This section provides a reverse chronological list of relevant publications authored by the project members, guests, and colleagues, along with abstracts and direct links to the publisher's website.

The list is constantly updated - keep in touch!

From: Emotion Review 15.3 (2023). Special Issue on Contempt: Ancient and Modern

An introduction to a collection of nine papers on contempt, bringing contemporary philosophical approaches to the phenomenon into relation with its construction and presentation in the four classical cultures of China, Greece, India, and Rome. The introduction offers a brief summary of the papers and places the issues that they explore in the wider research context of the historical and cross-cultural study of emotion.

Keywords: contempt; honour; emotions; Aristotle; atimia.

Zaccarini M. (2022), "Xenophon’s hybris: leadership, violence and the normative use of shame in Anabasis 5.8", CQ 72.

Through a detailed analysis of Xenophon’s defence against a charge of hybris among the Ten Thousand, this paper discusses violence, reputation, and hierarchy in Greek military and social contexts. Contrary to other recent treatments of the episode, the study highlights the centrality of honour/shame dynamics and of desert in establishing and upholding social order, showing that these notions are found consistently in numerous examples as early as Homer. Addressing the apparent lack of strict discipline in Greek armies, the paper concludes that shame and peer-pressure had a strong normative power in acknowledging and reconciling personal claims and common interests within a group.

Keywords: Xenophon; Anabasis; hybris; shame; military; leadership; discipline

Cairns D. (2021), in C. A. Baron (ed.),The Herodotus Encyclopedia (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell), s.vv.:






(e.g.) “Honor” translates the Greek timē, a concept whose core meanings center on notions of value and esteem. Timē is ordinary Greek for the “price” or “value” of material commodities, but in contexts of social interaction it also refers to the esteem or deference of others and to the status, role, or claim that attracts such esteem or deference. Timē is thus a feature of virtually every form of social interaction, in the Histories and elsewhere. Concern for honor is a central motive of Herodotus’ characters, deeply embedded in a wider network of emotions and motives, from the shame of failure to the envy that is typical of rivals and the anger that calls for vengeance. A particular focus for Herodotus, however, is the timē of kings, especially that of Xerxes, both as the status-role that commands recognition and as a motive that blinds one to the limits of individual self-assertion.

Keywords: honour, esteem, anger, nakedness, respect, shame, vengeance

Cairns D. (2021), "Anchoring the tripartite soul", in E. Poddighe and T. Pontillo (eds), Resisting and Justifying Changes. How to Make the New Acceptable in the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern World (Pisa: Pisa University Press), 181-209.

Plato’s introduction of the tripartite soul in Republic 4 rests on a principle (436bc) that can distinguish only between two subjects at any one time. Accordingly, a two-step process is required to distinguish θυμός first from ἐπιθυμία and then from reason (441b-c). To establish the existence of θυμός, however, Plato also needs pre-existing intuitions about its nature, evoked in part by quotation of Odysseus’ address to his heart at Odyssey 20.17. To see how the Homeric example explains the phenomenon Plato wants to discuss we need to explore what the behaviour of the κραδίη can tell us about that of the θυμός. Whereas the Homeric model portrays interaction between a person and a “psychic organ”, the Platonic model appears to require that all such interaction take place at a sub-personal level. But if we appreciate the light that Plato’s use of the “barking heart” example in Republic 4 sheds on the Homeric model, we see how that model parallels the Platonic in more significant ways. In making θυμός an element in his new tripartite psychology Plato draws on aspects of Homeric psychology that particularly suit the model developed in the Republic.

Keywords: Plato, thumos, Republic, soul, psychic organ

Cairns D. (2021), "The dynamics of emotion in Euripides' Medea", Greece & Rome 68.1, 8-26.

Medea's emotions loom large in a wide range of dramatic, literary, and philosophical sources from Euripides onwards. In focusing on aspects of the emotional texture of the original Euripidean play, all one can do is scratch the surface of an enormous subject, both in that play and in its reception in ancient literature and thought. Fortunately, we have the other articles in this issue of Greece & Rome to supplement this inevitably limited perspective. My procedure in this short paper is simply to highlight certain aspects of the dramatization of emotion in Euripides’ Medea that strike me as especially worthy of analysis in terms of ancient or modern emotion theory.

