouth College)


The study of the senses within the context of the ancient world has brought many fresh approaches and perspectives to the literary and archaeological material studied in Classics and its various subfields. Yet, the study of athletics and sports in the ancient Mediterranean world has so far failed to recognise the potential of considering the senses; there has been very few applications of the approaches and methodologies recently developed in the field of sensory studies. Other areas of research, on the other hand, such as ancient religion and art, have significantly benefitted from a “sensory approach” and, as a result, demonstrate the importance of considering the senses in providing an understanding of the ancient world on a personal or individual level.

Athletics, sports and games, whether in a competitive or recreational context, offer a particularly promising case study for a sensory approach. Not only is participation in physical activity an inherently multisensory experience but athletics and sport also represent significant activities in many societies and cultures in the ancient Mediterranean. Athletics are often deeply interconnected with various aspects of life in antiquity from religion and art to medicine and philosophy as well as wider cultural, social, political and economic issues. There is also a wide variety of sources relating to ancient athletics including literature, inscriptions, archaeology and material and visual culture, through which the senses could be explored.

This conference brings together for the first time the respective fields of sensory studies and the study of athletics/sports in the ancient Mediterranean world with the intention of initiating discussion and debate among researchers from a wide variety of research backgrounds. A further aim of the conference is to establish a collaborative group of early career researchers with a shared interest in the application of a sensory approach to ancient athletics and vice-versa.

Any submission which seeks to bring together physical culture and/or the athletic body with a consideration of the senses is welcome. Potential topics which papers might wish to address (but should by no means be limited to) include:

  • The senses in particular case studies of athletics, sports and games according to historical periods (from prehistory up to, and including, Late Antiquity), geographic regions or cultures/societies, festivals or Panhellenic/local Games, or even particular athletic events and activities.
  • The senses and athletics in medical texts (e.g. Galen) or athletic treatises (e.g. Philostratus).
  • Material culture and the senses in athletics: strigils, aryballoi and other athletic paraphernalia.
  • Vision, ideal bodies and eroticism.
  • Hearing, crowds/spectators and aulos-players.
  • Touch and oil, dust, grip, eroticism.
  • Smell, sweat and oil.
  • Taste, blood/sweat and athletic diets.
  • Other senses not recognised under Aristotle's five senses such as nociception, proprioception or thermoception.
  • Multisensory experience and the interrelationships of the senses in athletics: hierarchies and dissonance.

Abstracts in English of no more than 300 words should be sent to the organiser Matthew Evans at by Tuesday, November 30th 2021. Papers should not exceed 20 minutes in length and will be followed by 10 minutes of questions/discussions. Please do not hesitate to contact the organiser if you have any questions or issues regarding the conference.