Topic / Thema

The Middle East as Middle Ground?

Cultural Interaction in the ancient Middle East revisited


Conference at Cologne University, Thursday, 27th to Friday, 28th of April 2017


The Middle East has always been a meeting point of different cultures, empires and peoples. Particularly for classical antiquity, the impact of “alien” cultures like the Hellenistic or Roman ones after the conquest of a region by a Hellenistic Empire or the Roman Empire has been much studied.

Academic research has taken both a “top-down” and a “bottom-up” approach in this: Scholars have discussed the phenomena of Hellenisation, Romanisation and Acculturation and how ideas, forms and concepts of the conquering powers have been received in native communities. Equally, studies have tried to trace local and “native” identities next to and underneath the new “alien” elements. Due to the nature of the evidence, these local identities have mostly been traced in religion and architecture or art.

Several recent studies use an approach where the various forms of adaptation of Hellenistic or Roman elements by local communities are understood as conscious decisions incorporation new forms into old meanings. This “polymorphism”- approach stresses different layers of meanings of cultural forms such as dress or architecture and their adaptability to both an indigenous and a Hellenistic/Roman setting.

The conference aims at bringing together specialists from a variety of fields within Ancient Studies – Epigraphy, Archaeology, Ancient History, Religious Studies etc. – to discuss how these various approaches describing cultural interaction could be brought together. For this, renowned experts of the various fields are invited to present current research projects or questions for a fruitful discussion with likeminded colleagues.

Papers raise questions such as how local communities adapted to the change brought by the incorporation into larger units as the Hellenistic or Roman empires, how different cultural styles or forms were brought together to give new or old meaning or offer methodological studies on new ways of describing cultural interaction at a local, regional and supra-regional level.

Chronologically, cover topics dating to the Hellenistic or Roman period. Geographically, the conference will focus on the wider Syria region, what is today covered by the modern states of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Turkey. The conference languages are German, English and French.