The published paper can be accessed (from Cambridge Core) here

Keywords: Aristotle, honour, timê, hybris, justice, equality

Canevaro M. (2021) "Upside-down hegemony? Ideology and power in ancient Athens", in E. Zucchetti and A. Cimino (eds), Antonio Gramsci and the Ancient World (London: Routledge), 63-85.

This paper argues that in ancient Athens the demos – dominated by the lower classes – exercised a form of control on the formal and informal institutions of the polis akin to Gramsci’s notion of hegemony. It first uses Aristotle to argue that in theorising the alignment of the ethos of the politeia with that of the laws, institutions and of the very citizens of the polis, the Greeks display emic conceptualisations which are compatible with Gramsci’s hegemony. It then turns to Athens to argue, first, that the demos – understood as the lower classes – was there hegemonic, and, second, that the Athenian honour system was a key tool of that hegemony.

The summary of the publication can be accessed here.

Cairns D., Canevaro M., and Mantzouranis K. (2021) "Aristotle on the causes of civil strife. Subjective dispositions, proportional justice and the ‘occasions’ of stasis", in M. Canevaro and C. Viano (eds), Aitia. Le cause del conflitto tra storiografia e pensiero politico. MAIA: Rivista di Letterature Classiche 72.3 (Roma: Morcelliana), 551-570.

Much of the scholarly debate on Aristotle’s analysis of stasis in Politics v 1-3 revolves around two interrelated questions: first, the relationship between the three general causes mentioned by Aristotle, especially their logical and temporal connection; second, the question of whether, and if so how, Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes should be applied to the analysis of stasis in the Politics. This article addresses both questions. First, it argues that in pol. v 1-3 Aristotle sees the different conceptions of proportional equality and justice (“in accordance with worth”) as the fundamental cause of stasis and metabole. Stasis is represented by Aristotle as directed towards honour and profit, and finds its origins (archai) in particular occurrences and forms of behaviour, yet all of these are filtered by notions of proportional equality and its basis in worth (axia). Notions of “particular” justice as discussed in pol. v 1-3, however, are no longer standalone concepts (as in eth. Nicom. v 3), nor simple final (and formal) causes of particular constitutions (as in pol. iii 9), but have become causes of individual and collective action in pursuit of moral and political revolution. Second, we argue that Aristotle’s account of the emotions (Rhetoric ii 1-11) with its threefold classification of their causes or features (the disposition of those who experience the emotion; those towards whom the emotions are directed; the actions or events that trigger them) may provide a more promising explanatory model for the analysis of the causes of stasis than Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes, which is not designed to apply to actions.

The published paper can be accessed here.

Keywords: stasis, Four Causes, axia, Justice, Civil Strife.

Cairns D.L. (2020), "Aristotle on hybris and injustice", in C. Veillard, O. Renaut, and D. El Murr (eds) Les philosophes face au vice, de Socrate à Augustin (Leiden: Brill), 147–174.

The argument of this chapter is (first) that hybris, as defined and discussed in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, is or implies a defect of character, i.e. a vice, because the Rhetoric’s account presupposes the developed framework used in the ethical treatises to categorize such things. Second, I shall argue that this vice is a form of the “particular injustice” that is discussed in Nicomachean Ethics Book 5 and that this specific variety of particular injustice involves a way of going wrong about honour, in fact is a form of greed or acquisitiveness with regard to honour. This (I shall argue) reflects Aristotle’s view of honour as an important non-material commodity that can be fairly or unfairly distributed, justly or unjustly pursued. Accordingly, this view of hybris as a kind of injustice, a variety of pleonexia, needs to be seen in the context of the role of timê in Aristotle’s accounts of justice and equality in his ethics and politics more generally.

The full preprint can be accessed here

Keywords: Aristotle, honour, timê, hybris, justice, equality

Canevaro M. (2020), "I diritti come spazio di socialità: la timē tra diritto e dovere", in A. Camerotto, F. Pontani (a c. di), DIKE. Ovvero della giustizia tra l'Olimpo e la terra, Milano: Mimesis, 157-177.

La fine del 2018 – il 10 dicembre – ha visto il settantesimo anniversario della Dichiarazione Universale dei Diritti Umani. Scritto in occasione di queste celebrazioni, questo contributo vuole esplorare la questione se esistano paralleli antichi – greci e ateniesi in particolare – per la nozione, e la funzione, dei diritti soggettivi come affermate nella Dichiarazione del 1948.

The published paper can be accessed here.

