Kyrtou plegmata: Networks of economy, power and knowledge in the Greek world from prehistoric times to the modern era

Documentation – mapping – synthetic approaches.

Institute of Historical Research / National Hellenic Research Foundation (Project “Krepis”, General Secretariat of Research and Technology, 2013-2015)

Kyrtou Plegmata, “weaves of the weel”; this is how Plato described the circulatory system that diffuses life and heat throughout the living bodies: (προσηκάζομεν τῷ τοῦ κύρτου πλέγματι, Timaeus 79d). Under this title the Institute of Historical Research of the National Hellenic Research Foundation proposes the survey of a series of economy, power and knowledge networks, developed in eastern Mediterranean and beyond throughout history.

The working hypothesis of the project is that the spatial dimension of the “Greek world” does not come as a simple result of historical expansions, dominations or the diaspora of the Greeks; that it is fluctuant and dynamic, and that it should be considered in relation to exchange, diffusion and communication within the wider framework of power relations and of economic and cultural activities. Under this perspective, the Greek spatial settings form a shifting geography, formed, re-formed and transformed in relation to the development of specific local or wide-ranging networks with a varied density of content and a diverse range of priorities. These networks are stimulated by economy, but gradually affect further expressions of society and culture. By opting for an interpretive approach based on network survey, our aim is to study, document and map the shaping and workings of a series of specific communication, diffusion and exchange patterns that developed historically within the area. It is a challenging approach, enabling a better understanding of the spatial dimensions of historical phenomena, and a novel perspective on the Greek presence within the wider political and cultural systems in the Mediterranean and beyond.

Under this perspective, the Greek spatial settings form a shifting geography, formed, re-formed and transformed in relation to the development of specific local or wide-ranging networks with a varied density of content and a diverse range of priorities. These networks are stimulated by economy, but gradually affect further expressions of society and culture.

By opting for an interpretive approach based on network survey, our aim is to study, document and map the shaping and workings of a series of specific communication, diffusion and exchange patterns that developed historically within the area. It is a challenging approach, enabling a better understanding of the spatial dimensions of historical phenomena, and a novel perspective on the Greek presence within the wider political and cultural systems in the Mediterranean and beyond.

Throughout the 24 months of the project’s duration, 42 targeted studies were carried out throughout the entire spectrum of Greek history, based on ongoing research projects at the Institute. These studies aim at documenting the workings of networks of communication, both by land and sea (WP1), of networks of economy and markets (WP2), of networks developed by lay and religious institutions (WP3), and, finally, the structure and function of networks of knowledge and culture (WP4). Mapping these selected and representative networks on a common GIS background (WP5), provides a valuable tool for the study of Greek spatial regimes throughout history, as well as a novel infrastructure of digital applications for the Institute of Historical Research.

The project’s open-access web portal (WP6) comprise databases for the 42 selected networks and a total of 247 thematic maps in an interactive atlas, a library of related original papers, and will soon include the proceedings of the international conference that took place from the 11th to the 13th of December 2015 titled Networks in History. From Antiquity to the Modern Era.

English