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Karian identity a Game of opportunistic politics

or a case of creolisation?
Anne Marie CARSTeNS*
This contribution investigates the contradicting statement that the traditional view on Karia as a
cultural backwater zone is both utterly wrong and quite right. Yet it offers only little to explain
processes of cultural interaction and what archaeology through the last decade or more has labelled
the meeting of cultures. Rather than looking for cultural senders and receivers resulting in the
eclectic nature of Karian styles, the Creole is introduced as an explanatory model.
the classical tradition and Karia1
The ancient landscape of Karia has often by archaeologists and antiquarians alike been characterised as a cultural backwater zone, placed in-between greater neighbours, on the fringes of
powerful empires and superior cultures: the Hellenic world, and the Near east2. This is an explanation
of Karia partly based on the pervading geopolitical position of this region throughout antiquity,
which rightly at least if seen in bird eyes view seems as if wedged between ancient superpowers,
as for instance in the Classical period navigating between the Athenian League and the Persian
Achaemenid empire. But the characterisation of Karia as cultural backwater is first and foremost
based on a centre-periphery model envisaged in order to explain modes of cultural interaction that
includes the preconception of superior cultures, like the Hellenic, influencing weaker populations.
This perception is embedded in the Classical Tradition of the early enlightenment, which fostered
the idea of a Happy Hellas3.
Karia, athens and persia
In 480 BC, Karian ships under the command of Artemisia, a local dynast, perhaps from
Halikarnassos, fought with Xerxes navy against the Greeks at Salamis4. This is the earliest known
*) Independent Researcher.
1) Karia has been an important region for Danish Classical Archaeology ever since Professor Kristian Jeppesen started
excavating at the Maussolleion site in 1966 (Jeppesen 1986; 2000; 2002).
See also: accessed
15-11-2009. He inaugurated what has now become the most permanent Classical Archaeological field project: the Danish
Halikarnassos Project. For more than 40 years, the modern holiday centre of Bodrum has been the summer home for
smaller and larger groups of Danish researchers and students. I have been part of the rapidly growing international research
network on Karian archaeology and history since 1996. My doctoral project touched on the then upcoming issues of
ethnicity and archaeology and the meetings of cultures (i.e. Jones 1997; Hall 1997), which I tried to make sense of in
relation to a diachronic exploration of tombs and monuments on the Halikarnassos peninsula from the Late Bronze Age to
the Late Roman period. Carstens 1999a; 1999b; 2001; 2002b; 2004; 2008b; 2009b; 2010; 2011.
2) Thus Newton 1862-1863; Paton & Myres 1896; Bean & Cook 1955; Hornblower 1982, Part II, 107-222; FlenstedJensen & Carstens 2004.
3) Carstens 2009.
4) Herod. 7.99; 8.68-69; 8.88.


