The Spokane Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) has been hosting lectures on the topics of archaeology and ancient civilizations for over 60 years.
Each year a lecture series featuring local, national and international speakers is held on Wednesday nights at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Browne's Addition (2316 W. 1st Ave). All lectures begin promptly at 6:30 p.m., are FREE and open to the public. Some of the visiting AIA speakers also give a second lecture on the same or the following day on the Gonzaga campus; please see our "Upcoming Events" page for further details.
The AIA Spokane Society is on Facebook.
This series replaces the lecture series, "Revealing Pompeii: Its Past, Present and Future", originally scheduled In conjunction with Spokane’s Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture exhibition entitled "Pompeii, The Immortal City," The exhibition and associated lectures were impacted by the coronavirus. Learn more here.
Ancient DNA and Modern Plagues.
May 6, 2015
Dr. Viveka Vadyvaloo (Washington State University)
The ancient plague pandemics have been responsible for the deaths of a large percentage of civilizations and society. Their origins have been a mystery, along with how the disease spread and killed so many people. However, the knowledge gap is shrinking due to strides made by modern molecular analyses of ancient DNA from medieval remains, and DNA sequencing of a large number of extant plague strains. Such analyses have encouraged closer cross-disciplinary interactions between historians, anthropologists, geographers and archaeologists. This talk will cover the newest findings about the past plague pandemics that have emerged from ‘skeletons’ of the past.
Searching for Evidence of the Pacific Northwest's Earliest Peoples: Recent Archaeological Discoveries from the Cooper’s Ferry Site, Idaho.
April 1, 2015
Dr. Loren Davis (Oregon State University)
Excavations conducted in 1997 and 2009-14 have revealed a long record of repeated human occupation at the Cooper’s Ferry site in Idaho’s Salmon River canyon possibly beginning at 13,300 years ago. To date, excavations have recovered thousands of artifacts, including stemmed projectile points, blades, bifaces, cores, and bone and antler tools. This presentation will feature many of the cutting-edge technological methodologies employed to record a wide array of archaeological information from the site to provide a perspective on how archaeological science is practiced today.
Death comes to the Theban Sacred Band: Skeletons from the Battle of Chaironeia (338 BC)
March 4, 2015
Dr. Maria Liston (University of Waterloo, Ontario Canada)
In 338 BC, Macedonian forces under Philip II and his 18-year old son Alexander defeated a combined Greek force of Athenians, Thebans, and others near the town of Chaironeia, establishing Macedonia dominance over much of the Greek mainland. Anchoring the Greek line on the right was the Theban Sacred Band, an elite military unit consisting of 150 pairs of hoplite soldiers, who were purportedly lovers as well as comrades in arms. Opposite them was the cavalry led by Alexander, whose force almost annihilated the Sacred Band. This lecture presents evidence from skeletons of the Theban soldiers recovered at Chaironeia to discuss death on the battlefield and subsequent mutilation of the corpses, and explores the use and efficacy of weapons and armor in ancient warfare.
Excavating Injustice: The Archaeology of a World War II Japanese Internment Camp in N. Idaho
February 4, 2015
Dr. Stacey Camp (University of Idaho)
On Feb. 19, 1942, over 120,000 individuals of Japanese heritage were forced to leave their homes and communities and relocate to internment camps spread throughout some of the harshest, most destitute locales in the western United States. The state of Idaho played a crucial role in Japanese interment, as home to two sites of confinement: Kooskia and Minidoka. Minidoka has been the subject of substantial historical and archaeological research, while Kooskia remained a neglected historic site. Its exploration has been the goal of the University of Idaho’s Kooskia Interment Camp Archaeological Project since 2010.
Women, Children and Families in the Military Communities of the Western Roman Empire
November 5, 2014
Dr. Elizabeth Greene (University of Western Ontario - Canada)
This presentation addresses the social role of women and family in Roman military communities primarily in the western Roman provinces. The topic is approached from various perspectives, using archaeology, epigraphy and text to illuminate the presence and daily lives of non-combatants in military communities. The Roman army has been a topic of scholarly interest for centuries with inquiries focusing on State-level concerns such as the organization of units, battle tactics, details of armour and especially the hierarchy of officer corps and placement of the units they commanded around the empire. These are all topics important to any investigation of the Roman army, but their focus has been to the detriment of an understanding of the social side of life in the military. This presentation shows that women and children were a significant part of military settlements and focuses on the social identification of the families of Roman auxiliary soldiers living in military communities in the provinces of the empire.
