New ways of looking at the past produces new histories from unchanging artefacts. In the last decades many historians have abandoned the search for a ‘grand narrative’ of history, which proceeds like a good novel from first causes to a satisfactory conclusion, all ends neatly tied up; they now approach things in a more circuitous route.
Consider for a moment the concept of ‘space’, which is used by scholars of many research strands to understand how historical peoples experienced their worlds. What spaces did children inhabit, for example? How important to house-bound women is the space on both sides of their front door?
Space is the theme of a conference this weekend to mark the bimillenium of the death of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, who died in AD14. Recent work in Latin literature, social history and material culture has explored Roman constructions of space and place from a variety of angles, from the conceptualisation of Rome as cosmopolis to shifts in the boundary between public and private spheres; from the relationship between physical monuments and literary texts, to the psychogeographies that structure personal and collective experience.
Anna Chahoud, Professor of Latin, has chosen some images from the Library’s 15th-century manuscripts to illustrate the theme. One (TCD MS 929) is a version of Virgil’s Aeneid, in which the poet talks about the future site of Rome. In the other (TCD MS 1759), the poet Horace refers to well-known monuments in the Roman Forum which were closely associated with Roman republican history.
The conference is hosted by the Department of Classics; it will be in the Long Room Hub and all are welcome.