Anne Marie CArstens

political collaboration between the Karians and the Persians. Before this Karia was under the control
of the Lydian kings from the early 6th century BC and as such experienced, directly or indirectly, the
Persian sack of Sardis in 546 BC and learned from it5.
Thus Karia was voluntarily included in the satrapy of Sparda, and as far as may be ascertained,
the Persian domination did not represent any dramatic change in its everyday life. Persian cavalrymen
were settled in Karia, on land hitherto belonging to local landowners, but it seems that the Persian
presence was somewhat modest and it did not include a garrison or any other massive collective
presence6. Nevertheless, Karia joined the Ionian revolt after the successful Ionian attack on Sardis in
498 BC. Immediately afterwards, the Persian army made its presence strongly known; consequently,
the revolt collapsed and, as mentioned, by 480 BC, five Karian ships were included in the Persian
fleet at the battle of Salamis. After the defeat of the Persians, coastal cities of Karia joined the Delian
league, headed by Athens7. This apparent zigzagging course may seem opportunistic, yet it serves to
illustrate one of the chief skills perhaps honed by sheer experience with hegemonic overlords of
Karian foreign policy: to use the path of political pragmatism rather than to settle for an ideological
The Kallias peace of 450/449 BC between the Persian empire and the Delian league, the
conclusion of the Persian Wars, brought about stability in its wake. The Persians agreed to stay out
of the Aegean littoral, and in return the Athenians agreed to leave inland Anatolia to the Persians.
Yet, Athens broke the treaty with an attack on Samos in 439 BC and, consequently, the Persians were
Also internally, the Persian administration was hit by controversy: in Sardis, the satrap of Lydia,
Pissuthnes revolted against the Great King at some point between 423 and 414 BC with the aid of
Lykon, an Athenian, and other Greeks8. Pissuthnes was replaced by another of the Kings own men,
Tissaphernes. Perhaps as a consequence of this, a renewal of the Kallias peace was negotiated soon
after Darius IIs accession to the throne in 424/423 BC. In order to prevent the Persians from
supporting the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War, Athens seems to have promised, once more,
not to interfere in western Anatolia.
Yet only a few years later, in 411 BC, the Athenians supported the revolt of Amorgos, which was,
however, soon defeated by joint Spartan-Persian forces at Iasos9. This incident marked the complete
loss of Karia for Athens. Furthermore, according to S. Hornblower, it may very well have marked the
beginning of Karia as a satrapy in its own right10.
Personal rivalry between Tissaphernes, the satrap at Sardis, and Pharnabazus, satrap of
Hellespontine Phrygia in Daskyleion prevented the Persian empire from fully harvesting the fruit of
the defeat of the Athenian empire. In 407 BC, Kyros the Younger was sent as satrap of Lydia,
Greater Phrygia and Kappadokia. It is most likely that Karia was not separated from the satrapy of
Lydia until the 390s BC, when the local Hekatomnid family was appointed to that position. The
Hekatomnids were hand-picked, possibly because of their local Karian roots, which gave them
access to the office as chair of the Karian federation, the chief political and religious assembly of the
Karian people11. On the edge between Persia and Greece, the Hekatomnids managed to govern Karia
successfully, making good use of its geographic position, its independent nature, and its adjustable

5) Hornblower 1982, 16-19.

6) Ruzicka 1992, 6-7. On the basis of onomastic evidence, Sekunda (1991, 91-95) has suggested that Tralles was a
garrison town.
7) Hornblower 1982, 25-29.
8) Briant 2002, 591-593.
9) Briant 2002, 591.
10) Hornblower 1982, 32.
11) Carstens 2009, chapter four.



Karian identity and creolisation

I have for some years now worked on a full, or rather, a comprehensive description of
characteristics of Karia and the sense of being Karian. Archaeology has various tools to offer in such
cases. Many of them are, however, preoccupied with defining cultural categorisations, which
harmonise only little with people living and interacting with each other12.
I find it of little value to discuss the level of Hellenisation or Persianisation as a matter of
categorical markings of the multifaceted societies of the Karians. Something else must be put in
place in this discussion of how Greek, how indigenous, how Persian, Karia and the Karians were. I
have often pointed at the eclectic art of the Karians, I have spoken of hybridism, of stylistic blend as
a result of a multiethnic, melting pot society13. All of these terms somehow lack an explanatory
strength, they lack heuristic potential:
we may speak piously of living in an interconnected world or even a global village, or we may
lapse (with or without embarrassment) into the simple rhetoric of denouncing cultural imperialism, or
we come up with one more improvisation on the between two cultures theme; all of which, we
probably realise, are rather limited intellectual resources for actually making much sense of these

This is a quotation from the seminal article on The world in creolisation by the Swedish anthropologist Ulf Hannerz (1987). The article as well as Hannerz work on creolisation in general has
modern Nigerian society as a point of departure. It may seem far away from the 4th century BC
Karia, but in many ways the cultural situation of the post-colonial Nigeria and Proto-Hellenistic
Karia seems comparable.
In Hannerz view, creolisation means that there is something that gets mixed with something else
and produces something different from both. At such abstract level, it is only yet another concept for
the hybrid society, and its eclectic artistic expression. What is interesting is what kind of changes and
transformations that take place, and why these changes occur in the first place. In order to deal with
these concrete transformation processes, a spacious metaphor is needed.
The concept of creolisation was originally used for the linguistic phenomenon of the creation of
a common pidgin language:
the new language is distinct from the languages that have shaped it, yet has retained sufficient
features of them, that their origin can sometimes be traced and identified scholars agree that the
characteristics of pidgin and creole languages include the speed with which they form and develop;
the sociological conditions that have shaped them, most typically, colonization; and an almost
instantaneous creativity15.

