Roman Republicanism and its Spatial Manifestations 20.5.2019

"Roman Republicanism and its Spatial Manifestations" workshop, 20 May 2019, Konsistori Hall (room 2002), Fabianinkatu 33, 00170 Helsinki

You can read the abstracts of the presentations the abstracts of the presentations (pdf, opens in a new tab).


9.20-9.30 Welcome and opening words: Kaius Tuori

9.30-10.45 Session 1

Chair: Samuli Simelius

9.30-10.15 Daniel Gargola (University of Kentucky): Time, Place, and Public Activity

10.15-10.45 Kaius Tuori (University of Helsinki): Defining the Citizen Body: the Census, Villa Publica and the Spaces of Citizenship

10.45-11.15 Coffee break

11.15-12.30 Session 2

Chair: Kaius Tuori

11.15-12.00 Aglaia McClintock (Università degli Studi del Sannio di Benevento): Scales and Weighing as Metaphor of Justice in Rome

12.00-12.30 Vesa Heikkinen (University of Helsinki): The Republican Soul and the Citizen Body – an Anthropological Framework of Public Activity

14.00-15.15 Session 3

Chair: Vesa Heikkinen

14.00-14.45 Kit Morrell (University of Amsterdam): Space, Law, and Civil War

14.45-15.15 Antonio Lopez Garcia (University of Helsinki): The Tribunals in the Imperial Fora

15.15-15.45 Coffee break

15.45-16.45 Session 4

Chair: Antonio Lopez Garcia

15.45-16.15 Samuli Simelius (University of Helsinki): Architecture of Roman Administration: Transformation from Public to Private?

16.15-16.45 Anna-Maria Wilskman (University of Helsinki): From Honour to Dishonour: the Negative Connotations of Monuments

16.45-17.15 Coffee break

17.15-18.00 Session 5

Chair: Anna-Maria Wilskman

Louise Hodgson: Partes Regni: Part and Whole in Livy's First Decade


Daniel Gargola: Time, Place, and Public Activity

Augustine (CD 6.3) praised the great antiquarian M. Terentius Varro for organizing his Human and Divine Antiquities “with the most subtle discrimination” in terms of “those who perform, where they perform, when they perform, and what they perform” (qui agant, ubi agant, quando agant, quid agant). The surviving fragments of Varro’s works reveal a great variety of norms tied to some office, priesthood, cult, or public activity, many of which were framed in just these terms. In this, Varro was not alone. Surveys of surviving Roman works of history, jurisprudence, and antiquarian scholarship reveal a wide range of proposed norms. When we can see them, rules are often narrowly focused and quite specific, and with the exception of those set out in antiquarian works, they rarely specify the purposes behind them.  Among the scattered fragments, one regularly encounters rules, some apparently quite old, that were set forth just as Varro did, linking actors and action with times and places.

This presentation will examine some of these spatial and temporal norms.  The times in question were set out in the civic calendar of republican Rome, which was an unusually complicated one, for it not only identified days on which significant rites were to be performed, but also those that were available, or unavailable, for certain public activities. The places in question are the comitium and the adjacent forum Romanum. Provisions in the Twelve Tables reveal that its authors had sought to match activities in the comitium to specific divisions within the day. This presentation will argue that by the end of the fourth century, Romans also sought to regulate the day by day use of these spaces and that this process established the basis for one of the most distinctive features of the republican calendar.

Vesa Heikkinen: The Republican Soul and the Citizen Body – an Anthropological Framework of Public Activity

Relying largely on the work of Hannah Arendt, this paper will attempt to outline a simple framework of the spheres of human activity, in which the ‘classical’ spheres of private and public are tentatively reconciled with the ‘modern versions’, namely intimate and social. The eternal anthropological issue of humans as both biological animals and rational beings, along with the matter of individual and collective existence will be aligned to provide a diagrammatic starting point for the definition of public as ‘rational plurality’ – moreover defining private, social, and intimate as ‘rational unity’, ‘animal plurality’, and ‘animal unity’, respectively.

Having thus delineated a conception of public, the paper will then proceed to sketch out a metaphorical picture of public space, developing the argument that no physical space can as such be considered public in the sense of the word outlined here, as the necessary element of physically accessible space requires in addition ‘the rational plurality’ of people in their public mode of being. While physical space in the Roman republic frequently included features that served as cues for citizens to ‘act publicly’, the main argument here is that the essential component of public space emerges ‘between the ears’, i.e. in the human mind.

The nature of the presentation here is that of an ‘idea paper’, and the goal is to gauge reactions and receive feedback with a view toward potential further elaboration and development.

Louise Hodgson: Partes Regni: Part and Whole in Livy's First Decade

The first ten books of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita feature a populus in flux, cycling through different forms of government and struggling with internal conflict. A close look at how Livy uses pars here to label different parts of the populus is revealing for how Livy thinks about the shape of the Republican political landscape. This in turn sheds light on the work of a later writer profoundly influenced by Livy: Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy’s First Decade, and in particular his ideas on party conflict.

Antonio Lopez Garcia: The Tribunals in the Imperial Fora

One of the most eloquent manifestations of Roman republicanism is found in the tribunalia. The space dedicated to justice is frequently mentioned in some sources from the Republican era and the High Imperial period. Nevertheless, their study has often been neglected from the physical point of view, as a consequence of the lack of tangible elements archaeologically. We know that in the Republican era the main courtrooms were built with ephemeral materials in the area of the Roman Forum. In the imperial era, the tribunals moved to the Forum of Augustus, where both praetor urbanus and praetor peregrinus were established. During the reign of Trajan and Hadrian those spaces were relegated and replaced by the Forum of Trajan and some adjacent sites, such as the auditoria found in Piazza della Madonna di Loreto, which represent one of the few examples of architecture linked to justice in Rome. In this paper I will discuss about the different spaces used by judicial magistrates during the Imperial era and until Late Antiquity.

