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Diversities of Doing Greek: ‘Hellenisation’ and ‘Hellenism’ in Ancient Eurasia


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Archaeology programme.


From the 4th century BC into the first centuries of the Christian era (and arguably beyond), a period in world history that witnessed a rapid increase in connectivity all over Eurasia, something remarkable happened: from Britain to China and from the Scythian steppe to the African Sahara people suddenly started doing Greek.
In part this is a form of Hellenisation that has to do with Greek-speaking people spreading Greek customs and ideas. But it is also a form of what we could call ‘Hellenism’: the conscious adoption, for all kinds of reasons, of what the concept of ‘Greekness’ had come to mean overtime, by all kinds of actors who had little or nothing to do with Greece or the Greeks.

Scholarly research is still struggling to distinguish between ‘Hellenisation’ and ‘Hellenism’ and to make sense of the many Greek/‘Greek’ elements that populated Eurasian cultures in the Hellenistic and Roman periods – and in many aspects down to today. This is a subject on which there still is a lot of work to do. When in post-imperial days a long-running, heated (but ultimately unresolved) debate on ‘Romanisation’ was conducted, ‘Hellenisation’ (let alone ‘Hellenism’) was never subjected to the same kind of scrutiny. The time has come to set that right – and possibly revive the stalled Romanisation debate at the same time.

In this course we will analyse the questions “what is Greek(ness)” and “what determines the attractiveness of things Greek/‘Greek’ to non-Greeks” critically and from a variety of different perspectives. These are questions that go to the very heart of the disciplines of Classics, Ancient History and Classical Archaeology (and of much of cultural history at large).
Focusing on Ancient History and Classical Archaeology in particular, we will investigate the struggles of earlier scholars dealing with questions of ancient and of modern identity. To do so we will also draw on comparable concepts and their scholarly debates, for instance Egyptianisation and Romanisation.
Throughout the course we will constantly confront approaches from Ancient History, ultimately based on the written sources, with approaches from Archaeology, ultimately based on the remains of material culture. Our case studies will take you from the western confines of the Roman Empire to Afghanistan (and sometimes even further East) and from the Caucasus to North Africa.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of and insight into the archaeology of Eurasia in Classical Antiquity, i.e., the main areas and sites referred to in the literature and in the lectures;

  • Knowledge of and insight into globalisation and acculturation processes in Eurasia in Classical Antiquity;

  • Understanding of the problems related to the notions of Hellenisation and Hellenism and their historical afterlife;

  • Ability to critically assess specialist literature with regard to archaeological approaches and theoretical background;

  • Ability to report such assessments in written format;

  • Ability to independently set up and carry out a small research project.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA and MSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Discussion.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 210 pages of literature (1.5 ec);

  • Short written assignments (1 ec);

  • Final essay of 2,500 words (+/- 10%) (1,5 ec).

Assessment method

  • Short (weekly) written assignments (20%);

  • Final essay (80%);

  • Participation in discussion (0.5 bonus, used to round up final grade).

Prior to class students read the assigned literature and submit discussion points. These must be submitted 2 days before class. In order to pass the course, all written assignments have to be handed in on time.

Compensation is possible according to the OER (Onderwijs- en Examenreglement / Course and Examination Regulations).

There is no retake for the written assignments, only for the final essay (with new topic) if the first attempt has been taken seriously.

If you fail the retake for the final essay, any passes for the short written assignments will no longer count (i.e., grades cannot be used the next year).

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Late submission will result in a lowering of the grade (0.5 point per day).

Reading list

The reading list will be made available on BlackBoard or through e-mail.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. M.J. (Miguel John) Versluys.


Compulsory attendance.