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Ancient World Seminar: Rebecca Sweetman (St. Andrews) - "Opportunity beyond adversity: the rise and rise of the Roman and Late Antique Cyclades"

When:Mo 14-03-2016 16:15 - 17:30
Where:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), room 130
Click to enlarge. Poster design by Caroline van Toor
Click to enlarge. Poster design by Caroline van Toor

The Cycladic islands flourished during the Hellenistic period; Thera was a Ptolemaic centre, Siphnos, Naxos and Paros thrived due to their natural resources. Moreover, Delos as an emporion was a hub in the economic network of the Eastern Mediterranean, and nearby islands such as Andros and Tenos profited as a result of phase transition from Delos. However, throughout the course of the 1st century BC, the islands were hit by a series of crises. The Cyclades became the inadvertent setting of a series of attacks and retributions. This took its toll, however once Delos was sacked by Mithridates in 88 BC and then again in 69 BC by pirates, the Cycladic network collapsed. No longer seen in terms of an economic powerhouse, the literary sources quickly rebranded the islands as being isolated places suitable largely for exile and little else. However, the archaeological data suggests otherwise. With the removal of a hub, a network normally breaks down into groups of smaller networks; I contend this is what happened in the Cyclades in the 1st century. Rather than declining, the archaeological data indicates a more nuanced picture, with different islands beginning to prosper. By the Late Antique period, many of the islands are succeeding to the point that they are the focus of the foundation of some of the earliest churches in the Greek provinces. This paper will focus on the evidence of network connections to highlight a diachronic view of resilience on the Cycladic islands in the wake of the crises at the end of the Hellenistic period.

Rebecca Sweetman is a senior Lecturer in Ancient History & Archaeology and she teaches Greek and Roman History & Archaeology. As a former Assistant Director of the British School at Athens, she has had a long association with Greece and she has worked on a number of sites including Knossos and Corinth, and her own projects have included the excavations on a Late Antique church in Sparta and the Bronze Age city of Phylakopi in Melos. Her recent monograph entitled The Mosaics of Roman Crete, Art Archaeology and Social Change (CUP 2013) examined the archaeology of Roman and Late Antique Crete and she has edited a volume on Roman colonies (100 years of Solitude. Roman colonies in the first century of their foundation). She is currently working on the Christianization of the Peloponnese as well as the Cyclades in the Roman period.