Abstract: Telling Time in the Eternal City


Conceptions of time can illuminate peculiar characteristics of a culture. In this lecture, I first explore the Roman calendar, both in its familiar Julian form (as introduced by Julius Caesar in 46-45 BCE) and in its stranger pre-Julian form. Surviving calendrical monuments – principally the Fasti Antiates Maiores (a pre-Julian calendar from Antium in Latium) and the Fasti Praenestini (a Julian calendar from Praeneste, also in Latium) – are the main sources for this investigation. Having explored the shape, mechanics, and purpose of these annual calendars, which presented time as cycle of recurring days and months, I turn to the consular lists (primarily the Fasti Capitolini, in Rome, which Augustus set up in the Roman Forum), which were used to chart the passage of years. These listgs displayed time as a linear march of magistrates. They were exhibited in close proximity to the monthly calendars, and appear to have been consulted in tandem with them, but in a way that most people may find surprising. Finally, I look at how time was conceptualized by Romans in another, unusual fashion: the monumentalizing of particular historical moments that were written into the very fabric of the city. The Roman conception of time was commensurate with their understanding of their own history.

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