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Article

Praisos  

Anthony James Whitley

Praisos (also spelled Πράσος in Strabo; sometimes Latinized as Praesus) is an ancient city in eastern Crete, one of forty-nine political communities (poleis or citizen-states) on that island.1 It is an inland site extending for about 28 ha over three hills (see Figure 1). The city and its territory were known to Herodotus (7.170–171), Theophrastus (Hist. pl. 3.3.4), Pseudo-Skylax (Periplous 47), Staphylus of Naucratis (FGrH 269 F 12), and Strabo (10.4.6), the last of whom located the sanctuary of Dictaean Zeus (now known to be at Palaikastro) within its territory (10.4.12).2 In Hellenistic times this territory extended from the northern to the southern coast of Crete; dependent communities included the Stalitai and Sitiatai (IC 3.6.7) in the 3rd century bce and the previously autonomous community of Dragmos by the early 2nd century bce (IC 3.4.9, line 58). Several inscriptions in Greek letters (but not in the Greek language) from Archaic through Hellenistic times have confirmed that this city was home to the Eteocretans (“True Cretans”), one of the five peoples of Crete mentioned in the Odyssey (19.

Article

Queer theory takes its name from a derogatory term for persons considered “odd” or “abnormal”, notably those whose sexual behaviour, gender expression, or other characteristics do not conform to established social norms. It harnesses the experience and perspective of gender non-conformists and sexual deviants as a vantage point for understanding—and dismantling—the coercive workings of social structures and discursive regimes. Since queerness marks a position outside or at the margins of—and thus relative to—the social order, it necessarily takes on different forms under different normative regimes: while different kinds of queers have existed at all times and in all places, what counts as “queer” in any given time and place depends on what counts as “normal”.Ancient literature’s queerness, consequently, has two dimensions: (a) accounts—real and imagined—of sexual behaviours, erotic desires, intimate relationships, and notorious figures recognizably at odds with the sociosexual norms of Greece and Rome (“ancient queers”); and (b) accounts that, whatever their status in antiquity, appear strikingly odd in their later reception (“queer ancients”). These two dimensions can and do converge, as in the development of modern Western sexual identity categories (homosexual, bisexual, etc.), which drew heavily on ancient “case studies.”Frank about their committed stance in the present, queer readings of ancient literature interrogate interconnected formations and histories of misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, racism, and classism; ponder and celebrate pre-modern instances of resistance to sexual norms; and tap into the classical past in order to open new possibilities for erotic and social relations and subjectivities.

Article

Peter Fibiger Bang

Taxation is best understood as a form of payment for protection. Greco-Roman taxation developed and expanded with the rise of monarchies and empires. Formerly independent city-states were made to pay a tribute to their imperial masters. In return, imperial government guarded the peace and prevented rivals to make similar claims on their subject communities.

Initially, the world of the Classical city-states was one of low taxation. Per capita, tax demands were minimal and mostly met from indirect taxes. As long as the citizenry, dominated by landowners, could avoid direct taxation of their property or the produce of their lands, the main source of their income, they did, praying to the gods, as Dio Chrysostomus later remarked, that it would never come to the point “that each man would have to contribute in proportion out of his own wealth” (Dio Chrys. Or. 31.46, author’s translation). Much of the expenses for what ancient states did, public building, religious festivals, cult ceremonies, could normally be met from other sources, such as customs and harbour dues, natural resources, state-owned properties, or if need be, temporary contributions. In that respect the experience of the Classical city-state corresponds quite closely to that of other pre-industrial societies. The only factor that seriously could break the pattern of no or little direct taxation was warfare. Military activity generated by far the highest expenses regularly undertaken by premodern states. Historically it is the need to finance armies that has driven the expansion of taxation and the introduction of permanent land-taxes.

Article

John Weisweiler

The just distribution of social goods was fiercely debated in the ancient Mediterranean and the ideologies of egalitarianism and inegalitarianism developed in Rome and Athens shaped Euro-American political thought from the Enlightenment onward. By contrast, the study of actual income and wealth distributions in ancient societies is a more recent development. Only in the early 21st century have scholars begun to make systematic attempts to quantify levels of inequality in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Since we lack the documentary sources on which the study of inequality in contemporary economies is based, most of these reconstructions rely on a combination of modelling and the interpretation of isolated figures found in literary texts. This fragmentary evidence suggests that in the best-attested regions of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East inequality was considerable. In particular, the formation of large territorial states—most notably the empires of Babylon, Persia, and Rome—facilitated the concentration of wealth into fewer hands. But it is unclear whether inequality increased over time. At least, there is no unambiguous evidence that wealth and income were more unequally distributed in late antiquity than in earlier periods of Roman history.

