This project had its focus on the diverse ways water was conceptualized and dealt with in antiquity. It especially aimed at finding new approaches to an understanding of the relation between men, states, and the sea in Classical Greece and Rome.


Research and Results

By adopting a great variety of perspectives, it was possible to establish a new set of heuristics that were successfully applied, e.g. to “thalassocracy,” a highly difficult term itself, or to the analysis of developments in the idea of how human beings and societies could “master” the sea. At Several international conferences organized by the project the impact of research has been publicized and a great variety of experts could be gathered.

Banner zur Ringvorlesung Modell-Kaiser

Lecture series “Modell Kaiser – Kaiser Modell” organized and conceived by the members of the research project.

The claim of “domination of the sea” is a highly ambivalent one, and so has it been treated by ancient authors, as could be shown for Thucydides and the 5th century B.C. by Hans Kopp’s PhD thesis (Das Meer als Versprechen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017); the same holds true for the early principate as well. At the project´s first major conference, by now already published as  “Seemacht, Seeherrschaft und die Antike, Stuttgart, 2016″, the notion of sea power and the applications of such concepts in antiquity were discussed and the difficulties and ambiguities of these terms and models were emphasized. A second conference, entitled “Thalassokratographie,” dealt with the question how ancient sea power was (re-)constructed in later times and turned into an exemplum that was thought of as worthy of emulation. Finally, a conference about the use of maritime power in the context of political self-representation in antiquity showed how important the theme of the sea was in different historical constellations and how it could be treated in great variety and with different purposes

These research interests were further pursued in the conference “Rector maris: Sextus Pompeius und das Meer” on the relation between power and the sea in July 2017. The role Sextus Pompeius played for the development of a concept of Roman sea power was examined. This conference is closely related to the PhD project of Laura Kersten that started in October 2015 under the provisional title “Maritime Revolution. Sextus Pompeius and the genesis of the principate”. Her work is proceeding apace, and she brings in a new perspective on an often neglected actor in the last phase of the Roman republic.

The interdisciplinary approach of research, especially the dialogue between Classics and Political Science, was made visible in theory-orientated events like the workshop Constructivism in Ancient Sources or a public discussion about the use of Thucydides in modern politics and mass media; moreover, an additional funding via the Einstein Foundation Berlin was gained for the project Bewegung als Prinzipwhere Visiting Fellow Neville Morley, together with Christian Wendt and a research group investigates the role ideas of transformation and motion played as decisive factors in the classical discourse about politics and human behavior.


Many international fellows, such as Neville Morley, Ned Lebow, Clifford Orwin, Edith Foster, Ryan Balot, Kurt Raaflaub or Seth Jaffe, contributed to our research, especially in the framework of the Berlin Thucydides Center that was founded in 2013 as a hub for gathering important scholars in the field of Thucydidean studies. A major step in defining Thucydides as the first great thinker of international order and governance were the two volumes we published in 2016 with Christian Thauer from Hebrew University Jerusalem, entitled Thucydides and Political Order.

Public Outreach

For more public outreach, we conceived and organized the lecture series “Modellkaiser – Kaisermodell” in remembrance of Augustus’ death 2000 years ago, where we highlighted, among several aspects that made his reign important, his self-adopted public image as “ruler of the sea.“

Press Release: Der Modellkaiser – Ringvorlesung über Kaiser Augustus, October 1, 2014


Results of the project´s research have been presented in several publications e.g.:

Hans Kopp, Das Meer als Versprechen. Bedeutung und Funktion von Seeherrschaft bei Thukydides, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017

Ernst Baltrusch, Hans Kopp and Christian Wendt (Eds.), Seemacht, Seeherrschaft und die Antike, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2016

Ernst Baltrusch and Julia Wilker (Eds.), Amici – socii – clientes? Abhängige Herrschaft im Imperium Romanum, Berlin: Edition Topoi, 2015

Christian Thauer and Christian Wendt (Eds.), Thucydides and Political Order. Vol. 1: Concepts of Order and the History of the Peloponnesian War, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

For more publication related to the project, please visit: