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Transitional Spaces and Connective Tissues: Harbor Dynamics in Hellenistic Asia Minor

Lana Radloff

Bishop's University

A polis with an urban center situated on the coast usually had a harbor (limen or epineion), often including an emporion, a special market for foreign trade that operated alongside the agora in the urban interior. Separated from the land- and seascape, harbors were not only integral to commerce and transportation, but also functioned as connective tissues between the larger communication networks of the surrounding sea and the terrestrial environment of the interior. Thus, urban and maritime infrastructure was built to facilitate and/or to restrict the movement of seafaring people from the sea to different urban zones. Using case studies, such as Kos, Miletos, Knidos, Elaia, and Rhodes, this paper examines patterns of spatial access between open sea, harbor, and urban interior in Hellenistic Asia Minor. A holistic approach is applied to the maritime environment to emphasize the interaction of land, coast, islands, and sea, integrating the totality of maritime “scapes” into the internal dynamics of coastal settlements, while maritime access is modelled with space-syntax and axial integration analysis. Together, space-syntax and axial integration incorporate spaces and streets – key components for modelling movement on land (streets, agora, residential districts) and sea (coast, sea, harbor) that embody the methods and aims of connective relationships within settlements. Spatial modelling highlights trends associated with different harbor types and settlement topography, such as those with single, multifunctional harbors and others with multiple, functionally specific bays for commercial, military, and religious purposes, which guided movement within cities and integrated and isolated different maritime and terrestrial zones. Viewshed analysis is also used to incorporate the natural topography and connections between maritime and terrestrial “spaces” not physically adjacent to one another. 

Examination of the harbor-urban matrices of coastal settlements allow large-scale, diachronic insights into the networks that facilitated movement from the Mediterranean shores to inland areas. These settlement patterns facilitate the identification of overarching strategies of maritime management across the Mediterranean and aid in recognizing outliers. In turn, the data produced will help create explanatory models of change. An innovative approach such as this introduces new ways to think about maritime space that serves as a framework to evaluate local, regional, and inter-regional networks within Asia Minor, the Aegean, and broader Mediterranean world. It highlights the role of the maritime environment in negotiating cross-cultural interaction and integrates seafarers, maritime communities, and patterns of movement between city and sea into discussions of the topographical and geographical development of maritime space in the creation of urban environments and community identities. 

Session/Panel Title

Inter-Regional Networks in Hellenistic Eurasia

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