BSR Online Lecture | Invisible foreigners in Imperial Rome? Masking identities through cultural dress behaviour in funerary commemoration

WEDNESDAY 24 MARCH, 18.00–19.30 CET

Maureen Carroll (York)

This event will take place via Zoom and requires advance registration. Please click here to reserve your place.

As the capital city of a vast empire, ancient Rome attracted many foreign newcomers who lived and died here, some arriving voluntarily, others involuntarily. All of them will have spoken their own languages, at least when they first arrived, which would have made them stand out, and they will have been recognisable as ‘others’ physically by their skin colour and physiognomy, and most certainly by the clothes they wore, especially if they dressed in ethnic garments typical of the regions of their origin. While migrant identities in Rome have been studied on the basis of texts, language, and religion, the foreign ‘other’ in Rome is examined in this presentation by looking at clothing and dress behaviour, particularly in the context of funerary portraits. I suggest that there was no social advantage to being foreign or representing alterity in the empire’s capital and ethnic outsiders in Rome had everything to gain by embedding themselves in mainstream Roman society. Because they chose to follow the Roman cultural, civic, and moral model in attire and habitus when they portrayed themselves in death and for perpetuity, they remain ‘invisible’ foreigners.

Maureen Carroll is Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of York. Her key research interests are Roman burial practices, funerary commemoration, Roman childhood, and Roman gardens. She has been Balsdon Fellow and Hugh Last Fellow at the BSR, most recently (in 2016) investigating fertility-related votive dedications in early Roman Italy. She also led the British team on an EU-funded project (DressID) on Roman textiles and clothing, focussing on dress and identity in funerary portraits on the northern frontiers. She currently directs excavations at the Roman Imperial Estate at Vagnari in Puglia. Her books include Infancy and Earliest Childhood in the Roman World. ‘A Fragment of Time’; Spirits of the Dead. Roman Funerary Commemoration in Western Europe; and Earthly Paradises. Ancient Gardens in History and Archaeology. She has also edited several volumes including Infant Health and Death in Roman Italy and Beyond and Dressing the Dead in Classical Antiquity.