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The Sensorium of the Roman Urban Landscape: Sights, Sounds, Smells, Tastes, and Touch
October 16, 2019
Buffalo, NY United States
Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
AIA Society: Western New York (Buffalo)
Lecturer: Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow
This talk explores the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch of ancient Roman cities (focus on Pompeii and Herculaneum, but reference to Ostia and Rome as well) using textual and archaeological evidence, in order to discover how we can identify the sensorium of the Roman city and how it can sharpen our understanding of life on Roman streets, in public spaces, and in private dwellings. We review the chief institutions and structures of the city to find the evidence: in the streets (dung, vomit, pee, shit, detritus, garbage, filthy water, fresh produce and baked goods); from inside tenement buildings (mould, damp basements, fires, charcoal, stagnant well water, overflowing cesspits); from shops (burning ovens, smoke, meat and vegetables); from live animals; from crowded public venues (including games in the amphitheaters, theaters, fora, and markets); from urban disasters (fires and floods); from inside public baths and toilets; from religious worship in and outside temples; and from the rituals associated with death and burial. Such an investigation into the sources and dissemination of the ancient sensorium revivifies the complexity of the ancient city and even contributes to a better understanding of urban zoning.