|Modernity at large? Cultural dimensions of Romanisation|
|In comparison to earlier periods, the Roman Empire certainly is something distinctly ‘new’. There is much debate on how this ‘new’ should be interpreted. It has proven not to be a European-style colonial enterprise (as was often suggested during most of the 20th century), nor does it seem to be a network of ‘native’ agencies (as was often suggested during the last decennium). It is against this background that novel propositions to understand the ‘new’, as, for instance, globalization, have to be understood.
The Roman here and now was, in quite some parts of the Mediterranean, characterized by interlinked diasporas of peoples and images. In those circumstances identities are consciously and continuously in the making. Sociological studies have argued that the work of imagination has an important role to play in such periods. And it is there that the debates on ‘the Other’ and ‘acculturation’ that we try to bring together in this workshop meet.
Alterity is one of the most effective ways in which cultural construction of identity acquires form and substance. But in the Roman here and now the Other was present all over. In the past as well as in its cosmopolitan present. Thus, in the Roman world alterity could hardly be the easy solution of negative stereotyping and if it was used as such there must have been tensions, as in that case the Romans would not only have made their past a foreign country, but also their present.
In a further exploration of these questions material culture should play an important role as the most succinct example of the presence of the Other in the Roman world certainly is the abundance of Other styles populating the Roman landscape and cityscape. The use of foreign styles can certainly be interpreted as showing Rome’s dominance over subject nations; but given the tension mentioned above this can only be part of its use and understanding. At the same time these foreign styles must also have played a role in the acceptance of cultural diversity and the construction of identity with the Other.
In my contribution I will illustrate how the use of styles and identity building might relate to one another in a world full of diasporas of peoples and images. My main archaeological case study will be Nemrud Dağ: an Anatolian monument built by a Hellenistic king who called himself philoromaios and composed a ‘Greco-Persian’ style to go with that identity.