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Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity

Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity: The Role of Power and Tradition

Ton Derks
Nico Roymans
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity
    Book Description:

    This volume explores the theme of ethnicity and ethnogenesis in societies of the ancient world. Its starting point is the current view in the social and historical sciences of ethnicity as a subjective construct that is shaped through interaction with an ethnic 'other'. The 13 essays collected in this volume are based on the analysis of historical, epigraphic and archaeological source material and thematically range from Archaic Greece to Early Mediaeval Western Europe. Despite frequent claims by ethnic groups to the contrary, all ethnic formations are intrinsically unstable and dynamic over time. Much of this dynamism is to be understood in close association with conflict, violence and changing constellations of power. The explicit theoretical framework, together with the wide range of case-studies makes this volume indispensable for historians, archaeologists and social scientists with an interest in the ancient world.Amsterdam Archaeological Studies is a series devoted to the study of past human societies from the prehistory up into modern times, primarily based on the study of archaeological remains. The series will include excavation reports of modern fieldwork; studies of categories of material culture; and synthesising studies with broader images of past societies, thereby contributing to the theoretical and methodological debates in archaeology.This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0791-7
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Ton Derks and Nico Roymans

    The present volume derives from two meetings that were organised in the framework of the research programme entitledThe Batavians. Ethnic identity in a frontier situation. This programme, launched by the Archaeological Centre of the VU University Amsterdam, was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and ran between 1999 and 2005. Both at the beginning and the end of the project’s term, small-scale expert meetings were organised in order to present the results of the research group to an international audience. The first meeting was a two-day round table discussion held under the title of the present...

  4. Ethnic expression on the Early Iron Age and early Archaic Greek mainland. Where should we be looking?
    (pp. 11-36)
    Catherine Morgan

    The construction and expression of individual and group identity has been one of the most extensively explored aspects of the history and archaeology of Early Iron Age and Archaic Greece in the past few years.¹ Particular attention has been directed towards ethnic identity, and especially the ways in which political communities and sub-groups drew upon the great ‘tribal’ identities of the Greek world (Dorian, Ionian, Achaian etc.) as part of the wider discourses through which social proximity or distance were articulated.² Considerable progress has also been made in understanding the more general role of ethnic claims of all kinds in...

  5. The Ionians in the Archaic period. Shifting identities in a changing world
    (pp. 37-84)
    Jan Paul Crielaard

    In his history of the Persian wars of the 6th and 5th centuries BC, Herodotos of Halikarnassos provides some interesting details about the Ionians of the Dodekapolis, the twelve cities on the west coast of Asia Minor and the offshore islands of Samos and Chios (fig. 1).¹ The Ionians of the Dodekapolis were proud of the name ‘Ionian’, Herodotos tells us, and ‘marked their pride by building a temple for their own use which they called the Panionion, and by excluding from it all the other Ionians’. In revolt against Persian domination, the twelve cities united in a Panioniankoinon...

  6. From Athenian identity to European ethnicity – the cultural biography of the myth of Marathon
    (pp. 85-100)
    Hans-Joachim Gehrke

    You may wonder why, in the context of a book on ‘Ethnic constructs in Antiquity’, I am going to discuss the ethnicity of Europe and to introduce Europe, quite a modern multinational union of different states with different traditions, into the field of research on ethnicity.¹ I believe there are good reasons for doing so. I have spent almost ten years studying the construction of collective identities, particularly the impact of history or of conceptions of the past on the creation of social and collective identity. As a result I have come to believe that ethnic construction is always linked...

  7. Multi-ethnicity and ethnic segregation in Hellenistic Babylon
    (pp. 101-116)
    R.J. van der Spek

    Ethnicity is a complex phenomenon with a complex terminology.¹ Although it is impossible and unnecessary to give an overview of the modern anthropological discussion of the subject, I want to clarify my position in the discussion and specify my terminology. In the first place we must distinguish between ‘ethnic group’ (Frenchethnie) and ‘nation.’ A ‘nation’ is in the definition of A.D. Smith ‘a named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members’.²Ethnieis defined as ‘a named human population...

  8. The Galatians in the Roman Empire: historical tradition and ethnic identity in Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor
    (pp. 117-144)
    Karl Strobel

    An exceedingly important phenomenon in the history of Early Hellenistic Central Asia Minor is the immigration and settlement of Celtic tribal groups and the formation of three tribal states, the first steps of which took place in 274/272 BC.¹ These events changed the political and geographical landscape of ancient Central Anatolia leading to the establishment of the new historical country of Galatia. Superimposed on parts of the territories of Phrygia and Cappadocia,² Galatia quickly formed its own ethnic and linguistic identity and tradition (cf. fig. 1).³ After the early sixties of the 3rd century BC, the three tribal states of...

