Third Eye Blind: The Cyclops in Late Antiquity

Born around the year 490 CE in the city of Philadelphia, John the Lydian had a lot to say about Roman corruption and civil servants. His book, On the Magistracies of the Roman State, provides insight into the sausage factory that was late antique bureaucracy. Though living in Constantinople at the time, he addressed a story from his hometown (3.59):Continue reading “Third Eye Blind: The Cyclops in Late Antiquity”

Follow Me: Courtesan Sandals, Shoemakers, and Ephemeral Epigraphic Landscapes

  One of the tough things about reconstructing epigraphic landscapes, is that so much of it is now gone. Whether it be graffiti, painted inscriptions, or just waxen etchings, most of the inscriptions that populated the ancient world are now lost. Today I want to explore just a bit of this ephemeral epigraphic landscape, and hopefullyContinue reading “Follow Me: Courtesan Sandals, Shoemakers, and Ephemeral Epigraphic Landscapes”

What’s in a Name: Visual Puns and Epigraphy

I am teaching a Petronius and Suetonius class this semester, two favorites that both discussed puns. In particular, Petronius’ boorish freedman, Trimalchio, liked to name his slaves using puns. Thus he had a butcher named Carpus that he liked to order to ‘Carpe, inquit’ (Sat. 36.6). By naming him Carpus, he could both call his name and order himContinue reading “What’s in a Name: Visual Puns and Epigraphy”

The Stables of the Vestal Virgins?: Tax Immunity and Roman Signage

The inscription I want to focus on today is from Rome and is now kept at the Vatican (CIL VI, 2147=CIL XV 7126). I went to see it the other afternoon, and found the Greco-Roman galleries eerily empty as the crowds rushed to the Sistine Chapel before closing. Understandable, but as anthropologist James Deetz noted (and in fact builtContinue reading “The Stables of the Vestal Virgins?: Tax Immunity and Roman Signage”

Roman Gold Glass and the Epigraphy of Toasting in Antiquity

As I have long harped upon, there are many parts of antiquity that are, unfortunately, ephemeral. Unless a textual source tells us, we cannot know either what Augustus’ voice was like when he addressed the people or the sound of Theodora’s whispers in the ear of Justinian. We must rely on textual, epigraphical, and to some extentContinue reading “Roman Gold Glass and the Epigraphy of Toasting in Antiquity”

The Popular Gaze: Roman Underwear, Nudity, and Visual Display

This week, it seems that my classical friends wished me to learn a great deal about clothing–or lack thereof. I started off reading (and then quickly consumed) the splendid book by late antique historian Kristi Upson-Saia on Early Christian Dress (Plug: now out in paperback!), then had Roman bioanthropologist Kristina Killgrove ask about Greco-Roman diapers, andContinue reading “The Popular Gaze: Roman Underwear, Nudity, and Visual Display”

Monograms and Inscribed Power

This past week, I listened to stellar papers at the ILAN conference held at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. One of my favorites was also the last: Fabian Stroth (Heidelberg) delved eloquently into the complex monograms on the capitals in Justinian’s Hagia Sophia. I hadn’t really thought very much about monograms generally,Continue reading “Monograms and Inscribed Power”

CFP: Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity XI

The Transformation of Poverty, Philanthropy, and Healthcare in Late Antiquity The Society for Late Antiquity announces that the eleventh biennial Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity conference will take place at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA, March 26-29, 2015. The period of Late Antiquity (A.D. 200-700) witnessed great changes in respect to attitudes towardsContinue reading “CFP: Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity XI”