Lost and Found: Research on Nazi-Era Looting and Restitution at the MFA, Boston
October 1, 2014
Dr. Victoria Reed (Curator, Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston)
Nazi-looted art and masterpieces brought back as the spoils of war frequently make headlines, even featuring in popular culture—from Indiana Jones and his quest for the Lost Ark to the recent feature film The Monuments Men. But what is the reality of tracking down lost, stolen, or smuggled masterpieces? During World War II, artwork was displaced on an unprecedented scale; it was both destroyed during conflict, and looted by soldiers and civilians alike. Many works made their way onto the art market, and from there, into private homes and onto the walls of art museums around the world. Through in-depth case studies, this lecture will illustrate how the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) has conducted research on the Nazi-era provenance, or ownership history, of its encyclopedic collection. The lecture will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the process of research and documentation of seizures, thefts, and losses in Europe between 1933 and 1945. It will also explore issues of the restitution of artwork, both in the immediate postwar period and in the present. Finally, the lecture will consider art museum policy and practice today, and how a museum must take steps to ensure that it conducts sufficient research to avoid acquiring a work of art lost or stolen during this critical period in history.
Leaving Mesa Verde: 13th century AD in the American South West.
May 7, 2014
Dr. William Lipe (Washington State Univ., Emeritus Professor)
In this lecture, Dr. Lipe will consider one of the most enduring questions in Southwestern archaeology: why many thousands of Pueblo people left the Four Corners region in the late AD 1200s, moving away from an area where their ancestors had lived for many centuries. There is not a single simple answer to this question, but this presentation reviews research in the Mesa Verde and Rio Grande regions that sheds new light on the climatic and cultural factors that may have influenced the migrations.
Rome vs. Carthage: Underwater Archaeology and the Battle of the Aegates Islands (241 BCE).
April 2, 2014
Dr. Andrew Goldman (Gonzaga University)
On 10 March, 241 BCE, the final naval battle of the First Punic War was fought off western Sicily, where a large Roman fleet engaged an equally large Carthaginian fleet near the Aegates Islands. The Romans won a decisive victory and forced the Carthaginians to sue for peace shortly thereafter. Now, the site of the battle has been found off Levanzo Island (in the modern Egadi Islands group), and its landscape has been carefully surveyed by RPM Nautical Foundation and Sicily’s Soprintendenza del Mare. By the end of 2012, ten warship rams, a number of helmets and a wide scatter of transport amphoras have been located on the sea floor beneath the battle zone. For the first time, we can examine the fallout from an ancient naval battle. This lecture will discuss the various finds of this underwater project, focusing in particular upon the military equipment and the significance of those objects, among the earliest Roman armor ever found.
Alaska's Gold Rush Maritime Landscape.
March 5, 2014
Dr. John Odin Jenson (University of Rhode Island)
On July 17, 1897, the steamship Portland pulled into Seattle carrying $700,000 in gold from Alaska. The event sparked the first in a series Gold Rushes that brought tens of thousands of people to Alaska. The Gold Rush era left many lasting legacies, among them a complex marine archaeological landscape that extends thousands of miles from British Columbia to the Arctic. This lecture builds on four field projects and the speaker's experiences as commercial fisherman in Alaska to discuss the dynamics that created a vast “shipwreck landscape” and describes selected shipwreck sites investigated by teams from the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, the Sea Education Association, and the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program. The lecture touches on Alaska history, the history of history technology, and addresses contested issues of community memory and its relationship to the archaeological landscape.
Funerary Sculpture from the Athenian Agora: The Completion of a 20-year Project
February 5, 2014
Dr. Janet Grossman (former curator, Getty Museum, Malibu CA)
Dr. Grossman will discuss her long-term study of the funerary reliefs from the Athenian Agora, sculptures found during the demolition of modern houses. The quality of curving among these monuments ranges from the lower end up to the highest degree, a span that suggests that such monuments are not used only by the privileged few but rather were accessible to most of the population.
