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Transculturality in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Hellenistic Period (323 – 30 BCE)

The expansion of the Macedonian reign under Alexander the Great and the assumption of power of the Greco-Macedonian elite throughout much of the Near and Middle East led to encounters of fundamental and long-lasting importance for the political and cultural re-ordering of this geographical area, consisting of different ethnic groups and political formations. Yet, attempts to describe those asymmetrical relations with terms such as “Hellenization” or “acculturation” insinuate, whether intentionally or not, a unidirectional flow of power and an influence from the core (Greece) to the periphery (West Asia), with all cultural and political transformations emanating from a central authority. Thus, a large-scale cultural homogenization is often expected to be the outcome of these political processes. As a consequence of this line of thought the subject populations are conceived as entirely passive, a perspective, which has met with growing resistance in post-colonial critiques of traditional imperial histories and archaeologies. Instead of attempting to trace a one-way flow of influence or to monitor the selection of elements drawn from the ‘dominant’ culture, it is necessary to conceive this particular intercultural encounter as one affecting the social imaginaries and practices of all parties involved. This enables a deeper appreciation of the Hellenistic world as a particularly striking example for multi-directional cultural flows blurring the borders of what we call Europe and Asia.