Romanisation without Rome. A long-term, Afro-Eurasian perspective on connectivity, objects and change
"Romanisation without Rome. A long-term, Afro-Eurasian perspective on connectivity, objects and change" by Miguel John Versluys
Most scholars would now probably argue that Romanisation is more an obstacle than a help in understanding the Roman past. The Romanisation-debate from previous decades has shown that this primarily has to do with the fact that the concept locates the agency for change with Rome. In (archaeological) reality, however, transformation never looks that simple and one-sided. Moreover, it remains notoriously difficult to define what we exactly mean when we say ‘Rome’.
In this lecture, therefore, I will try to think about Romanisation without Rome and focus on the emergence of the Roman Empire and its consolidation by the first emperor Augustus. It is crystal-clear that this period (roughly 250 BCE – CE 15) saw massive changes as well enduring innovations that define us until the present-day. I will try to locate the agency for these changes differently than is normally done. Instead of Roman generals with their culture and imperialism, I will turn towards the power of the Afro-Eurasian network as it had been building up over the first millennium BCE. Instead of people as the only protagonists of the story, I will turn towards objects and human-thing entanglement. Is it possible to understand Romanisation as a consequence of Afro-Eurasian network power that has objects as the main agents provocateurs of historical change?
Miguel John Versluys is Full Professor in Classical and Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Leiden. He obtained his PhD degree from Leiden University in 2001 for a study of images of Egypt in Roman visual material culture and, in broader terms, the meaning of Aegyptiaca Romana. Currently he is heading the NWO-funded VICI project "Innovating objects. The impact of global connections and the formation of the Roman Empire (ca. 200-30 BC)" (2016-2021) and, as one of its six main coordinators, the GRAVITATION program "Anchoring Innovation" funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2017-2027).