All for One or One for All?
(Re)constructing Identity in the Ancient World

Graduate Student Symposium
Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology
Bryn Mawr College
October 17 - 18, 1997




Abstracts


Session #1: Individual Identity
William B. Hafford, University of Pennsylvania
The Near Eastern Merchant: Identity in Common Objects?
Andrew Keetley, Department of Classics, University of Texas, Austin
From Solitude to Solidarity: the Identity of the Individual in De Rerum Natura
W. Marshall Johnston, Jr., Department of Latin, Bryn Mawr College
Cornelius Nepos' Place in the Literary Movements of the First Century B.C.

Session #2: Group Identity
Yelena Rakic, Department of Art History, University of Pennsylvania
Glyptic Art and Cultural Identity in Third Millennium B.C. Greater Mesopotamia
E. Kent Webb, Department of History, University of Washington
The Athenian Tyrannicides: Icons of a Democratic Society
Sarah J. Kielt, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Bryn Mawr College
The Syro-Mesopotamian Origins of Arslantepe's Administrative System

Session #3: Negotiating Identities
Matthew Freeman Trundle, History Department, McMaster University
The Greek Mercenary and his Relationship to the Polis
Anthony Leonardis, Indiana University
The Individual in Sabellian Material Culture of Campania and Lucania: Attempts of
"Half-Breeds" to Assert their Own Identity Against a Dominant Culture
Lauren Hackworth Petersen, Department of Art History, University of Texas
Elite words and the "silenced" Roman libertinus: reading identity in the House of
L. Caecilius Iucundus in Pompeii (V 1.23)

Session #4: Modern Identities
Sarah Lepinski, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Bryn Mawr College
The Modern Construction of the Identity of Semiramis/Sammuramat
Diana Loren and Emily Stovel, Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University
Approaching a Reconciliation for Ethnic Construction in Archaeology and Identity Politics
Katharine Woodhouse-Beyer, Department of Anthropology, Brown University
Identity and Transcendence in Russian America: An Archaeological Approach to Identity
in Colonial Contexts
Minna Canton Duchovnay, Department of Latin, Bryn Mawr College
Framing the Scholar
Note: The texts of the abstracts appear as submitted except for the editing of minor spelling and punctuation errors.



William B. Hafford
University of Pennsylvania

The Near Eastern Merchant: Identity in Common Objects?


This paper is an initial attempt to identify the people conducting international trade in the Bronze Age Near East via the preserved material remains of the profession. A good deal of work has been done on the textual analysis of Near Eastern merchants yet little, if any, has been dedicated to the archaeological reconstruction of their activities and identity.
Weights seem to be the best starting point as they were used extensively by merchants in the conduct of their daily business and are common in archaeological excavations. They are often found in groups with many other items expected to be in use by merchants. These include: balance pans, bullae, economic texts, scrap metal (possibly present for the value of the metal by weight), and cylinder seals. This last is of great interest as seals were often used to identify people and/or things in the ancient world. At least one seal is very frequently found with potential merchant assemblages, and these can reveal a great deal about the status, allegiance, and position of the owner.
A brief comparison of several seals found with 'merchant equipment' shows that the 'presentation scene' is most common, and this scene may be associated with the higher echelon of society. A tentative conclusion is that the type of merchant being uncovered here is the high-profile one; that is, the one conducting high-value, large-volume, long-distance trade and therefore, is more likely to be wealthy and/or well-connected in order to amass the capital necessary for such business.

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Andrew Keetley
University of Texas at Austin

From Solitude to Solidarity:

The Identity of the Individual in De Rerum Natura


This paper will attempt to describe the version of identity represented by Lucretius in the De Rerum Natura in terms of the philosophy of the Absurd described by the humanist, Albert Camus. This identity will be centered on Lucretius' account of the human condition through which, I argue, he anticipates Camus in seeking to expose the metaphysical solitude of the individual in an absurd world and to establish lucid consciousness as the precondition for human solidarity.
First, Lucretius gives examples of the feeling of the Absurd, which Camus describes, through which he seeks to expose the metaphysical isolation of the individual in an indifferent world. Then, Lucretius, in the humanist tradition, attempts to remove all mental impediments to consciousness in order to attain a definite awakening. Lucretius argues that by confronting our fear of death, fear of the gods and Superstition with a lucid awareness of our absurd predicament, we may "free ourselves from great anguish and fear of the mind" (3.903), and escape our feeling of solitude thereby establishing the precondition for realizing our ontological longing for unity.
Finally, the plague which Lucretius describes at the end of the poem marks the ultimate confrontation with the absurd by revealing the limit which death imposes and the realization that there is nothing beyond death. The plague makes clear the need for the establishment of a shared consciousness of our common condition and becomes the final means of showing that only by fully awakening to our absurd predicament might we overcome our fear of death and satisfy the precondition for our longing for unity.

