Be sure to click over to the companion blog for information on presentations and discussion held in October 2010 at the Memoria Romana workshop, held at the American Academy in Rome.


Dear participants and memoria aficianados,

I’m pleased to report that a report of our conference will be forthcoming in the journal Henoch (Studies in Judaism and Christianity from Second Temple to Late Antiquity); and in the Italian revista Bollettino di studi latini.  Both will appear late in the fall; yours truly is at present crafting them for publication.

Thanks again for such a wonderful weekend of discussion, which I am now trying to put into (1500) words.

This was a highly successful conference–and we are not just patting ourselves on the back.   Doug and I expected the papers to be of high quality; after all, only 11 proposals out of 54 were accepted.  The result, however, surpassed our expectations.  As is clear from the abstracts, the papers ranged over a wide area of Roman civilization both in terms of chronology and topics.  The presentations were invariably superior, including the presenters’ adherence to the 20-minute limit, and accompanied by well chosen PPT or handout materials.  They generated a lot of discussion, including from our lively audience.  Many of the participants told us it was the best feedback they had received at any conference they had attended.

Some core issues were: how useful are some of the approaches of the “memory industry”?  Do they really bring something original and lasting to the table?  Is the elastic latitude of concepts like “cultural memory” too diffuse or a plus?  Where does “cultural memory” begin?  As always, it’s the process that is most valuable rather than fixed results.  Another plus is the lack of orthodoxies; inter alia, it makes for really constructive discussions.

Our thanks, then, once more to the participants and also to several of our graduate students who helped with the logistics of the conference.  All of these efforts created a wonderful atmosphere that was enhanced by two nice dinners and a Texas-style barbecue lunch on Saturday.

Last but not least, special thanks are due to Peter Wiseman and two top-notch IT crews at Exeter and UT.  His BA flight to Dallas, scheduled to depart at 11:40 AM on Thursday, was cancelled when Heathrow shut down at 11:30 because of the volcanic imbroglio.  Within a day, his presentation was recorded and placed on our web site from where it was projected on the two screens in the auditorium.  It worked beautifully, not in the least because Peter is such an engaging lecturer – people laughed and clapped (and all at the right time).  Similarly, Ed Richardson got stuck in London (and was replaced by Andrew Howard, who gave a superb paper in the Tomb of Scipios); Ed’s paper is available upon request (e.m.d.richardson@googlemail.com) and he would be happy to receive feedback.

All in all, super.  Stay tuned for publication plans.

Karl Galinsky

Dear conference participants and attendees,

We’re are pleased to announce that the keynote address by T. P. Wiseman, scheduled for Friday, 16 April, at 4 pm, will be delivered on time in MEZ 1.306 — by video up-link with the United Kingdom.

Professor Wiseman’s flight was canceled Thursday morning due to the presence of volcanic ash in the jet stream over London’s Heathrow airport. Fortunately, tech support at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Exeter stepped up nicely, and all systems are ready for the delivery of the keynote address from across the pond.

Our sincerest thanks to everyone who helped put this back-up plan into action.

Remember the Aventine: Memoria Renovata, Fama Nova, and the Creation of Cultural Geography
Lisa Mignone, Brown University

Texans remembered the Alamo; Rome’s plebeians recalled the Aventine.  With the latter as a case study, this paper explores the transformation of place into landmark: how does a space become imbued with ideological meaning and cultural memory?

Over the course of the early Republic, the Plebeian Secessions, that is, the plebeians’ repeated refusal to participate in military service, forced the renegotiation of governmental institutions.  Narratological references in Sallust, Livy, and Dionysius demonstrate the importance internal characters later placed on remembering these early Secessions.  They were more than mere exempla of the plebeians’ rigorous pursuit of justice; their recollection was an act of reanimation and a threat of present action.

This action, furthermore, was bound to a particular location.  According to extant historical sources, the three canonical Plebeian Secessions withdrew respectively to Mons Sacer, the Aventine and Mons Sacer, and the Janiculum.  Only one of these secessions is, in fact, historical: that of 287 BCE on the Janiculum.  Early tradition, furthermore, sited the first two Plebeians Secessions on Mons Sacer.  Yet it was the Aventine that came to be, and continues to be, inextricably linked to the Secessions and plebeian rights.  Why?

I argue that the key is the flight of Gaius Gracchus in 121 BCE.  As a lynch-mob pursued the tribune, he fled to the Aventine hill.  The usual interpretation insists that Gracchus reactivated the Plebeian Secessions to rally popular support.  I suggest instead that the notion of Aventine withdrawal was in fact retrojected as a false precedent for Gracchus’s flight.  Livy himself indicates the fiction’s ultimate source: the account of Calpurnius Piso, a known inimicus capitalis of Gracchus.

I thus suggest that stories authored by annalists in the second century were able not only to supplant those of oral tradition but also to transform Rome’s cultural landscape.

History as Memory: Remembering the Past in Republican Times

Ana Rodríguez Mayorgas, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

This paper will explore how the Romans viewed and conceptualized the knowledge of the past in the Roman Republic. With that purpose it will address the concepts of historia and memoria attested in Republican literature, in order not only to investigate their meaning, connotations and relationship but also to ascertain what they reveal of the historian’s task. It will be argued that despite the introduction of historical writing as a literary genre that transformed historical events into a linear narrative, the Romans continued framing the past in terms of memory as an oral recollection, that is to say, what people remembered about past facts.

Romans borrowed the term historia from the Greek language to name the rerum gestarum cognitio (TLL), which clearly indicates that there did not exist previously in Latin the idea of “historical account.” But what is of more significance, as this paper argues, is that in Rome historia is inextricably linked to the notion of writing, so that it designates, above all, a written narrative of historical events and becomes a synonym of “book of history.” Only in a few instances in Republican literature historia goes from meaning a particular report or narrative to cover the idea of all the past events of a people, a level of abstraction that approaches the term to our modern concept of history. However, it will be argued that memoria (always expressed in singular) is the term that Romans used to convey the global idea of what is known about the past stressing the notion of remembrance. The paper will conclude by pointing out the distinction between this conceptualization of the past and the modern idea of history.

To download a PDF of passages discussed, click here.

Augustan Reconstruction and Roman Memory
Eric Orlin, University of Puget Sound

This paper argues that the reconstruction of eighty-two temples by Augustus played a critical role in reshaping Roman memory and creating the possibility of a new Roman identity in the wake of the civil wars.  The Romans felt that there was a deep connection between place a memory, and Catharine Edwards and Alain Gowing have highlighted the ways in which this sense is evident both in their theoretical musings on the subject (see the Ad Herennium and Quintilian) and in the practical way in which the buildings in the city of Rome served simultaneously as monuments of the past.  Yet scholars have not sufficiently appreciated that the temples played an important role in this regard, for Roman temples served not only as sites for religious activity, but also as lieux de memoire, where memories of the events and men who had shaped the history of the Republic could be stored.  Augustus’ reconstruction of those temples thus allowed him to replace the connections of the original building with new assocations that commemorated the emperor and his family.  The effacement of the original temple in some instances was made more complete by shifting the date on which the temple was rededicated and thus the date on which the annual festivities would be held. The temple of Concordia Augustae and the temples in the area of the Porticus Octaviae provide illustrative examples of this phenomenon.   I argue that this reordering of Roman topographical and chronological state finctioned to direct attention away from the conquests and divisions of the Republic and toward the unifying figure of the emperor.