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Networks and Networking in the Economy of Seleucid Uruk

Talia Prussin

University of California, Berkeley

Hellenistic Babylonia, arguably the heartland of the Seleucid empire, has produced a wealth of data about local economic actors (whether traders or priestly elites) because of the hardiness of cuneiform tablets. In this paper, I will focus on Uruk, a Mesopotamian city southeast of Babylon on the Euphrates, as a case study of Seleucid Babylonia. Using the corpus of Hellenistic economic texts from this city, I reconstruct networks of economic actors within the city, which I will use as a model for economic activity

In this paper, I specifically wish to study the role of Hellenicity in the economy of Babylonian cities. Much like in Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleucid Babylonia has a widespread phenomenon of double names. The same individual has both a Greek and a local name, often of Akkadian origin. Unfortunately, we can usually detect this phenomenon only when a document explicitly states that an individual was also known by a second name, so this phenomenon may actually have been more prevalent than we know. While it is impossible for us to know now how these individuals viewed their own ethnic identities, it is possible for me to evaluate whether this deliberate ethnic duality changed the shape of Urukeans’ economic networks.

Conscious ethnic self-coding as Greek or non-Greek may have allowed economic actors to gain access to different markets within the city. This intentional deployment of ethnicity may have facilitated access to the royal (Greek-identified) versus temple (local-identified) economies. This approaches one of the largest issues in the study of first-millennium Babylonia: to what extent did the Babylonian temples continue to shape the economy of Babylonian cities after the fall of the Neo-Babylonian empire?

This question also profoundly affects the role of Hellenistic Babylonia in Seleucid studies. The enormity and importance of the data from this region has been diminished by concerns that Babylonia and its cities were not typical of the Hellenistic world or the Seleucid empire. I will offer a few suggestions based on my findings about the working relationship between the Seleucid kings and the Babylonian temples and how individual Urukeans engaged with the royal and sacred economies. By better defining and explicating these relationships, I hope to dismantle the perception of Babylonian urban economies as exceptional in hopes that Babylonian evidence may become more accepted into mainstream Seleucid studies.

Session/Panel Title

Inter-Regional Networks in Hellenistic Eurasia

Session/Paper Number

78.3

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