Ancient World Seminar 2014

Temple of Trajan
Temple of Trajan,
Pergamon (Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

Programme for Semester 2

5 August
Rod White, University of Melbourne

Post-collapse Social Trajectories: The Eastern Mediterranean   during the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age

12 August
Leanne Campbell, University of Melbourne

Ancient Egyptian and Aegean Bronze Age Iconographies  and Interconnections: Art Historical Typologies, Comparative  Analyses and Conscious Representations

Interconnections and ongoing interactions between the Late Bronze Age Minoan, Mycenaean and Egyptian Amarna civilisations are documented through archaeological evidence such as gift exchange and seasonal trade. These enduring communications included the transmission of artistic and cultural identities. Less understood are the details and mechanisms of this transfer process, as well as subsequent complexities of influence. Comparative visual analyses of the human iconography reveal similarities and differences ranging from stylistic and anatomical details, to reactionary influences such as assertions of individuality. This art historical methodology demonstrates how artists and the elite of these societies deliberately selected representations, of body shapes, dress codes, hairstyles, and physical adornments, amongst other visual cues, to produce new iconographies that were self-aware and knowingly conscious of their regional traditions. Their selection or rejection of stylistic elements represent visual markers that may be used to reconstruct attitudes and influences, also informing a deeper understanding of social, political, and cultural realities and developments through their choices of representations.

19 August
David Rafferty, University of Melbourne

The Allocation of Praetorian Provinces   in the Late Republic

During the last century of the libera res publica, Rome’s system of provincial government was under growing stress. More provinces required more praetorian governors and modern scholars have developed a coherent general account of how the Republic tried (and failed) to cope with the problem. At the centre of this account is L. Cornelius Sulla (82-79 BC), who as dictator (it is held) comprehensively reformed the permanent courts and the provincial system by raising the number of praetors to eight and ensuring (de facto if not de jure) that praetors would now govern provinces in the year after their magistracy (a system which Brennan somewhat erroneously refers to as “ex praetura provincial assignments”). However, the Sullan system supposedly broke down because too many praetors refused to take on provincial government, ensuring there were never enough governors to meet requirements. I argue that this version of events is wrong in placing so much of the emphasis on Sulla. The system supposedly created by the dictator was essentially in place in the 100s and 90s, when the number of permanent courts was already such as to require the presence of almost the whole of every praetorian college in Rome. Also, rather than there not being enough (ex-) praetors to staff all the provinces, there were instead not enough provinces as to allow each praetor to receive one. This can be seen by a close look at the provincial decisions faced by the Senate on a year-by-year basis. This conclusion also explains the problem of why magistrates who decline provincial government are treated favourably in the sources.

25 August: Monday; Old Geology - Theatre 2
Dr Andrew McCarthy Director of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI)

Searching for Aphrodite's Ancestors: The Prastio Mesorotsos Archaeological Expedition and the Role of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI)

The island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean is the mythical birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite. The precursors and successors to this ancient belief are not well understood, however. Before institutional worship of a deity in the Late Bronze Age (second half of the 2nd millennium BC), Cyprus had no writing and the inhabitants lived in small-scale communities. Therefore, only archaeology can inform us about the precursors to this religious development. Likewise, even in historical periods, where some textual information does exist, Cyprus' location at the fulcrum between Europe and Asia means that it experienced episodic turmoil leading to several 'Dark Ages', which archaeology can again illuminate. The site of Prastio Mesorotsos has evidence for inhabitation throughout most of the periods of Cypriot prehistory and history, and is located in the immediate hinterland of the first and most important temple to the goddess. Such a rich and long history requires a multidisciplinary approach to understand the sequence of development, and through Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI), such a team can be assembled. This paper will discuss the archaeology of Cyprus, the development of its culture through time, and the role that Overseas Research Centers have in making sense of this information.

26 August
Stephanie Forrest, The Institute of Public Affairs

War, Peace and Tyrants: Theophanes, Nikephoros and   the Lost Byzantine Chronicle of the Early 8th Century, ca. AD   668-719

The last decades of the seventh century and first decades of the eighth AD were pivotal for the history of the Byzantine Empire and the Mediterranean world. Bridging the gap between the early Islamic conquests in the mid-seventh century and the beginnings of the iconoclasm in the mid-eighth, this period saw a deterioration of east-west relations, administrative reforms, two sieges of Constantinople itself, and devastating political turmoil. Despite this, these years must be among the most sparsely-sourced in Byzantine history. Our two main sources for this period – the Chronographia of Theophanes and the Breviarium of the Patriarch Nikephoros – were both written several decades later: one in c. 813, the other in c. 780. Neither, however, was an original account. Because of the close parallels between the two, it has long been conjectured that the writers used a common source for fifty-year period spanning from the murder of Constans II in 668 to the accession of Leo III (r. 717-741) – a concise, highly emotional, and otherwise lost Byzantine chronicle, characterised by its extremely hostile treatment of Justinian II (r. 685-695, 705-711). Building on existing scholarship, this paper examines the evidence for the existence of the chronicle. Through a close, methodological comparison of the surviving accounts, it will offer a new ‘reconstruction’ and attempt to draw conclusions on its structure and main themes. In conclusion, this analysis will suggest a number of things about the nature of the source, the identity of its writer, the reliability of his account, and how this impacts our understanding of the history.

2 September
Peter Grave, University of New England
Lisa Kealhofer,                    Santa Clara University, CA

From Anatolia to Angkor:                 Archaeological Ceramics and Political Dynamics

Studies of political dynamics are typically concerned with processes that operate at regional or larger scales. However, where analytical techniques are adopted as part of a broader research strategy, often there is a significant mismatch between the scale of question and the scale of analytical sampling. In this presentation we outline our attempts to redress such weaknesses using two cases studies of large scale analytic programs. In the Anatolian Iron Age Ceramics Project (AIA) we focused on the issue of regional interaction and exchange through geochemical characterization of ca. 8,000 sherds from 17 different archaeological sites across central and western Anatolia. The goal of the project was to use ceramic production and exchange to understand political economic dynamics during a tumultuous period of change between the Empires (c. 1100-333 BCE). Lessons learned from AIA (both successes and failures) have been used to develop a new project: Kings of the World: the dynamics of Khmer Civilisation 900-1500 CE. This project also addresses political dynamics, but focuses on the patterns of Khmer expansion and exchange beyond the urban core at Angkor Wat. Our presentation also highlights ssues related to effective implementation and management of large-scale archaeometric projects such as choice of technique, large scale collaborations, and meta-documentation.

9 September
Irene Lemos, University of Oxford, 2014 AAIA Scholar

Greece in Transformation: From the Collapse of the Palatial Period to the Rise of Early Greece   (12th to the late 9th centuries BCE)

In the period after 1200 BCE, there was no attempt to save or to reconstruct the Mycenaean palatial system. The period after the collapse, however, marks the beginning of significant transformations in Greece. Moreover, by the middle of the next century, many of the aspects of living and dying in Greece have changed completely indicating that important changes took place in the fabric and the character of those communities which survived after the collapse. Some of these transformations had already started in the post-palatial period during the 12th century and were further crystallized and became more archaeologically visible in the 8th century. In this lecture I will discuss regions and specific sites which played an important role in these cultural and social changes. I will also explore aspects of the burial rites, settlement organisation and cults, as these are illustrated in the rich archaeological record of the period.

