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Jenn Finn, "Virtual Empires: Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Power in the Ancient Mediterranean"

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Description: From Akkad’s “First World Empire” to the fall of Rome, imperial rulers of the ancient world often sought ways to express their power, using both tangible and intangible strategies. The focus of this talk will be on the ways in which ancient rulers very intentionally utilized, manipulated, and negotiated the spaces of cultural heritage sites and monuments to create “virtual” interpretations of their empires. The paper will argue that the imperialist ruler’s goal was to send messages to their constituents about the extent of their empires, defining both physical boundaries and relaying messages about the context of their own rule in the greater historical continuum. In examining case studies from the Neo-Babylonian, Hellenistic, and early Roman imperial periods, it will be demonstrated that we can draw an identifiable thread of influence from Ancient Near Eastern practices all the way to late antique Rome. If we can accept that principle, we may indeed be watching in real time the development of a culturally transmissible behavior, a rare glimpse into interaction and influence between periods and societies of the ancient Mediterranean that is normally only accessible to us through material culture and text.

Biography: Jenn Finn is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Classical Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Her research focuses on cultural interactions between the Ancient Near East and western Mediterranean cultures; military history; power and memory; and historiography and revisionism. Her first book was entitled Much Ado about Marduk: Questioning Discourses of Royalty in First Millennium Literature (de Gruyter 2017), and her second book, Contested Pasts: A Revisionist History of Alexander the Great in the Roman Empire, was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2022. She is currently editing Brill’s Companion to Courage and Cowardice in Ancient Mediterranean Warfare, and writing her third monograph, Virtual Empires. Previously published articles have focused on resonances of the Ancient Near East in Greek and Roman historiography; expressions of power in the ancient world; and ancient warfare.

This talk will not be available on zoom and will not be recorded