The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire

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.

Romulus' Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian

Modern treatments of Rome have projected in highly emotive terms the perceived problems, or the aspirations, of the present: 'race-mixture' has been blamed for the collapse of the Roman empire; more recently, Rome and Roman society have been depicted as 'multicultural'. Moving beyond these and beyond more traditional, juridical approaches to Roman identity, Emma Dench focuses on ancient modes of thinking about selves and relationships with other peoples, including descent-myths, history, and ethnographies. She explores the relative importance of sometimes closely interconnected categories of blood descent, language, culture and clothes, and territoriality. Rome's creation of a distinctive imperial shape is understood in the context of the broader ancient Mediterranean world within which the Romans self-consciously situated themselves, and whose modes of thought they appropriated and transformed.

Martial: Liber Spectaculorum
Coleman, Kathleen M. 2006. Martial: Liber Spectaculorum. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

This book is the first full-scale edition of the so-called Liber spectaculorum by Martial. A comprehensive introduction addresses the role of epigram in commemorating monuments and occasions, the connection between spectacle and imperial panegyric in Martial's oeuvre, characteristics of the collection, possible circumstances of composition and 'publication', transmission of the text, and related issues. Each epigram is followed by an apparatus criticus, an English translation, and a detailed commentary on linguistic, literary, and historical matters, adducing extensive evidence from epigraphy and art as well as literary sources. The book is accompanied by four concordances, five tables, two maps, 30 plates, and an appendix.

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 Version Abstract

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.