16 September
Selim Pullu, Afyon Kocatepe University

Urartian Irrigation Systems and Artificial Dams   in the Iron Age Period

23 September
Anne Gardner, Monash University

The Status of Jerusalem and its Ruler in the Amarna Age

7 October
Bradley Jordan, University of Melbourne

C. Octavius Mag. Eg. Des: The magisterium equitum and  Caesar’s intentions for Octavius

In recent scholarship there has been little open dissent from the communis opinio that, in 44 BCE, C. Octavius was designated magister equitum for the remainder of that year. However, in the absence of agreement on the political rank and role of the dictator’s subordinate, there is still little consensus on the significance of this appointment. Opinions range from Kienast (1982), that it suggests Caesar’s intent to nominate Octavius as a successor; to Meier (1995), that this was a significant military appointment for the dictator’s great-nephew; to Gardner (2009), that it was an event of little historical significance. This paper intends to examine Octavius’ position as magister equitum designatus within the wider context of the magistracy itself. It will analyse the specific role that the office of magister equitum played during Caesar’s dictatorships from 48-44. Ultimately, it will return to the nomination of Octavius, and investigate the importance and implications of his sudden promotion to the key position of magister equitum.

14 October
Aleks Michalewicz, University of Melbourne

The Archaeology of the Samtavro Cemetery:      Caucasian Iberia from the 1st to the 6th Centuries BCE

This PhD completion seminar investigates the burial evidence from the Samtavro cemetery in Caucasian Iberia (modern Georgia) during the 1st century BCE to the 6th century CE. These seven centuries span the Roman imperial and Late Antique periods, as well as Iberian conversion to Christianity. Information derives from 1075 tombs, based on excavation results generated during the Soviet period and following, largely from extensive legacy data. These pertain to tomb architecture, grave goods and human remains. Statistical analyses are presented, together with an interpretation of cultural practices and influences suggested by the archaeological material. A major change in mortuary custom is detected between the 4th and 5th centuries CE, when stone cist tombs replace tile-lined graves and multiple depositions, commingled and disarticulated, replace inhumations laid in the supine position. Although the Iberian kingdom has long been understood as an important political and economic region in the South Caucasus, this synthetic approach, in hand with a diachronic study of the Samtavro material, further illuminates the full extent of cultural interactions, as demonstrated through contemporaneous and emerging mortuary practices.

21 October
Jason Adams, University of Melbourne

θεατρον to theatrum: The Greco-Roman Theatre       in the Urban Landscape

The purpose of this thesis is to explore how the building of theatres affected the development of towns in the Greek, Hellenistic and Roman worlds. Urban planning techniques and principles from these periods will be analysed with a focus on how the increasing monumentality of theatres affected the monumental space around them and by extension the urban plans in which they were located. A combination of archaeological and ancient textual evidence will be used and applied in conjunction with modern theoretical ideas about space theory, phenomenology and performativity. Through this research it will be argued that the changing socio-political role of the theatre had a profound effect on its structure which in turn affected how urban space was developed around theatres. It will be concluded that theatre buildings and their associated architecture have had a hitherto under-appreciated impact on the development urban landscapes, and that over time they became one of the few buildings around which Hellenistic and Roman towns were organized.

Programme for Semester 1

4 March
Louise Hitchcock

Who are you calling a Philistine? The University of Melbourne Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath

To be a ‘Philistine’ has entered our language to mean uncouth or barbaric, a perception deeply situated in biblical thought. Just as the Greeks described non-Greek neighbors as ‘Barbarians,’ so too did the biblical writers describe people settled along the southern coast of the Levant in derogatory terms. Current scholarship regards them as Sea People migrating from Greece (ca. 1180 BC) and colonizing the coast of southern Canaan. I will present recent results from the University of Melbourne’s excavations in the early Philistine levels at Tell es-Safi/Gath, undertaken in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University. This year’s seminar will place emphasis on presenting a stratigraphic overview of Area A and presenting the finds from 2013, including an intriguing ivory bowl with parallels elsewhere in Israel.

11 March
David Lordkipanidze

The Palaeolithic Colonisation of the Caucasus

The Caucasus was first settled by hominids that can be reasonably labeled the first ‘true humans’. This significant event, which happened about 1.8 million years ago, represents the earliest evidence of humans outside of Africa. Subsequent hominid communities followed these earliest groups in making the Caucasus their home. This talk will discuss the latest evidence on the Palaeolithic from the Caucasus which touches on some of the key issues that have been at the forefront of prehistoric archaeology, including the hominid dispersal in the Old World, the notion of behavioural ‘modernity’, and the demise of the Neanderthals at the end of the of the Middle Palaeolithic.

