Roman identity in the city of Rome

TUESDAY 28 MAY 18.00–19.30 

Olivia Elder (BSR; Cambridge)

This lecture asks what it meant to be or become ‘Roman’ in ancient Rome, pursuing two different ways to answer this question. I first take a wider view, considering the diverse groups that moved to and made up the ancient city, the impact they had on the cityscape, and the consequences of this for the nature of Romanness there. I then narrow my focus to evaluate the semantic category ‘Roman’ in ancient literature and inscriptions, asking how, and how far, ancient definitions of ‘Roman’ map onto modern categories of Romanness and Roman identity. This analysis reveals competing definitions of ‘Roman’ – ethnic, cultural, legal, geographical. These complex ancient debates about the meaning of the category ‘Roman’ make us rethink the place of different groups and of different attributes (language, citizenship, origin) in modes of Romanness within the ancient city.