Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Ethnicity and Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean World

  • Naoíse Mac Sweeney
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_1756


Ethnicity and identity are important fields of research within the study of the ancient Mediterranean world. They are crucial social issues within the modern world, and it seems that they were also vital in Classical antiquity. Many different types of identity are evident in the ancient Mediterranean world – gender, age, religion, rank status, legal status, professional, regional, ethnic and cultural identities being perhaps the most notable. This entry will focus on the last two forms of identity in this list, ethnic and cultural. Ethnic and cultural identities are closely linked, and it is easy to get them confused. Yet they are distinct from each other, and constitute two separate types of social categorization.


Ethnicity is generally understood as a form of large-scale social group identity, where it is believed that group members share a common descent or ancestry (Emberling 1997: 307; Hall 1997: 19-33). It is important to note that it is beliefin a...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of the theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Briant, P. 2002. From Cyrus to Alexander. A history of the Persian empire. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.Google Scholar
  3. Cook, R.M. & P. Dupont. 1998. East Greek pottery. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Dench, E. 2005. Romulus’ asylum: Roman identities from the age of Alexander to the age of Hadrian. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Derks. T. & N. Roymans. (ed.) 2009. Ethnic constructs in antiquity. The role of power and tradition. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Detienne, M. 1990. Tracés de fondation. Louvain-Paris: Peeters.Google Scholar
  7. Dietler, M. 1990. Driven by drink: the role of drinking in the political economy and the case of early Iron Age France. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 9: 352-406.Google Scholar
  8. Emberling, G. 1997. Ethnicity in complex societies: anthropological perspectives. Journal of Archaeological Research 5: 295-344.Google Scholar
  9. Erskine, A. 2001. Troy between Greece and Rome: local tradition and imperial power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gardner, A. 2007. An archaeology of identity: soldiers and society in late Roman Britain. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  11. Goldhill, S. (ed.) 2007. Being Greek under Rome: cultural identity, the second sophistic, and the development of empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gruen, E. (ed.) 2011a. Cultural identity in the ancient Mediterranean. Los Angeles: The Getty Institute.Google Scholar
  13. Gruen, E. 2011b. Rethinking the other in antiquity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hales, S. & T. Hodos. (ed.) 2009. Material culture and social identities in the ancient world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hall, E. 1987. Inventing the barbarian. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hall, J.M. 1997. Ethnic identity in Greek antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hartog, F. 1980. Le Miroir d’Hérodote. Essai sur la representation de l’autre. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  18. Hodos, T. 2006. Local responses to colonization in the Iron Age Mediterranean. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Hurst, H. & S. Owen. (ed.) 2005. Ancient colonization: analogy, similarity and difference. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  20. Jones, S. 1997. The archaeology of ethnicity. Constructing identities in the past and the present. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Kerschner M. 2006. Die Ionische Wanderung im Lichte neuer archäologischer Forschungen in Ephesos, in E. Olshausen & H. Sonnabend (ed.) “Troianer sind wir gewesen” – Migrationen in der antiken Welt. Stuttgart Kolloquium zur historischen Geographie des Altertums 8, 2002: 364-82. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.Google Scholar
  22. Kerschner, M. & U. Schlotzhauer. 2005. A new classification system for East Greek pottery. Ancient West and East 4(1): 1-56.Google Scholar
  23. Knapp, B. & P. Van Dommelen. 2008. Past practices: rethinking individuals and agents in archaeology. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19: 15-34.Google Scholar
  24. Knapp, B. & P. Van Dommelen. (ed.) 2010. Material connections in the ancient Mediterranean: mobility, materiality and Mediterranean identities. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Lissarrague, F. 2002. The Athenian image of the foreigner, in T. Harrison (ed.) Greeks and barbarians: 101-126. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Mac Sweeney, N. 2011. Community identity and archaeology: dynamic communities at Aphrodisias and Beycesultan. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  27. Malkin, I. 2004. Postcolonial concepts and ancient Greek colonisation. Modern Language Quarterly 65: 341-64.Google Scholar
  28. Mattingly, D.M. (ed.) 1997. Dialogues in Roman imperialism: power, discourse, and discrepant experience in the Roman Empire (JRA Supplementary series 23). Portsmouth (RI): Journal of Roman Archaeology.Google Scholar
  29. Mattingly, D.M. 2011. Imperialism, power and identity: experiencing the Roman Empire. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Mestre, F. & P. Gómez. (ed.) 2010. Lucian of Samosata, Greek writer and Roman citizen. Barcelona: Publicacions i edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona.Google Scholar
  31. Miller, M.C. 1997. Athens and Persia in the fifth century BC. A study in cultural receptivity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Patterson, L.E. 2010. Kinship myth in ancient Greece. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  33. Revell, L. 2008. Roman imperialism and local identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Riva, C. & N. Vella. 2006. Debating orientalization: multidisciplinary approaches to change in the ancient Mediterranean. London: Equinox.Google Scholar
  35. Roller, L.E. 1999. In search of God the mother: the cult of Anatolian Cybele. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  36. Said, E. 1978. Orientalism. London: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  37. Trigger, B.G. 1989. A history of archaeological thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Tsetskhladze, G.R. 2008. Greek colonisation: an account of Greek colonies and other settlements overseas. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  39. Ulf, C. 2008. Rethinking cultural contacts. Ancient West and East 8: 81-132.Google Scholar
  40. Van Dommelen, P. 1998. On colonial grounds. A comparative study of colonialism and rural settlement in first millennium BC west central Sardinia. Leiden: Archaeological Studies Leiden University.Google Scholar
  41. - 2012. Colonialism and migration in the ancient Mediterranean. Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 393-409.Google Scholar
  42. Wallace-Hadrill, A. 2008. Rome’s cultural revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Woolf, G. 1998. Becoming Roman: the origins of provincial civilisation in Gaul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Yntema, D. 2000. Mental landscapes of colonization: the ancient written sources and the archaeology of early colonial Greek south-eastern Italy. Bulletin Antieke Beschaving 75: 1-49.Google Scholar
  45. Zurbach, J. 2012. in Z. Capdetrey & J. Zurbach (ed.) Mobilités grecques - Mouvements, réseaux, contacts en Méditerranée, de l'époque archaïque à l'époque hellénistique. Bordeaux: Ausonius.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Hall, J.M. 2002. Hellenicity. Between ethnicity and culture. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Harrison, T. (ed.) 2001. Greeks and barbarians. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Jones, C.P. 1999. Kinship diplomacy in the ancient world. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Laurence, R. & J. Berry. (ed.) 2001. Cultural identity in the Roman Empire. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Lucy, S. 2005. Ethnic and cultural identities, in M. Diaz-Andreu, S. Lucy, S. Babic and D.N. Edwards (ed.) The archaeology of identity: approaches to gender, age, status, ethnicity and religion: 86–109. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Malkin, I. (ed.) 2001. Ancient perceptions of Greek ethnicity. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Mattingly, D.M. 2011. Imperialism, power and identity: experiencing the Roman Empire. Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  8. Mitchell, S. & G. Greatrex. (ed.) 2000. Ethnicity and culture in late antiquity. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  9. Zacharia, K. (ed.) 2008. Hellenisms: culture, identity, and ethnicity from antiquity to modernity. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Archaeology and Ancient HistoryUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK