Looking ahead to the Brown Symposium's exploration of the past and present


The flyer for the Brown symposium.

From Feb. 11-12, Southwestern will host the thirty-second annual Brown Symposium. This year’s event is named “Imperivm: The Art of Empire in Rome and America” and will explore the ideas and extent of the influence that the dynamic Roman empire has on today’s society and politics.

The various and what is promised to be very interesting presentations will discuss the many aspects of the Roman empire that still fascinate people to this day as they analyze the complicated “art of power.”

The Brown Symposium is a two-day event, first established in 1978, which the SU community has faithfully kept alive. Geared to those wanting to be educated, the Brown Symposium has explored a broad and wide range of topics such as “The Human Genome Project: Advances, Repercussions and Challenges,” in 1998, to “Gods, Giants and Monkeys: The Ramakian in the Arts and Culture of Thailand,” in 1989.

The Brown Foundation endows the forum with the purpose of collecting a variety of distinguished leaders of their respective fields on a certain topic for a wide platform of discussion. The Southwestern University website includes a list of speakers. For more information visit http://www.southwestern.edu/academics/brownsymposium/index.php


9:15 Thomas Howe: Our very own art history professor who will be starting the symposium with his introduction titled “Sub Conspectu Populi: Senatorial Talent and the  Republican Empire”

10:30 Karl Galinsky: A professor of classics at the University of Texas at Austin and a prominent modern historian who will be presenting a lecture called “Are We Rome…Really?” that will focus on the differences between Rome and America.

1:30 Margaret Malamud: A professor of history at New Mexico State University, who will be giving a lecture titled “Consummate Empires: Ancient Rome and Imperial America c. 1900” and has published a book dealing with how the legacy of Rome has permeated itself in America’s history and political sphere.

2:45 Edward Lucie-Smith: An art critic will be presenting a speech named “Did the Romans Do Post-Modernism?” and has written more than 200 books, including ones discussing artists involved with the revival of classical approaches to art.


9:00 Alexander Stille: A journalism professor at Columbia University will be lecturing on the “Imperial Power in 21st Century Rome,” in which he will be mentioning European politicians who use controversial tactics in their means for political control.

10:15 Edward Luttwak: A military historian who will be presenting a lecture titled “Rome and Byzantium, Iraq and Afghanistan,” in which he will be discussing how military power is utilized by comparing the Roman military to America’s own modern and developing military strategies.

Not only is there an overwhelmingly number of respected lecturers available throughout the symposium, there will also be an art exhibit for all those visually creative minds out there. The exhibit will be led by Thomas Howe and Edward Lucie-Smith. It will, of course, showcase impressive pieces of artwork by Lucie-Smith, Francisco Benitez and Mersad Berber. Furthermore, there will be an evening concert by Organographia that focuses on the revival and rebuilding of Greek and Roman music.

Howe, who spearheaded and organized the event, personally picked the presenters who will be exhibiting their knowledge and work. Howe has much experience in his field, as he has been directing and working on a ten-year long excavation project on a group of villas around Pompeii known as the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation.

In an interview with Howe, he explains why he chose this seemingly high-brow topic and why he was so eager in introducing it to a wider audience. With his background in art history and archeology, the subject of the Brown Symposium should be of no surprise. In addition, his commitment and work to his excavation project  created an “[interest] in the historical [and] social story behind those villas” which consequently were “villas of extremely powerful Romans.”

As a result of this fascination, he wanted to give people a chance to explore Rome’s political rising and significant influence on modern social and political spheres. Howe also stated that he was a bit “irritated with the extent to which people buy into the romantic image of [the villas] as being almost places of a superior lifestyle” and wanted to show the true and much more pragmatic reality to it.

When asked about whether or not this topic was still relevant to today’s audience, Howe fervently stood by his choice. He stated that because “America is now being referred to [...] as the fourth Rome,” there is still a “fascinat[ion] with the Roman empire as a possible model,” although he does not believe it was a perfect predecessor. He states that there is a connection to Rome’s historical power to America’s own modern power because “there is a certain romance to it, there is a certain fear of it, there is a certain attraction to it, there is a certain repulsion to [the idea that America is such an influential power holder].”

He hopes that today’s audience can not only see that Rome’s process is still relevant but can also be an example from which we can take away from it “ways [that] it was effective and ways in which it was not”. Howe also commented that it indeed takes a “great deal of real talent to effectively create [and operate] power” and there is essentially a fine art to it.

He hopes that the lectures will not only diversify people’s pre-conceived ideas about Rome, but that they will also pinpoint the idea that creating power is an art form that is constantly evolving and influencing other cultures.

According to Howe, students are very much encouraged to attend this event. Not only is it right at SU, but the symposium is specifically catered to a “broadly educated student and adult audience,” who are willing to learn something new.

He promises that those distinguished presenters will not disappoint with their “innovative insights.” He is mostly excited about the speakers and “what [might happen] when they get together” as they react to one another and exchange what is bound to be an exciting dialogue about the past and its direct result to our present and consequently, our future.

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