Classical Studies presents the Spring 2023 Trinity University Lennox Seminar: Roman Landscapes – Art, Nature, and Myth
“Domesticating Empire: Egyptian Landscapes in the Casa dell’Efebo, Pompeii” - Presented by Caitlin Barrett, Associate Professor of Classics, Cornell University
“Nilotic scenes” – Roman depictions of imagined Egyptian landscapes – are important sources for the iconography and material constitution of Roman imperialism. Because these images are most commonly found in household contexts, they provide an opportunity to explore the embeddedness of imperial ideology within everyday life. This lecture uses a case study from Pompeii to investigate the construction and representation of “Egypt” in Roman household space, and, by extension, the ways that ancient viewers encountered and interacted with domestic images of empire. In the garden of the house known as the “Casa dell’Efebo,” paintings of Egyptian riverscapes shared space – and interacted with – a complex assemblage of architecture, wall paintings, statuary, and vegetation. This study recontextualizes the Nilotic frescoes within this eclectic ensemble, examining how the contents of the garden work together to create a sense of place, construct real and imagined landscapes, and shape the experiences available to the people who used this space. In contrast to older interpretations connecting Roman Aegyptiaca to Isis cult or the problematic concept of “Egyptomania,” a contextual analysis of this garden assemblage destabilizes both of these readings and suggests new possibilities for meaning. Simultaneously faraway and familiar, the garden’s imagined landscapes transform domestic space into a microcosm of empire and encourage their occupants to engage in open-ended ways with changing constructions of imperial, local, and cultural identities.
Wednesday, March 22 at 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Dicke Hall 104 Mabee Auditorium
One Trinity Place, San Antonio, Texas 78212