BMCR 2021.10.47

Karia and the Dodekanese: cultural interrelations in the southeast Aegean

, , , Karia and the Dodekanese: cultural interrelations in the southeast Aegean. I: late Classical to early Hellenistic. Karia and the Dodecanese, 1. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2021. Pp. 264. ISBN 9781789255102 $75.00.
, , , Karia and the Dodekanese: Cultural Interrelations in the Southeast Aegean. II: Early Hellenistic to Early Byzantine. Karia and the Dodekanese, 2. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2021. Pp. 336. ISBN 9781789255140 $80.00.

Preview Vol. I
Preview Vol. II
[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Archaeological and historical research undertaken in the southeast Aegean has traditionally drawn an invisible line between the cultures of mainland Asia Minor and those of the Dodekanese, roughly equated to a division between the ‘Greek’ islanders and their non-Greek Karian neighbours. The marked turn towards a network approach in ancient history in the last decade or so has caused a shift in how we conceptualise cultural and social interactions; in the southeast Aegean, much more attention has been given to the networks forged across linguistic or cultural boundaries, dictated by questions of accessibility, proximity, and the mobility of individuals between the islands and mainland Anatolia. It is these contacts—cultural, commercial, political, and social—that are explored in the edited volumes under consideration here.

The two volumes are the published proceedings of a conference of the same name, held at the Danish Institute at Athens in January 2018, which brought together archaeologists, epigraphists, and other scholars working on material culture in the region. The editors, Birte Poulsen, Poul Pedersen, and John Lund, lay out their intentions in the preface, writing that they wanted to bring together the at times ‘scattered research’ being carried out and turn the focus to the ‘common cultural traits and cultural interrelations in the southern part of the eastern Aegean and the cities on the adjoining Anatolian coast’ (I. xiii). The thirty-four relatively succinct papers (all in English) provide a diverse and consistently interesting insight into the current research being conducted in the region, with an emphasis on Kos and Halikarnassos. In this relatively brief review, it is difficult to do justice to the full diversity of material covered across the two books, and it will not be possible to discuss each contribution individually; attention will instead focus on certain common themes to emerge.

The contributions are divided according to chronology: Vol. I covers the late Classical period, so the fourth century BCE and the period of Hekatomnid rule in Karia; Vol. II is more expansive, covering the Hellenistic, imperial, and early Byzantine periods. As the editors note, this division is primarily for practical purposes, creating two manageable books; the shared themes and interconnection between the late Classical and Hellenistic contributions, however, mean that they should most valuably be read in conjunction with one another. Not all periods are covered equally, with only two papers dealing with the imperial period, and five on late antiquity, compared to fourteen late Classical papers and thirteen Hellenistic. The decision to begin coverage in the fourth century BCE is in response to the relative paucity of archaic and early Classical archaeological material, thus avoiding the ‘difficult fifth century BCE’.[1] It is worth noting, however, that the notion of a southeastern Aegean cultural koine does also find a Late Bronze Age precedent.[2]

The first volume, focused on the fourth century BCE, is divided into thematic sections and reads more coherently as a whole than the second. The emphasis throughout is on the impact, direct or otherwise, of the Hekatomnid dynasty on the artistic and architectural output of the region. The native Karian dynasts were appointed as regional satraps in the early fourth century by the Achaemenids. Hekatomnid rule was characterised by monumental construction, most famously with Maussollos’ tomb at Halikarnassos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Poul Pedersen has long sought to shine a light on the period of architectural innovation that accompanied their reign, coining the term the ‘Ionian Renaissance’ to describe the characteristic elements of these developments. His article (I. 2. ‘From Classical to Hellenistic: the Maussolleion and the Ionian Renaissance’) is a call for greater attention to be paid to this vibrant period in Classical architecture. Pedersen is the only contributor to directly address the Hekatomnids as non-Greek patrons; he argues that the relative paucity of attention or significance attached to their role in the history of ancient art and architecture in modern scholarship reflects a certain ambivalence toward their Karian identity.[3] However, as his paper establishes, the technical features that characterise the Ionian Renaissance are repeatedly attested in the wider region, suggesting an influence beyond their Karian heartland and into the Hellenistic period.

