Introducing: Manon Post and Efstathia Dionysopoulou
Manon Post and Efstathia Dionysopoulou recently joined the Institute for History as a PhD candidate and postdoc in the framework of the "Anchoring Innovation" program. Below, they introduce themselves!
I’m very pleased and excited to be joining the Institute for History as a PhD Candidate in Ancient History, working on the first widespread coinage in Ancient Egypt and the sociological and numismatic features and effects of its introduction.
Me and my family are originally from a place called Waiheke, a small island about a 45 minute ferry ride from Auckland, New Zealand, which in 2016 was rated the fifth best place in the world to visit by Lonely Planet. However my childhood was quite nomadic, and I grew up in a variety of places, primarily England, before returning home as a young teenager.
As a child in Europe I was always drawn to the archaeological tourist sites and my imagination was completely captured by the societies of the ancient Mediterranean, so after completing high school in Auckland, I returned to the UK to do my BA in Ancient History at Durham University. It was here that I encountered coinage as a source and numismatics as a field for the first time and I was hooked. I was and still am greatly drawn to a type of evidence that everyone got to interact with – ancient literature, as one example of the alternative, is by the educated (men) for the educated (men) but in a coined society everyone interacts with coinage somehow.
After completing that degree I undertook a Masters, also in Ancient History on the intercollegiate programme at University College London, in conjunction with Kings College London, Royal Holloway University of London, and the Institute of Classical Studies. During this time my focussed narrowed to coinages of the Hellenistic period, specifically the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and I wrote my MA thesis on the role played by coinage portraits in the establishment of visual legitimacy propaganda by the first two Ptolemaic kings. This research was aided by simultaneous work experience in the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum.
I finished this work in the first months of the pandemic and returned to New Zealand, where I was a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland for a year expanding my MA thesis, and where I also worked in industry research for a large architecture practice. I mention this because it perhaps inadvertently inspired some of my approaches to my current research. The discourse on executing the theory behind functional bicultural design in New Zealand’s public buildings contains significant debate over how to and whether to reconcile the recent colonial past with the older indigenous history of the country. In Ptolemaic discourse, academics have argued for some time over how to approach a similar framing issue for the society. Is Ptolemaic Egypt the result of Greek colonialism or the maintenance of Egyptian tradition? Or should it, as I tend to think, be considered its own culture, inspired by the myriad of historic influences but not intentionally aiming to be one specific one. I hope that my PhD will have the opportunity to expand on this approach, specifically in regards to the changes in economic and numismatic infrastructure in the early part of the period. It is accepted that the introduction of widespread coinage happened comparatively quickly, and I will investigate whether that statement is as accurate as is accepted as well as why it was or wasn’t quick. What was it about the existing socio-economic contexts that allowed and accepted such economic upheaval on a private and public level.
I am delighted to join the Institute for History as a postdoc in the framework of the “Anchoring Innovation” program.
I was born in Athens, where I graduated with a BA in Archaeology and History of Art. It was there that I was initiated into Greek epigraphy. I vividly remember my impression after finishing the first facsimile and the transcription of a fourth-century Attic inscription, which made me feel deeply the meaning of the famous aphorism “saxa loquuntur”! I was captivated by the animate capacity of the inscribed objects to directly transmit fragments of the memory of the past and tell stories about collective and individual lives.
I continued my studies at the University of Toulouse for a Master’s degree in Classics with a specialization in Ancient History. My MA dissertation was about a sociological analysis of Isis and Sarapis devotees in Hellenistic Egypt through the epigraphic testimonies in the Greek language. During the years I spent in Toulouse, the opportunity to benefit from a strongly interdisciplinary curriculum, that equally combined Philology, Archaeology and History, helped me to realize how important it is to shun disciplinary division of knowledge and fade out research fragmentation along discipline-specific lines.
After studying Archival Science and Digital Humanities for another year in Toulouse, with a special focus on digital methods applied to the valorization of scientific archives, I enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Strasbourg. My PhD thesis focused on a global and connected history of the Sarapis cult in Hellenistic Egypt (332–30 BCE). Standing in the tradition of the recent historiographical shifts in Hellenistic studies, which rightly reject analyses conducted solely from the perspective of Greek sources while ignoring the indigenous perspective, the dissertation sought to jointly mobilize inscriptions and papyri, both in Greek and Egyptian Demotic, literary testimonies, and numismatic, iconographic, and architectural evidence, to unveil and decipher on macro- and micro-historical levels the intersecting parameters regulating the intercultural encounters, interactions, and transfers that led to the establishment and development of a divine power.
The doctoral study program allowed me to enhance my skills in deciphering the residual writings of past people, now preserved on papyri, and expand my knowledge of ancient languages with courses in Middle Egyptian, Demotic, and Coptic. The PhD experience, as well as a collaborative research project on food provisioning and consumption in Egypt’s Eastern Desert during the Graeco-Roman period in which I had the opportunity to participate prior to moving to the Netherlands, further made me aware of how challenging but first and foremost beneficial it is to learn and conduct research in a multi- and transdisciplinary environment.
The project that just started at Leiden University expands on one of the PhD research’s main axes. It seeks to investigate, in the light of the epigraphic, papyrological, and iconographic evidence, the Egyptian priests’ agent-centered anchoring strategies into the political and cultural landscapes of the Graeco-Macedonian power. Special focus is put on the reframing of the Greek honor system, as well as on the priestly means and motivations for shaping and adapting features of the Hellenistic political koinē, following patterns, practices, and beliefs handed down from the Pharaonic past.
I am excited about the opportunity to conduct research and learn alongside Leiden University’s international academic community, and wish to build as many synergies as possible!