Academic Training Lecture Regular Programme

History of the Night

by Dr Angelos Chaniotis (IAS)

503/1-001 - Council Chamber (CERN)

503/1-001 - Council Chamber


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The definition of the night, as the period between sunset and sunrise, is consistent and unalterable, regardless of culture and time. However the perception of the night and its economic, social, and cultural roles are subject to change. Which parameters determine these changes?

What can we learn by studying them about the specific character of a culture?

Why do people experience the night in different ways in different historical periods and how did this affect their lives?

How do references to nocturnal activities in historical sources (works of art, narratives) reveal what the artists/authors wish to communicate to their audiences?

Can the night be a meaningful subject of historical and archaeological enquiry? A study of the source material in the Greek world (ca. 400 BC-ca. AD 400) shows a continuous effort to colonize the night with activities of the day, to make the night safer, more productive, more rational, more efficient.

The main motors for this change were social developments and religion, not technology. So, we are tempted to ask:

Do we have a night life because of technology?

Or do we create technology in order to have a night life?

Lecturer's bio: Institute of Advanced Study - Princeton -

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Sponsor: Maria Dimou