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W. Marshall Johnston, Jr.
Bryn Mawr College

Cornelius Nepos' Place in the Literary Movements of the First Century B.C.


While recent scholarship has tended to view Cornelius Nepos mainly as an innovator in at least one genre of literature, I have attempted to place him within the literary movements of his day. Several aspects of Nepos' style are Neoteric; that is, they are common to a certain group of poets who were active in Rome in the late Republic and who tried to emulate the Alexandrian, and especially Callimachean, literary ideals of two centuries earlier. Nepos was also involved in the antiquarian movement of the first century B.C. I believe that the understanding of Nepos as a writer relies on an understanding of his identity in the community of his time.
I will begin with a reconsideration of some traditionally held beliefs about Nepos' own biography, especially with regard to his date of birth and his time in Rome. This review of certain testimonia to Nepos' life and fragments of his works will reveal that Nepos was well known to the litterati during the last years of the Republic. He and Cicero shared a considerable correspondence. Nepos was on good terms with the famed antiquarian Atticus. The friendship of Catullus and Nepos may have been based on their common Gallic origin and flourished perhaps because of their common literary interests.
Very little of Nepos' substantial output survives intact, and what does is mainly his biographical work, the de Viris Illustribus (he also wrote a Chronica and an Exempla). The subjects he chooses and the way he presents them in his biographies show a great affinity with the preoccupations of the Neoterics, in particular Catullus. Nepos chooses, in many cases, unusual figures on whom to base his biographies, and often concentrates on lesser-known episodes from their lives. Avoiding the beaten path is a fundamental concept of the Neoterics.
Catullus' dedication of his book of poems to Nepos is an erudite conversation between Hellenized Romans (I.3-7):
Corneli tibi, namque tu solebas
meas esse aliquid putare nugas
iam tum, cum ausus es unus Italorum
omne aevum tribus explicare cartis
doctis, Iuppiter, et laboriosis.
While this tribute is by no means void of the irony that is often attributed to it, it is nonetheless a far subtler ludus (poetic game) than has been previously noted. Catullus' description of Nepos as unus Italorum reflects Nepos' use of similar phrases to describe many of his subjects in the de Viris Illustribus. Catullus employs subtle humor here and again with the juxtaposition of doctis ("learned"), a Neoteric ideal, and Iuppiter, a god from whom Callimachus wishes to disassociate himself.
With Atticus, Nepos shared an interest in lineage and in recording accurate chronologies. I will point out how family relationships color Nepos' biographies and how his history even synchronizes Roman and Greek events. As for Cicero, we know that Nepos corresponded with him about a number of matters, among them the place of philosophy and the role of philosophers. In short, Nepos' literary interaction with Catullus and others demonstrates that he was a mover and a shaker in one or more literary circles of the late Republic.

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Yelena Rakic
University of Pennsylvania

Glyptic Art and Cultural Identity in Third Millennium B.C. Greater Mesopotamia


The participants in the tremendous political, social, and economic change that occurred in greater Mesopotamia during the third millennium BC did not all belong to one homogeneous cultural unit. Rather, the material record suggests that a number of cultural entities existed and were in contact with each other. By the mid-third millennium different language groups can be identified which, although overlap occurs, are associated with regions: Sumerian speakers in the south, Akkadian speakers in the north, Elamite speakers in the east, and various Semitic speakers in the north and the northwest. While art has been used to elucidate the complex relationships between these groups, it has rarely been considered as a means of investigating group identity. Instead, linguistic affiliation is commonly viewed as the primary marker of group identity for this period. However, as products which are consciously encoded with a message - often in the iconography of the work but also in the choice of a certain style - art works are particularly valuable for the sheer density of meaning that they carry and need to be considered in the identity formation process. This paper explores the possibilities of and establishes methodologies for using one type of visual evidence- seals and sealings - from secure proveniences in greater Mesopotamia in the mid-third millennium BC, to chart differences and similarities across ethno-linguistically defined geographical regions. Its goal will be to consider whether differences and similarities in the iconography and style of the glyptic art can be examined as markers of group identification - or be extension ethnic identity.

