A trans- and interdisciplinary conference at the University of Hamburg

12—14 November 2015

καιρός and χρόνος. Concepts of Time as Personifications in Antiquity

The perception of time is a highly individual experience. Every person experiences time in its cyclic dimensions – day after day or the annual recurrence of the four seasons – and in its progressive facets – aging of relatives, friends, animals and oneself as the (biological) ongoing process of time elapsing, encompassing relative and absolute elements of time phenomena.
These perceptions have to lead to time’s cultural appropriation, creating (different) concepts of time. Naming perceivable time elements like ‘night’ and ‘day’, ‘season’ and ‘year’ becomes hereby as important as other engrossing approaches: Identifying, understanding and sorting time and its phenomena in some way are the first steps towards the socio-cultural organisation of time – this being a complex process of drafting new cultural concepts for those everyday phenomena. In ritual theory one approach is to identify ritual and myth as means to explain the unexplainable in everyday life by creating transcendental explanation threads in the respective cultural net. So do we find cultural transformations of phenomena and the concepts of time into (visual) carriers of meaning in classical antiquity?
Are the personifications of καιρός, the favourable moment, and χρόνος, time in general, created by such processes like the cultural ‘creation’ of thunder-striking Zeus? What concepts of time can be found in those to representations? How is time conceptualized, how are the concepts visualized? What artistic dimensions can be found – e.g. in the Karios-Monument of Lysippos? Which aspects of time are emphasized, which are disregarded? And – most importantly: Using the personification as focus for analyzing the past cultures of antiquity, what ideas can be re-produced that were the driving force in the interpretation and conception of those cultural products? Which interdependencies between time, its concepts and its images can be identified? And how are they to be interpreted?

Ulfert Oldewurtel, M.A. is a research assistant at the Archaeological Institute of the University of Hamburg. He received his Magister Artium in Classical Archaeology and Modern History from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Before his current position in Hamburg he was a faculty member at the Winckelmann-Institute for Classical Archaeology and prior to that Personal Assistant to the Vice-President for Academic and International Affairs of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
His current research project examines the visuality of urban spaces in Roman cities. His recent forthcoming publications will be papers dealing with the Cancelleria Reliefs as well as with archaeological collections of plaster casts in research and university teaching. Website:

Uni HH Logo