AIA 2018: Mapping Karian Queenship Across the Mediterranean (4th c BCE)

Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America 

Boston 2018

Session: Bodies, Dress, and Adornment

January 6, 2018

Credit: Patricia Eunji Kim

Credit: Patricia Eunji Kim


The Hekatomnid dynasts of Karia in southwest Asia Minor emerged as powerful, semi-autonomous satraps with political authority both within and beyond their kingdom in the fourth century BCE. The unique dynamics and sociocultural formulations of dynastic identity have been the subject of historical discourse—from Hekatomnid practices of consanguineous marriage to the relative prominence of their dynastic women on the political stage. Indeed, architectural historians have discussed how Hekatomnid women were unique because of their striking presence in the sculptural program of the famous world-wonder, the Maussolleion of Halikarnassos. Nevertheless, scholars have not yet fully analyzed the extant corpus of images, portraits, and monuments dedicated by and for Karian queens in relation to each other. The art historical evidence for Karian queenship is diverse in terms of the historical circumstances and cultural contexts of their display. Thus, a re-examination of the extant corpus offers fresh perspectives on the multiple dimensions of gendered power dynamics and the complex contours of Karian queenship throughout the Mediterranean.

This paper creates, analyzes, and presents different variations of maps that assemble the epigraphic, sculptural, textual, and archaeological data for Karian dynastic women. Modern-day geospatial and digital visualizations make the images and bodies of women leaders legible across the ancient, eastern Mediterranean landscape. My synthetic analysis includes an examination of the various roles played by Karian royal women, demonstrating the complex articulations of their political identities. In this way, we might better understand the relationship between gender and power in Karia, and how those formulations may or may not have conflicted with the sociocultural dynamics of power around and beyond their kingdom. Mapping Karian queenship furthermore contributes to broader conversations regarding (re)presentations of women in different kinds of public spaces. These methods of analysis prompt reconsiderations of “local” and “supraregional” or “Asian” and “Greek” sculptural traditions, providing a critical opportunity to move beyond questions of style to focus instead on issues of gender in political art. By geo-locating Karian female bodies, I ask how conceptions of gender and femaleness shaped inter-regional distinctions of dynastic identity through art. These gendered power dynamics both bolstered and subverted constructs of heroic masculinity and masculinist regimes within autocratic societies. Moreover, the fourth-century Karian expressions of gender and power provided a vocabulary for dynastic visual culture in Asia Minor that resonated far outside the geographic and temporal confines of their rule. 

Patricia Eunji KimComment