ESSHC 2016: Networks and Relationships in Classical Antiquity

Speakers: Danielle Kellogg, Kees Klein Goldewijk, Ben Naylor

All three speakers were interested in understanding population dynamics, considering the effects of topography and ecology, roads and site patterns, economic needs and rural/urban splits. The speakers also returned to the issues around visualising these dynamics, as well as how to learn from the feedback loop between top-down models and specific examples.

Danielle is engaged in research concerning patterns of property ownership and mobility in the territories of ancient Athens, and how they intersected with various aspects of life in the ancient polis. By tracking the movements of individual Athenian citizens affiliated with particular locations in the Attic countryside, it becomes possible to discern patterns which reflect the effects of social networks, religious organizations, economic opportunities, and the political landscape of the polis on migratory decision-making. In addition, the physical landscape of Attica – both the built environment and the topographical features of the peninsula, including slope, carrying capacity, and access to natural resources – impacted the migration decisions of those individuals we are able to track. This project has the potential to provide insight into the operations of the Athenian polis outside the urban center, and how social, religious, economic, and political factors played out in the daily life of citizens.

Kees and his colleagues are interested how much food could be produced in the Mediterranean part of the Roman Empire. To produce food large amount of water is needed. Based on climate, soil, a crop model and spatially explicit estimates from the HYDE database of total population and land use they computed how much, and where food could be produced. By applying a ‘Virtual Water Trade Network’, places could be identified with a surplus or shortage of food. This made the Empire vulnerable to sustain relative high population numbers in relation to the carrying capacity and this ancient lesson might give us insights about sustainable use of resources for the future as well.

Ben is working on how sets of non-human actors shaped Republican Iberia. He discussed the scales of communities created by patterns in Iberian site distributions. He then suggested that different patterns of Iberian coin circulation trace activities focused on particular communities and not others. From the following discussion, the communities created by settlement patterns were seen as more convincing than the coin circulation and conversation focused on the difficulty of interpreting such distributions and whether delaying identification of monetary uses while examining monetary circulation was productive.

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ESSHC 2016: Ancient Rulers in Baroque Opera

Like no other medium opera offered (and still offers) possibilities to create, transform and recycle common historical images and figures. This makes opera particularly suitable for investigating the reception and transformation processes of antique fabrics. In particular the comparison of the representation of female rulers of the western and eastern hemisphere on opera stages of the Baroque formed an auspicious starting point for this session. The section was consequently not about music history, or music theory studies, but rather about the question of how librettists, composers and stage in the Baroque period processed the ancient materials in order to present them on stage. Both gender aspects as well as typical Orient-topoi that stand out – in particular a magical, highly sexually charged image of ‘the Orient’ but also the proverbial wealth of the East – came up for discussion. Continue reading