- Roman History
I received my undergraduate degree (1983) from University College, Oxford, where I studied ancient history and classical literature (Greats), and my PhD (1993) in ancient history from the University of Pennsylvania, where I was a student of Robert E. A. Palmer. I taught at Franklin and Marshall College (Lancaster, PA) from 1994 (where I shared a job with my husband, Michael Flower) until I moved to Princeton in 2003. 2010 is my first year as Master of Mathey College, one of six residential colleges for undergraduates at Princeton.
My research has tended to focus broadly on the somewhat interrelated topics of spectacle and memory in Roman culture. My first book Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture (Oxford, 1996, paperback 1999) was the first monograph to explore the nature and influence of the Roman custom of making bees’ wax masks (imagines) of politicians who had held the office of aedile or higher. These masks, stored and labeled in small cupboards in the atrium of the Roman house and paraded at funerals (first of the person depicted and then of his relatives), were potent symbols of power both in their own right and in relation to a rich iconography of other prestigious items. My discussion collects all the evidence and analyzes the use of these masks, and their associated inscriptions and funeral speeches, by Romans from early times to Late Antiquity. Consequently, my book explores how social and political prestige was represented and communicated by leading Roman families, within the specific context of an élite defined by election to political office.
In 2006 I published The Art of Forgetting: Disgrace and Oblivion in Roman Political Culture (Chapel Hill, NC, paperback 2011). This second book examines a wide range of practices of erasure, disgrace, and denigration, which modern historians have tended to collect under the label of damnatio memoriae (an expression not used by the Romans in antiquity). My study elucidates the complex nuances and frequent self-contradictions to be found in Roman thought and custom, ranging from early times to the death of Hadrian. The Roman community and its leaders were frequently torn between the desire to forget a traitor or a “bad” emperor and the competing need to hold that same person up as a negative example of warning. As a result, I have argued that both commemoration and erasure of the past were central to Roman society, and that each practice evolved as republican politics gave way to a system of one-man rule.
In recent years I have concentrated more on the republican period. 2010 saw the publication of Roman Republics (Princeton), a succinct study of periodization and its implications for the study of republican politics in Rome. In this book, I argue against a single Roman Republic (509 to 49 or 31 BC) and in favor of a different scheme of multiple republics within this time period. Multiple republics imply a whole series of new beginnings and endings, as well as periods of transition or dictatorship. However, my aim is not to establish my model (of six republics) as the new orthodoxy, but rather to encourage debate and a more flexible use of periodization to meet the needs of a variety of different historical analyses.
I am working on a large-scale project on life in the local neighborhoods (vici) of the city of Rome during the republican period. As part of this broader study of community life in the ancient metropolis, I am presently writing a monograph on neighborhood shrines and the popular local cult of the lares compitales. This book will use the rituals and iconography of the typically Roman deities, the lares and the genius, as a case study to investigate the nature of traditional Roman religion and of the roles of ordinary citizens, freedmen, and slaves in local religious ritual and practice both in Rome and other cities.
I regularly teach undergraduate courses on Roman history and Latin literature at all levels. I have taught graduate courses on Roman republican culture, Latin epigraphy, Roman religion, the fragmentary historians of the Roman Republic, and the city of Rome in Antiquity. In the spring of 2011 I will be teaching the department’s new graduate level pro-seminar on Roman history.
1. Roman Republics
2. The Art of Forgetting: Disgrace and Oblivion in Roman Political Culture (Studies in the History of Greece and Rome)
3. Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture
4. The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic (Cambridge Companions to the Ancient World)
5. East & West: Papers in Ancient History Presented to Glen W. Bowersock (Loeb Classical Library)