Ancient Art Council

Ancient Art Department

Ancient Art Council
Legion of Honor

100 34th Avenue, Lincoln Park
San Francisco, CA 94121

This lecture addresses the question of how ancient peoples conceived or expressed a sense of their own national identity. In the polyglot and multicultural world of the Mediterranean, the values and features that gave identity to a group were constantly in flux and evolving. The construct of a collective identity depends on distinguishing one’s own nation or culture from that of the “Other,” a form of denigration or demonization of the “alien” in order to establish distinctiveness and superiority. Such conceptualizing and stereotyping led Greeks to disparage “barbarians,” Jews to deprecate gentiles, Egyptians to scorn lesser societies, and Romans to presume divine sanction for subordinating all inferior peoples to themselves. The lecture, however, endeavors to see another side to this story and to tease out of the texts signs of a more open-minded attitude in which ancient peoples saw themselves as part of a larger cultural heritage, in which they stressed links with others and even couched their own historical memories in terms of a past (often legendary) borrowed or appropriated from other societies. That is what I term “identity theft.”

About Programs at the Ancient Art Council

Programs are varied and include such activities as lectures by noted archaeologists, museum curators, and ancient art historians; exclusive tours of the Museum’s permanent collection and special exhibitions; fund-raising events; and travel programs to ancient sites and other museums. Members also receive invitations from related organizations to attend lectures ad exhibition openings. Your annual membership dues and contributions will assist in furthering the Ancient Art collection at the Fine Arts Museums.



Identity Theft in the Ancient Mediterranean

Florence Gould Theater, Legion of Honor

Dr. Erich Gruen

Lecture is free and open to the public: Donations are always welcome


Explore the Ancient Art Council: Upcoming Events


The Saga of Queen Zenobia and the Oasis City of Palmyra


A New Look at Ancient Nubia: Magic and Mystery on the Nile


On the Road from Persepolis


Deciphering Demons: Underworld Figures in Egypt and Etruria

Thank you for helping us acquire our first Egyptian royal portrait—a carved limestone relief of Ptolemy I Soter

Ancient Art Council supports Antiquities at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.



Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave

This exhibition reveals how, before Mount Vesuvius blew up in AD 79 and rocked the Bay of Naples, people in Pompeii and nearby farms and villages were engaged in typical daily activities, many of which revolved around food and drink.

May 7, 2021 - August 29, 2021