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The Seleucid Empire between Orientalism and Hellenocentrism: Writing the 
History of the Near East and Iran in the Third and Second Centuries BCE

Rolf Strootman, Lecturer in Ancient History, Utrecht University and 
Visiting Professor, UCLA

Monday, May 23, 2011
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
6275 Bunche Hall

 From Alexander the Great to the early first century BCE, the history of the Middle East was dominated by the empire created by the (Irano-)Macedonian dynasty of the Seleucids, the core of which was Babylonia. This period has always been something of an anomaly in Near Eastern and especially Iranian history. Modern Near Eastern scholarship has mostly left the empire to scholars trained in the history and culture of Classical Greece, who in turn either firmly encapsulated the empire in Classical history, concentrating on the spread of Greek culture in the "East," or presented it as a decadent and despotic "oriental" state far removed from the Classical ideal. Some have even characterized the empire as European "colonialism" avant la lettre. More recently, continuity has been the key element in historical approaches to the Seleucid period. Attempts to reconstruct the Seleucid kingdom as really an "eastern" empire, the successor state of the Achaemenid Empire, have however only underlined the old east-west dichotomy without being able to explain the evident Greco-Macedonian aspects that were characteristic of the Seleucid monarchy, too.

Where have all these often radical paradigm shifts brought us? How can we position the Seleucid "Empire of Asia" in the longue durée of Middle Eastern history while neither overemphasizing nor minimizing its "Hellenistic" characteristics? And what changes took place in the political landscape of the Middle East in the age of the Seleucids?

More information about the speaker:

Sponsor(s): , Department of History, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

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