The new series of the journal aims at opening up Classical Antiquity to the whole Mediterranean, refreshingly not in the sense of mare nostrum, presenting the Roman perspective, but showing the multitude of cultural influences that have always characterised this region. It begins with a thematic issue on perfumed oil and immediately broadens the discussion with contributions ranging chronologically from the Bronze Age to late antiquity and covering Nubia, Egypt, the Near East and Greece. All this maintaining high quality in the presentation and the scientific rigour of papers.
The ambitious journal shows an intertwined world where no prefixed boundaries really apply. Mediterranean culture is extremely dynamic and this is captured by the papers, who appear to present each a fragment of unique past. Even focusing on a common theme, the vibrancy and different customs of the many Mediterranean cultures provide the opportunity to read the same story with different twists and endings all the time, each time fresh as it was the first time to be told. Most significantly, perfumed oil is not seen as a commodity being exchanged or consumed, but as a window into different places and cultures. The authors themselves hopefully will be inspired in using more liberally comparative approaches with cultural aspects outside their period or land of specialisation.
The Mediterranean has entered the third millennium at a period of crisis, with the Near East and northern Africa in flames and migrants risking their life for a new life. Yet, the Mediterranean is still a mystery, with present-day people at times unaware of the many cultural similarities due to the millenary interconnectedness and at times ignorant of the dangers of bringing together too fast people with sometimes opposite or markedly different ways of life. Antonella D’Ascoli in her editorial refers to this apparent contradiction of similarities bringing together and inflexible traditions. The Mediterranean is all but static, a riotous assembly of peoples and cultures ever changing, pure dynamism. Understanding it better is most rewarding even for us today, ignoring it catastrophic, as many wars in the past have proven. But that understanding need to be directed to the dynamics operating across the region and not on specific aspects. JIIA is on target to do just that.
By Dr Andrea Vianello (Oxford University)