Borderlines: Cultural Competition and Convergence in
Hellenistic and Roman North Africa, Egypt,
Anatolia and the Middle East
Instructor: Professor Kuttner
Between 400 BCE and 500 CE, Greek and Roman peoples shared and contested their eastern and southern Mediterranean circuit with many other strong, even dominant cultures--Punic, Numidian, Karian, Parthian, Sassanian, Judaean, Bosporan, Egyptian, Bactrian, Nabataean Traditional scholarship walls off from each other the different cultures in any one region. More recent discussions of cultural identity in Hellenistic and Roman Africa, Asia, Syria cope uneasily with the (non) persistence or invention of alternative art practices in the face of Greco-Roman political dominance. Current interest in `Romanization' and `Hellenization' works by definition outwards as if from the center, towards the indigenous as if it were a unitary, peripheral category. At issue are the very premises that socio-political pride demands congruent and distinct stylistic expression, and that to borrow `style' is to express felt subordination of many kinds; this afflicts e.g. Parthian as much as Roman studies.
This seminar's borderlines are geographic, and historiographic. Looking to other historical instances of `international styles', we consider the truism that frontiers encourage fusion, not division, in the cultural sphere. Because its archaeological patrimony is in grave danger, Mesopotamia will be a particular interest throughout, its arts flourishing in the competing gravitational fields of Iranian and Greco-Roman empires. Monuments core to the Greco-Roman canon and its oriental art' discussions will be re-examined from the 4th-c. Karian Mausoleion and the Sidonian `Alexander sarcophagus', the Herodean palaces and Nabataean Petra, to the late Antique Mesopotamian sanctuaries of Hatra and Doura Europos. And we will evaluate key instances of `Classical' cultures' admiring rapprochement with alternative traditions, from the Seleukids' rock-cut colossoi at Nemrud Dagh and the Attalid Great Altar's salute to Lykian ruler-tombs, to the Greco-Roman cult topography of Punic Eryx in Sicily, and the fortress-sanctuary of Diocletian at Luxor in its ancient Pharaonic frame.
prerequisite. Open to undergraduates with permission from the instructor.
Of especial interest to students in AncH, AAMW, RelSt, AMES, Anthro,
Hist, Jewish Studies, GSFA programs in history and conservation.
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Last update: October 19, 2003
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