Libertus unchained! A qualitative analysis of the impact of the Roman freedman's "dishonourable past" on his socialisation and interaction with freeborn Romans.

01 October 2016 → 30 September 2019
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Economic archaeology
    • Ancient history
    • Socio-economic history
Project description

This project focusses on the socialisation of, and interaction between, two non-elite groups in the Roman world: freed slaves and the freeborn members of the urban ‘middle class’. Scholarly interest in these groups continues to steadily increase, but has so far rarely considered them in conjunction. Early studies on the interaction between elites and non-elites typically defined the first category in more specific and detailed terms than the latter, thus often implicitly reproducing the discourse of ancient literary sources. But critical responses to this approach, rightly focussing on freedmen as a social group worth studying for its own sake and on its own terms, have traditionally isolated ex-slaves as an object of enquiry, and lifted them from their ‘embeddedness’ in the social stratum of society that constituted the everyday milieu for many of them: the urban ‘middle class’. This project sets out to apply social theory (esp. Social Representation Theory) to a corpus of epigraphic sources (esp. columbaria and metric epitaphs) that reveal ties and relations between freedmen and non-elite freeborn. Specific attention will be paid to discursive strategies of (self-)representation. The main question it will try to elucidate is if and how legal status influenced or determined the outcome of the interaction between these two ‘groups’, and to which extent elite patterns of socialisation and stratification extended ‘downward’ as a template for this interaction.