Digitization, digital restoration, and visualization of antiquities; medieval manuscripts and scrolls from Herculaneum
November 6, 2013
Dr. W. Brent Seales (University of Kentucky)
This lecture highlights achievements over the past ten years in the digitization and digital analysis of text found in cultural objects: inscriptions, manuscripts, and scrolls from Herculaneum. While re-telling the stories of these objects - creation, discovery, importance, damage, digitization, and ongoing efforts at preservation - this lecture will build a story about emerging methods for imaging and analysis. These digital methods and the computational support for the models they produce form the foundation of a powerful, democratized framework for visualization and scholarly exploration.
The Magnificent Peutinger Map: Roman Cartography at its Most Creative
October 2, 2013
Prof. Richard Talbert (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill)
Romans - more than any other ancient people - came to realize that maps are not mere factual records, but also value-laden documents. Then, as now, maps could even be designed to promote and reinforce values, from peace and civilization to unashamed pride in conquest and entitlement to world-rule. Scholars recently have developed more sensitive and satisfying approaches to interpreting the cartographic products of pre-modern societies: Richard Talbert's lecture deepens insight into the particular case of the Romans. He reconsiders the thinking behind the immense Marble Plan of the city of Rome. Above all, he exposes powerful meaning and purpose in the so-called ‘Peutinger Map', an elongated, astonishingly rich, Roman world-map. He constructs a compelling fresh context for this underrated masterpiece, and he identifies its creation as a pivotal moment in Western cartography, an inspirational awakening with a long-term cultural impact that would influence Christian mapmaking through to the Renaissance.
Between the Coast and the Carmel: Hellenization and Acculturation at Tel Dor (Israel)
April 3, 2013
Dr. Sarah Stroup (University of Washington)
Ancient Dor, a bustling and multi-cultural port town located on the northern coast of Israel, was inhabited for well over 1,000. From the days of King Solomon to the reign of the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus in the third century CE, Dor attracted a multitude of merchants, immigrants, and conquerors to the Carmel coast. Today, Dor is one of Israel's most complex archaeological sites, and as such plays a pivotal role in our understanding of both the history of coastal occupation in north-central Israel and the processes of acculturation and assimilation in native populations. This talk will provide an introductory survey of Dor from the 6th century BCE through to the 2nd c CE, based primarily on the excavations of the past eleven years, and examine some of the recent key finds from the site.
The demise of the Neandertals? Perspectives from the Eastside.
March 6, 2013
Dr. Michelle Glantz (Colorado State University)
Although recent research on the Neandertal genome suggests that this archaic group and modern humans intermixed during the late Pleistocene, the demise of the Neandertals is still construed as an extinction event. The stage on which this event plays out is typically identified as western Europe during the last phases of oxygen isotope stage (OIS) 3. The potential factors that contribute to the demise of the Neandertals are debated and include a dramatically fluctuating climate, the migration of modern humans into Neandertal lands, and/or the genetic ‘swamping' of Neandertal allelic frequencies with those of modern humans. The purpose of the present research is to address the validity of this approach to the ‘Neandertal problem'. The Neandertal geographic range extends to southern Siberia and much of Central Asia. Neandertals from the eastern part of the range are different genetically, morphologically and archaeologically from their western European counterparts. These differences will be reviewed and their significance applied to the larger question of what happened to the Neandertals.
"From Dunhuang (P.R. China): the oldest Star Atlas"
February 6, 2013
Dr. Nic David (University of Calgary)
The Dunhuang star atlas was discovered in 1907 in a town on the ancient Silk Road. It is now in the British Library. Only recently has it been thoroughly studied by astronomers. This lecture will discuss the atlas and set it in the cultural context of the Warring States, Han and later Tang periods. Dated to the period 500-1000 CE, it is far in advance of contemporary products from the Mediterranean world. Its interpretation requires both a knowledge of visual astronomy and an understanding of the role that astronomy-astrology played in Chinese society. By following a number of clues - costume, paper, taboo characters, handwriting, the names in the document and internal astronomical evidence - we can arrive at a finer dating, learn why the atlas ended up in the far west of Han China, and even identify the author of an remarkable and beautiful product of scientific observation that was also a closely guarded state secret.
