UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Beyond romanization : design and practice at the ionic building at Garni (Armenia) Boghosian, Sasha Elissa


This thesis offers a new account of an Ionic building at Garni (Armenia), built around the first century CE in a small kingdom caught between the Roman and Parthian Empires. Much previous scholarship on the building has been built from two problematic approaches: relying primarily on textual sources and political histories to understand the building’s significance, and defining the structure according to fixed categories of culture (e.g., “Greco-Roman”) and function (e.g., temple or tomb). Such approaches are also common in studies of the Roman frontiers more broadly. In order to move away from such approaches, this thesis focuses on the materiality of the Ionic building–that is, its materials, the techniques and competencies that helped to give it form, and the affordances of its physical features. I focus on the dynamic processes of design and construction to draw attention to the various resources and competencies necessary in the production of such a building, thus illuminating how the builders adapted various imperial, regional and local building traditions. Additionally, I consider the material affordances of the building as well as the possible experiences of its use, which reveal how Garni is monumentalized via its materiality as well as its location. By applying these new methodologies and by comparing Garni to a large dataset of temples found throughout the Roman Empire, but especially in Asia Minor and the Near East, I argue that Garni served primarily as a monumental landmark which stood at the confluence of various imperial, regional and local building traditions. This new interpretation demonstrates the inadequacy of cultural labels such as “Greco-Roman” or “Ionic” and of functional ascriptions such as “temple” or “tomb,” which do not communicate the architectural complexities of the building. Furthermore, this interpretation contributes to a better understanding of the history of Armenia and the various ways in which architectural forms and styles are modified, appropriated and redeployed. This thesis thus demonstrates how studies of materiality might offer a new path in the field of Roman frontier studies by encouraging scholars to assess buildings for what they are rather than what they are said to be.

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