Impact of Hellenistic Empires


The Research Group is primarily concerned with the impact of empire on the political organization, social structures, and ideology of local polities of the Ancient Near East in Hellenistic times, on the one hand, and their literary imagination, on the other. The structural changes and historical events affecting Judaea will be both addressed directly and set in their wider, regional and interregional context(s), primarily (but not exclusively) defined as the Seleukid empire at large and Ptolemaic Egypt. Likewise, the question of the relation between, on the one hand, the Hellenistic, imperial setting and its bearings on Judaea and neighbouring polities and, on the other hand, the literary production of the time, will be of central concern. To this end, the Research group intends to bring together historians, social scientists, epigraphists, archaeologists, and text scholars. Although the Research Group will focus on Hellenistic times, its chronological range will also cover Persian and Roman imperial times, and cooperation with Research Groups focusing on these periods as well as on narrowly-defined topics (such as “resistance”) overlapping with the concerns of the Research Group will be considered. 



Hellenistic World, Hellenistic Empires, Social Location of Texts, Empire and Literary Imagination


Benedikt Eckhardt
University of Edinburgh

Sylvie Honigman
Tel Aviv University 

Member Area

Sofia 2024 Call for Papers

Urbanisation, Urban Life, and Elite Ways of Life Outside the City 

Sapiential works of Persian and Hellenistic times (Proverbs; and the Wisdom of Ben Sira) make numerous references to urban life. Yet, archaeological findings suggest that Judea remained under-urbanised in Hellenistic times. Not only was Jerusalem its sole urban centre, but moreover the inhabited area outside (and alongside) the temple precinct remained very modest up to the Hasmonean or even the Herodian period. This remains true, even as recent archaeological excavations suggest that the overall inhabited area may have been slightly more extensive than was hitherto assumed. We seek to address this seeming gap between the material evidence and the literary representations of the city and urban life in Judaean and cognate literatures of Hellenistic times through three topics: 

  1. What is a city in the Hellenistic East? This issue will be addressed through concrete case-studies bearing on the urbanisation in a given region (Babylonia, Northern Syria, Palestine as a whole, Phoenicia, Judea, Transjordan, and Ptolemaic Egypt) according to the material and documentary evidence (archaeology and material remains, papyri, inscriptions). The emphasis will be on what qualifies as a city in terms of urban landscape, and of the material and social aspects of urban life, not in terms of legal status (i.e., the Greek polis); 
  2. Representations of the city, urban life, and village life in the literature, papyri, and inscriptions, in any one of the regions mentioned above (e.g. Egyptian and Demotic wisdom literature, Alexandrian poetry, Judaean wisdom, including Proverbs, Ben Sira); 
  3. Elite ways of life in farmsteads and the countryside (for instance, studies on village gymnasia in Ptolemaic Egypt and elsewhere; Iraq al-Amir; material evidence of luxury goods imported from the Mediterranean in farmsteads in Palestine). 

We invite proposals addressing one or several of these issues.