The Mosaics of Zeugma on the Euphrates: visual culture on the Roman frontier
November 7, 2012
Dr. Kathryn Dunbabin (McMaster University, Emerita)
In the summer of 2000, as the city of Zeugma was about to be submerged under the waters of the new Turkish dam across the upper Euphrates, archaeologists from various nations worked hard to reveal all that they could about the areas of the city fated to disappear. The most spectacular of the finds were the magnificent mosaics which adorned the houses of the city's elite, mosaics often of very high quality, and decorated with a wide range of figured scenes. This talk looks at those mosaics in their context, replacing them where possible in their original architectural settings, and considers them as evidence for the wider culture of the individuals who commissioned, made, and looked at them. How were these mosaics used in the overall decoration of the house? What sort of subject matter was favored, and why was it chosen? And what can we tell from the mosaics about the interests and preoccupations of the owners? The mosaics reveal a cultural atmosphere that seems remarkably homogeneous, clearly deliberately cultivated by their proprietors as an assertion of identity.
Polynesian Contacts with the New World
April 4, 2012
Dr. Terry L. Jones (California Polytechnic State University)
The possibility that Polynesian voyagers reached the shores of the New World before Columbus has been considered by scientists and non-scientists alike for nearly two centuries. In North America where the case for contact has focused on sewn-plank boats and bone and shell fishhooks (which show strong similarities with Polynesian technologies), the possibility was discussed regularly between the 1910s and 1950s. In South America the case for contact was considered as far back as the early 1800s based on fishhook styles, sewn-plank boats and chickens on the coast of Chile, and the sweet potato and associated linguistic referents in the north. By the late 1970s, the possibility of contact especially in the northern hemisphere had disappeared almost entirely from mainstream scholarly discourse due to shifting theoretical priorities. Benefiting from enhanced perspectives on Polynesian voyaging capabilities that emerged in the 1990s, a number of scholars have rediscovered the long-dormant case for Polynesian contact and a flood of sophisticated new research has been completed on the issue of in the last five years. In this talk, I'll review the evidence for Polynesian contact with the Americas in the northern and southern hemispheres and ponder the question of why American (and some Pacific) scholars continue to dismiss the possibility of such contacts even though the passages involved were well within the capabilities of Polynesian seafarers.
The Curious Case of the Octagonal Gemstones: A Possible New Pagan and Early Christian Workshop in Turkey
March 7, 2012
Dr. Andrew Goldman (Gonzaga University)
Octagonal intaglios represent a curious, relatively rare gemstone category within museum and private collections. Dating to late Roman imperial period (2nd-4th centuries AD), they bear a wide range of conventional pagan and early Christian symbols and inscriptions. These eight-sized gems have received little scholarly attention, however, and their exact provenance has remained elusive. During the 1950s, excavation at Gordion in central Turkey unearthed 51 Roman graves, within which were recovered nine rings of gold, silver, iron and bronze with carved intaglios. One-third of the gemstones are octagonal, providing this rare type with a secure archaeological context. A rising number of newly excavated and published examples from the past decade have raised the possibility that these octagonals are the product of an unknown central Anatolian workshop, one which catered to a mixed pagan and Christian clientele.
Global Climate Research and the Archaeological Record: A Review of the Last 10,000 Years in the Pacific Northwest and Central Asia
February 1, 2012
Dr. Jerry Galm (Eastern Washington University)
Often overlooked in the continuing discussion of modern-era global climate change is the mounting evidence of climate change in worldwide historic and prehistoric archaeological records. Data gleaned from such records has consistently identified change in many regional climatic records approaching and even exceeding current projections for the magnitude of climate change in the 21st Century. This presentation will compare records of climate change over the last 10,000 years from the Pacific Northwest and Central Asia as a way of highlighting the kinds of data categories potentially present in archaeological records, the size and extent of selected intervals of climate change, and apparent human responses to large-scale changes in climate.
Spying on the Ancients: Declassified Satellite Imagery in Near Eastern Archaeology
November 9, 2011
Dr. Jesse Casana (University of Arkansas)
In the Middle East, urban expansion, agricultural intensification and reservoir construction over the past several decades have resulted in the widespread destruction of archaeological sites and ancient landscape features such as roads, canals and field systems. Yet many of these features are clearly visible on Cold War-era satellite images known as CORONA, the codename for the United States' first spy satellite program in operation from 1960-1972. Because CORONA preserves a picture of the archaeological landscape prior to recent development, these high-resolution images constitute a truly unique resource in the archaeology of the Middle East and other regions of the world. This talk provides an overview of archaeological applications of CORONA imagery, including viewing sites and landscapes in 3D, and highlights the speaker's work in the creation of a new online database of images that is now freely accessible. The talk concludes with results of an ongoing, NASA-funded project that is documenting thousands of previously unrecorded archaeological sites across the northern Fertile Crescent and analyzing their distribution against modern and ancient climate variability.
