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Becoming persons, becoming ancestors. Personhood, memory and the corpse in Roman rituals of social remembrance

  • Emma-Jayne Graham

This article examines the role of social memory and the treatment of the corpse within the reconfiguration of personhood in the Roman world. Exploring the significance of ‘remembering and forgetting’, it emphasizes the importance of memory and the body as a context for the manipulation of post-mortem personhood and identity. An extraordinarily rich collection of archaeological and epigraphic evidence associated with the Augustan-period senator Marcus Nonius Balbus provides an almost unparalleled context in which to explore the significance of these observations. This particular example from Herculaneum demonstrates that the realignment of relationships during mortuary activities could produce a new sense of personhood for both the deceased and mourners that was constructed in the context of communal remembrance. Subsequent commemorative activities, focused on the material manifestation of these relationships and the ‘dividuality’ of the dead within the urban fabric, may consequently have acted to promote a new civic ancestor for the community of Herculaneum.

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AE   L'Année épigraphique

CIL   Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum

ILS   Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae

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Archaeological Dialogues
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