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Identity and the choice of writing system in the Achaemenid world

Authors
  • Benvenuto, Maria Carmela1
  • 1 Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy , (Italy)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Apr 12, 2022
Volume
8
Issue
1
Pages
1–25
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/jhsl-2020-0001
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

The paper investigates the choice of writing system as the visual representation of identity in a specific multilingual and multi-ethnic context of antiquity, namely, the Achaemenid Empire. In particular, the discussion focuses on the linguistic and socio-cultural environment in Lydia and Hellespontine Phrygia, the western satrapies of the Persian Empire, where various languages and writing systems were available. Through the cases study analyzed here it has been possible to detect the symbolic status of a language – as well as that of its writing system – in the expression of ethnic identity at the local community level. In the case of Lydia, the analysis of the seals inscriptions provides evidence of identity negotiation from individuals of the local elite who were engaging with Persian power. The bullae from Daskyleion reflect a different linguistic practice in the context of power relations. Interestingly, even though the central imperial authority did not take advantage of any specific language use, including Aramaic, as a means to impose power, the presence of seals in Aramaic in the Daskyleion archive seems to suggest that it had status as an international prestige language, imbuing the inscriber of any ethnicity with the might of imperial power.

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