Conference: Disbelief in Antiquity

The agenda has been released for Disbelief in Antiquity: An Interdisciplinary Conference taking place at Oxford University June 22-24, 2013.

Conference Details:

Disbelief in Antiquity: An Interdisciplinary Conference
Date: 22-24 June 2013
Location: Al-Jaber auditorium, Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

Were there ancient versions of atheism? Who were the religious disbelievers in antiquity? What did they question? When and why did ancient religions allow dissent? This conference brings together some of the top names of Egyptology, Classics, Biblical Studies, the Ancient Near East and East Asia to address these questions.

22nd June

12.45 pm arrivals, registration, lunch
2.00 pm Cliff Ando (Chicago) ‘Disbelief and cognate concepts in Roman antiquity’
3.15 pm Teresa Morgan (Oxford) ‘Is divine-human (dis)belief analogous to intra-human (dis)belief?’
4.30 pm Tea and coffee
5.00 Xinzhong Yao (King’s London) ‘The tension between belief and disbelief in early Confucianism’
6.15 Opening reception
7.15 Dinner in College

23rd June

9.00 am Richard Parkinson (British Museum) ‘Is he asleep? Scepticism and disbelief in Middle Kingdom elite culture’
10.15 am Jan Assmann (Heidelberg) ‘Egyptian disbelief in the promises of eternity’
11.30 am Coffee
11.45 am Marianna Shakhnovich (St Petersburg) ‘The origin and transformation of disbelief in shamanism’
1.00 pm Lunch
2.00 pm Herbert Niehr (Tübingen), ‘Some aspects of ‘disbelief’ according to the sources from Late Bronze Age Ugarit’
3.15 pm Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Exeter) ‘Let sleeping gods lie: atheism, skepticism and religious reality within and without the Hebrew Bible’
4.30 pm Tea and coffee
5.00-6.30 shorter papers
7.15 Conference dinner in College

24th June

9.00 am Sarah Hitch and Emily Kearns (Oxford) ‘Atheism as literary criticism: the case of Greek poetry’
10.15 am Jim Porter (Irvine) ‘What’s the matter with God? Natural philosophy, materialism, and the sublime in Greece and Rome’
11.30 Coffee
11.45 Tim Whitmarsh (Oxford) ‘Atheism and polytheism’
1.00 Lunch

Online booking: (search for ‘Disbelief’ or follow Conferences and Events > Classics > Classics Events)

We plan to have a number of shorter, TED-style papers (10 minutes + 5 minutes of discussion) at 5.00 on 23rd June). If you have an idea for one of these, please send a short abstract (200 words maximum) to Unfortunately we cannot guarantee financial support for these speakers.

Please note that accommodation is limited at Corpus Christi. Rooms can also be booked via Hotels close to Corpus Christi include the Eastgate ( and the Old Bank (<>).

Organisers: Sarah Hitch (<>), Tim Whitmarsh (<>). Please contact Sarah if you would like to be considered for a student bursary.