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Constructing the Coast in Imperial Greek Periplography



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Hanigan, Daniel 


This thesis undertakes the first serious study of the extant corpus of imperial Greek periplographic literature. It focusses, in particular, on the way that these texts construct coastal space, arguing that they are bound together by a shared recognition of the shore as a symbol of the territorial limitation of the Roman Empire. The thesis opens with an introduction surveying the history of scholarship and proposing a novel, processual approach to reading periplographic texts that foregrounds their common approach to the textual construction of the seacoast. Chapter One ("Memory") focusses on Dionysius of Byzantium's Anaplous of the Bosporus. It argues that Dionysius engages in a form of local resistance to global empire by figuring the symmetrical shores of the Thracian Bosporus as material archives that preserve fragments of the contested pre-Roman history of the region. Chapter Two ("Boundary") turns to the anonymous Periplous of Hanno King of Carthage. It shows that this text holds up a quasi-historical mirror to the expansionist imperialism of Rome by offering a fictive vision the shore as both a boundary preventing the city-founding Carthaginians from carrying out their colonial commission and a guideline dictating the progression of the fleet away from the civilised world of the Mediterranean and into what it constructs as the alien alterity of Africa. Chapter Three ("Archive") closes by looking at Arrian of Nicomedia's Periplous of the Euxine Sea. It shows that Arrian, in this gubernatorial dispatch to the emperor Hadrian, frames the coastline of the Black Sea as a space of unrealised opportunity upon which to stage the future consolidation and expansion of the intellectual and territorial dominance of Rome. The thesis closes with a conclusion that situates these presentations of the coast within a framework of Greek resistance to the rhetoric of universal domination central to the self-presentation of the Roman Empire. It ends by suggesting a number of conceptual and methodological directions for future research on both the periplographic genre and the ancient coastal imaginary.





Whitmarsh, Timothy
Gagne, Renaud


Arrian, Coast, Dionysius of Byzantium, Empire, Geography, Hanno, Imperial Greek, Periplous, Roman Empire, Second Sophistic


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge