Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East

Robert Rollinger

In a first step, Prof. Robert Rollinger will analyse Greek historiography and ethnography as a medium interconnecting East and West. His main focus will be on those sources which still dominate the Western view of the East. This is especially true for the Histories of Herodotus but also for sources which have only been transmitted in fragments (such as Ctesias, Berossus and Megasthenes).

Three main questions emerge. First, how to describe the world views of these sources and take into consideration the contexts or the Sitz im Leben of these conceptions? Second, what kind of contacts existed between East and West at the time of the authors and how do the sources reflect cultural dichotomies (especially the Other as cultural predecessor vs. barbarian). Third, what is the relationship between the information delivered by these sources and the information which the Ancient Near Eastern sources offer?

Analysis of these three main questions makes it possible to study cultural transmission and intercultural contacts in a larger framework of cultural history. Rather than merely asking which item has been transferred from culture to culture, the analysis enables us to consider why and how these items have been transferred and how they have shaped later views of the other culture.

In a second step, Prof. Rollinger will grasp two main research branches, focusing on the transfer of cultural items, techniques and literary motives discernable in the available Greek sources. This involves an analysis of selected authors of classical and post-classical times, but also an examination of the Homeric epics.

Prof. Rollinger will also study the different Wahrnehmungsebenen or levels of perception of the cultural encounter between “east” and “west”, analysing both a “western” and an “eastern” perspective and observing both the mental and ideological dimensions of such encounters. This mental level is not only a case of Fremdwahrnehmung or Othering with ethnic and social stereotypes but has a much deeper layer, connected with a specific mental map and an ideologically motivated conception of the “world”.

Robert Rollinger in the Wikipedia