Doctoral students of Ancient History

The Hecatomnid Dynasty – Questions of Gender and Power in the Persian-Greek Borderscape

The Persian authorities mainly appointed local rulers for regional administration, including the Hecatomnid dynasty in Caria in the 4th century BCE. Hekatomnos, the dynasty’s eponym, had five children – Maussollos, Artemisia, Idrieus, Ada and Pixodaros – who all successively ruled over this part of the Achaemenid Empire. Their reign coincided with an eventful period: faced with the increasingly powerful Macedonian empire, the last great Persian kings came under mounting pressure. The Hecatomnids’ political role is to be situated in this much larger, transregional set of conflicts.

The families around rulers are often underrepresented in the sources. However, these very family structures were necessary for the continuation of the monarchies. Therefore, the gender relationships that characterize the Hecatomnid family – the practice of sibling marriage – are to be analysed thoroughly. It is reasonable to assume that the Hecatomnids tried to and succeeded in distinguishing themselves from the common people and the rest of the upper class; perhaps they even wanted to equate themselves with gods. These considerations ultimately lead to the questions on which this thesis will focus: How did the sibling marriages within the dynasty influence its religious identity and political power? How did the Hecatomnids position themselves within the increasingly tense political situation between the Achaemenid and the Macedonian empire? Can further conclusions be drawn for the entire region around the Persian-Greek border?


The Philosopher and his books: reassessing the nature of the Herculaneum papyrus library thanks to material philology

Soziale Mitgliedschaften von professionellen Arenakämpfern der römischen Antike (Arbeitstitel)

Gladiator games are a subject area that has long occupied ancient historical research - but the question of the games' function was of particular interest: Why did ancient society stage such fights? From this perspective, professional arena fighters were often seen only as symbols of male virtus or as a means to consolidate imperial power. In contrast, this dissertation will deal with (male) gladiators and venators as members of ancient society. Their funerary monuments will be used as main source for this dissertation, whereby the selection is neither geographically nor temporally limited, but ranges from the East to the West and from the Roman Republic to the Imperial period. These sources will be used to determine the various social memberships of professional arena fighters. In this context, "memberships" are understood in a sociological sense, namely, on the one hand, as affiliations to social entities, such as familiae or collegia, and, on the other hand, as affiliations to categorical classes, for example, gender, ethnicity, or personal legal status. The difference between these two types of social membership is that memberships in social entities are always related to contact and thus association with other persons, whereas categorical classes are based on observation of people and subsequent classification.

Synergetic Spaces, Peripheral Images: The Politics of Late Roman and Early Christian Mosaics of the Eastern Levant

The Ph.D. project examines and contextualises the history and visual theory of late-antique mosaic imagery dating from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD situated in present-day Jordan and Syria. Relying on and referring to sophisticated Roman mosaic craftwork and further preceding aesthetic values, the late-antique floor mosaics of the (Sub-)Byzantine Levant exemplify cultural-historical multidimensionalities and likewise provided patterns for subsequent Islamic art. The project seeks to comprehend the imagery in terms of specific patterns of social communication, religious authority and cultural identity, thus engaging with both the translatability of socio-political imagery and the significance and scope of geographically and politically peripheral spaces for stimulating, developing and expanding image production as such.

The Agrarian Economy of Roman Egypt

The PhD dissertation project will be devoted to trace the influence of changing environmental conditions on the agrarian economy during the Roman period of Egypt (with a focus on the third century CE) by using mainly papyrological evidence. Mainly tied to wheat production, the agricultural economy of Roman Egypt has been of rising interest in scholarship in recent years. Next to northern Africa and Sicily, Egypt was the principal source of grain for the population of Rome and the Roman military, but thanks to its rich papyrological evidence Egypt yields considerably more detailed sources than its two sister regions. By using this depth of information not available for other regions of the ancient Mediterranean, this PhD project will be an example of incorporating climate history into the study of the ancient agrarian economy, and also establish a model how ancient economies generally responded to environmental shocks.

Since Roman Egypt’s economy was strongly based on agriculture revolving mainly around the Mediterranean basin, the analysis will depart from, and concentrate on, the Mediterranean triad: Wheat, wine and oil, besides from being among the most represented commodities throughout the entire timeframe covered by papyrological evidences, were staples of the everyday diet of all social classes, thus produced and sold in huge quantities. Considering the central role played by such a market and its likelihood of being significantly exposed to any climatic change, the study will take into account not only the products themselves, but will include any other data somehow related (manufacturing facilities such as oil presses and mills, contracts of lease and sale for plots of land intended for cultivation of such staples, commodities frequently mentioned as trade goods in transactions involving them).


Historically Marginalized Greco-Roman Physicians

This dissertation examines the phenomenon of historical marginalization of some of the physicians and medical providers in the Greco-Roman world from the second century BC to the sixth century AD. This work takes into consideration the material aspects of Greco-Roman medicine considered in light of the testimony offered by Greek and Latin papyri, ostraca, manuscripts and funerary inscriptions. Documents related to physicians and medical providers are examined to establish what their material aspect was, trying to give a brief picture of the collateral problems that lead to the marginalization which occurred in multiple patterns and forms. Some works are completely lost, while only fragments and quotations remain in others, and for some we have even lost the names of the authors and know very little information about their contributions in the field of medicine.