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E. Kent Webb
University of Washington

The Athenian Tyrannicides: Icons of a Democratic Society


Over the years the Athenian tyrannicides have received an enormous amount of scholarly attention, none of which has seriously considered their meaning within the democratic polis. This essay is an attempt to rectify this situation by examining the symbolic significance of the memory of these two civic heroes embodied in the popular tradition of their deed. It argues that the tradition's representations of tyrannical hubris and its threat to male and female sexual norms evoked larger discourses on these themes within the democratic state. In this way the tyrannicides stood for the sociosexual ideals of the democracy and a poetics of Athenian man and womanhood. It is, however, further asserted that the symbolism of the tyrannicides did not stop here. In brief, not just the content but the form of these representations evoked other discourses on the structure of society. Namely, Hipparchos' sexual hubris toward Harmodios and his sister threatened to displace them from the citizen community, thus figuring the always significant division between citizen and non-citizen in sexual terms. Technically speaking, this made the tyrannicides icons of the democracy since they signified one of its most important internal hierarchies. It also shows that their symbolism was inherently multivalent, that is, the tyrannicides stood for different aspects of the ideology of the Athenian democracy in more ways than one.

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Sarah J. Kielt
Bryn Mawr College

The Syro-Mesopotamian Origins of Arslantepe's Administrative System


Recently, a great deal of attention has been focused upon the Uruk Expansion, in which people from fourth millennium southern Mesopotamia established colonies in the north, perhaps in search of raw materials. More complex than the "colonies," however, are those sites with a clearly local tradition, alongside Uruk-related material. It is not clear if the population of these sites included southern Mesopotamians. And if it did, what was the role of this "intrusive" population? A clue may lie in the administrative material from one of these sites, Arslantepe.
Elements of Uruk-related culture first appear at Arslantepe in levels dated to ca. 3300 - 3000 B.C. Although the architecture, and most of the glyptic and ceramics, are in the local style of surrounding sites, examples of Uruk-related pottery and glyptic also appear. Many seal impressions have been found from this period, most of which are from stamp seals of a particular Arslantepe style. Some, however, are impressions of cylinder seals, which are considered to be a southern Mesopotamian innovation.
Despite the overwhelmingly local nature of the glyptic finds, the excavators have suggested that the administrative system derives from southern Mesopotamian influences. A consideration of the glyptic tradition of greater northern Mesopotamia (northern Syria, northern Mesopotamia, and southeast Anatolia), however, indicates otherwise. Systems using stamp seals and tokens were in use since the late Neolithic period in greater northern Mesopotamia. A survey of the evidence for administrative systems in this region from the Late Uruk period back to the late Neolithic period demonstrates the continuity of this tradition. Tell Sabi Abyad, located in the Balikh Valley of northern Syria, has produced the earliest evidence of such an administrative system, which shows remarkable similarities to that of Arslantepe. This continuity in tradition, plus the fact that stamp seal use can be traced in the region long before seal use is attested in southern Mesopotamia, point to a northern origin for Arslantepe's system. To see a local origin to the administrative system at a site like Arslantepe would challenge some scholars' assumptions about the extent of southern Mesopotamian influences in this region in the late fourth millennium, B.C.

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Matthew Freeman Trundle
McMaster University

Community and the Greeks in Military Service Overseas


Greek mercenary service became a predominant part of the political, social, and economic life of the eastern Mediterranean in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. It is often described as one of the principal themes of the fourth century B.C.
My paper will examine two themes which arise from the lives of Greek mercenaries in service outside of their communities in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.
The first is that mercenaries were outsiders in the regions for and against which they fought. This meant that mercenary armies in the Greek context were communities unto themselves and have been described as moving poleis (city-states) with their own social and political structure. I will discuss how these two phenomena - of being an outsider on the one hand and yet being part of a quickly formed and non-rooted community on the other - came about and how this can aid the understanding of ancient Greek society.
The second phenomenon is that of perceived ethnicity. The mercenaries of the Greek world, many of whom fought for and against so-called "barbarians" (non-Greeks), defined themselves as Greeks in-spite of the fact that they were fighting for supposed foreigners often against other Greeks in the employ of another paymaster. They also defined themselves, however, by the city-states from which they came. These personal definitions of ethnicity and belonging emerged from the different contexts and different situations in which mercenaries found themselves overseas. These definitions were often artificially manufactured and provide an interesting insight into the creation of community among citizens of the various city-states and among the broader linguistically united, but politically divided group who called themselves Greeks.

