DEBATE: The birth of Ionian collective identity – Naoíse Mac Sweeney and Olivier Mariaud

The cities of Ionia shared a common sense of collective identity: communicated implicitly in social, cultural and political interactions; and explicitly through membership of the Ionian League. But how far back did this common identity go, and how strongly was it felt? While it is clear that an Ionian identity existed from the fifth century BCE onwards, can we confidently project this back into the archaic period or even before? This proposed contribution takes the form of a set-piece debate. Olivier will argue that there was a strong and distinct sense of collective Aegean identity before the archaic period, and that this sense of collective identity was then complemented, sometimes supplanted, by local civic ones. For her part, Naoíse will argue against the existence of such collective identity in early times.

The aim of the contribution is to survey the existing material, literary, and documentary evidence for Ionian collective identity before the classical period; and to explore both the breadth and the limits of its interpretation. The debate format requires that both participants put forward strong arguments in a somewhat rhetorical manner. We hope that this will help us to test the evidence robustly, and also to engage the audience in discussion. As collectivity is our subject, so too is it our method. Any early Ionian sense of collectivity would have been forged through debate and dialogue. The fragmentary and disparate nature of the evidence available means that advancing scholarship on the subject is also dependent on precisely the same processes of debate and dialogue. We hope that this contribution will aid in this process.

Structure (80 mins total)

Introduction: Naoíse (5 mins)

Thanks and acknowledgements; explanation of the format and the reasoning behind the format; setting out the structure of the session.

Background and framework: Olivier (5 mins)

Introduction to the question under debate; why it is an important question; background shared info – what do we mean by ‘Ionia’, and what do we mean by the ‘archaic period’?

The case FOR: Olivier (20 mins)

In his paper, Olivier will argue that there was indeed a strong sense of collective identity shared by what will then be called Ionians during the EIA, and that this collective identity was transformed by the end of archaic period. The spark of this discussion will be the nature of the archaeological evidence in Ionia between Xth and VIth century BC. This evidence will be discussed against the poor evidence regarding the Ionian League during this period, and also broader evidence for shared cultural identity and collectivity.

The case AGAINST: Naoíse (20 mins)

Naoíse will take the opposing view to that proposed by Olivier, arguing that there was no meaningful sense of collective identity shared by the Ionians during the Early Iron Age and archaic period. Relying mainly on archaeological evidence and literary sources, she will make the case for an absence of collective identity, and only a minimal level of shared customs and culture. She will argue instead that people living in Ionia were vested in different types of identities – at the level of the polis or as part of other regional or collective groupings.

Right of response 1: Olivier (2 mins)

Olivier will then have 5 mins to address specific points from Naoíse’s paper, in an attempt to deconstruct them and win the audience to his side.

Right of response 2: Naoíse (2 mins)

Similarly, Naoíse will then have 5 mins to address specific points from Oliver’s paper, in an attempt to deconstruct them and win the audience to her side.

Debate open to the floor (24 mins)

Discussion will be opened up to the floor.

Final vote (2 mins): to see which position has ‘won’