Dahl Chapel, Monmouth College
700 E. Broadway
“The Decline and Falls of the Roman Material Economy or How to Trash Talk Rome”
Inaugural Sienkewicz Lecture in Roman Archaeology
Víctor Martínez, Lecturer in Art History, Arkansas State University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Whether Rome declined, fell, or just stumbled into the Middle Ages, it did so neither on an empty stomach nor without some wine to ease the transition. While much has been written about the political, cultural, and social reasons for these changes, less attention has been placed on the day-to-day lives of the people during Rome's twilight. In this paper, I draw upon my work on the Palatine East Excavations, which was the first systematic excavation on the eastern slope of Rome’s storied hill and which has produced over 15 metric tons of pottery, the bulk of which consists of large secondary refuse deposits dumped into and around the substructures of the building complex from the late third through the second half of the fifth century AD, in order to consider Rome's transformation. This trash still has much to say and, alongside other evidence from Rome and its provinces, one can begin to understand how the aspects of the life histories of Roman refuse can inform about Rome in the waning years of the empire.