John Berteaux


Erich S. Gruen, cultural identity, ancient Mediterranean world


Erich S. Gruen’s edited collection Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean first appeared in 2011. I feel the significance of this collection is that it teases out and asks us to assess unreflective assumptions that inform not only our vision of the past, but also our grasp of present-day collective identities. Early on Gruen reports that while moderns tend to focus on difference, dissimilarity, or contrast when distinguishing cultures, in the eight sections of this text scholars identify and investigate complex connections that resulted in the cultural identities we associate with the ancient Mediterranean world. The essence of Gruen’s argument is that “The fashioning of a collective self-consciousness in antiquity took shape in complex and diverse forms.” Ancient people defined themselves “by claiming links with other societies, by pointing to cross currents and overlapping that placed less emphasis on distinctiveness than on shared heritage within a broader Mediterranean setting.”