Community Organization and Imperial Expansion in a Rural Landscape: The Mani Peninsula (AD 1000-1821)
thesisposted on 18.10.2016, 00:00 by Rebecca M. Seifried
How do rural communities respond when empires and states attempt to rule them? This dissertation investigates the complex interactions between rural communities and expanding empires using the Mani Peninsula, Greece, as a multi-scalar case study. Between circa AD 1000 and 1821, the region was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Republic of Venice. Like many other rural regions on the edges of empire, Mani is difficult to categorize according to traditional core-periphery models; terms like “frontier” and “margin” hint at the complex negotiations that take place in these areas, but fall short of explaining what takes place within and between the communities that inhabit these spaces. My goal was to develop archaeological models for understanding how regional settlement patterns and community-scale social organization change during the process of imperial expansion. To do this, I recorded over 250 settlements via extensive survey, ground reconnaissance, and remotely-sensed imagery analysis, and I gathered historical data about the settlements from military registers and imperial tax records. I also mapped the entire pre-modern route network in order to investigate how the communities were physically connected. I analyzed the spatial distribution and of the settlements using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, and I modeled the visual and physical connections between the sites using social network analysis. My results suggest that the residents of Mani were relatively unaffected by the initial transition from Byzantine to Ottoman control in the 15th century. The greatest upheaval came later, when the Ottomans and Venetians were at war in the 17th century, and when the Ottomans re-conquered the Peloponnese soon after. In this later period of relative peace, the region was more closely integrated with the empire, yet local social organization shifted away from a community-based model to one that prioritized family defense and private property ownership.