Roman Portable Sundials: The Empire in Your Hand
Sponsored by Society 333 of the AIA; co-sponsored by the Davidson College Public Lectures Committee and the departments of classics and history
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - 7:30pm

900 Room in the Alvarez College Union
207 Faculty Dr
Davidson, NC 28036
United States

Richard Talbert (William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Lecture Description: It is clear that the Romans gained, administered and defended a vast empire for several centuries.  Much less clear, however, is the issue of how – in their pre-modern, largely unscientific era – they envisaged this world of theirs.  For certain, no single outlook ever developed, such as we enjoy today thanks to our public education, printing, and modern cartography.  Instead, to grasp the ‘mental world-map’ in the heads of Romans calls for identifying and analyzing clues that may at best furnish glimpses of diverse outlooks.  Richard Talbert shares one such quest that he is pursuing.  It taps an intriguing category of scattered source material that is little known to begin with, and that no-one anticipates will provide insight into geography and worldview.  But in fact one variety of portable sundial can do just that.  These are tiny bronze instruments fitted with adjustable rings to allow for the changes of latitude likely to occur in the course of a long journey.  For rapid reference, such sundials also record the names and latitudes of as many as three dozen cities or regions chosen by the maker or owner, thereby revealing something of that individual’s mental world-map.  This said, along with all their variety, these sundials can be seen to share a notable uniformity as well as a distinctly Roman character. So here is a lecture full of surprises, engaging with Romans’ sense of space, time and identity.   

Contact Information
Peter Krentz


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