Classical Dialogues: Tombs and Burial Customs in Third-Century CE Rome by Barbara Borg

As part of its Classical Dialogues series, the Classical Studies Graduate Program CLST at Columbia University is pleased to welcome Barbara Borg, Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Exeter. On April 10, 2015, 11am-1pm, Barbara Borg will discuss her recent book Crisis & Ambition: Tombs and Burial Customs in Third-Century CE Rome, Oxford (OUP) 2013. Commentators Anne Chen (Brown University) and Irene SanPietro (Columbia University). Location: Schermerhorn Hall 930, Columbia University. Please see below Professor Borg’s description of the project.

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Tombs and burial customs are an exquisite source for social history, as their commemorative character inevitably expresses much of the contemporaneous ideology of a society. This book presents, for the first time, a holistic view of the funerary culture of Rome and its surroundings during the third century AD. While the third century is often largely ignored in social history, it was a transitional period, an era of major challenges–political, economic, and social–which inspired creativity and innovation, and paved the way for the new system of late antiquity.

Barbara Borg argues that during this time there was, in many ways, a return to practices known from the Late Republic and early imperial period, with spectacular monuments for the rich, and a large-scale reappearance of collective burial spaces. Through a study of terraced tombs, elite monuments, the catacomb nuclei, sarcophagi, and painted image decoration, this volume explores how the third century was an exciting period of experimentation and creativity, a time when non-Christians and Christians shared fundamental ideas, needs, and desires as well as cemeteries, tombs, and hypogea. Ambition continued to be a driving force and a determining factor in all social classes, who found innovative solutions to the challenges they encountered.

In its Classical Dialogues series, the interdepartmental Classical Studies Graduate Progam CLST at Columbia University invites authors of recent work in ancient studies that is exemplary for the kind of study that CLST aims to foster. All faculty and students at Columbia and beyond are cordially invited. CLST students are required to read carefully at least one chapter or article in advance and prepare questions and comments for discussion.

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