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Diverging identities and experiences in ancient north Italy // Wer wollte denn ein(e) Römer(in) werden in Nordwest Italien...? // Qui a voulu devenir un romain en Gaule Cisalpine?
The aim of this book was to re-think our understandings of social and cultural change. My main interest has always been to understand people's motivations. People in Cisalpine Gaul, like those who lived north of the Alps, had their own cultural understandings, their own traditions, myths, religions,... But our archaeological and epigraphic suggests that they gave it all up, or most of it. But why? Rome had no real interest in imposing its own culture or deities on the conquered populations. We therefore need to consider a large number of developments that might have affected people's lives in NW Italy, starting with economic developments, migration, mobility, participation in Italy-wide structures, in colonial discourses, the resulting bricolage and creolization...
Northwest Italy provides an interesting case study: Rome's fiercest enemies, the Celts/Gauls, became fully integrated in Roman Italy, acquiring Roman citizenship and senatorial status already under Julius Caesar. How was this possible? As we will see, it was a long journey, and the people in North Italy were not always interested in Roman culture... As the title suggests, the question is whether people really wanted to become "Roman" at all...
Disclaimer: The book was finally published in the series of UCL's Institute of Archaeology London by Left Coast Press in California (this is now Routledge) in 2013. But unfortunately the relationship with the editor(s) was far from perfect, resulting in a number of mistakes that could have been avoided. Let's put it this way: the outsourced editor re-wrote my text to such an extent, that I could hardly recognise it... and unfortunately not for the better. It should be only minor errors! I was not given the proofs for important sections of this book prior to publication! And in previous "proofs", the editors had generated a number of incredible mistakes (like turning the common word "forum" into "form"(!), or the "Low Countries" [i.e. the Netherlands] became the "lower countries", or truncating sentences and references, and many more). The American editor also messed about with the bibliography! Despite all my attempts, I am not sure whether all mistakes were corrected in the final version.
Moreover, there are mistakes in the index which I was only allowed to see after the book went to the printer! Too late for any corrections! For example, you will find Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger under the same heading, Isidore became "Hebrew Isidore" for some unknown reason (well, the "highly qualified indexer" responsible for the index obviously did not know anything about the ancient world, and she categorically refused to take any advise!!!). And unfortunately there is no index of epigraphic sources (e.g., CIL, AE, SuppIT, Inscr.It., etc.), although I explicitely asked for it. Hence, it is a good idea to use the e-book or GoogleBooks to search for keywords in "Becoming Roman?". But if you could kindly overlook these pointless (and avoidable) mistakes, I hope you will find the book interesting!
Please watch this space for possible corrections and addenda, once the book has been published.
And if you do notice any ideosyncrasies in the book, please contact me so that I can add them here (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please find below a series of images from the book in better quality and resolution. The map, for example, is hardly usable in the published version.
More to come when I find the time!
What is "Romanisation"?
Should we still use this term today?
No, of course not. The term should be avoided.
The critique of the term "Romanisation" has been mounting for many years, at least since the early 1990s (and occasionally long before...). There are a number of well-known aspects that show that the concepts associated with "Romanisation" are not valid. The linear model of "progressive Romanisation" should be jettissoned. Of course, Rome and Roman imperialism played an important role in the lives of people across the Roman empire. But this does not mean that everybody was striving for Roman culture, Roman lifestyle or a Roman identity? No, of course not.
Also see my page on ancient religions and on "De-Romanizing Religions in the Roman world"!
Recordings ("vidcasts") of some recent presentations of mine:
In colour! One of these beautiful La Tène "vasi a trottola" that are so typical for North Italy, esp. Lombardy and Piedmont, between approx. 250 and 50 B.C. This one comes from Dormelletto and can be found today in the Museo di Antichità in Turin, a museum that is worth a visit! (cf. http://museoarcheologico.piemonte.beniculturali.it/ - photo: Ralph Häussler).
The Padane drachma, dramma Padana
What used to be a coin modelled on the Marseille drachma has become increasingly "native" (increasingly abstract art, similar to contemporary Transalpine La Tène art) in a nominally Roman period. Moreover, Celtic coin legends ("Lepontic") increasingly made an appearance in North Italy (Lombardy and Piedmont) from around 100 BC onwards...
What does it tell us about Roman imperialism in this period? The Romans were present, and they were exploiting resources (like the gold mines in the Bessa), but their impact seems limited. Eventually, Roman coins took over, but not the denarius, but the victoriatus, specially minted for Cisalpine Gaul!
What does this tell us about the cultural and political understandings of the elites in north-west Italy in this period...? A deliberate sign of "cultural resistance" - is this really possible? Does it mainly reflect people's personal and trade links with Transalpine Gaul...? Is it their attempt to consolidate their power in a changing world, by making use of existing artefacts...?
Well, as we have seen, things were not very "Roman" in NW Italy between the Roman conquest and the mid-1st century BC. And yet, "romanizzazione" is such a standard term in Italy! It is even use to denote an era, covering the whole period of Roman conquests down to Augustus... Yes, people's lives were changing, but only gradually. Is it not time to jettison this term?