The potential influences of Hekatomnid projects on the architectural developments in the region period are diverse and far-reaching, from the use of monumental terraces to the more technical features of construction (e.g. the Karian-Ionian Lewis, Ionic capital design). Caliò (I. 1. ‘Theatroeideis poleis’) presents an overview of the urbanization that took place in the fourth century BCE; he argues for direct or indirect influence from Hekatomnid projects on Kos and Rhodes. Interdonato (I. 10. ‘Karian influences in Early Hellenistic Kos’) similarly focuses on possible Karian interference in the foundation of the new Koan capital, located just across the straits and within sight of Halikarnassos.

It has long been argued that the geographical extent of the Hekatomnid domain extended into the surrounding islands, which does raise the possibility of Hekatomnid projects in the Dodekanese; however, the issue of active Hekatomnid patronage versus indirect cultural influence is difficult to disentangle. The regional workshops developed in the aftermath of the construction of the Maussolleion would have been active across the region; the widespread adoption of technical elements developed at Halikarnassos suggest the mobility of artists and architects first and foremost.  The movement and/or impact of these workshops are discussed across a number of papers, identifying certain distinctive elements in the southeast Aegean and further afield (see the contributions of Hellström and Blid, Interdonato, Poupaki, Fragaki, Bairami, Ghisellini).

The landscape of Hekatomnid patronage, however, can be constructively discussed, if not definitively decided. Wilkening-Aumann’s paper on the sanctuary of Hemithea at Kastabos (I. 9. ‘The Temple of Hemithea at Kastabos’) suggests a mid-fourth century date for the construction of the new temple and reorganisation of the site, noting the similarities of architectural features with those of the ‘Ionian Renaissance.’ She speculates that architects from Halikarnassos were working at the site, raising the possibility that this was another project sponsored by the Hekatomnids, whose interest in religious sites can be traced elsewhere in Karia (for instance at Labraunda and Sinuri).

A more definitive addition to our corpus of Hekatomnid projects is the relatively recent discovery of the monumental tomb at Uzun Yuva in Milas, which forms the focus of Diler’s paper (I. 7. ‘The Hekatomneion in Mylasa: preliminary studies on the cult’). This astonishing monument, thought to have been a prototype for the Maussolleion, was discovered in somewhat controversial circumstances in 2010, after an illegal excavation. But the artefacts that remain, including a sculpted sarcophagus, wall paintings, and numerous small finds, demonstrate a clear link with the Hekatomnids and provide an invaluable insight into dynastic imagery and ideology. Diler’s contribution offers an overview of the finds from the tomb, aided by many impressive images. He proposes that Hekatomnos was the occupant of the tomb and that the artistic programme was meant to represent the succession of Maussollos as dynast. This seems eminently plausible, though more transparency about the process of identification for the different figures represented in relief and in the paintings would have been welcome. Such new discoveries and reinterpretations of monuments in the region suggest the need for an up-to-date synthesis of the building activities of the Hekatomnids, reassessing the nature and extent of their reign, as well as the legacy of their patronage.[4]

The close connections between the Dodekanese and Karia were naturally encouraged by their geographical proximity and their incorporation into overlapping maritime networks. The cultural, religious, and artistic commonalities borne out by the mobility of individuals within these networks are explored across both volumes. Certain contributions focus on shared cultural traits, as revealed through artistic motifs and architectural forms. Held (II. 7. ‘Mutual influences between Dodekanesian and Karian sanctuaries’) traces the adoption of Rhodian construction techniques at three temples in the Rhodian peraia, both ‘integrated’ and ‘subjected’, suggesting Rhodian involvement. Similarities in the iconography of grave markers between the islands and mainland are explored by Ruggendorfer (I. 13. ‘The diversity of motif: on the broader contextualization of banquet-scenes’) and Tsouli (II. 13. ‘Cultural interdependence between Kos and Karia as illustrated by the grave markers’). A shared cultural milieu continued in a late antique context; Mazzilli explores the regional significance of the architectural ‘School of Kos’ (II. 19. ‘The ‘School of Kos’ and architectural koine’), while Poulsen explores parallels in mosaic design between Karia and the islands in late antiquity (II. 20. ‘A mosaic in Halikarnassos’).

