Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion
research group

Use and reception of Classical history

The research group will examine political, social and religious aspects of the "ancient heritage".

Faksimilie fra en avis.
"In the sacrificial grove at the altar of party politics" Trade minister Johan Castberg, portrayed as a Roman priest, receives sacrifices carried by representatives of political parties and interest groups in connection with the proposal for new customs laws. Viking 30-1913.
Uten opphavsrett/Public domain

Main content

Antiquity, or the notions of the ancient Greco-Roman world, has played an important role in the history of Europe and Scandinavia, from the Middle Ages to the present day.

The research group will examine political, social, and religious aspects of the "ancient heritage". The purpose is to understand better the many ways in which antiquity has been used throughout history. In this way, we can also better understand how the term antiquity is used today.

We find references to the period in constitutional debates, public discourse, and political experiments with "direct democracy". Antiquity has also become part of the legitimization base for far-right extremists and misogyny, both on social media and on the dark web. This has clear precursors in the position of antiquities myth in Nazi Germany.

The idea of antiquity has thus been used for both constructive and destructive purposes, quite independently of what scholars have thought of ancient real history.


The research group gathers scholars from the Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion at UiB and other universities in Norway and abroad, who are collaborating with the aim of publishing an anthology on the use and reception of ancient history in Norwegian, European and American public discourse, through the Middle Ages, Early Modern and Modern periods.

The following topics are planned to be included in the anthology:

  • What is Classical reception? (Amadou)
  • Vestal virgins from Ibsen to Instagram (Undheim)
  • Antiquity in Norwegian periodical literature 1650-1800 (Melve)
  • Italian city republics and the ancient Roman Republic (Bagge)
  • Alexander the Great in Northern Europe and Scandinavia (Visscher)
  • Julius Caesar after Antiquity (Ravnå)
  • Ancient political systems in liberal thought (Mæhle)
  • Antiquity of National and Authoritarian Thought in Germany (Sommer)
  • Antiquity and the Norwegian Founding Fathers (Hatlebakk)
  • Rape culture in Antiquity and the modern world (Koutsepetrou-Møller)
  • Social Science Research and Antiquity (Robinson)
  • Norwegian translation of the Bible and public debate (Økland)
  • Antiquity in the Norwegian school system (Os)
  • Antiquity, fascism, and neo-fascism (Wolff)
  • What can we learn from Athenian Democracy? (Ober)
  •  Antiquity in Norwegian political caricature 1900–1930 (Seland)

Scheduled meetings/seminars

Mid-March 2023

Oct. 18-19 2023

Digital meeting