This dissertation is a multi-method interpretative framework, integrating a historiographical approach and an archival investigation of classical archaeology, the history of medicine and socio-psychological theory to produce a perspective that is closest to the realm of the medical community in Greco-Roman times, using papyri, ostraca, manuscripts, and surviving books as main references.

The City of Heracleopolis magna in Roman Times. An Urban Biography

Doktorat im Rahmen des SNF-Projekts "Urban Biographies of the Roman and Late Antique Worlds: Antinoopolis and Heracleopolis in Egypt, c. 100 – c. 650 CE" (2021–2025)

Embedded in the SNF-funded project “Urban Biographies of the Roman and Late Antique Worlds: Antinoopolis and Heracleopolis in Egypt, c. 100 – c. 650 CE”, my dissertation project aims to produce an ‘urban biography’ of the Middle Egyptian nome metropolis of Heracleopolis magna in Roman times. Located at the Bahr Yusuf south-east of the Fayum, Heracleopolis was an important regional centre which could already look back, upon the coming of Roman rule, on 3000 years of history. Though hundreds of papyri provide detailed insights into the workings of this city under Roman rule, previous research has been centred almost exclusively around its Pharaonic period, when Heracleopolis was, during the First Intermediate Period, the capital of Egypt. Integrating papyrological, archaeological, literary, and other evidence, this study will cover political, social, economic, cultural, and religious aspects of the city’s history from the Augustan period until the middle of the 4th c. A.D. The ultimate goal is to carve out, by a comparative approach, the individual profile of the city in the context of Roman Egyptian urbanism, and to determine the multiple factors that shaped this profile (which was, of course, subject to historical change).

Eine Korpusstudie zum Inhalt und zur Struktur der familiären Privatbriefe der griechisch-römischen Zeit (Arbeitstitel)

Erstbetreuerin: Prof. Dr. Sabine R. Hübner, Universität Basel; Zweitbetreuer: Prof. Dr. Paul Heilporn, Université de Strasbourg

Das Projekt hat zum Ziel, durch die Korpusstudie einer bestimmten Art von Briefen einen sowohl inhaltlichen als auch methodischen Mehrwert für das Studium der antiken Sozialgeschichte zu erzeugen.

Bis heute fehlt es an einer quantitativ gestützten Typologie des Briefes als Genre unter den dokumentarischen Quellen der Antike, obwohl dem bereits zahlreiche qualitative Untersuchungen gewidmet sind. Ich möchte mit meiner Arbeit am Beispiel einer bestimmten Briefart dem Entstehen einer solchen Typologie einen Anfang setzen. Einige Privatbriefe sind einzigartige Quellen, indem sie wie keine andere Textart von Beziehungen zwischen Familienmitgliedern und Freunden zeugen, die außerhalb ihrer Mikrokosmen irrelevant waren. Diese persönlichen, familiären Briefe verschaffen einen Einblick in die wohl intimste Sphäre der Leben antiker Menschen und verdienen es daher meines Erachtens, als Korpus untersucht zu werden.

Auf der methodischen Ebene kann diese Arbeit als Versuch betrachtet werden, das qualitative close reading der bisherigen Forschung zu den persönlichen Privatbriefen mit dem durch das Aufkommen der digital humanities möglich werdenden distant reading zu ergänzen (ohne sie zu ersetzen!). Auf die Korpusstudie bezogen heisst es, dass sie in einem ersten Teil zunächst corpus based funktionieren wird, da die bisherigen Fragestellungen der Forschung die Erschaffung des Korpus maßgeblich prägen werden. Umgekehrt wird die Analyse des Korpus zu einer corpus driven Vorgehensweise führen, sobald durch die neuen Visualisierungsmethoden neue Fragestellungen aus den Texten ersichtlich werden.

Graduates of Ancient History (since 2018)

The Ambivalence of Language: Expression of Power and Administrative Function in Arabic Documents from Early Islamic Egypt

Die Arbeit erforscht die Rolle des Arabischen als imperiale Sprache im ägyptischen Kontext während der beiden ersten Jahrhunderte nach der islamischen Eroberung mit dem Ziel, einen der zentralen Aspekte des politischen und sozialen Verhältnisses der herrschenden islamischen Elite zur eroberten Bevölkerung zu rekonstruieren. Das Projekt beruht auf dem dokumentarischen Beleg, dass im betrachteten Zeitraum das arabische Idiom beinahe ausschließlich der administrativen Sphäre angehörte und von der eroberten Bevölkerung in erster Instanz als die öffentliche Sprache der imperialen Autorität wahrgenommen wurde. Vorsatz meiner Arbeit ist sowohl die rein technisch-administrative als auch die repräsentative Komponente der arabischen Dokumente (besonders Papyri, Münzen, Inschriften und Graffiti) in Betracht zu ziehen. Besondere Aufmerksamkeit wird dabei der Frage nach dem jeweils angesprochenen Publikum gewidmet. Durch den Vergleich der respektiven Sprachregister und Formeln mit deren römisch-byzantinischen Vorläufern, werden Kontinuitäts-und Diskontinuitätsaspekte zwischen der prä-und post-Eroberung Phase hervorgehoben. In einem weiteren Schritt wird eine Interpretation der Genese, Funktion und Entwicklung des Arabischen als Reichsprache, am Licht der zeitgenössischen politischen und soziokulturellen Ereignisse, vorgeschlagen werden. Schlussendlich sehe ich vor, die Frage zu berücksichtigen, in wieweit das ägyptische Modell auf andere geographische Kontexte in der islamischen oikoumènē übertragen werden kann.

