The ancient Greeks and Romans were great innovators. New ideas abounded, not just in science and technology, but also in literature and arts, politics, the economy and many other domains of life. How did those innovations come about? How do inventions and new ideas turn into actual (accepted) innovation? This is the research question of the Gravitation proposal by a team of Dutch classicists collaborating in the national research school in Classical Studies, OIKOS. For this ten-year research agenda, the team of 12 applicants has been awarded a Gravitation grant of 18.8 million Euros. This is a unique achievement for the Humanities.
The hypothesis of this research agenda is that tradition and innovation are not simply juxtaposed or even opposed. In successful innovations, people perceive a meaningful coherence between the new and the familiar. For this phenomenon OIKOS uses the concept of ‘anchoring’. Developing this concept in an investigation of Greco-Roman antiquity results in a new and better understanding of innovation processes of all times.
A microcosm of the Humanities
Studying innovation in all societal domains presupposes a group of highly diverse specialists who collaborate closely. The Dutch classicists are a good match: not only because they study the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans from very diverse points of view, but also because the current generation of researchers has been working together for over 15 years in OIKOS. Some are linguists, some are literary scholars; some are historians of the ancient economy, ancient religion, ancient philosophy and science, or ancient politics; archaeologists study the material culture of classical Antiquity. Together, they investigate ancient society as a whole, and they do so in constant interaction with each other. Classics in the Netherlands, classicists say, is a “microcosm of the Humanities”. A perspective on innovation that goes beyond technology, the sciences and medicine to include all facets of human society requires a research team with such broad expertise.
The research team
The Gravitation proposal was developed by a large team of Dutch classicists, led by Prof Ineke Sluiter (Leiden University, main applicant) and Prof André Lardinois (Radboud University). The team consists of researchers from Leiden University, University of Utrecht, Radboud University, University of Groningen and University of Amsterdam. Radboud University submitted the proposal to NWO. Utrecht University is represented by ancient historian Prof Josine Blok and ancient philosopher Prof Teun Tieleman.