Public Monuments in Roman Greece: A New Database

A colleague sent me this link to Dr. Christopher Dickenson‘s new database and website devoted to the public monuments of Roman Greece. The platform and the content are still under development, but the website already makes available records for a substantial number of monuments known from Pausanias for three cities of Roman Greece. With its aim to presen all monuments known from text and archaeology, the site has the potential to offer a comprehensive and useful data set of statues, tombs, paintings, and dedications from the major cities of Greece between 200 BC and 200 AD. As Dickenson describes the project at his blog,

The basic premise behind my project is that not enough attention has been paid to the extent to which spatial setting contributed to the meaning of ancient public monuments. I’m interested in questions such as how setting up different types monument in the same space – for example statues of benefactors and gods in a city’s agora – might have had an effect on how such monuments were read and experienced, how different spaces were frequented by different groups of people who would have been the audience for these monuments.

The website home page describes the project in this way

Under the Roman Empire the marketplaces, streets, gymnasia and theatres of the cities of Greece were full of monuments such as tombs, inscribed stelai and – most numerous of all – statues. There were statues of bronze and of marble, portraying gods, heroes, emperors, kings and local dignitaries. Some of these monuments had already stood for centuries; others were fairly recent. Arguably no urban culture in history, with the possible exception of Rome itself, has set up such vast numbers of monuments in its public spaces. The nearest modern analogy for the amount of cultural material on display in the Roman period polis would be the museum. Yet the analogy falls short – the settings where these monuments stood were not places designed primarily for the passive viewing of works of art, they were vibrant public spaces, alive with the tumult and commotion of the city. If we are to understand the society and culture of these cities it is vital that we understand the impact of public monuments on the people who moved about them in their daily lives.

The aim of the project “Monuments of Roman Greece”, funded by a Marie Curie Fellowship from the European Commission is to explore the various ways in which the setting of public monuments contributed to giving them meaning, for instance, by looking at how certain types of monuments were positioned in relation to spaces used for certain activities in order to target particular audiences and at how monuments were positioned in relation to each other to create meaningful connections. This investigation will cast new light on questions such as the nature of power within the polis community and how local identity was defined in the face of imperial rule. The results will be published in a series of articles. At the heart of the project is a database of monuments known from archaeological, epigraphic and literary evidence to have stood in the cities of Greece in Roman times. The database is a work in progress and is still being expanded but has been made available online here as a tool for other researchers.

RomanGreeceMonumentsThe database page of the website notes that the current database contains all the public monuments from Athens, Corinth, and Messene mentioned by the travel writer Pausanias in the second century AD. The database itself includes 340 records for armour, paintings, figures, statues, and monuments. Each record includes a range of content and metadata such as type; find spot, attestation, found in situ; type of public space; spatial setting; specific location; date erected; last date attested in situ; statue size; dimensions; notes; bibliography; and images. You can search for a monument by clicking on “Find” and “Perform Find.” The current web search interface is clunky but functionality should come over time.


For more information, see Dickenson’s blog post about the potential of the research database and the problems of categorization, the major issue confronting anyone who dares to create an archaeological gazetteer of sites known from both textual and archaeological evidence. Dickenson is currently seeking recommendations — should you have any.

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