National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Rhodora Vennarucci

Affiliation: University of Arkansas

Rhodora G. Vennarucci is an Assistant Professor of Classical Studies and Art History at the University of Arkansas. She holds degrees in Roman Archaeology from the University at Buffalo (Ph.D. and M.A.) and in Classical Archaeology from the University of Michigan (B.A.). Her main research focus lies in the socio-economic history of the Roman world with published and forthcoming works that focus on both ends of the distributive system in Italy: rural production and the development and use of urban commercial landscapes. As field director and co-PI of the Marzuolo Archaeological Project, she collaborates in the investigation of a Roman rural minor center in Southcentral Tuscany (IT). This center has produced evidence of wine production, cross-craft interaction (especially blacksmithing and woodworking), and warehousing. She is also the scientific director and co-PI of the Virtual Roman Retail project, which leverages immersive VR technology to put sensory archaeology into practice and explore how shop environments may have shaped ancient consumer experience and behavior. The project’s VR application with interactive visualizations of the Felt Shop of Verecundus at Pompeii and the Taberne dei Pescivendoli at Ostia will soon be available for free download from the Meta Store. She has, in addition, contributed to the Virtual Pompeii project, which tests predictive analyses against experiential modeling to study the intersection of spatial configuration, decoration, and social phenomena in the Roman house. Dr. Vennarucci has taught twice at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome and is a recipient of the J. Williams Fulbright College of Arts and Science’s Master Teaching Award. 


Work in Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) has underscored that shopping is meaningful behavior. It is still new, however, to ask how shopping behavior was meaningful for people in the Roman world in part because consumption studies in archaeology have overlooked consumer agency and the social act of consumption. This talk applies a CCT and phenomenological approach to The Felt Shop of Verecundus (IX.7.5-7) from Pompeii, which sold fine footwear (e.g. socci, soft-soled felted slippers) and high-status textile products (e.g. toga praetexta) to explore how ancient consumers self-fashioned through public acts of consumption in the shop. An interactive 3D model of the shop in VR, reconstructed using the architectural remains and archival data from the shop’s excavation, facilitated this investigation, which contributes to the Virtual Roman Retail project.

Socci were a luxury item worn indoors and at dinner parties that only the more affluent in society could afford. Shopping for slippers then on the via dell’Abondanza, Pompeii’s most heavily trafficked thoroughfare, was a social act that involved the public performance of (aspirational?) power and status displayed for a larger and more diverse street audience than a private triclinium, where the slippers were ultimately meant to be worn, could offer. This lecture discusses how shopping behavior, traditionally viewed as a component of modern retailing, conveyed sociocultural meaning in Roman society and highlights the social and communicative functions of the Roman shop, alongside its commercial and distributive functions.

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