CFP: Reading and Writing for Rome



Call for Papers: Reading and Writing for Rome: Literacies of Administration

We invite proposals for papers for the panel ‘Reading and Writing for Rome: Literacies of Administration’ at the 11th Celtic Conference in Classics at the University of St. Andrews taking place July 11th-14th 2018.

This session aims to explore literacy, understanding, and perception of inscriptions with particular attention to administrative aspects, taking a contextual, multidisciplinary approach, and raising issues from the spread of Latin to the visual impact of inscriptions. We intend to produce an edited volume of the papers presented, aiming for publication by 2020.

Literacy in the Roman World has been debated for more than twenty‐five years since the publication of the first landmark study on the subject. Despite the knowledge that Roman cities (and the countryside as well) were full of things to read it is still commonly accepted that literacy was relatively low. This places question marks at the perception and understanding of text, especially those texts publically displayed and essential for the structure of the empire, such as legal inscriptions, road signs, boundary marking, taxes and the sale of goods. The epigraphic culture of the late Republic and early Empire is much studied, although often with a focus on religious or funerary commemoration and dedication. Through a focus on the administrative elements in milestones, fasti, election graffiti and dipinti, and other inscriptions related to regulation and commerce, this panel aims to discuss implied levels of literacy and/or general understanding as well as civic participation, touching on issues of globalisation, imperialism, agency and identity. This also raises questions about the spread and importance of Latin, multilingualism and translations, and the perception and understanding of Latin in relation to local languages.

We are inviting a range of scholars from different disciplines and backgrounds to connect issues of administration, taxation, civic duty, identity and community building, as represented in the public writing in the Roman world and to discuss implied levels of literacy and/or general understanding as well as civic participation, touching on issues of globalisation, multilingualism, imperialism, agency and identity. We particularly would like to encourage PhD students and early career researchers, and with that objective we are accepting abstracts for papers both 20 and 40 minutes in length. Please specify the desired paper length on your abstract.

Prof. William Johnson (Duke) will act as discussant for the panel, and confirmed speakers include Dr A. Mullen (Nottingham) Dr J. Howley (Columbia), Dr S. Stevens (Utrecht), Dr O. Olesti-Vila (Barcelona) and Dr A. Graham (Warwick), amongst others.

Please submit an abstract of max. 200 words by Friday 16 February 2018 to either of the organisers, and we will inform speakers as soon as possible after that. Finally, please note papers can be presented in English or French, traditionally the two official languages of the Celtic Conference.

Dr. Anouk Vermeulen (
Dr. Virginia L. Campbell (





Parisian Connections


I have just returned to the UK after a weekend in Paris, and though I admit to a certain amount of touristy frivolity, the purpose of my trip was to attend a one day conference showcasing network based research for archaeologists and historians. This was organised by The Connected Past, whom have been responsible for a few other workshops and seminars I have attended. As someone relatively new to network studies, having the chance to hear what other people are doing and discuss the practical issues of data collection and visualisation programmes is invaluable. The papers are interesting too.

I am routinely stunned by the variety and breadth of the research that is being conducted using network analysis. There seems to be little limitation on the time or place to which this methodology can be applied. I have previously written here about the project mapping Benjamin Franklin’s correspondence, but add to that fifteenth century ties between the elite of Tours and the king, networks of Bronze Age archaeological contexts, connections between early twentieth century Swiss scientists, and the exchange of gifts amongst natives and Spaniards during Columbus’ Caribbean voyages. There was, of course, more, (the full programme is online and the proceedings were documented on Twitter at #tcp2014), but this demonstrates the richness of the potential for network theory as a methodology. The question was raised during discussion after the conclusion of the papers whether or not this is a fad or a valid methodological approach to our studies: Is network analysis the only way to access a specific set of data? To some extent, the answer to this question depends on the research questions one has in the first place, but for those in the room, the answer was certainly yes.

Undoubtedly the best aspect of this conference was being introduced to three other projects applying network theory to antiquity of which I was previously unaware. There is an ongoing project led by Henrik Gerding and Per Östborn at Lund University that is using network theory to chart the distribution of new technologies – specifically brick and tile production. The paper presented focused on Hellenistic fired bricks as an example of the diffusion of innovation, and presented a number of different hypothetical models in an attempt to discover how and why new production techniques were adopted.

Shifting further east, Networks in the Roman Near East (NeRoNE), is a relatively new project led by Eivind Heldaas Seland at the University of Bergen. His paper focused on finding trade routes between Palmyra and the Persian Gulf in the first three centuries AD. This uses archaeological and ethnographic data and maps, amongst other features, available water supplies as the basis of a network in order to determine the routes used by caravans across the desert.

The final presentation on the ancient world was a literary one. Anthony Glaise (Paris IV-Sorbonne and the École Normale Supérieure) and Thibault Clerice (King’s College London) developed a programme that maps mentions of Cicero in literature from the time of his life until the fifth century AD. This resource, available online, allows connections to be drawn between one of the more prolific writers of the late Republic with people, places, gods and other literature. This approach (much like Elton Barker’s Hestia project) seems to have great potential for challenging the way we study ancient literature.

As most scholars will relate, research can be an incredibly solitary thing. This is one reason why conferences such as this are so important – not just for the opportunity to learn about other projects, but in order to discuss your own. For someone working with a methodology that has (relatively) few participants in Classical studies, this has been, once again, an experience from which I come away feeling reinvigorated about my own work, and the potential for the future. Besides that…..Paris.