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Leon Battista Borsano

Leon Battista Borsano
Scuola Normale Superiore
The Hellespontine Phrygia in the Hellenistic Period

Leon Battista Borsano bir antik tarihçi ve Yunan epigrafistidir. Hellenistik tarih alanındaki başlıca ilgi alanları, Pers İmparatorluğu’nun sonu ile Roma eyaletleşmesi arasında Küçük Asya toplumlarının ekonomik ve kültürel dönüşümleridir. Şu anda, ihmal edilmiş bu bölgenin güncel bir tarihsel temsilini sağlamak amacıyla Kyzikos kenti ve çevresi üzerine çalışmalarını sürdürmektedir.

Hellespontine Phrygia in the Hellenistic Period

Leon Battista Borsano

During this year at ANAMED, I have worked on my doctoral thesis and completed it. The topic of my project was Hellespontine Phrygia during the Hellenistic Period. My research is clearly within the scope of historical geography. Starting with toponymic issues, I anchored the names of settlements, shrines, rivers, lakes, mountains, swamps, and districts to their respective socio-economic realities, within the limits of all the sources available to us. In the face of the paucity of literary sources, I have devoted much of my attention to epigraphic, numismatic, and archaeological sources. For the Hellenistic Period, the general questions that guide my research are the following: (1) what impact did the transition from the Persian Empire to the Hellenistic kingdoms have on these communities, (2) what kind of administrative structures were developed within these communities (democratic assemblies, civic tribes, village magistrates, administration of funds, administration of land, etc.), and (3) how did these communities interact with each other in a regional framework, for example through common cults, festivals, monetary unions, border conflicts, reciprocal granting of citizenship, court exchanges, and infrastructure building in a world that was increasingly “globalized.”

Although I had neared the end of my doctoral research, much work still needed to be completed. I took the entire fall to revise the first chapters devoted to the historical geography of the region and to finish writing the second part of my thesis (about the regional Hellenistic history). I have also begun to collect more systematically all the epigraphic sources that are available for the study of the history of Hellespontine Phrygia. I created a personal database in which each inscription is analyzed with regard to its original place of display, place of discovery, and place of preservation (Fig. 1). In this way, I was able to situate and interpret all this epigraphical evidence more easily. I also began to take a more systematic interest in modern-age travel accounts of the region from the perspective of Western travelers. Through extensive reading of these accounts, I have been able to make a comparative analysis of the routes, expectations, and narratives of a group of travelers between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries; comparing continuities and differences, these travel accounts show the building of a European antiquarian culture and landscape.


Fig. 1. An example of locating ancient inscriptions in central Hellespontine Phrygia.

I therefore planned some study journeys to observe and study a large part of this evidence closely. Some of these journeys took place in Istanbul, especially to the Istanbul Archaeological Museums and to the Fenari İsa Camii; some others, however, were made directly to Hellespontine Phrygia itself and the neighboring regions of Bithynia and the Troad. These journeys were extremely productive, because I was finally able to get first-hand knowledge of many archaeological sites and minor places in this part of western Anatolia, with also the opportunity to learn a great deal from some of the senior fellows (especially Sara Bozza and Beate Böhlendorf-Arslan) with or by whom these journeys were organized (Fig. 2). The archaeological sites I focused on in particular during these journeys are as follows: Prusa, Apamea, Caesarea Germanica, Dascylium-by-the-sea, Dascylium, Apollonia on the Rhyndakos, Miletupolis, Milteuteichos, Poemanenum, Zeleia, Cyzicus, Artake, Proconnesus, Priapus, Parium, Lampsacus, Skepsis, and Ilium.


Fig. 2. The walls of Priapus.

I submitted my thesis at the end of the winter and was able to successfully defend it in person in March 2023. I discussed my work the following month during a presentation at ANAMED on April 12. My research has been particularly fruitful with regard to the following topics:

(1) The shaping of the political, administrative, and ideological geography of Athens during the Classical and early Hellenistic periods;

(2) The evolution of the extension of the chora of Cyzicus (This long-debated historical problem has been re-addressed, with new elements emerging over the past two decades. Regarding Strabo’s famous passage (Geogr. XII 8, 11), various historical, geographical, and philological problems have been rediscussed, area by area, such as the integration of Proconnesus and Zeleia, the status of Dascylium between the free-city of Cyzicus and Pergamon, the presence of royal lands, the expansion of Priapus and Parion, the exploitation of the lake Dascylitis, the peraea of Byzantium, the founding of Caesarea Germanica in the Roman age, etc.);

(3) Whether and how it is possible to assess the degree of dependence of the communities of Hellespontine Phrygia, different for each, under the Seleucids and Attalids;

(4) The border between the provinces of Asia and Bithynia, with a meticulous analysis, among multiple sources, of the so-called Monumentum Ephesenum; and

(5) The location of Miletupolis, Miletuteichos, Zeleia, Baris, Didyme Teiche, and Hierà Germe.

The goal for my thesis is to publish a book that traces in every way the historical geography of this region between the fourth and first centuries BCE, letting myself be guided by the inspiring research of Frederich Hasluck (1878–1920), Louis Robert (1904–1985), and Elmar Schwertheim (1943–2022). This work will be completed by an epigraphic appendix, in which all the most important inscriptions from the region will be published with a new edition and historical commentary.

The fellowship at ANAMED was helpful in many ways. Being in the company of fellows—some of whom would later become friends—meant a lot during the most intense months of thesis writing. From this enriching environment, I received valuable advice and insights for my work. I broadened my research questions by listening to others’ points of views and methods. The combined libraries of ANAMED, NIT, and the DAI provided me with all the bibliography I needed to finish my research. In parallel, I was able to pursue my other research interests. I presented a paper entitled “Cucire lungo i bordi. Strategie diplomatiche in seno alla campagna per l’asylia di Teo” at a conference in Pisa at Scuola Normale Superiore in December 2022 about the diplomatic activity of the city of Teos at the end of the third century BCE. I also worked on four articles, relating respectively to a late Classical epigraphic dossier from Zeleia about the sale of public lands, layout in ancient epigraphic culture, cultural exchanges in Achaemenid Hellespontine Phrygia, and some minor epigraphic finds from Segesta (Sicily).