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The Greeks in Asia

4 April 2023 - 4 April 2023

7:30PM - 9:00PM

Oriental Museum

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Friends of the Oriental Museum lecture by Prof Kathryn Stevens, Fellow, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford

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Prof Kathryn Stevens

Although the Greek world was always in contact with the civilisations of the eastern Mediterranean and Near East, the period after the conquests of Alexander the Great ushered in a new phase of contact, settlement and mutual transformation. Alexander’s campaigns saw Greeks scattered across Asia, as soldiers left to guard new outposts or as settlers of nascent cities. Under the rule of his successors, many of these new settlements grew and flourished. Greek settlers and their descendants brought their language and customs to remote parts of Asia, and at the same time came into close contact with the languages and customs of the other inhabitants of these regions, as they governed, traded with and intermarried with the local population. These contacts gave rise to fascinating and in some cases enduring cultural changes, whose effects we can glimpse in the surviving textual and archaeological record, from the use of the Greek alphabet to write out ancient Babylonian texts in Babylon to the unique mixed art of Gandhara. Yet not all contacts were positive, and the surviving sources also attest to tension and conflict.

Drawing on evidence from across western and central Asia, with a particular focus on Babylonia and Bactria, this talk will explore the lives and activities of the Greeks in Asia during the time of Alexander and the Hellenistic period (331-31 BC). We will trace the spread of Greek language and culture in the Hellenistic east, and ask what it meant to people living on the edge of the Persian Gulf or in the foothills of the Himalayas, thousands of miles from Greece, to be able to write texts in Greek, give their children Greek names, celebrate their victories in athletic competitions at the gymnasium, or honour the gods of their ‘homeland’.

Kathryn Stevens is Associate Professor in Ancient Greek History at Oxford University, and Tutorial Fellow in Greek History at Corpus Christi College. She studied Classics with Akkadian at St John's College, Oxford (2004-8), and obtained her MPhil and PhD from King's College, Cambridge (2008-12). She held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Copenhagen and Trinity College, Cambridge, and from 2014 was Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at Durham University, before moving to Oxford in 2020. Her research interests lie in the cultural and intellectual histories of the ancient Greek world and Mesopotamia, with a particular focus on the Hellenistic period (331–30 BC).




Free for Friends of the Oriental Museum

Where and when

Lecture room 009 in Elvet Hill House, adjacent to the Oriental Museum