Keywords: universal human rights, honour, justice, ancient Athens, democracy

Zaccarini M. (2020), "Lista dei caduti in guerra della tribù Eretteide", Axon 4.1, 51-86.

This Athenian casualty list of the Erechtheis tribe, c. 460-459 BCE, is an important source for our understanding of the Athenian military effort in the Eastern Mediterranean in the central decades of the 5th century. While it can be safely dated and contextualized on the basis of Thucydides, the inscription highlights the selective and biased narrative provided by the literary sources. Furthermore, along with other similar documents, this list provides valuable information on the rationale and aims of the public celebration of the war dead in Athens, on the identity of the civic body, and on the inclusion of various social classes in the celebration of the polis.
Full pdf of the journal issue and digital edition available from the Axon website

Keywords: Casualty lists; Athens; Pentecontaetia; public commemoration; memory; war

Canevaro M. and Harris E.M. (2019), "The Authenticity of the Document at Demosth., In Mid. XXI.47", Rivista di Diritto Ellenico 9, pp. 91-108.

This essay shows that the charge for which Demosthenes wrote his speech Against Meidias was a graphe hybreos. The charge cannot have been part of a probole for offenses concerning the festival of Dionysus because Demosthenes states three times that the probole was already over when he delivered his speech Against Meidias. In another passage Demosthenes makes it clear that he could have brought a private action against Meidias after the probole but chose to bring a public action. The second part of the essay shows that all parts of the speech are relevant to proving a charge of hybris and that the sections about Meidias’ character in the speech show that he had the kind of disposition that drove him to commit hybris.

The published paper can be accessed here.

Keywords: hybris, probole, Demosthenes Against Meidias, judicial oath, relevance in Athenian courts, character evidence.

Cairns D. (2019), "Hybris e ingiustizia in Aristotele", Rivista di Diritto Ellenico 9, pp. 15-42.

Hybris, as defined and discussed in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, is or implies a defect of character, i.e. a vice, because the Rhetoric’s account presupposes the developed framework used in the ethical treatises to categorize such things. This vice is a form of the ‘particular injustice’ that is discussed in Nicomachean Ethics Book 5 and this specific variety of particular injustice involves a way of going wrong about honour, in fact is a form of greed or acquisitiveness with regard to honour. This reflects Aristotle’s view of honour as an important non-material commodity that can be fairly or unfairly distributed, justly or unjustly pursued. Accordingly, this view of hybris as a kind of injustice, a variety of pleonexia, needs to be seen  in the context of the role of time in Aristotle’s accounts of justice and equality in his ethics and politics more generally.

The published paper can be accessed here.

Keywords: hybris, injustice, vice, Aristotle, honour.

Cairns D.L. (2019), "Honour and Kingship in Herodotus: Status, Role, and the Limits of Self-Assertion", Frontiers of Philosophy in China 14.1, 75-93.

The notion of timê (τιμή, normally translated “honour”) is a key concept when it comes to thinking about virtues, roles, and duties in ancient Greek ethics and society, both in popular and in philosophical terms. This discussion concentrates on the work of the fifth-century historian, Herodotus, where the idea of timê as the fulfilment of a specific role in society takes on particular and interesting inflections. In Herodotus, as in Greek generally, timê covers both the esteem that one receives from others and the claim to esteem that the individual him- or herself brings to bear in social interaction. Thus timê is both “deference” and “demeanour” (to use Goffman’s terminology). As a quality of an individual that commands others’ respect, timê also encompasses the roles that are bound up with one’s status. Roles and offices express, attract, and demand timê, but such demands are normally constrained by reciprocal respect for the timê of others. The office of the Persian king, however, appears at first sight to involve unconditional claims to recognition respect, powerful drives towards appraisal respect (in Darwall’s terminology), and only limited acknowledgement of either ethical norms or others claims as potential limitations to regal self-assertion. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the values of mutual respect that underpin the freedom enjoyed by citizens of Greek poleis are also felt by Herodotus to ground claims to freedom and independence on the part of those poleis themselves, claims that the historian’s narrative suggests are ultimately upheld by the gods and embedded in the structure of the cosmos itself.

Keywords: Herodotus, honour, timê, Persian wars, Xerxes

Canevaro M. (2019), "Courage in war and the courage of the war dead - ancient and modern reflections", in M. Giangiulio, E. Franchi, G. Proietti (eds), Commemorating War and War Dead. Ancient and Modern, Stuttgart: Steiner, 187-205.

