PhD ceremony: Mr. C.P. Dickenson, 16.15 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Dissertation: On the Agora. Power and public space in hellenistic and roman Greece
Promotor(s): prof. O.M. van Nijf, prof. P.A.J. Attema, prof. L.C. Nevett
Chris Dickenson’s central argument is that the life on the ‘agora’ was more vibrant and dynamic, and more important to the functioning of the polis than people have up to now suspected.
Dickenson’s thesis is based on the premise that public space provides a useful window through which to look at the society and culture of the people who use it. Public space brings together people of different background and with conflicting ideas and ideals. This means that various individuals and subgroups within an urban population all have a vested interest in the way in which public space is used and how it looks. As such power relations within a society are often contested, negotiated or reaffirmed within areas of public space, as modern investigations of public space by anthropologists and sociologists have shown. If this vision holds for modern cities, it is even more true of pre-modern societies where, in the absence of modern mass media, electronic communications and fast forms of transport, personal interactions in urban space were arguably far more important than now. This thesis takes this understanding of public space and uses it to examine the transformation of the agora, the most important public space of the ancient Greek city or polis, for a period of considerable political upheaval and dramatic cultural transformations – the Hellenistic and Early Roman Imperial periods (c.300 BC to 300 AD). The aim is to see what looking at changes in the design and use of the agora tells us about transformations of the polis’ society, culture and, most importantly, power relations.
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