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Tolkien and Antiquity

Tolkien et l’Antiquité

Antiquities of Middle-earth

Les Antiquités de la Terre du Milieu

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Published on Wednesday, January 12, 2022


This workshop, which will take place on June 4, 2022 in Paris, aims to study the notion of Antiquity(ies) in the work of J. R. R. Tolkien. The event is open to specialists in literature, antiquity or reception of antiquity, insofar as the aim is to reflect on the existence of ancient periods in Tolkien's legends which could present points of convergence with Greco-Roman antiquity in the broad sense, as the author could conceive it in particular.



Antiquitas, “the time of the past”, “the old days”: the universe of the Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973) fascinates with its apparent historicity and does have an antiquity, in the sense of a distant past. In the history of that world, made of a multitude of tales commonly referred to as the Legendary, the place of ancient literature has long been emphasized. 

Initially trained in classical literature, the author’s original interests are particularly felt in the Silmarillion : the city of Gondolin has strong resemblances to Troy (BRUCE 2012, PANTIN 2014), Númenor with Atlantis (DELATTRE 2007, KLEU 2020 ); but even the Galadriel of his major work has been compared to Circe (DELATTRE 2014). We therefore detect in him an indepth knowledge of ancient authors, Virgil of course (RECKFORD 1974 ; MORSE 1986 ; BRUCE

2012), but also Plutarch (LIBRAN-MORENO 2005) or Tacitus (OBERTINO 2006). The list is not exhaustive, and Homeric inspiration, in particular, is found in the accounts of The Lost Tales and The Silmarillion. As for the societies in his universe, they are sometimes close to the cultures of Antiquity, Greek (WILLIAMS 2017, 2020) or Roman (ALLAN 1974, OBERTINO 2006, FORD 2005, GALLANT 2020). However, the dispersion of these comparisons makes it difficult to synthesize these contributions. 

The workshop of June 4, 2022 aims to take a new look at this fictional past : can we identify ancient periods reminiscent of Greco-Roman antiquity? The question is inseparable from a dialectic associating Antiquity and the Middle Ages, for, in his Letters, Tolkien reveals Gondor lived a Middle Ages (Letters, n ° 131), which implies an Antiquity ... as well as a Renaissance (on this point of view, see FORD 2005, HUNTER 2005). An ancient era is referred to by the author as the "Elder Days", which end with the First Age, long before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Can these eras be compared to Greco-Roman antiquity, so that there would be several Tolkienian antiquities? 

The history of Middle-earth itself constitutes a form of fictional antiquity, Tolkien having indicated that we are currently in the 7th Age, in the continuity of the Early Ages which form the subject of his work. Beyond the primary inconsistencies – such as the paradox of the historical invention of writing – can we envision a continuum between Middle-earth and Antiquity ? For these questions, the analysis of the Tolkiennian corpus as a whole (from the History of Middle-earth to Letters, even outside of the Legendary) will be welcome. 

We do not expect to find a perfect image of Greco-Roman antiquity in the work : it is not even so with the Middle Ages, the main source of inspiration, which imperfectly merges with

Middle-earth. It would therefore be a question of speaking of an “antiquism”, alongside

“medievalism” (on this notion, see FERRÉ 2000, CARRUTHERS 2007, FERRÉ 2009, 2010, 2013). Antiquity (and not only the classical literature) could thus complement the Middle Ages in the reading of the work. The day will thus join issues raised elsewhere concerning the reception of Antiquity in literature and popular culture (BOS-FIÉVET AND PROVINI 2014). In this context, talks may lead a separate analysis of the derivative creations (illustrations, films or games). 

Submission guidelines

Communication proposals (10-20 lines) must be sent before March 7h, 2022 to tolkienantique2022@gmail.com 


Dimitri Maillard, ATER en histoire romaine, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Scientific committee

  • Charles Delattre, Professeur de langue et littérature grecque antique, Université de Lille
  • Vincent Ferré, Professeur de littérature générale et comparée, Université Paris Est Créteil
  • Isabelle Pantin, Professeure émérite de littérature française du XVIe s., ENS Paris
  • Sandra Provini, Maîtresse de conférence en littérature française du XVIe s., Université de Rouen


ALLAN, J. D. (1974), « The Decline and Fall of the Osgiliathian Empire », Mythcon Proceedings, 1, 4, p. 3-6.

BESSON, A., dir, (2019), Fantasy et Histoire(s). Colloque des Imaginales, Épinal, 22-23 mai 2018, Chambéry.

BOST FIEVET, M., PROVINI, S., éd. (2014), L’Antiquité dans l’imaginaire contemporain Fantasy, science-fiction, fantastique, Paris.

BRANCHAW, SH. (2010), « Elladan and Elrohir : The Dioscuri in The Lord of the Rings », Tolkien Studies, 7, p. 137-146.

BRUCE, A. M. (2012), « The Fall of Gondolin and the Fall of Troy : Tolkien and Book II of The Aeneid », Mythlore, 30, 3/4, p. 103-115.

CARRUTHERS, L., dir. (2007), Tolkien et le Moyen Âge, Paris.

DELATTRE, CH. (2007), « Númenor et l’Atlantide : une écriture en héritage », Revue de littérature comparée, 323, 3, p. 303-322.