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Anthony Leonardis
University of Indiana- Bloomington

The Individual in Sabellian Material Culture of Campania and Lucania:

Attempts of "Half-Breeds" to Assert their Own Identity Against a Dominant Culture


I propose to present a paper concerning the identification of the Campanian and Lucanian branches of the Oscan/Sabellian ethnic identity in the area of Capua, Cumae and Paestum in the Bay of Naples region through several cultural documents. These documents consist of South-Italian vase painting, tomb paintings, architectural remains, and literary sources. Recent scholarship by Gisela Schneider-Hermann (Samnites of the Fourth Century B.C.) and Angela Pontrandolfo (numerous publications on Lucanian tomb painting) has shed much light on the unique cultural centers of Capua, Cumae, and Paestum, occupied by the Sabellian peoples of the inner Apennine territories from the fifth century until the Roman intervention in the third centuries B.C. Most striking is the recurring motif of the Samnite warrior, in various situations related to combat and warfare, including both mock and serious gladiatorial combat in theatrical spectacles held at funerary games. The powerful symbol of the warrior is always coupled with that of the matriarch (the Samnite Woman). Greek historiographic sources allude to the dismay felt by Greek colonists of the Western cities at the prospect of intermarriage between the locals and the Greeks.
I will argue that the individual Sabellian artist, whether vase-painter, potter, muralist, or architect, expresses the cultural tension between the development of native Sabellian ethnic identity, and the long established Greek identity prominent throughout the cities of Magna Graecia. I will use as a theoretical model anthropological studies on MÈtis ethnicity in the northwestern plains and parklands of North America. The MÈtis, a term meaning 'half-breed' given to the Native peoples who intermarried with European fur-traders, are in a similar anthropological situation as the Italic peoples of South-Italy. I will construct my arguments upon a theoretical basis which has been used for the study of ethnicity and change in anthropological research on the MÈtis. This will serve as a comparative, theoretical model for understanding the dynamic between individual artist and group identity.

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Lauren Hackworth Petersen
University of Texas at Austin

Elite words and the "silenced" Roman libertinus:

reading identity in the House of L. Caecilius Iucundus in Pompeii (V 1.23)


Stereotypical images of the Roman former slave, or libertinus, abound in Petronius's Satyricon, as seen through the ficitional character of Trimalchio. Petronius pokes fun at the libertinus for being self-aggrandizing and ostentatious, and for naively imitating elite culture. We, too, as readers of the text, are encourages to laugh as Trimalchio blunders along, pretending to be a member of elite society despite the obvious incongruity of his dress and appearance, and legal status. In this paper, I argue that this literary (and elite) picture of former slave is only a partial one; ancient literature in fact silences the libertinus. Yet through an examination of the artistic patronage of the libertinus we can begin to reconstruct how he created an identity using his own voice. I begin with a brief discussion of the complexities of an ex-slave's life, filled as it was with contradictions that did not exist for either slaves or freeborn citizens. For example, although legally a citizen, the libertinus was subject to customs and regulations that distinguished him from freeborn citizens, and thereby confined him to a lower social status; though free, the servile past of a libertinus marred his "free" identity. Despite this, many former slaves achieved visibility through economic success, which in turn permitted them to commission grand tombs and decorative ensembles for their homes. I shall focus on a single case study, the House of L. Caecilius Iucundus in Pompeii. I seek to recuperate the identity of the former slave L. Caecilius Iucundus through an examination of the decoration of his domus. Two important features, the herm portrait in the atrium and the retention of decorative ensembels in the Third Style, indicate that Iucundus was trying to create an ancestral domus. Yet far from concealing his identity as a former slave through simple imitation of elite culture, he consciously revealed to visitors his legal identity, his "freed" status. In this respect, L. Caecilius Iucundus does not easily fit ancient and modern stereotypes of the Roman libertinus.

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Sarah Lepinski
Bryn Mawr College

