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In 2021, the second year of the SCS Erich S. Gruen Prize, the selection committee received 15 submissions from graduate students across North America treating aspects of race, ethnicity, or cultural exchange in the ancient Mediterranean. The committee was impressed by the papers’ quality and range of disciplinary perspectives, methodologies, types of evidence, and time periods across the multicultural ancient world.

Of these submissions, all anonymized before review, the committee commends two with honorable mentions. Jeremy Steinberg's "Translation Across Literary Cultures in 2nd c. BCE Alexandria" (Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania) examines Alexandrian Jews' conception of Hebrew-to-Greek textual translation and associated questions of authorship and fixity through close meticulous reading. Francesca Bellei's "The nose at the crossroads: an intersectional reading of the pseudo-Vergilian Moretum" (Comparative Literature, Harvard University) innovates on the theoretical side, rereading this famous literary crux for ancient race relations from a novel lens informed by intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, and Yoruba folklore.

The committee unanimously awards the 2021 SCS Erich S. Gruen Prize to Yanxiao He (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago). His paper "Sophytos, the Western Sea People, and Popular Performers on the Indian Ocean" is noteworthy owing to its use of ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese evidence as well as modern scholarship about K-Pop. Highlighting the role of popular culture in the ancient world, He argues that wandering performers transmitted Mediterranean culture to Central Asia and China through embodied performance. The paper will receive a cash prize of $500.

The committee thanks and commends all applicants, and above all Yanxiao He, for work that enhances our understanding of multiculturalism in the ancient Mediterranean, in honor of Erich Gruen’s continuing contributions to the field.

Support the Gruen Fund

SCS has established the Gruen Fund to support this important new prize. The initial value of the prize will be $500 and will be funded by spendable Annual Giving donations while SCS raises funds for an endowment to sustain the prize over the long term. Donations can be made via this online form on the SCS website. SCS is a 501(c)3 public charity and donations may be tax deductible.