  • (2009), Le Cycle de l’Anneau, de Minos à Tolkien, Paris.
  • (2014), « Tolkien et la femme-araignée », PROVINI , BOST-FIEVET M., dir., L’Antiquité dans l’imaginaire contemporain. Fantasy, science-fiction, fantastique, p. 187-204.

FERRE, V. (2000), « Tolkien et le Moyen-Age, ou l’arbre et la feuille », GALLY, M., dir., La Trace médiévale et les écrivains d’aujourd’hui, Paris, p. 121-141.

  • (2009), « La critique à l’épreuve de la fiction. Le "médiévalisme" de Tolkien (Beowulf,

Sire Gauvain, Le Retour de Beorhtnoth et Le Seigneur des Anneaux) », SEGUY, M., KOBLE, N., dir., Passé présent. Le Moyen Âge dans les fictions contemporaines, Paris, 2009, p. 45-54.

  • (2010), « Limites du médiévalisme : l’exemple de la courtoisie chez Tolkien (Le Seigneur des Anneaux et Les Lais du Beleriand) », BURLE, , NAUDET, V., éd., Fantasmagories du Moyen Âge. Entre médiéval et moyenâgeux, Aix-en-Provence, p. 11-19.
  • (2013), « Tolkien et le retour du Moyen Âge : l'histoire d'un malentendu ? », Le Débat, 177, 5, p. 126-132.

FORD, J. A. (2005), « The White City : The Lord of the Rings as an Early Medieval Myth of the Restoration of the Roman Empire », Tolkien Studies, 2, p. 53-73.

GALLANT, R. Z. (2020), « The Noldorization of the Edain: The Roman-Germani Paradigm for the Noldor and Edain in Tolkien's Migration Era », WILLIAMS, H., ED., Tolkien and the Classical World, Zürich (Cormarë Series, 45), p. 305-327.

GREENMAN, D.  (1992), « Æneidic and Odyssean Patterns of Escape and Return in Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin and The Return of the King », Mythlore, 68, 1992, p. 4-9.

HUNTER, J. (2005), « The Reanimation of Antiquity and the Resistance to History :

Macpherson—Scott—Tolkien », CHANCE, J., SIEWERS, A., ED., Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages, New York.

KLECZAR, A. (2007), « The black gate of Alexander? : tracing possible presence of the "Gate of Alexander" motif in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings », Studia Litteraria Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis, 2, 1, p. 55-66.

KLEU, M. (2020), « Plato's Atlantis and the Post-Platonic Tradition in Tolkien's Downfall of Númenor », WILLIAMS, H., ED., Tolkien and the Classical World, Zürich (Cormarë Series, 45), p. 193-215.

LIBRAN-MORENO, M. (2005), « Parallel Lives: The Sons of Denethor and the Sons of Telamon », Tolkien Studies, 2, p. 15-52.

  • (2007), « Greek and Latin Amatory Motifs in Éowyn's Portrayal », Tolkien Studies, 4, p. 73-97.

MORSE, R. E. (1986), Evocation of Virgil in Tolkien’s Art : Geritol for the Classics, Oak Park.

OBERTINO, J. (2006), « Barbarians and Imperialism in Tacitus and The Lord of the Rings », Tolkien Studies, 3, p. 117-131.

PANTIN, I. (2009), Tolkien et ses légendes, Paris.

  • (2014), « L’ombre de Troie dans l’oeuvre de Tolkien », PROVINI , BOST-FIEVET M. (dir.), L’Antiquité dans l’imaginaire contemporain. Fantasy, science-fiction, fantastique, p. 147-160.
  • (2019), « « L'histoire au miroir de la légende dans l'œuvre de Tolkien », BESSON, , dir., Fantasy et Histoire(s). Colloque des Imaginales, Épinal, 22-23 mai 2018, Chambéry, p. 101-120.

PERETTI, D. (2007), « The Ogre Blinded and The Lord of the Rings », Mythlore, 25, 97/98, p. 133-143.

RECKFORD, K. J. (1974), « Some Trees in Virgil and Tolkien », Galinsky, G. K., éd., Perspectives of Roman Poetry : A Classics Symposium, Austin, p. 57-91.

WILLIAMS, H. (2017), « "Home is behind, the world ahead" : reading Tolkien's The Hobbit as a story of Xenia or Homeric hospitality », MAURICE, L., éd., Rewriting the ancient world : Greeks, Romans, Jews and Christians in modern popular fiction, Leyde-Boston.

  • (2020), « Tolkien's Thalassocracy and Ancient Greek Seafaring People : Minoans, Phaeacians, Atlantans, and Númenóreans », Tolkien Studies, 17, p. 137-162.
  • (2021), Tolkien and the Classical World, Zürich (Cormarë Series, 45).

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


  • Monday, March 07, 2022


  • Antiquité, réception, Tolkien


  • Dimitri Maillard
    courriel : dimitri [dot] maillard [at] gmail [dot] Com

Information source

  • Dimitri Maillard
    courriel : dimitri [dot] maillard [at] gmail [dot] Com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Tolkien and Antiquity », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, https://doi.org/10.58079/181d

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