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Bernadette Descharmes

Revenger and Revenged. Revenge as social practice in Archaic and Classical Greece

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Born in 1978 in Pforzheim, Germany 




1998 – 2000 Student of Ancient, Medieval and Modern History and English at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg

2000-2001 Visiting Student of Ancient History and English at Royal Holloway College – University of London

2001-2005 Student of Ancient and Modern History and English at Humboldt-Universität Berlin

2005 Graduate assistant at the Department of History (Ancient History) at Humboldt-Universität Berlin

June 2005 Graduation as Magistra Artium

Exam Paper on “Revenge in Homer. Forms, functions and social problems of retaliation“, supervised by Prof. Dr. Elke Hartmann

2005/ 2006 Assistant Lecturer at the Department of History (Ancient History) at Humboldt-Universität Berlin


Bernadette Descharmes: Rezension zu: Luther, Andreas (Hrsg.): Odyssee-Rezeptionen. Frankfurt am Main 2005. In: H-Soz-u-Kult, 13.12.2006, http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensionen/2006-4-195

Bernadette Descharmes: Rezension zu:Luther, Andreas (Hrsg.): Geschichte und Fiktion in der homerischen Odyssee. München 2006. In: H-Soz-u-Kult, 22.05.2007, http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensionen/2007-2-105


PhD Thesis Project: Revenger and Revenged. Revenge as social practice in Archaic and Classical Greece

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Gehrke

Tutor: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Eßbach

In the last few years studies in Ancient History supported the view that revenge should not be understood as a primitve form of punishment but as a concept coexisting with it. My project follows this argument. In doing so, I  seek to analyse the acts of revenge and their relevance in the context of social relations rather than referring to the history of law.

This research aims to approach the subject mainly by studying the practices and dispositions (Pierre Bourdieu) in different social relationships. It is intended to study revenge as a social field, in which acts of revenge are traced back to strategies and are performed under specific rules. It will question, who will revenge who, why and what for reasons? What is the weight of emotional symptoms such as anger and grief and to what extent does the revenger act out of duty, to what extent out of emotions? These questions apply to relationships such as oikos, philoi and philotes respectively, and the polis.

Relating to the research group’s main topic I will investigate the ambitions and social circumstances for performing acts of revenge among and on behalf of friends. Questions like ”to what extent does someone act freely, to what extent out of the responsibilities of friendship? In which areas of everyday life does a friend demand or receive this kind of loyalty? Does revenge stabilize a friendship, and vice versa, can it breach such a bond? What are the consequences of a conflict between philoi?” will act as a guideline for this study. Thus, the effects of revenge in different social relations are to be discussed as well.

In order to evaluate the answers to the questions above the project offers two levels of comparison. Firstly, juxtaposing and comparing the different forms of social relations will enable to examine the weight of the different bonds of loyalty. Secondly, it will allow to study transformations of practices by a diachronical analysis of sources such as epic, drama, and forensic speeches.

Consequently, this project will shed light on the dynamic field of conflicts between the integrating and desintegrating forces of revenge. By studying social relationships out of this perspective, the project aims to contribute to the social history of Archaic and Classical Greece. Simultaneously it will investigate the phenomenon of revenge, which itself is worth being considered from an historical angle.

  • Postadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    c/o Historisches Seminar
    Rempartstr. 15 - KG IV
    79085 Freiburg 
  • Besuchsadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    Erbprinzenstraße 13
    79098 Freiburg
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