Robert Rollinger (University of Innsbruck, Austria) “Peripheries and Centres: Empires of the Ancient Near East in the 1st Millennium BCE”


Looking at handbooks dealing with the history of the Ancient Near East, older as well as the more recent ones, there appears to be a general agreement on structuring the outline of the political history of the first millennium BCE. The epoch is conceptualized as a succession of three clearly defined empires. The first one, the Neo Assyrian empire, is regarded as a turning point in history by establishing imperial structures connected with the claim to rule the world. It is succeeded by the Neo-Babylonian empire and the Persian empire that, on the one hand, follow the already introduced imperial trajectory but, on the other, shape their individual and distinctive conceptions of empire and state. With the conquests of Alexander the Great, a major break is generally considered to have taken place. The Ancient Near Eastern empires and history have come to an end, a new, this time western empire emerges, and a new era is introduced. In my talk I want to challenge this view by contemplating on 1.) what does the Empire mean in the first millennium BCE and 2.) which role do the fringes of empire play in a dynamic process of interconnected regions and zones to which not only the “east” belonged.