Dr Antti Lampinen (Finnish Institute at Athens), “Nativism in Herodes’ Sophistic Attica: Rural Heroes, Hellenic Purity and the Bust of ‘Sauromates'”
ABSTRACT: That some second-century figures under the broad umbrella of Second Sophistic entertained nativist conceptions of Hellenicity is not news as such. Dio of Prusa was not only a fairly outspoken critic of the Roman rule, but saw the utility of using physiognomic readings as a tool of invective; his pupil Polemo of Laodicea doubled down on this physiognomical chauvinism, going as far as picking only the ‘purest Greece’ as his pupils, if Philostratus is to be believed. Polemo clearly presented himself as being able to distinguish a morally superior, physiognomically distinct ‘Hellenic’ type, and he seems to have been similarly explicit about this category having become vulnerable to intermixture for a variety of reasons. My paper will first discuss the nativist rhetoric and ethnically expressed essentialism in some of the sophistic works that formed Polemo’s circle, as well as the curious anecdote about the rural demi-god Agathion that Philostratus quotes from Herodes Atticus’ letters. Finally, I will focus on a portrait bust at the Acropolis Museum of Athens, conventionally attributed to a Bosporan king, possibly Sauromates II, though not on particularly strong grounds. I will suggest a possible alternative interpretation of the piece, which might in this reading be connected to the Marathonian ‘Heracles of Herodes’ (Philostr. VS 552-554).