Next VizCult: Jeffrey Becker, Binghamton University, TODAY

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Abstract: The first century B.C. was an important period in the development of Roman urbanism as it not only represents a time that is replete with examples of new urban foundations undertaken by Rome, but it also presents a number of opportunities to engage with the ways in which Romans both understood and represented the trope that is the “Roman city”. As the late first century B.C. represents a mature period in terms of Roman urbanism, an examination of urban trends during the middle Republic (fourth through second centuries B.C.) yields important perspectives not only about city foundation and civic architecture, but also about the role of the urban construct in the shaping of Roman – and other – realities in peninsular Italy. In the seventh century A.D., Isidore of Seville quipped “Nam urbs ipsa moenia sunt” (For the city is the walls themselves), reflecting a topographic awareness of the constituent physical parts of the city and highlighting the symbolic, representative value of the city’s walls. The ancient Romans themselves were inherently nostalgic, frequently looking to and thinking about an imagined Golden Age when the world was a better and more just place. This nostalgia for the past influences Roman ideas and representations about the urban past in visual and literary culture. By examining late Republican urban representations set against middle Republican urban realities, an interesting perspective emerges and suggests ways in which we, as viewers, might better understand how Roman identity centers around the city and her walls.

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