Go Spartans: Girls' Athletics in Ancient Greece
October 5, 2011
Dr. Jenifer Niels (Case Western University)
Given the paucity of imagery of Sparta's legendary beautiful women, this lecture posits some Attic red-figure vase paintings as possible representations of young Laconian females as seen from an Athenian perspective. Beginning with athletics where Spartan girls are most readily identifiable, this article goes on to consider rare images of girls racing chariots, drinking wine, going to school and being courted by older women. Ranging in date from the late sixth to the end of the fifth century B.C., these paintings illustrate the Athenians' fascination with their Greek rivals, as evidenced also by the character of Lampito in Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata. Dr. Neils is the AIA 2011/12 Joukouwsky Lecturer.
Beneath the Sands of Egypt
September 7, 2011
Dr. Donald Ryan (Pacific Lutheran University)
We begin the year with a fan favorite: archaeologist/Egyptologist Donald P. Ryan, who has lectured to the Spokane community several times over the past decade, will describe his latest discoveries from his ongoing excavations in Egypt's famed royal cemetery, the Valley of the Kings. Ryan is a Faculty Fellow in Humanities at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington.
The Lost Lover of Aphrodite
April 27, 2011
Prof. Georgia B. Bazemore (Eastern Washington University)
Modern viewers are quite familiar with the late Classical images of Aphrodite which pair her with the child deity Eros, also known as Cupid. But earlier tradition, especially outside of Athens, paired Aphrodite with another figure more fitting with her role as the Goddess of Sexual Desire, that of her young lover, Adonis. Dr. Bazemore draws upon her decades of research and excavation of the Adonis temple at Paphos, in Cyprus, known to Homer as the birthplace and home to Aphrodite herself. Dr. Bazemore will discuss the Eastern, especially Cypriote, origins of this demi-god, and show that the worship of Adonis focused upon rituals of death-and-resurrection, which were primarily practiced by women in the early spring. The spread of the Adonis cult into Greece will be examined through the evidence of his worship preserved in the words of the ancient Greek poets.
Lightning, Livers and Lore: Myth and Ritual in Ancient Etruria
March 30, 2011
Prof. Nancy de Grummond (Florida State University)
Study of the religion of the Etruscans is made difficult by the lack of texts in the Etruscan language. But with the aid of archaeological excavations, inscriptions, Latin and Greek texts, and representations in art, it is possible to reconstruct some of the striking rituals of Etruscan religion, especially in regard to prophecy and divination. Various mythoritual elements in Etruscan art and archaeology will be explored.
Recovery of WWII Naval Aircraft from Aquatic Crash Sites
February 23, 2011
Prohn Dorwin (Eastern Washington University)
The lecture will discuss the background of crashed naval aircraft as archaeological sites, the training programs that prepared 18000 naval pilots for carrier duty, and the recovery of three examples of aircraft which crashed during such training, including an SBD-2 Douglas Dauntless, an F6F-3 Grumman Hellcat and an F4U-1 Vought Corsair from the freshwaters of Lake Michigan. The talk will include pictures, both vintage and recent.
Hell Hath No Fury: How the Looting of the Iraq Museum Changed the Way Archaeologists Think About Armed Conflict
January 26, 2011
Corine Wegener (Minneapolis Institute of Arts; President, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield)
In 2003, the archaeological community united in shared outrage over the tragic looting of the Iraq Museum. Later, damage and looting of archaeological sites also became apparent in Iraq, including preventable damage to sites at our near Coalition bases. With a renewed determination to prevent such damage in future conflicts,, archaeologists began to think about how they could contribute to the preservation of collections and archaeological sites during armed conflict. Wegener will talk about her experiences working with archaeologists, both while in Iraq and later, developing cultural preservation training for the U.S. military and lobbying for U.S. ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed conflict.
Korea and the Silk Road
October 6, 2010
Prof. Sarah Nelson (University of Denver)
The Korean peninsula was almost the Asian end of the "Silk Road," nevertheless exotic objects from the Mediterranean world are found in Korean burials beginning in the first century BC. In studying how these objects came to be deposited in Korean burials, it becomes clear that object arrive in Korea by at least three different routes. The Steppe Route north of the Altai Mountains, the Silk Road through Xinjinag, and a Sea Route are all discussed, along with the objects that arrived in Korea from as far away as the Mediterranean world.
