AHMA 50th Anniversary Conference

Thursday, September 6, 2018 - 17:00 to Saturday, September 8, 2018 - 22:00
University of California, Berkeley



AHMA was a revolutionary initiative. It brought together a number of previously segregated fields, disciplines, and methods in an attempt to produce a broader, deeper, and more richly textured vision of Mediterranean antiquity. The program, which has drawn from the beginning on faculty from a wide range of campus units, including Classics, History, History of Art, Near Eastern Studies, Anthropology, and Law, was designed to bridge two persistent gaps in particular: between the disciplines of History (text) and Archaeology (material culture), on the one hand, and between the civilizations of Greece and Rome and those of the Near East and Egypt, on the other. As one of the first interdisciplinary programs of its kind anywhere in the world—long before “interdisciplinarity” had become an academic buzzword—AHMA helped to set an ambitious agenda that has transformed the study of the ancient Mediterranean world. Indeed, many graduate programs now follow the AHMA model, finding continuing inspiration in the interdisciplinary approach inaugurated here in 1968.

1968 was also, of course, a year of revolution—at Berkeley, throughout the United States, and around the world. Given the timing of this important anniversary, then, we have organized a conference devoted to the problem of revolutions in antiquity. The first challenge is a conceptual one, as scholars have defined “revolution” in many different ways. But the general meaning is clear: a transformation of underlying structures that carries with it, and is often enabled by, ideological shifts that undermine justifications for the distribution of authority, whether articulated in political, economic, legal, cultural, religious, or artistic terms. We do not seek to make a political statement—to appropriate a revolutionary past for the aims of a present that might (but perhaps ought not) be conceived as revolutionary; nor, conversely, do we seek to examine “revolutionary” change in antiquity through the lens of contemporary politics. We aim rather to explore the factors that contributed to significant and long-lasting change in the ancient Mediterranean, in political and economic life, as well as in the structures of human settlement, human knowledge, and cultural production. We are also interested in understanding the ways in which gradual, incremental change intersected with sudden and massive shifts, and in unpacking the complex relationship between evolution and revolution.

In accordance with these aims we have arranged a series of panels organized neither by region nor by period, but rather in terms of different domains of change: cultural, political, religious, legal, intellectual/scientific, artistic, urban, and economic.  By juxtaposing such modalities of change across time and space, we hope to identify and explain some of the wider frameworks within which both evolutionary and revolutionary change took place in the ancient Mediterranean world as a whole. If 1968 marked the start of AHMA’s disciplinary revolution, then its fiftieth anniversary provides an excellent occasion for our Group (current students and faculty, emeriti, alumni, and friends) and our speakers to think seriously about large-scale change in the past and the ways in which it was manifested in various spheres of life. The conference, in other words, is meant not only to celebrate AHMA’s past, but also—and more to the point—to stake out an agenda for the next fifty years, drawing in particular on the interests and research programs of the current generation of AHMA faculty and students.


Arrington, Nathan (Princeton University)

Boehm, Ryan (Tulane University)

Bryan, Betsy (Johns Hopkins University)

Cooney, Kara (UCLA)

Eberle, Lisa (Tübingen University)

Elm, Susanna (UC Berkeley)

Feldman, Marian (Johns Hopkins University)

Forsdyke, Sara (University of Michigan)

Hallett, Christopher (UC Berkeley)

Humfress, Caroline (St. Andrews University)

Kaye, Noah (Michigan State University)

Maas, Michael (Rice University)

Magness, Jodi (Univerity of North Carolina)

McInerney, Jeremy (University of Pennsylvania)

Morris, Ellen (Columbia University)

Purcell, Nicholas (University of Oxford)

Quinn, Josephine (University of Oxford)

Reed, Annette (New York University)

Russell, Amy (Durham University)

Shaw, Brent (Princeton University)

Terrenato, Nicola (University of Michigan)

Van Alfen, Peter (American Numismatic Society)