Other contributions focus on the mobility of individuals as revealed through the epigraphic record. Höghammar (II. 8. ‘The moving movers’) traces the origins of foreigners buried on Kos; while individuals from across the Mediterranean are attested, the majority derived from Ionia and Karia. Isager and Carbon (II. 9. ‘Early Ptolemaic Halikarnassos’) discuss three honorific inscriptions dated to the early third century BCE, exploring what they can reveal about the cultural and political networks of the city under Ptolemaic rule.

The primacy of the sea in forging the multiple links between the Dodekanese and Karia also encouraged contacts within larger scale networks. The production and export of Knidian Fine Ware, which found a widespread market in the Hellenistic period, is discussed on a local scale (the contributions of Betina, II. 2. ‘Knidian fine ware in Rhodos’, and Grigoropoulos and Marzec, II. 6. ‘The impact of Knidian wares on the local market’), while Sauer (II. 10. ‘Tracing Networks of the Hellenistic amphora market’) traces the distribution of Rhodian, Knidian and Koan amphoras, and how they profited within the same networks.

There were further opportunities for connections to be established between the southeast Aegean and Egypt. Fragaki (I. 12. ‘Western Asia Minor workshops and the Early Hellenistic architecture of Alexandria’) suggests the presence of craftsmen from the southeastern Aegean in Egypt in the early Hellenistic period, as evidenced by commonalities in architectural design, theory, and practice. Ghisellini (II. 5. ‘Relations between the Dodekanese, Karia and Alexandria’) similarly explores the movement of sculptors and sculptures between Egypt and the southeastern Aegean, examining the written evidence for artists working between these regions and technical and stylistic connections, as well as Ptolemaic monuments and sculptures in the Aegean.

There is a lot of appeal here for both historians and archaeologists interested in the southeast Aegean region, though, perhaps inevitably for a conference proceedings, the diversity of subjects can sometimes read rather disjointedly. Both volumes are handsomely produced, with multiple colour images and maps. One small complaint would be that certain images with intricate details would have benefited from being produced on a larger scale. The organisation of the contributions chronologically is a logical division for such a diverse collection of work, though as the editors admit, some of the connections between papers become obscured; again, a small niggle would be that greater efforts could have been made to explore the links and overlaps between different contributions.

At the same time, scholars working in both Karia and the Dodekanese will benefit greatly from having such a well produced collection together in one place. The diversity of approaches and evidence discussed is consistently stimulating, and the reader gains an insight into the range of projects and methodologies currently being applied to illuminate the entwinement of mainland Anatolia with the communities of the neighbouring islands.

Authors and titles, Vol. I

Poul Pedersen, Birte Poulsen, John Lund, “Introduction”, 1.
1. Luigi M. Caliò, “Theatroeideis poleis. Cities and urbanization in Eastern Greece”, 9.
2. Poul Pedersen, “From Classical to Hellenistic: the Maussolleion and the Ionian Renaissance”, 25.
3. Antonio Corso, “The masters of the Maussolleion of Halikarnassos”, 41.
4. Despina Ignatiadou, “Glass vessels from the tomb chamber of Maussollos: an update”, 53.
5. John Lund, “The function of the Maussolleion terrace after 350 BC: the testimony of finds”, 61.
6. Peter John Higgs, “Another Amazon frieze from ancient Halikarnassos”, 73.
7. Adnan Diler, “The Hekatomneion in Mylasa: preliminary studies on the cult”, 87.
8. Pontus Hellström and Jesper Blid, “Anta construction and design in Hekatomnid Labraunda”, 107.
9. Christine Wilkening-Aumann, “The Temple of Hemithea at Kastabos and the ‘Ionian Renaissance’”, 121.
10. Elisabetta Interdonato, “Karian influences in Early Hellenistic Kos: political, urban and religious aspects”, 133.
11. Eireni Poupaki, “Imports of building stones from Hekatomnid Karia in early-Synoikized Kos: architectural remains and possible quarry-stones”, 143.
12. Helen Fragaki, “Western Asia Minor workshops and the Early Hellenistic architecture of Alexandria”, 155.
13. Peter Ruggendorfer, “The diversity of motif: on the broader contextualization of banquet-scenes in Karia and the Dodekanese”, 169.
14. Lana Radloff, Elizabeth S. Greene, Justin Leidwanger, Nadire Atιcι, and Numan Tuna, “Structuring urban and maritime space at Burgaz, Turkey”, 181.

