McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Christopher Bravo

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Major and Classification

Classics

Faculty Mentor

  • Daniel Richter, Ph.D.

Department

  • Classics

McNair Project

Race Relations in the Seleucid Empire:The Case of the Phoenicians

Though the academic study of race relations has only been established fairly recently in modern scholarship, the social phenomenon of race relations has existed for thousands of years. This paper will examine race relations in the Seleucid Empire, an empire that spanned from the coasts of Turkey, to the western reaches of India during the late fourth to the first centuries BCE. This large nation-state was comprised of numerous diverse groups of peoples, such as Jews, Persians, Indians, Armenians, amongst others, who were ruled over by a foreign elite class of Graeco-Macedonians. One of these subservient groups, the Phoenicians, will be studied in detail in order to understand the quality of the relationship between them and the ruling royal class of Graeco-Macedonians. This analysis will thus allow for the critical evaluation of these relations and what effect they had in the administration of the Seleucid Empire. In order to conduct such a project, a comprehensive study of selected extant primary sources is necessary. While these sources are very limited, it is not impossible to draw conclusions from the scant archaeological and literary evidence that has survived to this day. By the conclusion of this project, the state and quality of these relationships will be examined and evaluated through textual analysis and interpretations of not only the aforementioned primary sources, but modern scholarship as well. Lastly, the effects these relations had on the Seleucid Empire will be qualitatively measured and discussed in an effort to understand the role of race and identity in the Seleucid Empire. The findings of this study demonstrate that the ancient peoples did differentiate amongst themselves, though not in ways similar to the modern sense of "racism."