An Interdisciplinary Research Project on Roman Monuments in Louisville, Kentucky

Professor Linda Maria Gigante
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In recent years Roman non elites have received considerable attention from Classicists in social history, philology, and art. These studies have been principally concerned with funerary monuments and epitaphs identifying slaves and former slaves. This evidence reveals the preoccupation in life of non elite Romans with their social and legal identities, for it was their funerary art and, in particular, their epitaphs which guaranteed them immortality.

The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky houses one of the largest collections of Roman funerary monuments in the US. They were purchased in Rome in 1911 by a prominent Louisvillian who donated them to the Museum in 1929. Ash urns, lamps and offering vessels, and hundreds of epitaphs had been removed from tombs in the late 1890s. The inscriptional evidence indicates that slaves, freed men and women, and members of their families were buried in these tombs.

This paper focuses on the Speed's collection and the ways in which it is currently being used to introduce Humanities students at the University of Louisville to Roman civilization. Through a hands-on study of the objects and research on topics like the role of the Roman family in funerary ritual, the students' understanding of Roman culture is being enriched. The culmination of their research is an on-campus exhibition of pieces from the collection. The students will work on designing the installation, write the explanatory texts, transcribe and translate the Latin inscriptions, and provide contextual information intended both to inform the viewer about the Romans' funerary customs and to prompt them to think about rituals of death in their own culture. The interdisciplinary nature of this endeavor is exposing the students to the many dimensions of Roman studies and is also enlightening them on the value of the Humanities to explicate the world in which they live.

Keywords: Classics, Roman funerary art, Roman slaves, Roman freedmen, Latin epitaphs
Stream: Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: New Life for Dead Romans

Professor Linda Maria Gigante

Associate Professor, Ancient Art and Humanities, Department of Fine Arts College of Arts and Sciences, University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Ref: H05P0206