Senses of the Empire: Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture

TitleSenses of the Empire: Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2017
EditorBetts, E
Number of Pages232 pp.
ISBN 9781472446299 (hbk); 9781315608358 (ebook)

The Roman empire afforded a kaleidoscope of sensations. Through a series of multisensory case studies centred on people, places, buildings and artefacts, and on specific aspects of human behaviour, this volume develops ground-breaking methods and approaches for sensory studies in Roman archaeology and ancient history. Authors explore questions such as: what it felt like, and symbolised, to be showered with saffron at the amphitheatre; why the shape of a dancer’s body made him immediately recognisable as a social outcast; how the dramatic gestures, loud noises and unforgettable smells of a funeral would have different meanings for members of the family and for bystanders; and why feeling the weight of a signet ring on his finger contributed to a man’s sense of identity. A multisensory approach is taken throughout, with each chapter exploring at least two of the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The contributors’ individual approaches vary, reflecting the possibilities and the wide application of sensory studies to the ancient world. Underlying all chapters is a conviction that taking a multisensory approach enriches our understanding of the Roman empire, but also an awareness of the methodological problems encountered when reconstructing past experiences. []


BMCR 2017.12.20 Ursula Quatember

Table of Contents

Introduction: SensesofEmpire, Eleanor Betts
Chapter 1 The Sounds of the City: from Noise to Silence in Ancient Rome, Ray Laurence
Chapter 2 The Multivalency of Sensory Artefacts in the City of Rome, Eleanor Betts
Chapter 3 Beyond Smell: the Sensory Landscape of the Roman fullonica, Miko Flohr
Chapter 4 Soundscape of the Street: Architectural Acoustics in Ostia, Jeffrey Veitch
Chapter 5 Sensory Archaeologies: a Vindolanda Smellscape, Thomas J. Derrick
Chapter 6 A Sense of Grief: the Role of the Senses in the Performance of Roman Mourning, Valerie M. Hope
Chapter 7 Blood, Fire and Feasting: The Role of Touch and Taste in Graeco-Roman Animal Sacrifice, Candace Weddle
Chapter 8 Babes in Arms? Sensory Dissonance and the Ambiguities of Votive Objects, Emma-Jayne Graham
Chapter 9 All That Glitters: Roman Signet Rings, the Senses and the Self, Ian J. Marshman
Chapter 10 Tuning into the Past: Methodological Perspectives in the Contextualised Study of the Sounds of Roman Antiquity, Alexandre Vincent
Chapter 11 Motion Sensors: Perceiving Movement in Roman Pantomime, Helen Slaney
Chapter 12 Scents of Place and Colours of Smell: Fragranced Entertainment in Ancient Rome, Jo Day
Afterword: Towards a Methodology for Roman Sensory Studies, Eleanor Betts

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