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Violence in Antiquity

Physical violence is a universal cultural feature and in evidence throughout history. Surveying the history of mankind reveals no kind of improvement in the sense of qualitative moderation or an overall quantitative decrease in the amount of violence. That being said, the forms and extent violence assumes are subject to historical change. This change is of interest to cultural historians in itself since every period finds its own specific forms of expression that are used to communicate about physical violence. Considering how physical violence is thematised and what media are used is key in understanding any given culture. The ways in which extreme forms of violence are prohibited and permitted, as well as thematised and occluded in images and texts, reveals very specific cultural rules and patterns of organisation. While the research project is also to an extent concerned with reconstructing excessive forms of violence and the events they relate to, this is not the main concern. The core interest is in answering the question whether and how such events are presented in the media of the time and what information can be gleaned from these dynamics for the various ancient cultures.


  • Audio CD: Gewaltexzesse antiker Tyrannen (Fachbereich Alte Geschichte) uni auditorium, 66 min. [Audiobook] (Audio CD), Komplett media 2008.
  • Martin Zimmermann (Ed.), Extreme Formen von Gewalt in Bild und Text des Altertums, Münchner Studien zur Alten Welt, Munich 2009.
  • Martin Zimmermann, Gewalt: Die dunkle Seite der Antike. Munich 2013.


Prof. Dr. Martin Zimmermann
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