"Hellenization" and southern Phoenicia: Reconsidering the impact of Greece before Alexander

by Martin, Susan Rebecca, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, 2007, 424 pages; 3306246


The term "Hellenization" signals the existence of a phenomenon or process in which a culture that is not Greek might become more Greek. A "Hellenized" culture, by implication, is one that is as close to a Greek one as possible but is still, at its core, somehow not identical. This study shows how a reconsideration of the idea of Hellenization does not concern only the (allegedly) Hellenized—in this case, the region of southern Phoenicia and, particularly, the site of Tel Dor (Israel)—but also our perceptions of the constituents of the "source": Greece, the Greeks and Greek (material) culture. The term "Hellenization" is shown to be an insufficient descriptor of the outcome of Greek-Phoenician contact, allowing for the consideration of other possible outcomes and scenarios.

The spread of the Greek language and the conquest of the East by Alexander are two of the most frequently cited indicia of Hellenization; material culture is another critical but secondary indicium of cultural and behavioral change. In the period under consideration—the Classical or Persian period (the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E.)—language and political conquest are not yet major factors. Furthermore, the notion that political conquest goes hand-in-hand with cultural change cannot explain how the Persian period yields much of the same so-called evidence of Hellenization as the Hellenistic and later eras.

By concentrating on areas of the material record most often summoned in support of Hellenization—relating to civic life (town planning), social life (ceramics and related social practices) and religious life (cult and ritual practice)—this study reveals that contact with Greece is a clear but rarely decisive force for change in Phoenician behaviors. Despite frequent contacts, and despite traditional approaches to the material record, Greece's impact on southern Phoenicia was limited. Indeed Phoenician behavioral changes, when they can be attributed to contact with Greece, are not of the sort anticipated by the notion of "Hellenization".

AdviserAndrew F. Stewart
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsArt history
Publication Number3306246

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