Thus, creolisation is the mechanism that Chris Gosden summarizes as the spirit of colonialism,
calling upon creativity and multi-partial engagement in producing the new16. In Hannerz opinion:
The creolist view suggests that the different cultural streams engaging one another in creolisation
may all be actively involved in shaping the resultant forms; and that the merger of quite different
streams can create a particular intensity in cultural processes. The active handling of meanings of
various local and foreign derivations can allow them to work as commentaries on one another, through
never-ending intermingling and counterpoint17.

12) Carstens 1999 and 2002b.

13) Carstens 2009b.
14) Hannerz 1987, 547.
15) Jourdan 2004.
16) Gosden 2004.
17) Hannerz 1987, 555-556.


Anne Marie CArstens

Replace creolisation with colonialism and we are on common ground. It may be inferred that
we are now in the process of finding various complex ways of describing a composite culture by
using and referring to various buzz-words in current anthropological and archaeological theoretical
debates, yet and that would be the main point of such a criticism without closing in on a specific
definition of creole or hybrid culture. And rightly so. The important thing is that the conceptualisation
we are in need of is indeed a metaphor for the in-between, for the casual, the imprecise, the inspired
eclecticism. This is exactly what Hannerz finds in the creole view, the opposition to a traditional
current of cultural thought, which emphasises the purity, homogeneity, and boundedness of
cultures18. What is more, creolisation functions not as traditional centre-periphery relationship,
where stronger cultures dominate over weaker, but rather as larger transformation and circulation, as
creative interplay19, where various cultural meanings may work as commentaries on one another
through never-ending intermingling and counterpoint20.
creolisation as political strateGy?
Thus, creolisation is presupposed to reflect an organic self-growing process, which is somehow
fed by a rapid change in living conditions as a result of various ethnic and cultural groups suddenly
living together. As a result of inter-human interaction it cannot be forced or inflicted upon a people
from above.
I would like to make a case for the use of creolisation as a political strategy in the creation of the
Hekatomnid dynasty, visible in the iconography created under its patronage and reflected in the state
art. The monuments, which played a prominent part in the iconographic creation of the Hekatomnid
dynasty, are the dynasts tomb, the Maussolleion, and the sanctuary of the dynasty, Labraunda, as
well as Hekatomnid patronage inside and outside of Karia21. Here, I confine myself to the
Maussolleion and Halikarnassos.
What went on in 4th century BC Karia in the process of creating a new forceful political centre at
the edge of the Persian empire and at the edge of Hellas? Was Karia heavily Hellenised, was the
Persian weft marked stronger than before in Karian culture, was the Karian-ness evoked as a
counterpart or an opponent to the Hellenisation or Persianisation?
hekatomnid iconography as hellenisation?
If one wishes to focus on Hekatomnid iconography as Hellenisation, this is definitely possible:
when Maussollos planned his new residential city, and planned his own tomb, his memorial, he
imitated the Greek city, the polis, in the layout of a modern grid plan, in adding the proper and
important institutions to the city, in placing his tomb at the city centre alluding to the tombs or heroa
of Greek founding fathers and eponymous heroes22. He engaged the finest Greek craftsmen and
artists to work for him23. And he used the best materials for the various stages of the buildings, a sign
of the well-planned and conscious building project24. He built a series of Greek sanctuaries and
temples for the city and the dynasty. The Maussolleion itself was in the shape of a Greek peristyle
temple: its precinct was entered via a propylon building probably binding together the agora of the
city with its architectonic masterpiece. Perhaps it stood inside an alsos, a sacred groove. It was richly
decorated with sculptures, many of these representing the episodes of old Greek myths and standard
repertoire like the battle scenes.
18) Hannerz 1996, 66.
19) Hannerz 1996, 68.
20) Hannerz 1987, 556.
21) Carstens 2009a.
22) Pedersen 1991, 93-97.
23) Jeppesen 2002, 29-42.
24) Jeppesen 2002, 24-28.



hekatomnid iconography as persianisation?