Authors and titles, Vol. II

Birte Poulsen, Poul Pedersen, John Lund, “Introduction”, 1.
1. Κalliope Bairami, “Hellenistic sculpture as artistic expression of a wide geographical and political unity: the case of Rhodos and its relations to Karia”, 9.
2. Lisa Betina, “Knidian Fine ware in Rhodos—a first assessment”, 23.
3. Christine Bruns-Özgan, “Relations between Karia, the Dodekanese and South Italy: the case studies of Knidos and Paestum”, 33.
4. Nikolas Dimakis and Giorgos Doulfis, “Karian reflections in Halasarna, Kos”, 41.
5. Elena Ghisellini, “Relations between the Dodekanese, Karia and Alexandria: the case of the sculpture”, 51.
6. Dimitris Grigoropoulos and Edyta Marzec, “The impact of Knidian fine wares on the local market and pottery production of Halasarna on Kos during the Hellenistic and Roman periods”, 65.
7. Winfried Held, “Mutual influences between Dodekanesian and Karian sanctuaries in the Hellenistic period: the sanctuaries of Apollo in Loryma and Amos, and the “Corinthian Temple” in Kaunos”, 79.
8. Kerstin Höghammar, “The moving movers. Foreigners buried on Kos in the Hellenistic period”, 89.
9. Jan-Mathieu Carbon and Signe Isager, “Early Ptolemaic Halikarnassos (ca. 280–260 BC) and its network of interactions”, 109.
10. Nikoline Sauer, “Tracing networks of the Hellenistic amphora market: a study based on Rhodian, Knidian and Koan transport amphoras”, 125.
11. Giorgio Rocco, “The language of Koan architecture between Synoikism and Late Hellenism”, 141.
12. Stella Skaltsa, “Building projects in the Rhodian State: local dynamics and interrelations”, 155.
13. Chrysanthi Tsouli, “Cultural interdependence between Kos and Karia as illustrated by the grave markers (semata) of the Hellenistic period”, 175.
14. Monica Livadiotti, “Kos: the official language of the Imperial architecture”, 193.
15. Anna Andrea Nagy, Piroska Magyar-Hárshegyi, and György Szakmány, “Amphorae from the southeastern Aegean in Pannonia”, 209.
16. Isabella Baldini and Claudia Lamanna, “The Early Byzantine architecture in Kos and the interactions with the nearby regions of Asia Minor”, 229.
17. Angeliki Katsioti and Nikolaos Mastrochristos, “The cult of Saint Kerykos in the Dodekanese: the evidence of the Rhodian Peraia”, 247.
18. Michalis Kappas and Konstantia Kefala, “Across the waves. Early Christian paintings on Kalymnos and Karia”, 255.
19. Giuseppe Mazzilli, “The “School of Kos” and architectural koine in the southeastern Aegean during Late Antiquity”, 269.
20. Birte Poulsen, “A mosaic in Halikarnassos: cultural interrelations between Halikarnassos and the Dodekanese during Late Antiquity”, 285.


[1] For a recent treatment of archaic Karia, see O. Henry and K. Konuk (eds.), Karia Arkhaia: La Carie, Des origines à la période pré-hékatomnide (Istanbul, 2019).

[2] P.A. Mountjoy, ‘The East Aegean-West Anatolian Interface in the Late Bronze Age: Mycenaeans and the Kingdom of Ahhiyawa’, Anatolian Studies 48 (1998): 33-67.

[3] See, for instance, the comments of R.A. Tomblinson, ‘The Doric Order: Hellenistic Critics and Criticism’, JHS 83 (1982), p. 139: ‘The only actual fourth-century examples of a mixed order come from barbaric misinterpretations of Greek architectural forms in the buildings of the Hecatomnid dynasty at Labranda in Caria.’

[4] Simon Hornblower, Mausolus (Oxford, 1982), and Stephen Ruzicka, Politics of a Persian Dynasty: The Hecatomnids in the Fourth Century B.C. (Oklahoma, 1992) are the main comprehensive monographs related to the dynasty.