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Dissertations (2011-2015)



Kevin Funderburk

Defining Love and Duty in Roman Egypt: A Relational Approach to the Negotiation of Affection and Obligation in Ancient Families

This project examines a variety of documentary evidence preserved on papyrus in order to discern the nature of family obligations and negotiations for mutual support in Roman Egypt (ca. 30 BC -- 4 th c. AD). Modern scholarship on ancient families has largely focused on literary, juristic and epigraphic evidence in order to understand ancient household structures, norms of piety and family dislocations. Papyrologists have also contributed to this work for some time through studies of family archives, demographic analysis of census returns and, more recently, through a number of social historical studies. My work aligns with theirs since I am seeking to trace the nature of ancient familial duties and claims of affection. To accomplish this goal, I employ a modified version of the life course framework to organize contracts, letters, court protocols, petitions and official applications into a series of moments common to the experience of many ancient families. I examine this evidence using a relational approach, a style of analysis crafted to trace human agency and how it is shaped through interactions with social institutions such as, in this context, the Roman military, liturgical system, professional guilds, temples and legal traditions. I focus on how these institutions interacted with demographic patterns and personal mobility in order to investiage how a variety of families negotiated problems of reputation and authority differently.

I argue that urban propertied families generally had larger and more varied arrays of action available to them due to their lack of clarity regarding mutual obligations, and that links between propertied families and others of lower social position tended to complicate the latter's relationships and to threaten their social standing. By contrast, rural and professional families enjoyed less extensive arrays of action due to fewer outside disruptions to their mutual obligations, which was largely a function of their lower mobility and thicker kinship networks. Traditional priestly families are least visible in papyri, although analysis suggests that their arrays of action were smaller than those of other rural and professional families due to their dependence on exemptions from taxation and liturgies as well as on Roman temple subventions



Natalia Hudelson

Medea and Her Children at Corinth and Beyond: Myth, Cult, and History

This study examines the connections of Medea with the city of Corinth. Its purpose is twofold: to advance a better understanding of the development of Corinthian Medea over nearly a thousand years, and to offer a methodological approach for examining myth and history together. The first chapter takes as a case-study the cult for Medea's children, which she institutes at the end of Euripides' Medea. To examine the historicity of the cult, a methodology is developed which takes ancient sources of all types as the starting-point and re-evaluates modern scholarship against them. This investigation reveals the limited number of ancient sources which attest to a Corinthian cult for the children of Medea; the temporal distribution of these sources and their wildly divergent details lead to the conclusion that no such cult ever existed.

The next three chapters examine the implications of this conclusion. Chapter Two explores the relationship between Medea and Hera Akraia, a uniquely Corinthian deity with a cult site northwest of Corinth. I reject the theory that Medea represents a faded local goddess but identify other reasons for which the two figures are connected in Corinthian folk memory. Chapter Three traces Medea's first extant appearances in the literary and artistic record in an effort to understand her characterization before the fifth century. This evidence suggests that her foreign origin was not originally important to her identity and that her magical capabilities may have only developed towards the end of the sixth century. Chapter Four returns to Euripides to examine why and how he manipulated the Medea myth, especially in regard to the cult to her children. I then examine the reasons for which Medea becomes more important to Athens in the fifth century and suggest that this pivot from local Corinthian significance to a broader Athenian audience contributed to the strange afterlife which the 'cult to Medea's children' had in Hellenistic scholarship. The final chapter returns to Pausanias' account of a monument for the children of Medea in Roman Corinth and explores the complex reasons for which that Roman colony asserted a cultural identity with reference to Medea.



Kelcy Sagstetter

Solon of Athens: The Man, the Myth, the Tyrant?