Roman Road Maps and the Empire's Eastern Frontier
April 14, 2010
Karen A. Borstad (Institute of Archaeology, Andrews University)
The Roman Empire's acquisition of land and countries beyond Italy included the process of building roads to ease the rigors of travel for couriers, soldiers, governors, and emperors. A unique Roman road map, surviving in a later copy known as the "Peutinger" map, has helped historians to identify the places bound together by Rome's communication network of roads from Britain to Arabia. One road depicted on the map, running through the modern country of Jordan, has been identified as the major highway built by Emperor Trajan in 111-114 AD. However, significant questions arise about this identification when the map is compared to the actual geography of the region. Recent fieldwork to find and record Roman roads in Jordan, plus research into early modern explorers' accounts of their discovery of Trajan's highway, suggest new explanation of how the routes chosen by the Romans functioned in relationship to the indigenous landscape.
Nailing Down Coronado: A 16th Century Spanish Spanish Expeditionary Site in the Tiguex Province of La Nueva Mexico
March 10, 2010
Matt Schmader (Parks & Recreation Department of Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Recent artifactual discoveries directly related to the 1540-1542 Vazquez de Coronado exploration have spurred renewed interest in identifying native settlements visited by the expedition. Piedras Marcadas pueblo is a large contact-period in the middle Rio Grande valley near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Remote sensing techniques such as electrical resistivity have identified several hundred adobe rooms at the site. Metal detection has aided in the recovery of numerous 16th century diagnostic artifacts, including copper crossbow boltheads, iron facet-headed nails, lead shot, chainmail, and other non-ferrous items indicative of Coronado's expedition. These finds are presented in detail and then discussed in relation to other known sites; implications of the importance of this discovery and possible breakthroughs in identifying major sites documented for the expedition are addressed.
Wine for Bread: Economy of Greek Colonists and their Trading Ventures
March 10, 2010
Prof. Ulrike Krotscheck (Evergreen State College)
At the time of its foundation (ca. 600 BCE), the colony Marseilles was isolated from other Greek settlements and located in a unique geopolitical environment. In contrast to Greek colonists in Sicily, who were able to wrest control of fertile agricultural land from the Sikels, Massiliotes were ringed by autonomous local towns (oppida) that ultimately maintained power over agricultural resources. This not only limited Marseilles' ability to expand, but also its access to grain. Archaeological evidence shows that the two parties reacted to this situation with great ingenuity. First, Massiliotes quickly founded satellite colonies nearby, ensuring their access to important trade routes. Second, through import and then by initiation of viticulture around Marseilles, they produced a surplus of wine that was traded to surrounding communities. This is documented by archaeological evidence of wine amphorae and cups in indigenous settlements. On the other front, the local chiefs who controlled the more agriculturally productive hinterland increased their production of grain exponentially, possibly to trade it to the Greeks. This is documented in the sudden appearance of large grain-storage facilities in these communities, a change that followed closely on the heels of Greek arrival. Thus there is evidence for a mutual economic dependency - grain for wine - that not only created a less hostile environment for both Greeks and Ligurians, but also ultimately ensured Marseilles' success. By creating trade links with new Greek colonies and by tapping into already existing indigenous trade networks, Massiliotes enabled their rise to become the primary port of trade between northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean.
Becoming a God in Rome
January 27, 2010
Prof. Barbara Burrell (University of Cincinnati)
Sheer familiarity has blinded scholars to the oddity of the Roman imperial cult. Countless cultures across the globe had rulers who were either gods (e.g. Egypt and Japan), descended from gods (Shang dynasty China, the Inca), or in some way super-human (the Yoruba, the Aztec). In all these cases, however, the king's divinity was most clearly recognized within the core region which he ruled, and most strongly manifested in his capital. The Roman emperor, however, was supposed to be so honored only in the periphery, not in the center. Hailed as a god by provinces, cities, and citizens of his empire, he was allegedly treated as a mere mortal in Italy, and especially in Rome. This lecture will re-open this question, and examine the material evidence that the living emperor presented himself, if not as a god, at least as a god-to-be in his capital, Rome.