UCL History Middle East Travel Fund supports PhD research trip to Turkey

22 July 2019

We spoke to PhD student Cristina Gonzalez Mestre about her recent research trip to western Turkey, which was funded by the Middle East Travel Fund.

Turkey research trip

Tell us a little bit about your PhD and research topic?

I am researching the development of Macedonian military settlements in western Asia Minor during the Hellenistic period with a particular focus on epigraphy and topography. I want to understand how and to what extent the Macedonian soldiers that Alexander’s Successors settled in Asia Minor changed the cultural and political landscape and how Macedonian identity has transformed and perceived in this time and place.

Why did you decide to research this topic?

I have always been interested in Macedonia and its army – I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the sarissa and my MA dissertation (here at UCL) on the Macedonian infantry, and being able to apply the knowledge I gained researching this to a different geographical area seemed very interesting. Moreover, I find fascinating researching the history of “little people”, not the great generals or dynasts but the anonymous soldiers that lived and settled down in Asia Minor, and there is no better way to access their daily lives than through epigraphy. Not much has been done on Macedonian military settlements in western Asia Minor and I believe there is much work to be undertaken regarding inscriptions from this period.

Why was your trip to Turkey so important for this topic and what will the impact be on your research?

One of the main chapters of my thesis deals with the topography of the settlements – to properly understand their significance and their role in Hellenistic history, one must understand where they were located and why had those locations been chosen. It is a defining factor when looking into inscriptions, it is impossible to understand the complex underlaying relationships between all these small habitation centres if one does not look at maps. But maps alone are not enough (although I am extremely grateful to Google Maps and all its applications). Autopsy is necessary to take in distances, landscapes, farming… I had to travel to Turkey, to these tiny hidden villages, to understand what kind of locations I was dealing with.

How did the UCL PGR Research Fund support your trip?

The villages I had to visit for my research, where military settlements once stood – which we know through epigraphic findings, as no remains stand today – are very hard, if not impossible, to reach with public transport. To make my job easier and safer, both for me and for my companion, I had to hire a car with a driver that could not only take us to these remote places but also help us communicate with the locals, who only spoke Turkish, and the UCL PGR Research Fund was especially helpful in funding this part of the trip, as well as the plane tickets to get to Izmir and the entrance to museums and epigraphic collections in the provinces of Manisa and Izmir.

Looking forward, what are the next steps for your research?

I have over 3000 photographs to classify, so I expect that will be the first step! Many landscapes to consider. There is much I have to reflect up after my trip, as being there in person has helped me make up my mind about certain points I was not too sure before, and now I must see how to put forward an argument in my research. Unfortunately, one of the key museums I wanted to visit is closed for refurbishment and will not open until January, so maybe I will have to plan a second trip next year, but for now I will look back on all the information that I have gathered and finally be able to finish my chapter on the topography of the settlements.

Turkey research trip