I argue that, despite Solon's reputation as an enemy of tyranny, his approach to solving the political discord in Athens in 594 B.C. very closely resembles the way that archaic Greek tyrants succeeded at dealing with similar problems in other city-states. Because tyrants were often popular figures with widespread support, I suggest that Solon's anxiety to avoid the label of tyrant stemmed from the political unrest and bloodshed that arose from the attempted tyranny of Cylon in 632 BC, followed by the harsh and unsuccessful legislation of Drakon in 621. In the dissertation, I first establish that there are two traditions about Solon's motives and actions, indicated by many contradictions in our sources. In one version, Solon appears as a moderate politician who paved the way for the rise of democracy, in part because of his refusal to become a tyrant. In the other, Solon's actions were at times indistinguishable from those of contemporary tyrants, which later sources explain by referring to Solon's assertions in his own poetry to "prove" that these stories were false. I then analyze Solon's poetry, noting that Solon both linguistically distances himself from the concept of tyranny and emphasizes that he does, in fact, possess autocratic powers. The result is a kind of verbal dance, wherein he reminds people: "I am not, nor do1 I wish to be a tyrant; but I could be, and if I were...." Finally, I examine various tyrants who, like Solon, had reputations as legislators. I consider Solon's agricultural reforms, known as the seisachtheia, concentrating in particular on the abolition of debt-slavery, the cancellation of debt, and Solon's refusal to redistribute land. I find that debt cancellation in particular is one of the most common measures used by tyrants as a means of gathering political support from the demos. I also proffer the notion that doing away with debt-slavery may have done more damage than good, concluding that, despite his protests to the contrary, Solon was a tyrant in all but name.





Seth Bernard

Men at Work: Public Construction, Labor, and Society at Middle Republican Rome (390-168 B.C.)

This dissertation investigates how Rome organized and paid for the considerable amount of labor that went into the physical transformation of the Middle Republican city. In particular, it considers the role played by the cost of public construction in the socioeconomic history of the period, here defined as 390 to 168 B.C. During the Middle Republic, Rome expanded its dominion first over Italy and then over the Mediterranean. As it developed into the political and economic capital of its world, the city itself went through transformative change, recognizable in a great deal of new public infrastructure. While historians have long considered Rome’s rise vis-à-vis Italy or the Mediterranean world, the study of the contemporary urban situation has largely remained confined to formalist or topographic investigations. This thesis offers a new, more synthetic study, which draws from a variety of evidence from literary and documentary sources to numismatics and archaeological material. Because of this combinatory approach, the project speaks across specialties within the field of Classical studies, to ancient historians and archaeologists alike.

Four analytical chapters arranged both chronologically and thematically are appended with a detailed catalog of all known building projects during the time period containing field reports on those sites that have archaeological remains. The results demonstrate and in some cases quantify the high amount of labor needed to build the city’s new public infrastructure. In part in order to absorb such costs, Rome’s urban society transformed its Archaic economy into one that was broadly monetized and more reliant on contractual forms of labor. Such a change allowed for the massive income from the newly established Republican empire to be matched to an increasing urban supply of non-agricultural workers, as well as to a rising demand for public architecture from the office-holding Roman elite. By focusing on the labor behind the production of the Mid-Republican city, this dissertation reveals the urban expansion of Rome as a physical process on a human scale


See also: 

Building Mid-Republican Rome. Labor, Architecture, and the Urban Economy (Oxford University Press, 2018)



Arthur Jones

Culture and Change in Roman North Africa: Case Studies of Lepcis Magna and Thugga

This study explores the issues surrounding cultural change in two cities of North Africa, Lepcis Magna and Thugga. For over a century, scholars have examined how the Roman provinces “became Roman” and downplayed much local diversity. Recent scholarship has focused on differing perspectives, including the ideas of resistance to “Romanization”, “Romanization” as mainly an elite phenomenon, and creolization. This work builds upon much of the recent work on cultural change by investigating these cities through a framework informed by globalization theory. This posits that one should expect discrepant experiences of culture and, by looking at a location's connectivity, one can trace how a community was exposed to new ideas. Inhabitants of these cities could adapt, adopt, or reject foreign ideas and practices. This dissertation argues that Lepcis and Thugga had hybrid cultures prior to Rome's conquest of North Africa in the late Republic and that changes in the culture of the cities during the early Empire were a continuation of the process of adapting new ideas to the local culture.

Chapter 1 introduces the issue of studying cultural change in the Roman empire and highlights the benefits of an approach using globalization. Chapter 2 examines Lepcis and Thugga prior to the mid-second century BCE. This chapter sets out the main lenses through which the later periods will be analyzed: the history and political situation of the cities, the monuments, and the ceramic record. This chapter also studies some of the funeral architecture of North Africa to illustrate the variety of customs in the region. Chapter 3 discusses changes that took place in Lepcis and Thugga after the fall of Carthage. Chapters 4 and 5 explore the changes that occurred in the period dating from the late first century BCE through to the early second century CE. With the advent of Rome, the inhabitants of the cities had to adapt to a new political situation and to more contact with culture from Italy. This dissertation illustrates that the culture on display during the Roman period is the result of incremental changes over many centuries.