Shaping Roman Identity

Self Perception and its Tensions in Ancient Biography


Lautaro R. Lanzillota (University of Groningen) []

Cláudia Teixeira (University of Évora, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies - Coimbra) []

The issue of Roman cultural identity, considered as a system of cultural representations and symbolic patrimonies historically shared by individuals within the same community, has been the subject of an intense scrutiny in the recent decades. From that scrutiny, two assumptions were established: firstly, that the concept of Roman identity results from multiple influences, namely from Greek and Italic cultures, which dynamically guided the construction of the Roman cultural identity over the times; secondly, that during the Empire, the renegotiation of identities was decisive  to enable the incorporation of groups of people with different cultural backgrounds in the Roman cultural community and to create a common identity culture.

The aim of this panel is to address the definition, in (auto)biographical texts, of the Roman identity, understood as the feeling of belonging to a community shared by the individuals that integrate it, framed by two main features: on the one hand, its essentialist claims, i.e. the values and reality «common to all», which entails the awareness of an existing border between the Romanity and the Other; on the other hand, its integrative feature, not only regarding the incorporation of groups of people with different cultural backgrounds in the Roman cultural community, but also regarding its own genesis, which combines from the outset, multiplicity and difference. 

The panel welcomes proposals addressing the concepts of culture, identity and identity culture in  (auto)biographical texts, regarding the two main perspectives listed above, this is: 1) papers focusing the representations created by these texts to define the core concept of Roman identity (i.e. how  Romans saw themselves), and the reference elements used to activate the identity culture (values, national heroes, emotions, sensibilities, etc.); 2) papers focusing on the tensions resulting from definition and redefinition of the notion of identity, that is, the evidence provided by biographical texts, regarding the assimilation and rejection of external influences and the way these influences were adopted in order to (re)define the concepts of identity, identity culture and Otherness.

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