Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


The aim of this conference is to bring scholars together from diverse disciplines and institutions, in order to facilitate a productive discourse and exploration of the application of Borderlands theories to the study of the ancient world.

The Ancient Borderlands Research Focus Group, which facilitates and guides the organization of the conference,  unites UCSB faculty and graduate students with common research interests in the history of Mediterranean antiquity, broadly conceived. We are investigating the process by which groups define, create and maintain their identities over time. The creation of boundaries, among ethnic, political, or religious groups, is a dynamic activity that can be reflected, not only by changes in material culture, but also in the rhetorical strategies adopted by ancient authors and the political tactics pursued by those seeking power. As members of several departments, including Classics, History and Religious Studies, we are also interested in challenging the disciplinary boundaries between us, believing that we have much to learn from one another.

Ancient Borderlands Research Focus Group

There are 9 publications in this collection, published between 2010 and 2013.
Beyond Borders: Selected Proceedings of the 2010 Ancient Borderlands International Graduate Student Conference (9)

Social Conflict Theory and Matthew’s Polemic against the Pharisees

Utilizing sociological theories about conflict and the formation and change of identity, Thomas C. Fraatz turns to biblical polemic in order to show the creation of boundaries within the early Christian community. When examining the interactions of social groups, Borderlands Theorists are prone to point out the ways in which people use rhetoric to characterize the Other. In his examination of the Gospel of Matthew, Fraatz engages heavily with the works of Borderlands scholars Daniel Boyarin and Thomas Sizgorich to describe how the author of Matthew was trying to link, through the deliberate construction of narratives, the persecution and death of Jesus at the hands of Pharisees with the persecution and supposed eventual death of his own community at the hands of a current Pharisaic community. By making this link explicit, Matthew also helps to construct and reinforce the border between these two social groups, and simultaneously changes the perceived definition of both sides.

Carthage, Corinth, & 146 BCE: Shifting Paradigms of Roman Imperium

Sarah Davies leads us through an examination of the conceptual boundary of Roman imperium, and changes brought to Rome by the establishment of Roman military authority in Carthage and Corinth. As the expansion of the Republic attained a sort of critical mass, feedback from the frontiers brought change to the center. In Borderlands Theory, the idea that the inscription of the borderland itself begins the process of change is a fundamental concept. Engaging heavily with core-periphery models, and studies of ethnic change in the Hellenistic world, Davies examines the rhetoric of the center, in order to understand how Rome was able to cope with its new status and imperial boundaries as it renegotiated its own identity in the Mediterranean world. Likewise, Davies also makes explicit the link between the internal transformation of the conceptual boundary, defined by the Roman idea of imperium, and the real political ramifications of the year 146 BCE.

Games of Power: Spectacle in the Aztec and Roman Worlds

In a cross-cultural, cross-temporal comparison, Ana Mitrovici juxtaposes the ritual games and spectacles of the Romans and the Aztecs. The display of conquered peoples by imperial powers is commonly examined in the light of post-colonial theories about power struggles and identity. In addition, with a spectacle like those examined here, the deliberate injection of peripheral images into the center of power shows the centers construction of power and self-identity very clearly. Using her comparison to show the functions of spectacle in imperial identity formation, Mitrovici highlights some of the uses of violence and display within a borderlands complex.

6 more worksshow all