Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

Coping with the new empire: Aphrodisias as the provincial capital

Banban Wang (Leiden University)

How was a free city transferred into a provincial city, how did the local political culture change, and how did governors gradually take the central role of the province and the city? I am not talking about things happening in 21st-century Hong Kong, but in 3rd-century Aphrodisias. The city has a rich epigraphic corpus on how the freedom was lost, and how they coped with the new Empire where power and direct control became more visible. Thanks to the research stay in the Netherlands Institute in Turkey, I visited the site of Aphrodisias and to examine the relevant inscriptions in situ. When standing in front of the Archival Wall, the theatre, and many honorific inscriptions lying on the grass or near the Agora, some questions are solved and more questions have arisen. I re-wrote some of the paragraphs in previous chapter and prepared a first draft of my Chapter 3 of the MRes Thesis. In this new chapter, I will show the shift of local elites’ political focus from local affairs to the participation in imperial governance, and the change of identity from the city of Aphrodisias to the province of Caria. I will also show that governors in Aphrodisias undertook local benefactions and enjoyed honours from local people. The change resulted in a loss of local political culture, which had emphasised on its freedom in the early third century. Aphrodisias became a city in the Empire, not only in institution but also in ideology. Furthermore, I also prepared a PhD proposal, submitted a paper, and discovered many interesting points that might lead to more researches.
During my stay in İstanbul, I have also met scholars and researchers based on the ‘Imperial Capital’. I would like to thank Prof. Mustafa Sayar and Ms. Selin Önder (İstanbul Üniversitesi) and Dr. Ivana Jevtic (Koç University) and the staff at Aphrodisias for their fruitful discussions on my thesis, research interests and research networks. It is also a pleasure to meet the group of archaeologists from Leiden, led by Prof. Miguel John Versluys. His keynote speech provides me interesting theories to better formulate my ideas on the changing representation of local identity. It is a pity that I could not present my work in İstanbul Üniversitesi and have further interactions with local students, but I believe it will not be my last visit to İstanbul. Beyond antiquity, Erdem Çolak’s presentation on Turkish arts and the IFEA-NIT-OII conference on Turkish music and dance enable me to know more about today’s Turkey.
İstanbul is full of intellectual debates, but also full of ideas and lives. As a lover of cooking and food, I enjoyed Turkish cuisine so much that after returning to Leiden, the first thing I bought in Leiden Market was two simits and a small box of Turkish spice. The touching distance to the NIT and ANAMED library is very helpful: leaving my room is important for me to keep on reading and writing! The facilities in the building is also awesome: special thanks to the cleaning attendants and security guards for their works.