Defining Space

Defining Space. The Frontier in Ancient History

The Summer School took place on the island of Juist from 22 to 30 September 2018

Barriers, borders, frontiers – while the modern world is becoming ever more global, lines and spaces of demarcation are not losing their importance. On the contrary: in an age of mass migration, trans-national economic entanglement and global environmental hazards, defining space seems more relevant than ever.

However, defining space is no challenge faced by present-day societies only. Classical civilisations had to cope with – natural, political, social, legal and symbolic – boundaries at all levels. From ancient empires to the Greek city-state, from public to private, from the Mediterranean to the commercial that was the Indian Ocean – the ancients across all periods and areas had to come to grips with the puzzling complexities of space, had to develop strategies of defining, defending and overcoming frontiers.

At the Summer School, we have explored barriers, borders and frontiers along a selection of ancient sources, from early Greece to Late Antiquity, ranging from literary texts to all kinds of material evidence. We have been wondering: what concepts did the ancients develop to define and demarcate space? And using what techniques did they cope with natural barriers, such distinctions as the one between inside and outside or the diplomatic pitfalls of imperial frontiers?

We have been approaching the problem along a number of case studies including:

 ·     Roman town-planning, urbanism and private dwelling

·      the Partho-Roman desert frontier in the Near East

·      ancient Colchis and the fringes of the classical world in the Caucasus and in Spain

Professor Christiane Kunst, University of Osnabrück

Professor Tassilo Schmitt, University of Bremen

Professor Michael Sommer, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg

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(Stand: 16.03.2023)  |