Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

"Belonging" to the Hellenistic World: The "Galatian" fortifications of Central Anatolia in the Local and Global Hellenistic-Roman Context

Marijn Mannien (Leiden University)

At this moment, my main academic interests are ancient cultures, associated identities and the way these are interconnected in the wider world. I believe that understanding national or local (pre)histories in a wider global context can positively change contemporary thoughts on the world, especially concerning multiculturism and diversity. It stimulates people to understand their past as being part of a global world, beyond nation-states, which were only created in 19th and 20th century Europe. My stay in at the Netherlands Institute of Turkey in Istanbul helped me to establish and develop this vision on the world and its archaeology and history. I experienced Istanbul as a melting pot in which numerous different people with different backgrounds are living together. It was an inspiring place – being located in the centre of Eurasia – to study ancient cultures, which definitely helped me develop the ideas relating to my research. Moreover, it’s fascinating (pre)history, which illustrates connectivity throughout different periods, and of which the remains can be found throughout the country, helped me to broaden my perception about the past and its relationship with the present. For example, after a morning of studying theoretical cultural concepts at the library of the NIT, I could consider these ideas in reality when walking through the surrounding vibrant and multicultural neighbourhoods. Additionally, the NIT was located within the ‘Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations’ (ANAMED), which also hosted a lot of other, more experienced, researchers with different scholarly backgrounds. The ANAMED fellows took me in and helped me by daily exchanging ideas during lunch, dinner and coffee breaks. At the end of the stay, they also listened to my research and provided me with interesting points of discussion that could be employed within my research. I was also able to listen every Friday to their research projects out of which I could learn a lot.

The research I conducted during my stay at the NIT was specifically focussed on the Galatians, the ancient people from Western Europe that migrated to Central Anatolia in the early third century BCE. These people are often stereotypically depicted as warlike barbarian migrants that plundered their way through Greece and Anatolia and finally adapted themselves to the customs of the superior “Greeks” of the Hellenistic world. My research aimed to change this conventional paradigm through the investigation of their fortifications. I investigated three Galatian fortifications, which are called Tabanlioğlu Kale, Zengibar Kale and Karalar. The ‘Hellenistic'-style of these undervalued military fortifications are until now interpreted as the unidirectional result of dominant ethnic ‘Greek’ cultural influence. The goal of this study was to re-examine these traditional thoughts in light of the globalisation theory. I investigated the relationship between the local and global characteristics of the fortifications and tried to understand the various cultural relationships that appeared in central Anatolia during the Hellenistic-Roman period. Because of the fellowship that I received from the NIT I had the opportunity to visit one of the sites (Tabanlioğlu Kalesi). It was an experience that I will never forget. The site is located in the middle of nowhere on the bank of the Kirmir stream nearby the village Adaören, about an hour north-west of Ankara. Because it received very few scholarly attention and it is not an established touristic site, it was hard to find its exact location. After an hour of hiking through the Anatolian plains, I finally found the remains of the Galatian (and Byzantine) fortification (see photo). Being able to physically see (and feel) the fortification within its landscape helped me to understand better its possible history. Since I could examine the fortification ‘in its own right’, without being blurred by the ethnocultural labels it received in the past, I could better place the site within the wider global context. Moreover, it helped me to understand the other fortifications in this research, which I could not visit due to some legal constraints. Because of the combination of field observation with literature research – conducted beforehand at the library of the NIT – I found out that the Galatian fortifications were distinctive local creations that were built within a wider movement that occurred in the same period (2nd – 1st century BCE) throughout the rest of Asia Minor. In combination with my theoretical framework, I finally could expose that the fortifications were probably used as active agents to express the notion of ‘belonging’ to the wider global Hellenistic world. Therefore, a major thing that I learned was that this site – among the other Galatian fortifications – are undervalued in scholarship and require new research. They should be understood as being connected to the rest of Anatolia, and therefore as being of similar archaeological value of the other – more popular – Hellenistic sites of, for example, the western coast of Turkey. Therefore, I hope that my research could be used as the starting point of new archaeological research and excavations of the Hellenistic-Roman period in Central Anatolia.

In sum, the short stay at the Netherlands Institute of Turkey was a great experience that broadened my academic but also personal point of view. Therefore, I would like to thank dr. Fokke Gerritsen and dr. Ülker Sözen for giving me this opportunity, as well as their hospitality during my stay in this beautiful country.