Skip to main content
×
×
Home

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

  • Emma-Jayne Graham
Abstract

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.

Copyright
References
Hide All

Abbreviations

AE   L'Année épigraphique

CIL   Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum

ILS   Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae

Barker, E.R., 1908: Buried Herculaneum, London.
Battaglia, D., 1990: On the bones of the serpent. Person, memory, and mortality in Sabarl Island society, Chicago.
Becker, M.J., 1988: The contents of funerary vessels as clues to mortuary customs. Identifying the os exceptum, in Christiansen, J. and Melander, T. (eds), Ancient Greek and related pottery. Proceedings of the 3rd Symposium, Copenhagen, 2532.
Becker, M.J., 1995: Human skeletal remains from the pre-colonial Greek emporium of Pithekoussai on Ischia (NA). Culture contact in Italy from the early VIII to the II Century B.C., in Christie, N. (ed.), Settlement and economy in Italy 1500 B.C.–A.D. 1500. Papers of the Fifth Conference of Italian Archaeology, Oxford, 273–81.
Bender, B., 2006: Place and landscape, in Tilley, C., Keane, W., Küchler, S., Rowlands, M. and Spyer, P. (eds), Handbook of material culture, London, 303–14.
Brück, J., 2001: Monuments, power and personhood in the British Neolithic, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 7, 649–67.
Brück, J., 2004: Material metaphors. The relational construction of identity in Early Bronze Age burials in Ireland and Britain, Journal of social archaeology 4, 307–33.
Bruni, S., 1997: La via Appia Antica. Gli scavi tra Settecento e Ottocento, in Regina, A. La, Morandi, D. and Bruni, S. (eds), Via Appia. Sulle ruine della magnificenza Antica, Milan, 2324.
Busby, C., 1997: Permeable and partible persons. A comparative analysis of gender and body in South India and Melanesia, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 3 (2), 261–78.
Campana, P., 1852: Di due Sepolcri Romani del secolo di Augusto scoperti tra la Via Latina e l'Appia presso la tomba degli Scipioni, Atti della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archaeologia 11, 259370.
Carbonara, A., Pellegrino, A. and Zaccagnini, R., 1999: Necropoli e territorio di Pianabella, in Pellegrino, A. (ed.), Dalle Necropoli di Ostia. Riti e Usi Funerari, Rome, 72105.
Carroll, M., 2006: Spirits of the dead. Roman funerary commemoration in Western Europe, Oxford.
Chapman, J., 2000: Fragmentation in archaeology, London.
Connerton, P., 2006: Cultural memory, in Tilley, C., Keane, W., Küchler, S., Rowlands, M. and Spyer, P. (eds), Handbook of material culture, London, 315–24.
Cubitt, G., 2007: History and memory, Manchester.
D'Ambra, E., 2002: Acquiring an ancestor. The importance of funerary statuary among the non-elite orders of Rome, in Højte, J.M. (ed.), Images of ancestors, Aarhus, 223–46.
Davies, P.J., 2000: Death and the emperor. Roman imperial funerary monuments, from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius, Cambridge.
De Kind, R., 1998: Houses in Herculaneum. A new view on the town planning and the building of Insulae III and IV, Amsterdam.
Devlin, Z., 2007: Remembering the dead in Anglo-Saxon England. Memory theory in archaeology and history, Oxford (BAR British Series 446).
Edwards, C., 1996: Writing Rome. Textual approaches to the city, Cambridge.
Favro, D., 1996: The urban image of Augustan Rome, Cambridge.
Fentress, J., and Wickham, C.J., 1992: Social memory, Oxford.
Foot, S., 1999: Remembering, forgetting and inventing. Attitudes to the past in England at the end of the first Viking age, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th Series 9, 185–200.
Fowler, C., 2001: Personhood and social relations in the British Neolithic with a study from the Isle of Man, Journal of material culture 6, 137–63.