Erscheint demnächst als Band 42 der De Gruyter Reihe "Studies in the History and Culture of the Middle East" als Projecting a New Empire. Formats, Social Meaning, and Mediality of Imperial Arabic in the Umayyad and Early Abbasid Periods


Fiscalité, Local Politics, and Social Control in Byzantine Egypt

Advisors: Sabine R. Huebner (University of Basel) and Bernhard Palme (University of Vienna)

In my dissertation I intend to study public control of local communities by focusing on the office of the “pagarchs,” who were in control of the collection of taxes from the rural communities of Byzantine Egypt. Backed by considerable coercive power, these officials appear to have become the central authority on the city level since the early sixth century at the latest. My PhD-project aims to use the pagarchy as a case study in order to elaborate a model that will help illuminate how sociopolitical and administrative factors in the city–country relationship correlate. The pagarchs appear to be a promising subject for the study of public control of local communities as they operated on the edge of both realms: they resided in the urban centers and were part of the political élite of the civitas; at the same time, they owned considerable landholdings, ousiai, even in areas for which they were responsible as pagarchs. In the end we will be able to better comprehend how the network we call the state and its lower-end communities in the countryside influenced each other dialectically.

My dissertation will address several questions in order to gain insight into the pagarchy as a model for the interconnectivity of fiscalité, local politics, and social control in Byzantine Egypt. 1) Fiscal administration: how did the tax regime of the pagarchs work in practice and what were its means of control vis-à-vis rural communities? 2) Hierarchy and integration: how did the pagarchy operate within a network of administrative and ‘private’ institutions? 3) Politics and mentality: how did the pagarchs profit from their control of and relations to rural communities in regard to their social standing in the cultural and administrative centers? Did they strive after promotion and did the empire make use of this? How did the pagarchs’ provincial and imperial ambitions impact local politics? 4) Community agenda: what goals did rural communities pursue in relation to the pagarchs and the ‘great houses,’ and what strategies did they use? How did dealing with public administration shape local communities?

In a second step, the model thoroughly elaborated from the situation in Byzantine Egypt will be transferred synchronically and diachronically. 1) Painting the greater picture: some texts from other regions of the Empire suggest that the pagarchy was not an institution restricted to the Egyptian provinces. Is it possible to trace the characteristics of the Egyptian pagarchy in other parts of the Empire? By comparing selected regions of the Byzantine Empire, the project will help to sharpen regional characteristics of the Egyptian model. 2) Toward transition: finally, the Byzantine model will be tested against the available evidence from ‘post-conquest Egypt.’ Thus, the project will be able to address the question of change and continuity in the Arab period from its unique point of view.

The Economic Integration of a Late Roman Province: Egypt from Diocletian to Anastasius

(Advisor: Roger Bagnall)

My doctoral research focuses on assessing the extent of economic integration through trade in Late Antique
Egypt, focusing also on Alexandria’s role as a Mediterranean emporium, by using archaeological, numismatic, papyrological, and other textual evidence. By focusing on products of which Egypt produced a surplus and traded widely, I will show the interdependence between Egypt and other provinces of the Roman Empire. In my dissertation, I analyze different types of evidence under the same theoretical framework and questions, in order to assess both the role that certain commodities, such as textiles, wine, and glass play in wider discussions of an integrated economy and also to highlight the methodology by  which diverse data sets can be employed to address aspects of economic history.
I have chosen the fourth century CE as a chronological marker for this economic analysis for two main reasons. The first is that it is a period when the Emperor Diocletian instituted empire-wide reforms that were aimed at creating a more stable economic and political unit. One of these changes was the abolishment of Egypt’s isolated monetary system, under which it had functioned for the previous 600 years. Thus, after 297/298 CE, coinage minted in other provinces of the Empire could be used in Egypt and currency and exchange patterns in the province can thus be analyzed, and even quantified in some cases. The analysis of hoards and coinage from this century has also revealed the central role that unofficially produced coinage had in Egypt, as it supplied a large part of the bronze currency. Secondly, this period is rich in papyrological data, which can elucidate details of major industries in Egypt whose products are not well represented in the archaeological record, such as textiles and glass.
My aim in this project, is to begin inserting the Egyptian economy into wider discussions of the Roman economy, by showing the strong economic interconnection not only between the Egyptian province and other provinces but also between Alexandria and other major cities such as Rome, Antioch, and Constantinople.