Persian wefts are discrete if at all visible in the layout of Halikarnassos and in the building of the
Maussolleion. It is clear that the rulers tomb played an immense role in the iconography of the
Achaemenids, but it is likewise clear that the relation between the Maussolleion and typical Persian
elements is vague25. The stepped pyramid roof of the Maussolleion may be interpreted as an Iranian
element, alluding to the stepped fire altars, the stepped elements of the Ta Kule tomb near Phokaia
or the pyramid tomb at Sardis26. But it is not evident.
The garments of the male sculptures, trousers and a large foot-length cloak, and the enthroned
so-called Maussollos wearing boots may also be interpreted as Iranian features27. However, the
clearest references to the Persian supremacy are to be found in the minor artefacts included in the
burials that took placed in the Maussolleion, for instance, the calcite vase found in front of the
Maussolleion tomb chamber. It is inscribed Xerxes Great King in Old Persian, elamite, Babylonian
and egyptian. Perhaps it was a sign of proxenia, a symbol of the relation or alliance between the
Persian hegemony, personified in Xerxes the Great, and the Halikarnassian Artemisia the elder; a
personal gift from a grateful Great King to the local aristocrat for her assistance? Also less direct
hints, such as the golden appliqus, glass vessels and ivory fragments found inside the tomb
chamber, placed the buried and thereby the dynasty in the sphere of the western Anatolian aristocracies28.
hekatomnid iconography as Karianisation?
One question that springs to mind is whether there existed a Karian unity, i.e. a political unity
and a cultural or ethnic characteristic, before the Hekatomnids? And what this Karian-ness consisted
of? I have argued in favour of a distinct style with quite characteristic features appearing most
visibly in the painted pottery from the early Archaic period or perhaps even earlier29, which has a
characteristic style, consisting of both inland, mostly Phrygian, motives and shapes and east Greek
and Dodekanese schemes of decoration; an eclectic Karian style. A similar eclecticism is visible in
the sepulchral architecture from the early Iron Age onwards30. However, it seems that a major part of
the local political effort of the Hekatomnid dynasts was that they re-created and emphasised a Karian-ness.
The Maussolleion exposed the ancestry of the dynasty and its local embedding, and it is clear
that a large part of its sculptural decoration linked the monument to its Karian-ness. The lions and the
baityloi, that probably decorated the pyramid roof31, and referred to the image of the divine king32, as
well as the archaistic and oriental style of the male colossal statues, with trousers and long cloaks,
and the full-bearded Maussollos are all confined within the frame of something Anatolian. The
seated statue, perhaps Maussollos himself, appeared in a doorway, as the Phrygian Kybele would or
should or were hoped to appear in the niches in the rock sanctuaries. This epiphany motive is central
for Karian - and Anatolian religion33.

25) Schmidt 1970, 81; Root 1979, 153-16.

26) Cahill 1988; Ratt 1992; Carstens 2009a.
27) Waywell 1978, 109; Jeppesen 2002, 174-178.
28) Jeppesen 2000, 119-140; Zahle & Kjeldsen 2004, 181-207, 221-227.
29) Carstens 2002a.
30) Carstens 2008b and 2009b.
31) eppesen 2002, 118-121.
32) Carstens 2008a, 83 and 2009a.
33) Burkert 1999, 64; Fleischer 2002, 200-202.


Anne Marie CArstens

hekatomnid iconography as creolisation?

Perhaps the Hekatomnid iconographic project appears much more than anything else a revival of
all Karian, a search for and an emphasis on Anatolian Karian elements. Yet, it is not the case. In their
effort to create a dynasty, to create a kingdom, dependent and independent at the same time, the best
craftsmen were hired to build the new capital, the sanctuaries and the iconographic markers. These
were trained in the Greek architectural and sculptural tradition, had participated in the greatest
building projects of their time, e.g. the building of the sanctuary complex at epidauros, and after
their Karian constructions had been finished they went on to large-scale building projects in other
parts of Greece. Thus, although Karia was not Greek, it was also Greek. But it was always also
something else, something in addition or even basically different. What is wrong with such
differentiations is that they lead us to form grossly distorted pictures of cultural belonging; they point
to the fatal weaknesses of any cultural categorisation that emphasizes the purity, homogeneity, and
boundedness of cultures34.
Hekatomnid official monuments are hybrid products; they are based on the interplay of different
cultural expressions or styles. Hekatomnid iconography is thus Hellenised, Persianised and Karianised.
This is the creole of Karian culture that allows for an overt display of a unified multiculturalism, a
Out of these variant ingredients thrown into the melting pot, a new Karian-ness resting on a
historic consciousness and expressed not least via a conscious play with archaistic traits was cast.
Not that the Hekatomnids created the creole, but they made extremely good use of an already
ongoing process. Perhaps this more than anything became the Hekatomnid legacy to the Hellenistic
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