18th-19th March 2014
St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

A seismic shift in thinking about the environment from the 1960s onwards can blind us to the fact that inhabitants of the ancient world (c. 800 BCE - 400 CE) were also acutely aware that they existed as part of an ecological system. Yet for these thinkers it was not rapidly melting icecaps which made examining their relationship with the environment so urgent, but the theological questions it raised. This conference will embrace pagan, Jewish and Christian thinking about the intersection of theology and ecology, whether expressed in sources we might now label philosophy, scripture, natural history, science, liturgy or folklore. How did these thinkers understand their natural environment to stand in relation to the divine? And how did this understanding condition human interaction with the natural world? By bringing together biblical scholars, classicists, philosophers and theologians the first aim of this conference is to paint a cohesive and multi-disciplinary picture of the theological sophistication of ancient thinking about nature.

At the same time, the conference will not lose sight of our current ecological crisis. What impact, if any, should ancient thinking about the environment have on our own ecological thinking? While individual advances have been made in theorising how ancient thinking might inform modern responses to ecological issues, there is still vital need for cross-disciplinary discussion of the impact of such thinking on relatively new disciplines such as environmental philosophy and eco-theology, and on contemporary calls to environmental action. As such this conference aims, in a mutually reinforcing process, to shape both our knowledge of the ancient world and the work of those who are writing the theology, philosophy and ethics of the twenty-first century.

The conference is sponsored jointly by the Classics Faculty, University of Cambridge and the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, and will be held in St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. Plenary speakers include Prof Robin Attfield (Cardiff), Prof Melissa Lane (Princeton), Dr Hilary Marlow (Cambridge), Prof Richard Seaford (Exeter), Prof David Sedley (Cambridge) and Dr Edward Adams (KCL-tbc). The conference organizers are Dr Ailsa Hunt and Dr Hilary Marlow.

Conference Website

  • For further enquiries please contact either of the organisers on or It is anticipated that selected papers from the conference will be published in a volume edited by Dr Hunt and Dr Marlow.

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The Faraday Institute 
for Science and Religion