UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Mani peninsula in antiquity : an archaeological, historical, and epigraphic investigation into regional identity Gardner, Chelsea A.M.


This dissertation investigates the social, political, cultural, and religious history of the Mani peninsula in classical antiquity from ~500 BCE to 500 CE and focuses especially on the questions of local and regional identities within this remote and harsh landscape. In order to answer these questions, I incorporated a vast number of resources into this research, including Greek and Latin primary historical sources, epigraphic remains and prosopographic data, theoretical paradigms, and a study of archaeological remains, including petrographic and chemical ceramic analysis. In this work, I developed a theoretical model that can be applied globally to marginal societies about which little is known from the historical record. By integrating these varied theoretical methods and primary source datasets, I provide a unique approach to understand settlement patterns and identity on a hyper-local level in the ancient Mediterranean. Throughout my dissertation, I address specific questions about the identity and interactions of the ancient inhabitants of the Mani peninsula, particularly in light of their perioikic status under the powerful Spartan hegemony, and the way in which this relationship changed from the Archaic through Roman periods. The results of my investigations reveal a closer link to overseas locales rather than to the native inland Lakonia, in contrast to the majority of scholarship which assumes Sparta's overarching influence. By incorporating all of the evidence available to scholars of the ancient world, I draw new conclusions about the ancient inhabitants of the peninsula, specifically that much of the region displays relative autonomony and local identities, and that the settlements throughout the peninsula are largely coastal and maritime-based rather than inward-looking. Finally, my research offers a substantial contribution to our understanding of the function of sanctuary of Poseidon at Tainaron, the most famous and important site on the peninsula: namely, that the sanctuary retained its significance throughout classical antiquity largely due to its lack of political affiliation and was not controlled by any one superpower, thus contributing further to a unique, local identity present throughout Mani. Overall, this doctoral research bolsters our understanding of the history and archaeology of the Mani peninsula in classical antiquity.

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