Professor David Lordkipanidze is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading paleoanthropologists. His research into the earliest prehistory of Europe and his position as first General Director of the National Museum of Georgia has necessarily meant working on several levels at once, across a broad range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. He has led the palaeoanthropological project at Dmanisi (Republic of Georgia), one of the most exciting fossil hominin sites anywhere in the world, which hit global headlines with the discovery of the earliest known hominin remains outside of Africa.

18 March
Antonio Sagona

Life in the Clouds: New Archaeological Evidence from Chobareti, the Southern Caucasus

The Caucasus, an isthmus squeezed between the Black and Caspian seas, effectively separates two worlds — the western Eurasian steppelands from the Near East. Within the tangle of cultural traditions that emanated from this mountainous region, those that belong to the 4th millennium BC are arguably the most perplexing. This talk will present the latest discoveries from the highland site of Chobareti, in southwestern Georgia, and will place them within their wider geographical and cultural context. The community at Chobareti belonged to a period when ideas, practices and commodities were exchanged. This resulted in far-flung connections which extended from the Kuban watershed in the northern Caucasus, through the valleys of the Kura and Araxes rivers to the lands of Mesopotamia and central Asia.

19 March (NB Wednesday; this seminar will be held in Old Arts Theatre B)
Michael Hoff, University of Nebraska

Pirates and Romans: Ancient Cities of Rough Cilicia

During the last century of the Hellenistic era, the south-central coast of Asia Minor (Turkey) was the base of operations for pirates who preyed upon merchant vessels operating in the waters between Italy and the Levant. After the Romans rid the area of the pirate threat cities began to spread at a rapid pace up and down the coast of Rough Cilicia. Although these cities are still visible today, few of these urban areas have been studied or even explored by archaeologists. And, unfortunately some of these sites are rapidly deteriorating because of land development and modern-day 'pirates' who are looting the sites of their antiquities. Among the goals of the Rough Cilicia Archaeological Survey Project was the documentation of these communities by studying their urban planning and architecture, such as temples, baths, tombs, to gain an understanding of land use and urban needs in Cilicia during the Roman Empire. And now one site is currently being excavated: Antiochia ad Cragum. These excavations, under operation for less than a decade, is beginning to clarify the balance a provincial Roman city strikes between adherence to native traditions and the desire to participate in the Roman mainstream.

25 March
Eric Meyers

The Challenge of Hellenism and the Rise of Early Judaism and Christianity

Contrary to popular opinion the rise of Hellenism did not detract or challenge ancient Judaism and the rise of early Christianity. Rather, as Professor Meyers will explain, it proved to be fertile ground for each to convey its message to a much larger world and in a new language, Greek. It did not take away from the authentic tradition of either but allowed them to be expressed in a more universal language and culture.

Professor Meyers holds the Bernice and Morton Lerner Chair in Jewish Studies at Duke University. His specialties include biblical studies and archaeology with a focus on the Second Temple and Greco-Roman period. He has directed or co-directed digs in Israel and Italy for over thirty-five years. His most recent publications include Alexander to Constantine: Archaeology of the Land of the Bible. In 2013 his co-edited volume with Carol Meyers, The Pottery from Ancient Sepphoris, was published by Eisenbrauns. He is the past three-term president of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

1 April
Atilla Batmaz

Urartian Culture and a Quarter Century of the Ayanis Excavations (Eastern Anatolia)

In the past quarter century the data obtained from the site at Ayanis fortress have changed our understanding of the culture of the Iron Age kingdom of Urartu and have made a complete reevaluation necessary. Apart from providing very important information about the economy, warfare and art in the reign of Rusa II, excavations at Ayanis fortress, which is located on the eastern shore of Lake Van in Eastern Turkey, have also shed light on the religious beliefs and practices of the Urartian state. In this paper I am intending to summarize contributions of the Ayanis fortress to the Urartian Archaeology.

8 April
Hyun-Jin Kim

The Eurasian Empire of the Huns

The Huns have often been dismissed as primitive savages who looted and destroyed civilisation. Their place of origin was the so-called 'backward' steppes of Eurasia. Yet recent research on Eurasian steppe cultures has shown that these cultures were far from 'primitive'. Central Asia or Inner Asia was home to some of history's most powerful, well-organised and sophisticated empires. The Huns, somewhat contrary to our expectations, possessed a highly sophisticated political and military organisation. It was this capacity to organise population groups into a tightly controlled 'quasi-feudal' proto-state or early-state entity which enabled to Huns to create the first empire to unite non-Roman Europe. If the Hunnic empire was not a 'vast protection racket', but actually a state entity, it is necessary also to reassess its impact on the transformation of Europe and the Roman Empire.

15 April
Jeroen Wijnendaele

"Guilty by association": The Fabrication of Heraclian's Usurpation (413 CE)

In the spring of 413, the comes Africae Heraclian decided to withhold the African grain shipments to Rome. Immediately afterwards, he set sail with an army to Italy. However, Heraclian was swiftly defeated and eventually murdered after his flight to Carthage. His insubordination is very puzzling because hitherto he had been a loyal servant to the emperor Honorius. He had helped saving Honorius' throne during the Visigothic war in Italy and been awarded the western consulship for 413, just prior to his revolt.
There is a considerable body of source material which treats Heraclian’s revolt as an attempt to usurp imperial power, as so many other men had attempted in the west during the early fifth century. Indeed, no less than eight men were proclaimed Augustus without Honorius' consent between 406-413. However, in this paper I will demonstrate that Heraclian was not a usurper and that his actions in 413 have to be interpreted differently.

29 April
Fiona Tweedie

Imagining Italia

How does one go about inventing a goddess? A remarkable feature of the alliance of Italian peoples that fought Rome in 91 BC is the coinage that it struck and a notable feature of that coinage is the female head, identified as the personified Italia, that appears on the obverse of many issues. Some pieces depict a helmeted figure who takes her iconography from Roma but others show a laureate woman, a significant departure from the usual personifications or patronesses that appear on Mediterranean coinage during the second century. The coinage is the only surviving document produced by the league and hence must be central to any attempt to understand how the members wished to represent themselves. Amongst the images of Mars and charging bulls, the laureate Italia stands out and suggests that, for a moment at least, members of the league looked beyond the war and tried to create a new symbol for unified Italy.

6 May
David Runia

The Speeches in Plato's Symposium and the Theme of Eudaimonia

It is remarkable how often ancient philosophers bring literary productions (treatises, speeches in dialogues) to a close by making reference to the concept of eudaimonia and themes closely linked to it (blessedness, becoming like God, friendship with God etc.).

In the Symposium four of the six speeches on love (those of Phaedrus, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Diotima) end with this theme in differing ways.

In my paper I investigate how and to what purpose the speeches so conspicuously end with the theme of eudaimonia, and what it means for the interpretation of the dialogue as a whole. A question that might be further raised is why it does not appear to recur in the final section of dialogue after the sudden appearance of Alcibiades.

13 May
Josephine Verduci

Philistine Adornment and Cultural Intentions: Cross-cultural Influences in the Eastern Mediterranean During the Early Iron Age

The Early Iron Age I–IIA periods of the southern coastal plain of the Levant (c. 1200-900 BCE) have certain new features that suggest the appearance of the Philistines or other Sea Peoples. Using Tell es-Safi/Gath, one of the Philistine pentapolis sites, as the primary case-study, and drawing on other sites in the region and more broadly from Cyprus and the Aegean, this thesis examines the use of jewellery and adornment as methods of cultural display. The aim is to contribute a different set of data rarely used in archaeological reconstructions, thus offering a new perspective on cross-cultural exchanges in Philistia and the creation of new social identities.

20 May
Kyle Conrau-Lewis

Finding Caesar in Statius' Thebes

Much scholarship has already agonised over the political subtext of Statius' Thebaid. This epic poem written in the period of Domitian is arguably a highly critical depiction of imperial power and the very story of Thebes lends itself readily as an allegory of Roman civil war. Polynices and Eteocles are brothers who engage in civil war against one another purely for the kingship of Thebes. The story of Thebes provides a convenient allegorical cover for much of the social turbulance of the late republic and the early imperial period.

This talk will examine how certain scenes, images and characters recall Lucan's Bellum Civile, an historical epic about the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. Indeed, the very first lines of Statius' Thebaid immediately allude to Lucan's proem, both highlighting the simultaneous civic and familial nature of political discord.In particular, this talk will examine how Eteocles, Hippomedon and Capaneus are suggestive of Lucan's Caesar. I will argue that Lucan's Caesar has been transplanted into the narrative of Thebes, reincarnated as the tyrannical Eteocles, the gigantic Hippomedon and the theomachic Capaneus.

This talk will not engage directly with the question of whether Statius' Thebaid was pro- or anti-Domitian, but will instead tease out the Caesarian subtext of the epic. Indeed, it is perhaps important to remember that Statius grew up in the Neronian period and was a close friend of Lucan who had fallen victim to the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors. By evoking Lucan and reappropriating his anti-Caesarian sentiments, Statius engages with pre-Flavian politics.

27 May
Tamar Lewit

Turn of the Screw: The Late Antique Social and Economic Context for Innovation in Oil and Wine Press Technology

The archaeological evidence of amphorae and shipwrecks reveals a high level of production and transport of oil and wine for state, military and commercial consumers in the Roman Empire. An important step in the processing of these products was the use of a press. Yet although major innovations to press technology occurred in the 1st c. B.C. to 1st c. A.D., with the application of the screw, it was not until the 4th c. A.D. that we have evidence of widespread use of this technical innovation, and then only in some regions. How does its slow and uneven spread relate to broader patterns of the rural economy and society? Economic factors such as intensive export production, social factors including the education level of land owners and security of land tenure, and settlement factors such as the village settlement pattern of the Eastern Mediterranean may all have been significant. Above all, the pattern of technical diffusion suggests that rich landowners or scales of production were not always the key drivers of innovation.

28 May (NB Wednesday; this seminar will be held in Old Arts Theatre B)
Amelia Brown, University of Queensland

A Lucky Throw Every Time: The iactus Veneris, Isis and Sarapis on Anchor Stocks from Roman Malta

Several of the lead anchor stocks of the Roman era retrieved from the sea off Malta bear images in relief, from the names of the Egyptian gods Isis and Sarapis to astragaloi (latin tali), knucklebones used as dice in the ancient world, all with the same lucky cast of the dice, the ‘throw of Venus’ (iactus Veneris). Each bone is shown with a different face up, showing good luck, especially for sailors at sea, as enacted and replicated whenever the ancient sailors cast this anchor overboard. These anchors connect modern scholars to the ancient network of traders and travellers who frequented Roman Malta, from the 3rd century BC into Late Antiquity. From the innovators of better holding devices for ships and the artisans who cast these stocks, to its users on the ship, who threw it overboard and hauled it back in, and even to unwilling passengers like St Paul, these anchors illuminate a much wider world of maritime technology and religion. Through their broader archaeological and literary context, these anchors form important evidence for both practical and symbolic maritime rituals, and especially for current debates about the frequency of use of Maltese ports and shipping lanes under Roman domination.

Amelia Brown is Lecturer in Greek History and Language within the School  of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at The University of  Queensland. She was awarded her PhD from the University of California at  Berkeley and has published research on the cultures of Late Antiquity  and Byzantine Greece and post-Classical Greek cities (especially Corinth  and Thessaloniki).