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Zenobia essay prize for Dr. Miguel John Versluys

Dr. Miguel John Versluys was awarded the Zenobia Essay Prize during the recent conference Troy: the city, the war, the legend organized by the Zenobia Foundation in the Lutheran church in Amsterdam.


The Zenobia Foundation promotes the study of the complex and dynamic cultural relations in the eastern Mediterranean, from antiquity to the present. The Zenobia Essay Prize is awarded biennially for a publication which presents in an exemplary manner issues of East-West relations in antiquity, and their reception in later times.

Versluys was awarded the prize for his article Egypt as part of the Roman koine: mnemohistory and the Iseum Campense in Rome (to appear in a 2012/13 volume edited by J. Quack and C. Witschel (Heidelberg) entitled Religious flows in the Roman Empire in the series Orientalische Religionen in der Antike published by Mohr Siebeck). According to the jury Versluys "demonstrates in a captivating and challenging way that in many cases (but not always!) the dichotomy between East and West is an idée fixe; the West (in this case, Rome) creates its own East (Egypt) in different contexts and periods.” The jury also praised the style of Versluys' text: "although the theory is not straightforward, and the author provocatively complicates matters further, he manages to do this in a way that is accessible (-)".

The article is one of the first results of Versluys’ NWO VIDI project Cultural innovation in a globalizing society: Egypt in the Roman world which seeks to develop a new theoretical framework on culture contact and cultural transmission in antiquity, using the role and meaning of "Egypt" in the Roman world as a concrete case study. The concepts "globalization" and "materiality" are key in establishing this new framework and as such Versluys' VIDI research is not only relevant for antiquity, but also for a better understanding of cultural relations and cultural transmission in different regions and periods.

Versluys is delighted with the award: "It's a pat on the back for our innovative approach in which connectivity and material culture are central, but more importantly this prize shows the wider implications of this type of research. Our current society is also in a phase of cultural innovation in which East-West dichotomies which in reality often don’t match up to reality, are eagerly seized upon. A historical understanding of this is essential, something which also explains the importance and success of the Zenobia Foundation ".

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