Article

Ester Salgarella

Linear A is a Bronze Age (c. 1800–1450 bce) script attested primarily on Crete but also sporadically in the Aegean islands, mainland Greece, and Asia Minor. Typologically it is classified as a logo-syllabary since it consists of signs representing both syllables (syllabograms) and real-world referents (logograms/ideograms). To date, the script, which was used to write the still poorly understood Minoan language, remains undeciphered. Linear A seems to have been used for both administrative and cultic purposes: incised clay documents (tablets, roundels, and sealings) were used in palace administration to record economic transactions, while inscribed carved-stone and metal objects and painted clay vessels have been found in non-administrative contexts, mostly cultic or utilitarian. There is no evidence of Linear A’s use in monumental inscriptions, diplomatic correspondence, historiography, or other forms of literature. Still, Linear A is likely to have been used for writing on perishable material (papyrus or parchment) as well, although no examples have survived. Although the script remains undeciphered, some information—place names, personal names, names for commodities, and terms for various sorts of transaction—can still be gleaned from the available texts. Nevertheless, the nature of our evidence (short formulaic inscriptions with limited syntax), the relatively small number of inscriptions that have survived, and their often poor state of preservation significantly hamper our understanding of the language.

Article

Noah Hacham

The short book of 3 Maccabees, written in Egypt in the Hellenistic or Roman period and almost unknown in antiquity, records king Ptolemy Philopator’s (221–204 bce) two failures to harm the Jews: In the first he failed to enter the sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem, and in the second the God of Israel thwarted the king’s three attempts to annihilate all Egyptian Jews with intoxicated elephants. The Jews instituted a holiday commemorating this rescue.

While the book’s historical credibility regarding these events is dubious, it should be seen as an important historical source for the life of Egyptian Jewry and the challenges that it faced during the Hellenistic-Roman period. The book has a discernible four-faceted agenda: (a) Jews are loyal both to their God and to the king, although they cannot be confident of the king’s goodwill toward them; (b) the God of Israel is the Jews’ protector and savior; (c) He also revealed Himself in the Diaspora, far away from the Jerusalemite Temple. The book is also (d) an anti-Dionysiac polemic.

Article

Louise Hitchcock

The term “Sea People” is a modern designation for some nine tribes known from Egyptian, Hittite, Ugaritic, and biblical texts. Their origins are uncertain, but they are associated with maritime activity that contributed to the destruction of many city-states in the Mediterranean during the era known as the Late Bronze–Iron Age transition. An outcome of this activity was the collapse or destruction of many Bronze Age sites and an emergence of new cultures.One of the great remaining mysteries in Mediterranean archaeology is understanding the identities of the Sea People and their role in contributing to the end of the Bronze Age (c.1200bce). This era of collapse was followed by a new Age of Iron that saw the emergence of the classical Greeks, biblical Israelites, and Romans. The term Sea People is misleading as it is a modern category first used in the 19th century to refer to a collection of different tribal groups wreaking havoc around the Mediterranean. Their tribal names include Denyen, Ekwesh, Lukka, Peleset, Shekelesh or Tjeker, Shardanu, Teresh, Meshwesh, and Weshesh. The origins of some of these groups are associated with particular places in the minds of many (for example, many of the authors in the bibliography and even myself), whereas the origins of others are completely uncertain or continue to be debated. Their names also have variant spellings, based on their being attested in different languages including, chiefly, Egyptian, but also .

Article

Sarah Iles Johnston

Myths were told in a broad variety of contexts by a broad variety of people in ancient Greece. Unlike fairy tales and fables, Greek myths focus on specifically named individuals, such as Heracles and Athena, who interact with other such individuals across a span of different stories, creating a network of stories and characters. Although Greek myths explore many of the same plots and themes as other traditional tales, they were particularly interested in tales of heroes, metamorphosis, and love affairs between gods and human women. Ancient intellectuals interpreted myths as allegories or as distorted versions of real history. Modern scholars have used a variety of approaches to interpret Greek myths, most of which have been anchored in act of comparing them to the myths of other cultures: the ritualist approach, the structuralist approach, the psychoanalytical approach and narratological approaches. In the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in mythography and in the reception of Greek myths.

Article

Ilion  

Charles Brian Rose

The name of Ilion is generally applied to the site of Troy to designate the settlement in existence there following the end of the Bronze Age. After the destruction of Troy (VIIb2) in the mid-11th century bce, probably by an earthquake, a few of the buildings were repaired but the town was not systematically rebuilt as in earlier periods. Some of the Protogeometric pottery uncovered at the site is paralleled in mainland Greece, especially in and around Euboea, Phocis, and Macedonia, so Ilion was clearly still part of an Aegean trade network at this time.1The fortunes of the city began to rise again during the late 9th and early 8th centuries bce, when there was new construction in the West Sanctuary, a complex on the southwest side of the citadel mound. One of the ruined Late Bronze Age structures in the sanctuary was rebuilt with benches inside and out, as well as a stone base that may have supported a cult image (Figures 1 and 2).

Article

Dimitri Nakassis

Linear B is a script used to write the Greek language during the palatial period of Mycenaean civilization, c. 1400–1200 bce. It employed 87 syllabic and 143 logographic signs written from left to right. The vast majority of Linear B texts take the form of clay tablets, labels, and sealings that were used by palatial administrators to record diverse transactions. The other major document type is the inscribed stirrup jar, a coarse transport vessel with short texts painted before firing. Major deposits of Linear B texts are located at palatial sites on the Greek mainland and Crete, especially at Pylos and Cnossus. The texts are entirely administrative in nature and are therefore silent on historical events, but they shed light on many aspects of the Late Bronze Age world, especially economy, society, religion, and of course language and writing itself.Linear B is a Late Bronze Age script that was used to write documents in the Greek .