Do interactions with the remains and sites of the Roman past influence today's societies and public places? "Yes," answers Davidson Assistant Professor of Classics Darian Totten in her new book Making Roman Places, Past and Present: Papers Presented at the First Critical Roman Archaeology Conference Held at Stanford University in March, 2008. Co-edited with Kathryn Samuels of North Dakota State University, the book collates studies of the ancient Roman empire and its continued influence in our modern societies.
Totten, who came to Davidson this fall from Stanford University, primarily focuses her research on the Roman economy and its internal connections. "I'm interested in the intersection of space, geography, economics, social life, and social practice in the ancient world," she explained. Her dissertation, which influenced her contributions to Making Roman Places, focuses on ancient "material culture" in southern Italy. Totten said, "I tried to see if studying archaeological artifacts would make it possible to trace certain patterns of an ancient economic region."
Making Roman Places makes a new contribution to classical studies through juxtaposing studies of "place-making" in the past with analyses how people interact with places in the present. Totten explained, "Place-making is how people interact with spaces -and with each other-and make them into social places. We were interested in not only how the Romans did this in the past, but how our contemporary societies still utilize and manipulate this material culture to shape experiences of place."
The studies of the Roman past include cases from ancient Ephesus, Anatolia, Italy, and the forts of Roman Britain and Dura Europos. Totten's contribution in Making Roman Places specifically focuses on how Etruscan sites have been used to create a certain discourse on Italian heritage, not only in Italy, but in the EU and internationally. Other contributions explore how such ancient Roman heritage plays a significant role in place-making in Tunisia and Cyprus.
Making Roman Places is available online from the publisher's website.