Greek History

The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire
Kosmin, Paul J. 2014. The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 448. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Seleucid Empire (311–64 BCE) was unlike anything the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds had seen. Stretching from present-day Bulgaria to Tajikistan—the bulk of Alexander the Great’s Asian conquests—the kingdom encompassed a territory of remarkable ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity; yet it did not include Macedonia, the ancestral homeland of the dynasty. The Land of the Elephant Kings investigates how the Seleucid kings, ruling over lands to which they had no historic claim, attempted to transform this territory into a coherent and meaningful space.

Based on recent archaeological evidence and ancient primary sources, Paul J. Kosmin’s multidisciplinary approach treats the Seleucid Empire not as a mosaic of regions but as a land unified in imperial ideology and articulated by spatial practices. Kosmin uncovers how Seleucid geographers and ethnographers worked to naturalize the kingdom’s borders with India and Central Asia in ways that shaped Roman and later medieval understandings of “the East.” In the West, Seleucid rulers turned their backs on Macedonia, shifting their sense of homeland to Syria. By mapping the Seleucid kings’ travels and studying the cities they founded—an ambitious colonial policy that has influenced the Near East to this day—Kosmin shows how the empire’s territorial identity was constructed on the ground. In the empire’s final century, with enemies pressing harder and central power disintegrating, we see that the very modes by which Seleucid territory had been formed determined the way in which it fell apart.

Kosmin, Paul J. 2013. “Alexander the Great and the Seleucids in Iran.” The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran, edited by Daniel Potts, 671–689. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 671–689.
Kosmin, Paul J. 2013. “Apologetic Ethnography: Megasthenes' Indica and the Seleucid Elephant.” Ancient Ethnography: New Approaches, edited by Eran Almagor and Joseph Skinner, 97–115. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 97–115.
Kosmin, Paul J. 2013. “Seleucid Ethnography and Indigenous Kingship: The Babylonian Education of Antiochus I.” The World of Berossos, edited by Johannes Haubold, Giovanni Lanfranchi, Robert Rollinger, and John Steele, 193–206. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 193–206.
The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making and the Iliad
Elmer, David F. 2013. The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making and the Iliad. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Poetics of Consent breaks new ground in Homeric studies by interpreting the Iliad’s depictions of political action in terms of the poetic forces that shaped the Iliad itself. Arguing that consensus is a central theme of the epic, David Elmer analyzes in detail scenes in which the poem’s three political communities—Achaeans, Trojans, and Olympian gods—engage in the process of collective decision making.

These scenes reflect an awareness of the negotiation involved in reconciling rival versions of the Iliad over centuries. They also point beyond the Iliad’s world of gods and heroes to the here-and-now of the poem’s performance and reception, in which the consensus over the shape and meaning of the Iliadic tradition is continuously evolving.

Elmer synthesizes ideas and methods from literary and political theory, classical philology, anthropology, and folklore studies to construct an alternative to conventional understandings of the Iliad’s politics. The Poetics of Consent reveals the ways in which consensus and collective decision making determined the authoritative account of the Trojan War that we know as the Iliad.

Greek Ritual Poetics
Yatromanolakis, Dimitrios, and Panagiotis Roilos, ed. 2005. Greek Ritual Poetics. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, Trustees for Harvard University. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Investigating ritual in Greece from cross-disciplinary and transhistorical perspectives, Greek Ritual Poetics offers novel readings of the pivotal role of ritual in Greek traditions by exploring a broad spectrum of texts, art, and social practices. This collection of essays written by an international group of leading scholars in a number of disciplines presents a variety of methodological approaches to secular and religious rituals, and to the narrative and conceptual strategies of their reenactment and manipulation in literary, pictorial, and social discourses. Addressing understudied aspects of Greek ritual and societies, this book will prove significant for classicists, anthropologists, Byzantinists, art historians, neohellenists, and comparatists interested in the interaction between ritual, aesthetics, and cultural communicative systems.

Dench, Emma. 2003. “Beyond Greeks and Barbarians: Italy and Sicily in the Hellenistic Age.” Companion to the Hellenistic World, edited by A Erskine, 294-310. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 294-310.