Cultural identity in central Apennine Italy: funerary practice and cult from the Archaic period to the Social War

Wednesday 15 June 2011 18.00

Rafael Scopacasa (BSR Ralegh Radford Rome Fellow / University of Exeter)

The communities of the central Apennines played a key role in the development of Republican Italy, but they did not leave written accounts about themselves. Greco-Roman texts describe these communities as ethnic units such as ‘Samnites’, which scholars have sought to identify in the archaeological record. But the classical accounts are much later compilations, and may have little to do with the identity of the peoples described. In this paper I approach the problem from the opposite direction, and discuss whether the communities described as Samnites existed as such, and if not, what groupings can we identify. By analysing patterns in cultural practice in a sample of funerary and cultic sites, I will form an idea of the larger socio-cultural spheres in which these communities moved between the sixth and second centuries BC. Although they may have acted together as an ethnic group at certain moments, these communities also acted independently and as part of fluid networks extending across the peninsula. This will contribute to changing the dominant view of pre-Roman Italy as set of static ethnic blocks.

Archaeology lecture