Recent approaches to ‘courage’ in Athenian democracy and more widely in democratic thought have isolated a notion of ‘democratic’ courage involving rational deliberation and opposed it to more primitive forms of ‘courage’ fueled by shame and typical of ‘honor’ or ‘shame’ cultures. This chapter questions these approaches by stressing the cognitive elements of Homeric and archaic courage and, indeed, shame, and focusing then on Athenian representations of courage, particularly in funeral speeches for the war dead. It stresses the relevance of honor and shame in these representations, isolates the prototypicality of hoplitic courage, and ultimately stresses that far from being primitive, notions of honor and shame were understood as fundamental to values of parrhesia, lawfulness and democratic courage.

The published paper can be accessed here.

Keywords: courage, democracy, Athens, shame, war dead

Cairns D.L. (2019), "Thymos", in OCD, 5th ed., s.v.

Thymos (or thumos), cognate with Indo-European words meaning “smoke,” is one of a number of terms in Greek which associate psychological activity with air and breath. In the Homeric poems, thymos is one of a family of terms associated with internal psychological process of thought, emotion, volition, and motivation. Though the range of the term’s applications in Homer is wide, that in itself gives us a sense of the unity of cognitive, affective, and desiderative processes in Homeric psychology. No post-Homeric author can rival that range, but something of the richness of the Homeric conception of thymos as an interrelated set of motivations re-emerges in Plato’s conception of the tripartite soul in the Republic and the Phaedrus. Plato’s thymos represents a pared-down model of human agency typified by one central desire or aim in life but also exhibiting whatever further capacities of persons are necessary to enable it to pursue that aim in interaction with the other elements of the personality. As in Homer, the metaphorical agency of Plato’s thymos does not detract from the notion of the individual as the real centre of agency. Plato’s conception of thymos, in turn, is a fundamental point of reference for Aristotle’s treatment of thymos as a type of desire (orexis). Though Aristotle tends more generally to use the term as a synonym for orgē (anger), there are also traces of older associations between thymos and qualities such as assertiveness and goodwill towards others. Elsewhere, thymos tends to mean “heart” or “mind” (as aspects of mental functioning), “spirit,” “inclination,” or “anger.” A selection of these uses is surveyed, but the article overall concentrates on Homer, Plato, and Aristotle, where the role of thymos is of a different order of importance.

Keywords: thymos, psychology, emotion, anger, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, personification, metaphor

Cairns D. (2018/2019), "Θυμός in Homer: philological, oral-poetic, and cognitive approaches", Quaestiones Oralitatis 4, 13-30.

Thomas Jahn’s deft deployment of Parry’s oral-formulaic theory has shown that in a large number of occurrences, when used adverbially (with a preposition, in the instrumental dative, or in some other analogous use of an oblique case, e.g. ἐν(ὶ) θυμῷ, κατὰ θυμόν, θυμῷ, etc.), the usage of the words denoting the so-called “psychic organs” can be less a matter of semantic specificity than of metrical convenience, so that these terms exhibit substantial degrees of overlap and redundancy. Thus we need to treat the “psychic organs” as a family (of which θυμός is by far the most representative member) rather than as wholly independent variables. But careful philology can supplement this picture by demonstrating that even in non-formulaic and more marked contexts (e.g. when personified as agents or interlocutors) the relevant terms may be interchangeable in function. Once that has been established, approaches drawn from the cognitive sciences can help us pin down the ways in which the “psychic organs” can, via metonymy and metaphor, capture aspects of mental functioning in Homer without ever detracting from the agency of the person as a whole.

The journal issue can be accessed here.

Keywords: Homer, orality, psychology, mind, deliberation, θυμός, conceptual metaphor, metonymy, cognitive humanities

Canevaro M. (2018), "The public charge for hubris against slaves: the honour of the victim and the honour of the hubristēs", JHS 138, 100-126.

This article discusses the rationale and the implications of the inclusion of slaves as victims of punishable hubris in the law about the graphē hubreōs. It argues that hubris against slaves was a punishable offence in Athens not because slaves had institutionally and legally recognized rights or a modicum of honour, but rather because it was hubris, as a disposition to overstep and overestimate one's claims to honour (although manifested in concrete acts), that was deemed unacceptable. The article also investigates the implications of the law for our understanding of the connectedness of ‘legal’ and allegedly ‘extra-legal’ spaces, as well as advocating an understanding of honour that is not necessarily competitive and zero-sum, but also cooperative and aimed at securing smooth social interaction in all spheres of social life.

