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Mars 2024

Entanglements of the Greek, Neo-Assyrian and Iranian worlds

With the establishment of empire at the beginning of the first millennium BCE a new form of political system was introduced in Western Eurasia that changed the course of history considerably. The effect of change became visible on many levels, political, ideological, and economical. It concerned worldview, as well as the perception of space and time. Completely new forms of exchange and entanglement emerged that have rightfully been labelled as “protoglobalization”. These new developments affected the entire world between the western Mediterranean and China. The four conferences will deal with these changes on a long-term perspective. They will have a special focus on the Greek world and the west on the one hand, but will also deal with the phenomenon of entanglement from a larger perspective taking into account changes and developments all over Afro-Eurasia.

1.The various dynamics of Empire and Borderland: A Structural Approach (Tenth century BCE – Tenth century CE)

Empires do not only shape the areas under their direct political control but have impact and effect on the regions beyond. Smaller regions with their local economies and local production and exchange networks now became part of an imperial world system that not only triggered new kinds of specialization. New conditions and frameworks converted processes of production as well as the products themselves. Advances of this sort not only transformed local infrastructure and modes of production, but also had a big impact on the local elites being in charge of these processes. Local elites had previously focused on local networks, but suddenly entirely new possibilities of income and generating revenues emerged. These developments took place on the borderlands of empires although these border zones were not themselves a homogeneous world but were highly diversified. Increasingly they became crossroads of interaction where local leaders looking at their own interests took advantage of the new basic conditions by monitoring and controlling transregional networks that were to a varying degree and with different nuances part of overarching imperial structures. In the end, new political structures emerged at these borderlands that more and more successfully challenged the empire. The conference follows these dynamics in a structural way across two millennia of Afro-Eurasian history.

2. An ancient Near Eastern perspective on the west: from Neo-Assyrian through Persian empires

Since the Iron Age the Mediterranean and the ancient Near East have been entangled in various ways and in various contexts. This long period of a braided history is documented by an enormous mass of different sources originating from different areas and focussing on contact and encounter from different angles. The second conference will deal with various aspects of this fascinating histoire croisée along about half a millennium starting with the earliest documentation of Greeks in Neo-Assyrian Sources through the Achaemenid Persian empire which dominated not only western Asia Minor but also, at least for a certain time, the Aegean.

3. The Achaemenid Exchange and protoglobalization: New dynamics in Afro-Eurasian Entanglements

The time around 500 BCE was a watershed in the history of Afro-Eurasian entanglement. New forms of connectivity emerged from the Sahara to the Taklamakan, from the Gulf pf Bengal to the Indian Ocean, and from the Steppe to the Arabian Peninsula. The Achaemenid Persian Empire is placed in the very center of these new developments. Although modern research sill tends to neglect its decisive role in the developments of these revolutionary new dimensions of connectivity it has to be identified as the central driving force. The conference will focus on various aspects of this “Achaemenid Exchanged” that covered all over Afro-Eurasia and had lasting effects on later epochs.

4. The Mediterranean, Mental Mapping and Historical Contexts: a longue-durée perspective

Until the late 8th century BC ancient Near Eastern sources conceptualised the Mediterranean primarily as the ‘upper sea’ that marked an unlimited border zone of the world towards the west. This mental map changed considerably since the 9th century BC, if not earlier, when Levantine mariners started to explore the entire Mediterranean. With the subjugation of the Levantine cities by the Neo-Assyrian empire, the Assyrians made this new geographical worldview their own. Thereby, for the very first time in history, the Mediterranean was perceived as an inland sea and as a unity of its own.
The conference will follow and reconstruct the essential steps and developments in the creation of this new worldview that can be characterized as a major heritage of the ancient Near East towards our times.

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Robert Rollinger is Professor of Ancient History and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck. His main research areas are the history of the Ancient Near East and the Achaemenid Empire, contacts between the Aegean World and the Ancient Near East, ancient historiography, and the comparative hitstory of empires. Recent publications include: Imperien in der Weltgeschichte. Epochenübergreifende und globalhistorische Vergleiche (coedited; 2014); Mesopotamia in the Ancient World. Impact, Continuities, Parallels (coedited; 2015); Alexander und die großen Ströme. Die Flussüberquerungen im Lichte altorientalischer Pioniertechniken (2013); Blackwell Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire (coedited; 2021); Iran and Its Histories. From the Beginnings to the Achaemenid Empire (coedited 2022); Empires to be Remembered. Ancient Worlds through Modern Times (coedited 2022); The End of Empires (coedited 2022); Making Peace in the Ancient World (coedited 2022); The World of Arrian in Perspective (coedited 2022); The Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East (coedited 2023).

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