The Modern Construction of the Identity of Semiramis/Sammuramat


The legendary Queen Semiramis is described in Greek sources as the wife of King Ninus who founded Nineveh in c. 2200 B.C. and mother of Ninyas. Her attributes included wisdom, power, beauty, and licentiousness, and her accomplishments involved conducting successful military campaigns and building projects. These legendsprovided the historical framework with which nineteenth century and early twentieth century archaeologists ordered and interpreted data.
Textual evidence from early excavations at Assyrian sites revised the historical context within which Semiramis --Sammuramat in Akkadian --existed and confirmed her identity as wife of Shamshi-Adad V (823 - 811 B.C.) and mother to Adad-Nirari III (810 - 783 B.C.). Despite the historical revisions Sammuramat's character traits and political influence described in the Greek legends endure in modern histories of the ancient Near East.
Since the late 1960's, additional textual evidence from the reign of Sammuramat's son Adad-Nirari III has expanded the knowledge of this period, and consequently Sammuramat's prominent political role has been challenged by Assyriologists. This textual evidence, however, is insufficient to prove or disprove Sammuramat's position of authority, and there are no pictorial representations of Sammuramat to support any reconstruction of political position. This paper traces the development of the scholarship involved in constructing the modern conception of Sammuramat's identity and role as Queen and mother. In addition, with consideration of the more recent evidence, it proposes a new hypothesis concerning Sammuramat's political influence.

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Diana Loren and Emily Stovel
Binghamton University

Approaching a Reconciliation for Ethnic Construction

in Archaeology and Identity Politics


We are both involved in projects that encourage the employment of models of ethnic plurality in the past. This involves the creation of ethnohistoric analogues of group identity from periods of colonization for use in the distant past. This plural identity can be recognized in mixed material contexts from sites in North and South America. Our approach is not one of disentangling distinct ethnicities in archaeological contexts, but rather constructing an unevenly occupied space.
Nevertheless, the recognition of a multiethnic past often in counter to the agendas of indigenous populations who, in recent times, are trying to reestablish their identity in the distant past. In the case of the Creole populations in southeastern North America, however, the recognition of a mixed heritage lends credence to their alternative histories. At the same time, Native American groups in the same portion of the United States argue that this kind of past denies their legitimacy as a population of singular ethnicity through time. In southern South America, indigenous identity is disregarded by nation-states. Archaeological interpretations should promote essentializing identities instead of obscuring politically viable ethnic platforms in multiethnic models. In other words, as archaeologists move to embrace more fluid and multiple models of identity for the past, indigenous populations in North and South America are fighting to maintain strong ties to archaeological evidence of their enduring autochthonous presence and heritage.
In this paper, we explore this conundrum. How do we negotiate our viewpoint with those indigenous and Creole positions that either counter or support our own? How do we, as archaeologists, explore ethnic plurality in the recent and distant past without denying indigenous groups the power to define their own histories?

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Katherine Woodhouse-Beyer
Brown University

Tradition and Transcendence in Russian America:

An Archaeological Approach to Identity in Colonial Contexts


At the time of Vitus Bering's voyage of 1741 AD, the Kodiak archipelago, Alaska, supported one of the largest and most densely settled human populations in North America. Known to the Russians as Aleut or Koniag, and later to anthropologists as Koniag or Pacific Eskimo, surviving descendants of the subsequent Russian and American colonial eras now not only distinguish themselves as "Alutiiq", but are also in the midst of "cultural revitalization"; advocates of this movement not seek political and economic self-determination, but also recognize the importance of archaeology as an educational resource. This research explores the potential of a critical approach to the ethnohistory and archaeology of an early nineteenth-century Russian American Company provisioning post site on Afognak Island; the Afognak artel was not only one of the first Russian- established Creole communities in the north Pacific, but recent archaeological excavation has shown the site to be unique in both its preservation and productivity.
Specifically, the paper promotes archaeological analyses of tasks and the built environment in order to to identify material correlates of change in gender and socioeconomic relations on the Kodiak archipelago; I argue that the results of such research should contribute to a fuller understanding of the processes of creolization and the ways in which material symbols of ethnic identity in colonial contexts both transmit and transcend Alutiiq tradition.

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Minna Canton Duchovnay
Bryn Mawr College

Framing the Scholar


An examination of Kenneth Dover's ground-breaking book Greek Homosexuality (1978, 1989) and his autobiography Marginal Comment: A Memoir (1994) raises questions about the role of the scholar in academic discourse and its pedagogical implications. How do interests and cultural predispositions affect the development of a scholar's theories? What questions should be asked so that the student may develop the ability to evaluate a scholar's work?
The academic environment allows us to appreciate and analyze cultural material like the Greek vases in Dover's Greek Homosexuality. In another forum, however, these vases might be considered pornographic. This paper explores the factors that may have influenced Dover to select and study Greek homosexual figures. It suggests a method of inquiry that the student should have in mind when considering such material. Theories of Linda Nead, Terry Eagleton, and Pierre Boudrieau are used to address issues such as class distinction, aesthetic ideology, and the sociology and identity of the academician and the student.

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