Aglaia McClintock: Scales and Weighing as Metaphor of Justice in Rome

Scales are perhaps the most ancient symbol of divine and human justice common to all the Mediterranean area from Babylon to Egypt, from Greece to Etruria. The metaphor of weighing played an important role in conceptualizing justice also in ancient Rome.

In the most ancient Roman contracts (i.e. the negotia per aes at libram) scales were a necessary and unescapable formality, therefore the instrument was always linked to private law and to the many uses of the mancipatio as selling, marrying, making a will, freeing a son from patria potestas, or guaranteeing a debt. We find evidence of scales’ explicit connection with the magistrates’ public office starting from the crisis of the republic. During the imperial age scales are an attribute of a Greek goddess, Nemesis, adopted by the emperors to represent the supremacy of imperial courts (cognitio extra ordinem) on republican courts and private jurisdictions.

Kit Morrell: Space, Law, and Civil War

Concern with procedural correctness is a characteristic feature of the Roman republic. This was a matter not only of rules but also of spaces, whether physically or religiously defined. Tellingly, concern with correct procedure endured even in civil war, a condition normally associated with the breakdown of law (e.g. Mouritsen 2017, 1–3). The spatial dimension, however, created particular challenges when the res publica was divided physically as well as politically. This paper examines some procedural difficulties encountered by the combatants in the civil war of 49 BCE (especially the ‘government in exile’) and what their responses can tell us about the importance of space and legality in republican Rome.

Following Caesar’s invasion of Italy in January 49, Pompey and the consuls ordered the senate and magistrates to leave first Rome and then Italy, on the premise ‘that they themselves were the senate and would maintain the form of the government wherever they should be’ (Dio 41.18.5). The number of senators and magistrates assembled in Thessalonica lent legitimacy to the to the republican side; however, separation from the regular spaces of government presented serious obstacles. The senate, it seems, was essentially portable: Pompey’s edict had authorised the senators’ absence from Rome (Dio 41.6.2), and they inaugurated a templum where the senate could formally convene (Dio 41.43.2 with Catalano 1978, 500-1). However, the republicans did not hold elections for 48 because the consuls had not secured the lex curiata (so Dio 41.43.3), and apparently could not do so in Thessalonica; perhaps also because an ancient plebiscite forbade convening the populus away from Rome (Liv. 7.16.7). Modern scholars have proposed political reasons as well, but the ‘official’ reason given deserves to be taken seriously (cf. Driediger-Murphy 2014) and was essentially connected with space.

Samuli Simelius: Architecture of Roman Administration: Transformation from Public to Private?

The Roman Republic is usually interpreted to end at beginning of the era of Augustus. However, the republic – or res publica – was still, at least 300 years, an important concept in the Roman world and the emperors tried to act, as Rome was a republic – at least in some level. Consequently, the signs of this change of regime is often seen to occur in the areas that does not straightforwardly relate to ruling or governance. One area where this type of interpretation is commonly accepted is architecture of legal and administrative space. The scholarship has interpreted the evidence of architecture to reflect a change in these venues: with the Imperial governance, these functions moved from public space to private – or at least semi-private. This paper will take a critical view on this assumption and examine archaeological material and literature, and how this possible change is visible in the data. It will examine both the public venues, such as fora and bassilicae, and the private property, the domus and the villae, as possible models of the Imperial palaces. Did the Imperial architecture copy the public space, which is often seen as a symbol of the Republic, or did it imitate the private space, which is often interpreted as a symbol of autocracy? What is the (possible) time frame, when this type of change – from public to private – can be seen occurring in the buildings of Roman administration?

Kaius Tuori: Defining the Citizen Body: the Census, Villa Publica and the Spaces of Citizenship

The Roman citizenship was reinforced with the act of the professio, the ceremonial census in which the citizen body was surveyed by the censors, determining their eligibility for military service as well as their rank, both regarding public office and inclusion in the higher orders. The purpose of this paper is to explore the spatial dimension of the census and its place in the imaginary of the Roman Republicanism. Beginning from Varro’s depiction of the Villa Publica, the location of the census, it analyses how the symbolic and functional uses of space were intertwined. It seeks to demonstrate how the census, from the locations where it was executed to the magistrates, the censors, performing it and the citizen records themselves, were a manifestation of the role of citizenship and the performative aspects that celebrated its exclusiveness and its role in the social and political cohesion.

Anna-Maria Wilskman: From Honour to Dishonour: the Negative Connotations of Monuments

The Republican Rome was filled with statues, inscriptions and buildings celebrating the victories and high deeds of individuals. Together with the persons they commemorated, these monuments could become examples of valour and ideals. This paper deals with the changes that some of the Republican monuments underwent in their symbolic value, and how could spaces serve both as places of honour to some and places of humility to others. The theme will be approached through the case of Columna Maenia. The controversial column was erected in honour of C. Maenius’ victory over the Latins, but it also served as a place to post the names of delinquent debtors. In addition, the column is mentioned as a working station of the triumviri capitales, and therefore it served as a place of administration, and even that of violence through punishing disobedient slaves. The nature of this presentation is ‘idea paper’, and it is connected to the wider theme concerning the visibility of Roman minor magistrates.