Antiquity and the Shaping of the Future in the Age of Enlightenment

In the 18th century, a new interpretation of the past radically innovated the dominating view of and approach to tradition. The legacy of antiquity was always there as shared memory, in line with the cosmopolitan spirit of the Enlightenment, and provided fascinating yet familiar imagery: when the great historical events of the century took place – from the dynastic struggles to the American and French revolutions up until the Italian revolutionary triennium and the Napoleonic era – the political, institutional, legal and philosophical models of the ancient Greeks and Romans and of all traditions constituted a source of inspiration and a constant means of comparison. The art, literature, drama and music of the period would draw on classical themes and expressiveness. Science and technology innovated traditional knowledge. Archaeology, museology, library science and erudition developed in relation to the growing need of knowing and classifying the ancient world in new ways. Nevertheless, the critical and analytical attitude that characterised 18th century culture also transformed its relationship with antiquity, which was renegotiated and modernised. This modern view of antiquity provided a dynamic means of comparison for the modern world to pass onto the following century, when new cultural models were defined based on difficult and contradictory relationship with tradition. This no longer concerns the contrast between the Ancients and the Moderns that dominated the more traditional background of the Renaissance well into the 17th century. Nor is the famous metaphor of “the dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants” applicable to the following century any longer. Indeed, the 1700s witnessed a reconstruction of the foundations of knowledge considering not only the different forms of knowledge itself, but also the individual and its existence in the present, thus creating a break with the past and laying the groundwork to build the future and elaborate the new patterns of thought and expression that developed in the subsequent ages and up to the present.  The challenge that the Congress is to face lies precisely in the capturing of the deep sense and meaning of this transformation, which involves all branches of knowledge and can be approached from different perspectives and with different methodologies.

The programme will include theme-related keynote lectures, panels, round tables, and paper presentations. The congress languages are English, French and Italian.

A first draft version of the programme will be available at the end of March 2023