HelRAW: David Fredrick 4.4.2022

The Helsinki Research on the Ancient World (HelRAW) is a monthly research seminar. HelRAW is organized by the SpaceLaw project together with the Digital Grammar of Greek Documentary Papyri (PapyGreek) project.

4.4.2022 at 17.15 (UTC+2)

U4075 (Unioninkatu 34, 4th floor, Older side of the Main Building)



Meeting ID: 691 3070 0271

Passcode: 645095


David Fredrick (University of Arkansas): Narcissus and the Happy Inch: Using Space Syntax and Real-Time 3D to Rethink the Power-House in Pompeii


In a ground-breaking article in 1988, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill declared, "His house was a power-house," by "his" meaning the dominus, the elite male owner of the property. In this piece and the subsequent Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum (1994), Wallace-Hadrill developed his argument that Roman houses were articulated along two axes: private-public and grand-humble. The apex of space and decoration lay in the private-grand rooms, which brought visitors into the most intimate contact with the dominus, in the most impressive settings. Wallace-Hadrill's reading of the Roman house remains dominant in 2022, in part because it coincided with the emergence of the penetrator-penetrated binary model of Greek and Roman sexual and social relations, based on the work of Dover and Foucault. Combining an updated form of Space Syntax analysis (arcGIS, Gephi, Unity) with a fresh look at erotic compositions in private-grand spaces (Unity, webGL), this presentation argues that the house was indeed a power-house, but with a markedly decentralized spatial network. There are typically multiple significant nodes and pathways for movement and information flow, pointing to the importance of multiple agents beyond the dominus, including wives and enslaved household members. This is consistent with literary evidence (Apuleius, Cicero, Juvenal, Petronius) that points to the agency of the "penetrated," suggesting that the Roman house, in its space and decoration, constructs not just the power of the dominus, but the more clandestine social networks and power of inhabitants often viewed as passive. This has tantalizing connections with gender queer erotic compositions in wall painting that combine female characteristics with semi-erect or erect penises: Adonis, Cyparissus, Endymion, Hermaphroditus, and Narcissus. These compositions will be analyzed for their spatial contexts using 3D reconstructions developed in the game engine Unity. The presentation closes with a reconsideration of the Warren Cup and sexual/social agency in the context of private-grand domestic space.


An Associate Professor in Classical Studies, Prof. Fredrick directed the Tesseract Center for Game Design at the University of Arkansas from 2014-2021, and is currently working to build a new Digital Humanities and Game Design Studio in the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Through Tesseract, he directed the production of video games and interactive visualizations for teaching and research, with projects that include modeling space and movement in ancient Pompeii, Native American languages and culture, experiences of captivity, trauma, and resilience in the Arkansas Delta during WWII, and the emergence of Black institutions in early 19th-century Brooklyn. In 2015, Tesseract's interactive gallery application for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art received a Golden Muse Award from the American Alliance of Museums, and in 2021 Mornin' in Your Eyes, a video game developed to teach Civil Rights history, received a Silver Award in the Serious Games competition. In 2013, Fredrick received the Excellence in Teaching award from the Honors College of the University of Arkansas; in 2004 he received the national Excellence in Teaching award from the American Philological Association, now the Society for Classical Studies.