  9. Material culture and plural identity in early Roman Southern Italy
    (pp. 145-166)
    Douwe Yntema

    Ethnicity and identities assumed by groups that believed they had a common origin or a shared past have been the subject of various recent studies.¹ This renewed focus on the different aspects of ethnicity in ancient societies follows a period in which for various reasons there was little thorough research into this subject and ethnic terms were used rather lightly (e.g. Jones 1997; Brather 2000). For instance, connections were quickly made between material culture and ethnic identity. In many cases a particular type of fibula, belt or pot was associated with an ethnic group (mostly derived from an ancient written...

  10. Foundation myths in Roman Palestine. Traditions and reworkings
    (pp. 167-188)
    Nicole Belayche

    The Roman province of Judaea (Syria-Palestine from the 2nd century onwards) was founded in the first half of the 1st century,¹ replacing the independent Herodian state.² In the preceding centuries (beginning with the Alexandrian conquest of the Achaemenid realm), Hellenistic influences had been spreading throughout the country of the Jews, even at the time when a Jewish monarchy was reestablished: mainly in Greek cities on the coast, and as far afield as Jewish cities like Jerusalem (cf. map, fig. 1), as we know from the internal conflict under the Maccabees. In accordance with the well-known Greek tradition of civic self-assertion,³...

  11. Ethnic discourses on the frontiers of Roman Africa
    (pp. 189-206)
    Dick Whittaker

    Anthropologists have long voiced disquiet, although no agreement, about the concept of ethnicity, some dismissing it as an administrative fiction,¹ others finding it too vague to be an analytical term,² too objective to explain change,³ or too contested between ‘primordialists’ and ‘instrumentalists’ to be debated.⁴ Ethnography, says Amory, is ‘a discourse in anxious flux’, and hence the title of this paper.⁵

    I shall cut through the modern debate by assuming without discussion the transactionalist definition of ethnicity established by Barth (1969) and others who have followed his line of argument, which I find the most satisfactory. This states (1) that...

  12. Cruptorix and his kind. Talking ethnicity on the middle ground
    (pp. 207-218)
    Greg Woolf

    Tacitus tells the story of the Frisian revolt of 28 AD as a case history in the brutality and stupidity of Roman provincial government.¹ The Frisii had for a generation been taxed in hides which were used by the army: ‘because of their poverty’ glosses the historian, although archaeologists will remember the importance of livestock in this local economy, and of leather in the production of Roman military equipment.² A senior centurion, assigned as district officer, demanded the hides of aurochs rather than cattle, or rather their equivalent in domestic hides. Forced requisitions of cattle, confiscations of land and enslavement...

  13. Hercules and the construction of a Batavian identity in the context of the Roman empire
    (pp. 219-238)
    Nico Roymans

    When studying romanisation processes, archaeologists have until recently focused their attention on socio-economic and political aspects of the integration of groups into the Roman empire.¹ In the past decade, however, the scope has broadened to include ideological dimensions of the integration process. Several recent studies have pointed to the significance of foundation myths in the creation and perpetuation of collective identities within the context of the empire. Ethnic group identity is based to a significant extent on the notion of a common past. Almost every community in antiquity had its foundation myth. Although these stories often served to legitimise the...

  14. Ethnic identity in the Roman frontier. The epigraphy of Batavi and other Lower Rhine tribes
    (pp. 239-282)
    Ton Derks

    The impact of empires on their colonial subjects is manifold and often reaches far beyond the visible material conditions of life that are the focus of much archaeological research.¹ Colonisers usually take control not just of the conquered land and its natural resources, but also of the people who inhabit it. Thus distinctions are made between those who control the land and those who occupy and work it. As Loren observes in a recent study on the impact of French and Spanish colonial rule in the 17th- and 18th-century American Southeast, the very demarcation and classification of the colonised constitutes...

  15. Grave goods, ethnicity, and the rhetoric of burial rites in Late Antique Northern Gaul
    (pp. 283-320)
    Frans Theuws

    One of the attractions of the archaeology of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages is the fact that burial rites involving the deposition of objects and food in graves were a common phenomenon in many regions of Europe.² In addition, the inhumation burial, which gained popularity in the Roman West at the end of the 2nd century, involved the interment of the dressed body.³ As far as soil conditions permit, remains of the skeleton, textiles, clothing accessories, food, pottery, weapons and jewellery have been preserved. It is on the basis of this material culture and skeleton remains that we...

  16. The early-medieval use of ethnic names from classical antiquity. The case of the Frisians
    (pp. 321-338)
    Jos Bazelmans

    We first encounter the names of most northwest European early-medieval tribes in literary and epigraphical sources from the 3rd or 4th centuries. This is generally thought to be linked to the collective ethnogenesis that had its roots in the large-scale migrations that began in this period.¹ These migrations are believed to have made deep inroads into the old tribal order, leading to a fundamental transformation of the original ethnic geography ofGermania magna. The Frisians are an exception, however: they are one of the few early-medieval tribes whose name we know from 1st- and 2nd-century sources.² The obvious explanation for...

  17. Index of names and places
    (pp. 339-342)
  18. List of contributors
    (pp. 343-344)