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Borders, Territory and Nationality in the Ancient Near East and Armenia

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Examination of evidence from the ancient Near East spanning a period of more than a thousand years indicates the existence of conceptions of relatively precise boundaries, territories, and perhaps also nations. Of course, the bounded territorial relation constitutive of certain ancient collectivities was not based, in part, on a conception of citizenship derived from birth in the land as in many instances of the modern national state. Nonetheless, one is justified in recognizing in antiquity instances of a consciousness of a bounded, trans-local territorial relation and, thus, perhaps nationality. The evidence for the existence of various conceptions of such relations constitutive of respectively various collectivities in the ancient Near East is by no means limited to the complicated example of the nation of ancient Israel. There are a number of other examples among which are Edom, ancient Aram, and ancient Armenia. There is merit in considering the examples of Edom, Aram, and Armenia together, specifically in elucidating the problem of both the nature of our evidence and the categories, especially nationality, which we employ in examining that evidence.

Affiliations: 1: Villanova University


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