How did the western Mediterranean, and Italy in particular, become the historical centre of the ancient world in the final centuries BC? This question remains unsatisfactorily answered, even though so much historical significance is relying on the answer. This project critically evaluates the two competing narratives that currently exist to explain it and tests to what degree they stand up to the latest evidence and theoretical thinking. The dominant older narrative sees a backward region before superior immigrants, most notably Greeks and Phoenicians, started arriving in the late ninth century BC. More recently, another view has challenged this narrative through the growth and interpretation of archaeological data. It argues for greater sophistication and cultural autonomy in the western Mediterranean prior to the arrival of any immigrants. There the debate remains, polarised between two extremes and divided by very different methodologies. My research project charts a new course between them, with the intention of providing a new, more nuanced framework for understanding these crucial centuries of history. Being associated with the Vrije Universiteit’s CLUE+ progamme provides an ideal opportunity for a mutually beneficial collaboration, in which I aim to enrich and be enriched by our respective scholarly environments and projects.
Franco De Angelis is professor of Greek history and distinguished university scholar at the University of British Columbia.