August 21, 2010

Roman Funerary Monuments

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Available on iTunes or OU Podcasts

The Open University has a huge number of short podcasts available and many are related to ancient history. Roman Funerary Monuments is part of their course on the classical world. The title accurately describes the content. There are 7 video podcasts in this series with a combined running time of roughly half an hour. All the videos are available in either iPod or a larger (640×360) format, with PDF transcripts. The visuals entirely consist of Roman funerary monuments in their modern state with documentary style narration. The necropolis at Isola Sacra features heavily.

Rather than focus on the monuments themselves, these podcasts use them to provide an insight into Roman culture. As the most common form of remnant surviving from Roman times, funerary monuments are a useful primary source. Epitaphs provide names (Roman names were very informative), ages, family relations and sometimes a short biography. Thus the dead could create a lasting image of themselves, emphasising the positive aspects of their life (in a Roman context) and omitting the negative. Freed slaves tended to take particular advantage of this, with their tombs being more extravagant than others of similar wealth. Funeral monuments also suggest that family relationships were important (especially among freed slaves, perhaps because as such relationships would have been limited under servitude). Roman law prohibited funeral monuments inside cities, so they were built alongside the roads leading out of the towns. Spots directly alongside the road being the prime location. Tombs also sought to catch the eye, and were designed to be visited. They often contained items to promote a longer stay such as art, furnishings, and in one case, a well.

This series is well worth a viewing.


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