On the Benefits (and Pleasures) of Staring at Walls: An Alternative History of Rome in the “Dark Ages”
Where: The Explorers Club
46 E. 70th St.
212-628-8383 Price: $25
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Public Lecture Series with Hendrik Dey
Rome in 700 AD was the capital of Christendom and home of the popes, and yet the popes didn’t rule the city itself. Imperial officials did, because Rome remained part of the “Roman” —i.e. Byzantine—empire. The Church, in other words, was still subordinate to the State, as it had been since emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 313.
Then, starting around 700, the popes began to take over: to make Rome a papal city, owned and governed by the Church. Historians and archaeologists are still trying to understand how and why, and exactly when, this revolution occurred. Dr. Dey will tell the story of the revolution through the surviving remains of bonded-masonry structures (a.k.a. mortared brick walls) recently discovered in Rome.
Or rather, the walls will tell the story, and he will interpret!
Well into the seventh century, Roman masons built walls using materials and techniques that had changed little since the heyday of the Roman empire. But walls erected starting in the eighth century are unmistakably different and distinctively ‘medieval.’ Several walls dating precisely to this moment of change have recently been excavated; they illuminate a critical juncture in the history of Rome after the Roman Empire, when the city transitioned from imperial to papal capital.
Changes in the way brick, stone, and mortar were assembled into standing walls shed light not only on the transmission and practical implementation of specialized knowledge inherited from the classical past, but also on the transformation of Roman society during the transitional centuries between the late Empire and the early Middle Ages. Staring more at walls, Dr. Dey suggests, can offer new insights into topics as broad and varied as urban administration and politics, stewardship of public buildings and infrastructure, trade and the economy, and the organization and composition of the labor force.
Hendrik Dey is an archaeologist and historian specializing in cities and urbanism in the Mediterranean during and after the fall of the Roman Empire. He splits his research time and interests between the city of Rome and underwater archaeological fieldwork at Caesarea Maritima in Israel (with EC Fellow Beverly Goodman). His several books include one on Rome in the early Middle Ages (The Aurelian Wall and the Refashioning of Imperial Rome, 271-855, Cambridge U. Press, 2011), and an urban history of medieval Rome from 400 – 1400, currently in progress. A former Rome Prize Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, he is currently Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Hunter College. He received his Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan in 2006. He is a recently inducted fellow at the Explorers Club.
Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Lecture
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