Dr. Carolyn T. La Rocco
April 2023 - September 2023
Research Project: Prestige Architecture and Power in the Visigothic and Late Antique North African Capital Cities: A Comparative Analysis of Toletum, Reccopolis, and Carthage (5th-8th centuries CE)
My project will analyse how secular royal and aristocratic elites used architecture to legitimise their political and social power in the Iberian and North African capital cities of Reccopolis, Toletum, and Carthage from the sixth century through to the Islamic conquest of each. Comparison will better illuminate the role of prestige architecture in making post-Roman polities in the ‘long Late Antiquity’, improving our understanding of the lasting impacts of and decline in ‘Romanisation’ in Iberia and North Africa, and the context in which the Islamication of each occurred. My case studies will consider the archaeological, architectural, and historical evidence for key architectural features such as public buildings, defensive enceintes, and aqueducts. For each city, I will evaluate the presence, placement within the urban fabric, and materiality of new constructions, as well as spoliation or repurposing of earlier constructions. These are amongst the best preserved secular architecture of the period, and provided a crucial form of political communication between urban populations and their elites in the period. In the three capital cities, those responsible for new planning and construction were responding to the previously established social orders and architectural forms with which they were familiar, and developing their own strategies. Through commonalities and divergences in how these post-Roman polities emerged and consolidated themselves, we may analyse how their elites used their material environment as a form of political legitimation. The project’s focus will build on my PhD, which analysed topographic and social impacts of prestige architecture in late antique Iberia in a religious context.
Dr. Carolyn T. La Rocco, as a Wolfson Postgraduate Scholar in the Humanities, completed a PhD in Ancient History at the University of St Andrews examining the archaeological and historical evidence for the ‘Christianisation’ of the Iberian Peninsula, reconsidering the role of the episcopal and non-episcopal elites. During her PhD, she also taught ancient history, led workshops on Roman epigraphy, organised Classics conferences and seminar series, and presented her research on late Roman and Visigothic Iberia at e.g., Lived Spaces in Late Antiquity, the Oxford Byzantine Graduate Seminar, the Oxford Ancient Architecture Discussion Group, Seminario Internacional II Paisajes Arqueológicos del Monacato Primitivo en Occidente (ss. IV-VII), and the St Andrews/Tübingen Workshop: The First Millennium AD. Previously, she completed an MSt in Classical Archaeology at the University of Oxford, and an MLitt in Ancient History at St Andrews. She has also worked as an archaeological technician, trench supervisor, and archival researcher on various sites around the United States and Europe, in addition to working and/or volunteering at various archaeological digs, living history museums, and in the Heberden Coin Room at the Ashmolean Museum. She has carried out research stays in Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, and Georgia. In addition to her previous publications, Carolyn has several chapters and reviews forthcoming, and is currently in the process of reworking her PhD thesis for publication as a monograph.