Identity, Community, and State Formation at Roman Palmyra

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2004-04-28

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This is a study of identity, community, and the process of state formation in the Roman period at Palmyra, an oasis city in the Syrian desert, from the first to third centuries C.E. I address the key issue of cultural transmission and the development of an indigenous Palmyrene identity and community in the Roman Near East, as influenced by their pastoralist backgrounds and their contacts with Parthian and Roman powers. I examine these issues primarily through a re-evaluation of the local epigraphy in its urban context, complemented by examinations of the archaeology of the city and narrative sources. I demonstrate how the Palmyrenes managed to build a civic community that was distinctively Mediterranean in its makeup, and where a small elite dominated public affairs. I demonstrate how, despite increasing Roman influence over the city during the period of this study, the Palmyrenes retained their native identities in a communal setting, characterized by a cultural blend of Roman, Parthian, and indigenous habits.

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