Canevaro M. (2016), Demostene, "Contro Leptine". Introduzione, Traduzione e Commento Storico, Berlin-Boston: De Gruyter (Texte und Kommentare 55).

The book provides a comprehensive study of Demosthenes’ Against Leptines as a document for the reconstruction of Athenian fourth-century politics, law and public economy. The importance of the speech has been increasingly recognised in recent years, with research on Athenian lawmaking highlighting its centrality and the inadequacy of previous accounts, and work on honours for benefactors and on the liturgical system stressing its importance for understanding the development of the Greek public economy and the conceptualization of euergetism and honour. The introduction and commentary offer a comprehensive treatment of these aspects, providing historians with key insights into Athenians conceptions of public service, public honour and reciprocity. Most importantly for our understanding of Greek honour, this book argues that the Against Leptines provides the first and only comprehensive ancient account of the ideological, theoretical and moral underpinnings of the economy of honour that was so fundamental to the Greek polis, in fostering public service, public honour and reciprocity while cementing the democracy. A large section of the introduction and large parts of the commentary are dedicated to these issues.

Cairns D.L. (2015), "Revenge, punishment, and justice in Athenian homicide law", Journal of Value Inquiry 49.4, 645-665.

This paper forms part of a larger study of emotions of esteem and self-esteem in classical (fifth- and fourth-century) Athenian society. An element of that project focuses on the role of timê (conventionally ‘honour’, but encompassing notions of worth, dignity, prestige, and deference) in Athenian law. This, in turn, requires a consideration of recent controversies regarding the relative importance of personal vengeance versus the punishment of offenders in Athenian litigation. The current paper is an attempt at a test case of manageable scope, using a limited range of primary sources. The aim is to focus on a limited body of evidence, namely the small corpus of extant Athenian forensic speeches that deal with homicide, to see what, if anything, is distinctive about homicide trials in terms of the role that they assign to notions of honour, vengeance, and state-regulated punishment. An important part of this concerns the relation between the affective and the normative in such contexts.

Cairns D.L. (2011), "Honour and shame: modern controversies and ancient values", Critical Quarterly 53.1, 23-41.

This article challenges both the predominant view of honour in Classics (drawn from studies of modern Mediterranean societies) and more recent views of honour as an essentially primitive phenomenon, surviving only in counter-cultural and regressive contexts, building instead on approaches in philosophy, economics, and sociology which see honour as a reflex of an attachment to esteem which permeates all societies at all periods. Concern for honour and shame is not a phenomenon that we should approach from the outside looking in. Though honour-words are clearly attached to different ideals in different societies, and though honour (and its analogues) may take on specific senses at different periods and in different contexts, still there is a general sense in which what mattered to (for example) Homer’s heroes is a reflex of something that still matters to us.

Cairns D.L. (1996), "Hybris, dishonour, and thinking big", JHS 116, 1-32.

The focal point of this article is the detailed study of the concept of hybris published by N.R.E. Fisher (Fisher 1992) and the differences of interpretation which exist between that study and other work on the concept, especially MacDowell 1976. Fisher is right to relate hybris fundamentally to questions of honour; but since honour in Greek has subjective, dispositional aspects and is fundamentally bidirectional and comparative in nature, so hybris also has a substantial dispositional side that Fisher tends to play down.

Cairns D.L. (1993), Aidôs. The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

This was the first and is still the only study in English to examine across the range of Greek literature one of the most crucial terms in Greek ethical and social discourse, aidos. Commonly rendered `shame', `modesty', or `respect', aidos is also notoriously one of the most elusive and difficult Greek words to translate. This book discusses the nature and application of aidos and other relevant terms in a number of authors, with particular emphasis on their manifestations in epic, tragedy, and philosophy. It shows that the essence of the concept is to be found in its relationship with Greek values of honour, in which context it can recognize and respond to the honour of both the self and others. It thus involves both self- and other- regarding behaviour, competitive and co-operative values. Despite this crucial relationship with systems of honour, however, the possession of aidos at no stage rules out the sort of commitment to internalized standards or ideals which we might associate with conscience.


Featured image: L. Alma-Tadema, The Favourite Poet, 1888 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool)

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close