Fowler, C., 2004: The archaeology of personhood. An anthropological approach, London and New York.
Frischer, B., 1982–83: Monumenta et Arae Honoris Virtutisque Causa. Evidence of memorials for Roman civic heroes, Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma 88, 5186.
George, M., 2005: Family imagery and family values in Roman Italy, in George, M. (ed.), The Roman family in the Empire. Rome, Italy, and beyond, Oxford, 3766.
Graham, E.-J., 2006: Death, disposal and the destitute. The burial of the urban poor in Italy in the late Roman republic and early empire, Oxford (British Archaeological Reports International Series 1565).
Graham, E.-J., 2009a (in press): From fragments to ancestors. Re-defining os resectum and its role in rituals of purification and commemoration in republican Rome, in Carroll, M. and Rempel, J. (eds), Living through the dead. Burial and commemoration in the classical world, Oxford.
Graham, E.-J., 2009b (in press): Memory and materiality. Re-embodying the Roman funeral, in Hope, V.M. and Huskinson, J. (eds), Memory and mourning. Studies on Roman death, Oxford.
Graham, E.-J., Chamberlain, A., and Sulosky, C., in prep.: A probable case of os resectum in a Romano-British cremation burial from Lincoln.
Grévin, G., 1997: La Cremation à l’époque Romaine. Un os resectum dans le monument funéraire de Marcus Nonius Balbus à Herculanum. Appendice, Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung (Bullettino dell'Istituto Archeologico Germanico, Sezione Romano) 104, 429–33.
Guadagno, G., 1978: Supplemento epigrapfico ercolonese, Cronache Ercolanesi 8, 132–55.
Hertz, R., 1960 (1907): Death and the right hand, translated by Needham, R. and Needham, C., London.
Hope, V.M., 1998: Negotiating identity and status. The gladiators of Roman Nîmes, in Laurence, R. and Berry, J. (eds), Cultural identity in the Roman Empire, London, 179–95.
Hope, V.M., 2000a: Contempt and respect. The treatment of the corpse in ancient Rome, in Hope, V.M. and Marshall, E. (eds), Death and disease in the ancient city, London, 104–27.
Hope, V.M., 2000b: Inscription and sculpture. The construction of identity in the military tombstones of Roman Mainz, in Oliver, G.J. (ed.), The epigraphy of death. Studies in the history and society of Greece and Rome, Liverpool, 155–85.
Hope, V.M., 2001: Constructing identity. The Roman funerary monuments of Aquileia, Mainz and Nimes, Oxford (BAR International Series 960).
Hope, V.M., 2007: Death in ancient Rome, London.
Jones, A., 2005: Lives in fragments? Personhood and the European Neolithic, Journal of social archaeology 5, 193224.
Jones, A., 2007: Memory and material culture, Cambridge.
Kirk, T., 2006: Materiality, personhood and monumentality in early Neolithic Britain, Cambridge archaeological journal 16 (3), 333–47.
Lindsay, H., 2000: Death-pollution and funerals in the city of Rome, in Hope, V.M. and Marshall, E. (eds), Death and disease in the ancient city, London, 152–73.
LiPuma, E., 1998: Modernity and forms of personhood in Melanesia, in Lambek, M. and Strathern, A. (eds), Bodies and persons. Comparative perspectives from Africa and Melanesia, Cambridge, 5380.
McKinley, J., 1997: Bronze Age ‘barrows’ and funerary rites and rituals of cremation, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 63, 129–45.
McKinley, J.I., 2000: Phoenix rising. Aspects of cremation in Roman Britain, in Pearce, J., Millett, M. and Struck, M. (eds), Burial, society and context in the Roman world, Oxford, 3844.
McKinley, J., 2006: Cremation . . . the cheap option? in Gowland, R. and Knüsel, C. (eds), Social archaeology of funerary remains, Oxford, 8188.
Messineo, G., 1995: Nuovi dati dalla necropoli tra Via Salaria e Via Pinciana, Archeologia Laziale XII 1, 257–66.
