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Hollow archives: Bullae as a source for understanding administrative structures in the Seleukid empire

Hicks, JR; (2017) Hollow archives: Bullae as a source for understanding administrative structures in the Seleukid empire. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Seal impressions on bullae offer new ways of approaching the local realities of Seleukid administrative and fiscal practice. Previous studies of these objects have focused primarily on the iconography of the impressed seals. However, analysis of the find-spots of bullae, their forms, the sealing protocols employed, the quantities of extant seal impressions, and the interactions that are evidenced by several individuals impressing their seals on a single bulla, enables a range of aspects of royal bureaucracy in Babylonia to be reconstructed. This study is based on thousands of published and tens of unpublished bullae from several Seleukid sites, and also incorporates a few bullae from elsewhere that are impressed by seals with Seleukid motifs. It demonstrates the importance of groups of men ‘on the ground’ for the articulation and enforcement of royal power. Routine bureaucracy ensured that taxes were collected and local authority maintained throughout the long periods when the king and court were absent from a region, and even during instances of conflict over the throne. Nonetheless, some of the surviving evidence appears to reflect bureaucratic failings; there were also moments of reform and instances of idiosyncratic behaviour. The bullae suggest that administrative practice was relatively homogeneous across Babylonia, but differed from that known from the Greek cities of western Asia Minor. There are however similarities between Seleukid administration in Babylonia and Ptolemaic administration in Egypt, suggestive of cross-fertilisation between the two Hellenistic powers. This study is important because scant information survives about the daily realities of Seleukid control from anywhere in the empire, and very little on Seleukid rule in Babylonia. Fully exploiting these initially unpromising sources helps to fill an important gap in our knowledge, and enables broader comparisons of imperial structures between the Seleukid, Ptolemaic and Achaemenid empires.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Hollow archives: Bullae as a source for understanding administrative structures in the Seleukid empire
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1558312
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