Borderless : Archaic 'East Greek' art and cultural interchange in Ionia and western Anatolia

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2017-01-06

Authors

Rodriguez, Leticia Rios

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Abstract

The Archaic East Greek world is regularly given cursory attention in surveys of Greek art and architectural history, despite the fact that Greek settlers arrived in Anatolia as early as the 11th century BCE, all the while maintaining strong political and cultural connections with the mainland. These Greeks were also in contact with local populations, such as Carians and Lycians, and sometimes subject to the Phrygian, Lydian, and Persian Empires, the traditions of which were equally as powerful a backdrop as the Mainland Greek horizon in influencing the visual and cultural make-up of a unique, East Greek identity. Scholars working within a Western framework and with a view toward the Classical Period, however, have traditionally restricted description of the visual culture these encounters produced to monolithic and sometimes even pejorative terms, focusing on the ‘Greekness’ of the material culture as a benchmark of quality without problematizing the term ‘Greek’ and its inherent privileging of all things Athenian. Such analyses stem from an implicit colonial framework, and thereby contribute to the labeling of East Greek art as a form at once unique and yet incapable of standing on its own, insofar as it relies on a predominant, predictable (Western) model. Through the vehicle of three case studies that engage with established areas of analysis (e.g. death and religion) and different types of media (such as painting, architecture, and sculpture), this dissertation works to ‘decolonize’ East Greece—what is today the central western coast of Turkey and offshore east Greek islands—a space that I argue to be a borderland. As a conceptual tool, the borderland is fruitful for examining the interactions of eastern Greeks and the non-Greek populations living in western Anatolia between the seventh and early fifth centuries—a time and space that fostered fluid forms of continuous cultural, artistic and religious contact and exchange. East Greek art and the plurality of Ionian identities associated with its production and consumption reflect this borderland, a ‘space between’ where one’s everyday experience entails inhabiting multiple visual, material and political worlds. As a non-traditional methodological approach to the study of ‘Greek’ art, the borderland is also productive as a tool for critiquing the accompanying (traditionally Atheno-centric) Western academic discourse, whose discursive practices have limited the possibility of studying—and even speaking of—this dynamic material culture.

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