Christelle Fischer-Bovet

Christelle Fischer-Bovet (University of Southern California & Institute for Research in the Humanities, UW Madison): “Ptolemaic Imperialism in Lycia, Pamphylia and Cilicia”


This paper examines Ptolemaic rule over Lycia, Pamphylia and Cilicia as well as the role of their inhabitants in the negotiation of power and their level of participation in the construction of a new imperial ideology, which one could call “Ptolemaic.” Since the study of Bagnall (1976) on the administration of the Ptolemaic possessions outside Egypt, important inscriptions and archaeological material, including coin hoards, have been discovered which allow us to reassess the administration, taxation, garrisons, city foundations, diplomatic relationships and the royal cult. The socio-political and cultural changes that took place in southern Anatolia in the third century have broader implications for understanding Ptolemaic political expansion in the eastern Mediterranean.


Besides contributing to the debate over the chronology and nature of Ptolemaic control in southern Anatolia, this paper engages with different theories of imperialism and illuminates how the same strategies for controlling Lycia, Pamphylia and Cilicia were used elsewhere in the empire and some of them at times even beyond. Ptolemaic state formation in the eastern Mediterranean can be better understood when conceived as two layers (1. military and economic; 2. social and ideological) working together but operating with a different intensity according to circumstances (i.e. local traditions, geography, historical “background”/previous-relationships, external military/political pressure).


In other words, the Ptolemies did not envision empire building as the creation of fixed zones in a linear evolution – modern analyses sometimes obscure the flexibility of the process – but conceived it as a “constellation of relationships” (Marquaille 2001: 55) or as a “network of communications” (Liverani 1988, Smith 2005), that was limitless and can therefore be located within the long tradition of Near Eastern empires. Yet the Ptolemies, by “thickening” their network, created the first empire to control overseas territories for so long. Southern Anatolia was essential in that process.


Select Bibliography


Bagnall, R. S. (1976), The Administration of the Ptolemaic Possessions outside Egypt (Leiden).


Cohen, G. M. (1995), The Hellenistic Settlements in Europe, the Islands, and Asia Minor (Berkeley).


Davesne, A. and Le Rider, G. (1989), Gülnar I. Le site de Meydancıkkale. II. Le trésor de Meydancıkkale (Cilicie Trachée, 1980) (Paris).


Habicht, C. and Jones, C. P. (1989), ‘A Hellenistic Inscription from Arsinoe in Cilicia’, Phoenix, 43, 317–46.


Marquaille, C. (2001), The External Image of Ptolemaic Egypt (London: unpublished dissertation).


Meadows, A. (2006), ‘The Ptolemaic Annexation of Lycia: SEG 27.929’, in Dörtlük, K., et al. (eds.), The IIIrd International Symposium on Lycia Symposium Proceedings (Suna, Turkey), 459–70.


Meadows, A. and Thonemann, P. (2013), ‘The Ptolemaic administration of Pamphylia’, ZPE, 186, 223-26.


Mueller, K. (2006), Settlements of the Ptolemies: City Foundations and New Settlement in the Hellenistic World (Leuven).


Smith, M. L. (2005), ‘Networks, Territories, and the Cartography of Ancient States’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 11, 832–49.


Strootman, R. (2014), ‘Hellenistic Imperialism and the Idea of World Unity’, in Rapp, C. and Drake, H. A. (eds.), The City in the Classical and Post-Classical World: Changing Contexts of Power and Identity (Cambridge), 38–61.


Wörrle, M. (2012), ‘Anfang und Ende von Limyras ptolemäischer Zeit’, in Seyer, M. (ed.), 40 Jahre Grabung Limyra. Akten des internationalen Symposions Wien, 3.–5. Dezember 2009 (Vienna), 359–69.

%d bloggers like this: