Variety and Variability: Mapping the Cultural and Social Diversity of the Southern Levant in the Hellenistic Period


March 2020 – July 2020


Adi Erlich (University of Haifa)
Uzi Leibner (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)


The establishment of the Hellenistic kingdoms at the beginning of the third century BCE ushered in a new era in the Southern Levant. Although political and cultural ties across the Mediterranean are evident much earlier, the growing dominance of the Greek language and culture in the region is remarkable. Syria Coele and Phoenicia were inhabited by a mixed composition of peoples—Jews, Samaritans, and various pagan groups—each interacting with each other and with the local and foreign Hellenistic regimes.

Scholars often describe the interaction of the region with the Hellenistic culture as polarised, debating the degree to which it became integrated in the Hellenistic koine instead of viewing it as an integral part of it. The study of the Hellenistic Levant has generally been applied to one part of the region only or to the area as a whole without offering a comparative analysis of the different groups therein.

We therefore will create an integrative study of the different parts of the region and peoples by mapping the cross-cultural encounters of the local traditions and the koine in each as well as among these groups. We plan to examine these parameters comprehensively, from the archaeological, historical, epigraphic, numismatic and artistic perspectives, and by using the vast amount of new data found in recent years as well as taking a fresh look at the historical sources. The growing corpus of evidence will allow us to gain new insights into the peoples living in this important region in a crucial and formative era.