Messineo, G., 1999: Dalle necropoli del suburbio settentrionale di Roma, in Pellegrino, A. (ed.), Dalle Necropoli di Ostia. Riti ed Usi Funerari, Rome, 110–27.
Messineo, G., 2001: Dalle necropolis del suburbia settentrionale di Roma, in Heinzelmann, M., Ortalli, J., Fasold, P., and Witteyer, M. (eds), Römischer Bestattungsbrauch und Beigabensitten in Rom, Norditalien und den Nordwestprovinzen von der späten Republik bis in die Kaiserzeit (Culto dei morti e costumi funerari romani. Roma, Italia settentrionale e province nord-occidentali dalla tarda Repubblica all'età imperiale), Rome, 3545.
Mitchell, J.P., 2006: Performance, in Tilley, C., Keane, W., Küchler, S., Rowlands, M. and Spyer, P. (eds), Handbook of material culture, London, 384401.
Montalto Trentori, L., 1937–38: Scoperte archeologiche del secolo XVIII nella vigna di San Cesareo, Rivista dell'Istituto Nazionale d'Archeologia e Storia dell'Arte 6, 289–308.
Mustakallio, K., 2005: Roman funerals. Identity, gender and participation, in Mustakallio, K., Hanska, J., Sainio, H.-L. and Vuolanto, V. (eds), Hoping for continuity. Childhood, education and death in antiquity and the Middle Ages, Rome (Acta Instituti Romani Finlandiae 33), 179–90.
Nilsson-Stutz, L., 2003: Embodied rituals and ritualized bodies. Tracing ritual practices in late Mesolithic burials, Lund (Acta Archaeological Lundensia 46).
Pagano, M., 1996: La nuova pianta della città e alcuni edifici pubblici di Ercolano, Cronache Ercolanesi 26, 229–48.
Pappalardo, U., 1997: Nuove testimonianze su Marco Nonio Balbo ad Ercolano. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung (Bullettino dell'Istituto Archeologico Germanico, Sezione Romano) 104, 417–28.
Parslow, C.C., 1995: Rediscovering antiquity. Karl Weber and the excavation of Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae, Cambridge.
Rohde, G., 1942: Os resectum, in Paulys Real Encyclopëdie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft 18 (2), 1534–36.
Scheid, J., 2007: Körperbestattung und Verbrennungssitte aus der Sicht der schriftlichen Quellen, in Faber, A., Fasold, P., Struck, M. and Witteyer, M. (eds), Körpergräber des 1.–3. Jahrhnderts in der römischen Welt. Internationales Kolloquium Frankfurt am Main, 19.–20. November 2004, Frankfurt (Schriften des Archäologischen Museums Frankfurt 21), 1925.
Schumacher, L., 1976: Das Ehrendekret für M. Nonius Balbus aus Herculaneum, Chiron 6, 165–84.
Scullard, H.H., 1981: Festivals and ceremonies of the Roman republic, London.
Simon-Hiernard, D., 1987: Remarques sur le rite de l’os resectum, in Février, P.-A. (ed.), Nécropoles à incineration du haut-empire. Table ronde de Lyon, 1986, Lyon (Rapports archéologiques préliminaires de la région Rhone-Alpes 4), 9395.
Strathern, M., 1988: The gender of the gift, Berkeley.
Tanner, J., 2000: Portraits, power, and patronage in the late Roman Republic, Journal of Roman studies 90, 1850.
Thomas, J., 2000: Death, identity and the body in Neolithic Britain, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6, 653–68.
Van Dyke, R.M., and Alcock, S.E., 2003: Archaeologies of memory. An introduction, in Van Dyke, R.M. and Alcock, S.E. (eds), Archaeologies of memory, Oxford, 113.
Williams, H., 2003: Material culture as memory. Combs and cremation in early medieval Britain, Early medieval Europe 12 (2), 89128.
Williams, H., 2004: Potted histories. Cremation, ceramics and social memory in early Roman Britain, Oxford journal of archaeology 23 (4), 417–27.
Zevi, F., 1981: L'attività archeologica nelle provincie di Napoli e Caserta, Atti del XXI Convegno di studi sulla Magna Graecia, Naples, 325–58.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Archaeological Dialogues
  • ISSN: 1380-2038
  • EISSN: 1478-2294
  • URL: /core/journals/archaeological-dialogues
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed