AIA Montreal Day Three: A Little Bit of Everything

On this last day of the AIA annual meeting, I frequently commuted between sessions. Consequently, I have organized today’s notes by session and not by the order that they appeared. I begun the day at the “Roman Houses and Villas”, another session chaired by Christopher Parslow (Wesleyan). Five out of seven papers were on villas, and although this was an open session and therefore not the fault of the organizers, it would have been nice to see some more variety. I saw three of the papers.

The Visible Villa: The Effect of Views and Visibility on Choosing a Location for a Villa
Eeva-Maria Viitanen, University of Helsinki
Eppu, another Nemi veteran, presented a GIS-based study of the importance of the visilbility of Roman villas in Tusculum and Tibur, just outside Rome. Villa owners favoured slopes and hills where their country homes would be seen by bypassers, and in some cases even all the way from Rome. This fits well with the requirements for a luxury domus famously outlined by Cicero, when he was real estate-shopping on the Palatine.

Oplontis cryptoporticus
The Cryptoporticus of the Oplontis Villa with the famous ‘zebra stripe’ decoration. Photo: TMK, May 2005.

(Crypto)Porticus in Roman Luxury Villas: Architecture and Cultural Implications
Mantha Zarmakoupi, University of Oxford
This paper dealt with the function of the villa cryptoporticus. The author suggested that there were two different routes through the Oplontis villa, one for friends and family, and one for business visitors, that led through the cryptoporticus. The cryptoporticus, introduced in the 1st century BCE, should not be seen as a service area, but rather as an indoor leisure hall for reading and walking.

Vernacular Architecture and Regional Style in the Roman Empire
Simon P. Ellis, University of Reading
This paper was not only the first scholarly paper that I have seen that quoted Wikipedia, but was also one of the day’s highlights as it offered a great new outlook on Roman architecture. By focusing on vernacular architecture in Britain and the Middle East, Ellis was able to demonstrate cross-provincial housing layouts, that do not follow the pattern of straightforward ‘romanization’. He also made an excellent point, based on the Egyptian papyri evidence, that although houses may look similar in different parts of the empire, the ownership rights may have been different. Vernacular buildings were constructed by much larger parts of the population than villas, and show strong local traditions, even when other (and better) ways of construction are available.

Orange Arch
The Roman arch at Orange (Arausio). Photo: TMK, 2003.

The other morning session I attended was “Politics and Propaganda in the Roman Provinces”, chaired by Paul Harvey (Penn State).

Propaganda and “Damnatio Memoriae”: Antonines and Severans in Roman Provence
James C. Anderson, Jr., University of Georgia
Given my interest in Roman Provence, I had been especially looking forward to seeing this paper. Unfortunately, it was marred by technical difficulties. Nonetheless, it presented an interesting re-evaluation of the honorary arches set up in the province, that are conventionally, but without much substantial evidence, dated to the Julio-Claudian period. A date in the late antonine/early severan period was suggested for the arch at Orange (Arausio), and subsequently for the similar arch in Carpentras. His explanation for the strange position of the arch’s inscription on the architrave, i.e. that it was destroyed due to a mention of Geta or the usuper Clodius Albinus, is speculative, but interesting. I was also delighted to hear that Anderson is working on a book on Roman architecture in Provence, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

Rivalry Set in Stone: Public Sculptural Programs from Perge and Side as Evidence for Intercity Competition
Diana Y. Ng, University of Michigan
This paper looked at the sculptural programme of the city of Perge in the second and third century CE. The programme emphasised the city’s cultural heritage through depictions of local myths and benefactors. This fits well with the zeitgeist of the period, known as the Second Sophistic.

Headless in Corinth: Context and Comparanda for the Chlamydati of Late Roman Corinth
Amelia Brown, University of California, Berkeley
Amelia presented a series of chlamys-clad male statues found in Corinth over the last decade and that have received very little scholarly attention. Several of them have been reworked from earlier portraits or architectural elements. They should probably be dated to the fourth or fifth century CE, and constitute the last examples of round sculpture produced in Corinth.

After lunch, I went over to the workshop When Past and Present Collide: The Ethics of Archaeological Stewardship, organized by Daniel Shoup and Lyra Monteiro (Michigan). I saw the papers by Lynn Meskell (Stanford), Michael Galaty (Millsaps College), Roger Atwood (Archaeology Magazine), Daniel Shoup (Michigan) and Ian Hodder (Stanford). Meskell discussed the conflicts surrounding heritage in South Africa. Galaty presented some fascinating fieldwork in the mountains of northern Albania. Atwood discussed anti-looting measures in Peru. Shoup gave an excellent paper on the destruction of archaeological sites caused by the Southeastern Anatolia Project and the political controversies surrounding it. Hodder, in true post-processual fashion, underlined that there are no ethical guidelines on an universal level, but each individual case needs to be looked at individually and attuned to specific contexts.

I had wanted to stay for the following panel discussion, but as I also wanted to catch two other sessions this afternoon, I ventured over to the session on The Roman East, chaired by Susan Downey (UCLA), and caught the final two papers there.

Early Explorations in the Near East: A History of Classical Excavations in Syria
Lidewijde de Jong, Stanford University
This paper looked at the history of archaeological investigations in Syria. The earliest work was carried out in 1898-1905 by German archaeologists. However, Jong argued that Syria has been marginalised in studies by both Near Eastern and Roman archaeologists. (Interestingly, this is also the case with the Tunisian “la Ghorfa” stelae, presented by Jennifer Moore (Trent), that I only caught the concluding part of, in the politics and propaganda session).

Isaurian Builders? From Local to Metropolitan Architecture
Gunder Varinlioglu, University of Pennsylvania
This paper looked at the evidence for the involvement of Isaurian architects in the construction of a group of major Byzantine buildings, such as the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. I found the 6th century funerary inscriptions from Corycus of special interest, as two of them mention glyptes, i.e. sculptors.

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  1. Troels,

    Thanks for the write up on the conference! I couldn’t afford to take time off work myself to come, but reading your notes was almost as satisfying as actually going.

    Good luck on that thesis! I’ve just started writing mine (The beginnings of mythological narrative in early Greek vase painting).


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