The Levant in Antiquity

Course Status: 
CEU credits: 
ECTS credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
20 Sep 2010 - 10 Dec 2010
Co-hosting Unit(s) [if applicable]: 
Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies (CEMS)
Non-degree Specialization: 
EMS—Advanced Certificate in Eastern Mediterranean Studies
Volker Menze

The class is intended as an overview – archaeological as well as historical – on the Eastern Mediterranean in Antiquity and beyond. The Eastern Mediterranean was in Antiquity besides Egypt arguably the most prosperous and most developed region. The Phoenicians introduced the alphabet, founded colonies in the Western Mediterranean (among others Carthage) and regional religious cults made their way into the Greek and especially Roman world.

As a student excursion to Lebanon is planned for March/April 2011, the focus of this class will especially be the region of Lebanon and Syria. It spans from early Near Eastern Civilizations to the end of Antiquity and beyond. It intends to both introduce students to major historical developments (the conquest of the Persian empire by Alexander the Great or the integration of the Levant into the Roman world) and more focused sessions on certain cities in Lebanon (for example Tyros or Beirut) or important local cults (for example Baalbek).

Course goals

The seminar is an introductory class to one of the most important areas of the Ancient world. It will give an overview of the historical developments as well as it shall enable students to take part in the Lebanon excursion next year by studying a number of case studies from the area.

Learning outcomes

The ability to read ancient sources in translation and understand them in their context; to read archaeological reports and analyze urban developments of ancient cities; to grasp continuities as well as discontinuities in a well-defined area; to prepare presentations both in class either on historical developments or on (archaeological or historical) case studies as well as presentations on the excursion.


Week 1: Introduction: Geography and Topography


Mandatory Readings:

Strabo, Geography, trans. Horace L. Jones, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1936, Book XVI.2

Kevin Butcher, Roman Syria and the Near East, London: The British Museum Press 2003, 9-18

Fergus Millar, The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1993, 264-295


Optional Readings:

Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, The Corrupting Sea. A Study of Mediterranean History, Oxford: Blackwell 2000, 1-49


Week 2: The Levant in the 2nd and 1st Millennium BCE and the Phoenicians

Mandatory Readings:

Manfred Bietak and Ernst Czerny, The Bronze Age in the Lebanon: Studies on the Archaeology and Chronology of Lebanon, Syria and Egypt (Contributions to the Chronology of the Eastern Mediterranean), Vienna: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 2008

Maria Eugenia Aubet, The Phoenicians and the West: Politics, Colonies and Trade, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001


Week 3: The Conquest of Alexander the Great

Mandatory Readings:

Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander, trans. Aubrey de Sélincourt (rev. J.R. Hamilton), Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1971, 101-147

Maurice SartreD'Alexandre à Zénobie : Histoire du Levant antique, IVe siècle avant Jésus Christ - IIIe siècle après Jésus-Christ, Paris: Fayard  2001 


Optional Readings:

Kulturgeschichte des Hellenismus. Von Alexander dem Großen bis Kleopatra, hrsg. von G. Weber, Stuttgart 2007

Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1973


Week 4: Greek Poleis, Hellenistic Cities and Seleucid Syria

Mandatory Readings:

J.D. Grainger, The Cities of Seleukid Syria, Oxford 1990

------, Hellenistic Phoenicia, Oxford 1991

A.H.M. Jones, The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2nd edition

Getzel M. Cohen, The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, Berkeley: University of California Press 2006


Week 5: Pompey and the Making of Roman Syria

Mandatory Readings:

A.R. Bellinger, “The End of the Seleucids”, in: Transactions of the Conneticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 38 (1949), 51-102

A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Foreign Policy in the East, 168 BC to AD 1, Norman, OK 1983


Optional Readings:

Appian, The Civil Wars, trans. John Carter, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1996

Fergus Millar, The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1993, 80-126


Week 6: The Roman ABC (Administration, Beirut and Cities) in Lebanon

Mandatory Readings:

Kevin Butcher, Roman Syria and the Near East, London: The British Museum Press 2003, 79-121 and 223-269

Kevin Butcher and R. Thorpe, “A Note on Excavations in Central Beirut 1994-96”, JRA 10 (1997), 291-306

Fergus Millar, “The Roman Coloniae of the Near East: a Study of Cultural Relations”, in: H. Solin, M. Kajava (ed.), Roman Eastern Policy and other Studies in Roman History: Proceedings of a Colloquium at Tvärminne, 2-3 October 1987, Helsinki 1990, 7-58


Optional Readings:

Linda Jones Hall, Roman Berytus: Beirut in Late Antiquity, London: Routledge 2004


Week 7: Baalbek, Cults and Gods

Mandatory Readings:

Julien Aliquot, La vie religieuse au Liban sous l’Empire romain, Beyrouth, Presses de l’Ifpo 2009

Kevin Butcher, Roman Syria and the Near East, London: The British Museum Press 2003, 335-398

Andreas Kropp, “The Cults of Ituraeans in Heliopolis (Baalbek)”, JRA 22 (2009), 365-380


Optional Readings:

Margarete van Ess and Thomas Weber (ed.), Baalbek im Bann römischer Monumentalarchitektur, Mainz: von Zabern 1999

Erwin M. Ruprechtsberger, Vom Steinbruch zum Jupitertempel von Heliopolis/Baalbek, Linz

Youssef Hajjar, La triade d’Héliopolis-Baalbek, 3 Vols, Leiden: Brill 1977-85


Week 8: Christianization of the Countryside: Syrian Asceticism and the Case of Simeon the Stylite

Theodoret of Cyrrhus, A History of the Monks of Syria, trans. R.M. Price, CS 88, Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications 1985

The Lives of Simeon Stylites, trans. Robert Doran, CS 112, Kalamzoo: Cistercian Publications 1992

Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man”, JRS 61 (1971), 80-101


Week 9: Christian Doctrinal Controversies: the Making of the Maronites

Mandatory Readings:

Harald Suermann, Die Gründungsgeschichte der Maronitischen Kirche, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 1998


Week 10:  The Arab Conquest, Anjar and the Umayyads in Lebanon

Mandatory Readings:

Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests. How the Spread of Islam changed the World We live in, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2007, 66-97

Garth Fowden, Qusayar ‘Amra. Art and the Umayyad Elitein Late Antique Syria, Berkeley: University of California Press 2004, 248-326


Week 11: Beyond Antiquity: Crusader states and Ottoman Empire


Mandatory Readings:

William of Tyre, A History of Deeds Done beyond the Sea, trans. E.A. Babcock and A.C. Krey, 2 vols., New York: Octagon Books, 1976

Peter W. Edbury and John G. Rowe, William of Tyre. Historian of the Latin East, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1988

Denys Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: Volume 4, The Cities of Acre and Tyre with Addenda and Corrigenda to Volumes I-III: A Corpus, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2009, 177-230


Week 12: Concluding Discussion – Preparations for Excursion



Participants will be expected attend sessions prepared and partake actively in discussions of compulsory readings. Additionally, each participant will be asked to contribute one twenty to thirty-minute presentation. Grading will be based on attendance (10 %), participation (35 %) and presentation (55 %). The class can be taken without participating in the excursion next year. Those students who participate in the excursion will be asked to prepare a presentation for Lebanon as well.