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dr. J. (Jeremia) Pelgrom

Assistant Professor
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Landscapes of Early Roman Colonization

Free competition humanities NWO with Tesse Stek (Leiden University)

This project examines the role of Roman non-urban settlements in the formative phase of the Roman Empire. Both ancient and modern viewers have portrayed Roman colonies as key factors in the spread of the urban model and, typically, these new foundations are sharply contrasted with the non-urban settlement organisation that prevailed in the conquered native areas. The evidential basis for this view is, however, notoriously limited for the Mid-Republican period, the key phase of Roman expansion in Italy. The project therefore aims to systematically compare early colonial settlement organization with the situation in contemporary non-colonial control areas. In particular, it further explores non-urban settlements, which as recent epigraphic and archaeological work suggests, may have played a considerable role in early Roman expansion. Using intensive field survey, remote sensing and geophysical analysis, the aim is to provide a comparable dataset and to test a new conception of early Roman colonization that is not based on the urban model, but on a distinct “multiplecore” settlement organization and institutional configuration. Such a model could shed a different light on the traditional notion of Roman colonies as key factors in the urbanization and “romanization” of the conquered territories. In particular, it would presuppose different mechanisms of cultural change by fragmenting the traditional monolithic city-state model and decentering urban centers as the only loci of societal and cultural development.

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Mapping the via Appia

Programma Investeringen NWO- middelgroot with Stephan Mols and Eric Moormann (Radboud University Nijmegen)

The Via Appia, ‘Queen of Roads’, became a hallmark of the political and cultural presentation of the city of Rome as the centre of the then existing world, and is still seen as an iconic monument of ancient Rome. Since 2009 the department of Classical Archaeology of the Radboud University Nijmegen has started a field work project in close collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome, named ‘Mapping the Via Appia’.  The project aims at a thorough inventory and analysis of the Roman interventions in their suburban landscape, focusing on parts of the 5th and 6th mile of the road. The stretch starts where the modern Via di Erode Attico crosses the Via Appia antica and ends at the point where the Via di Casal Rotondo crosses the ancient road. Other partners are the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences and the SPINlab of the VU University Amsterdam, and the Soprintendenza Speciale per I Beni Archeologici di Roma. The wealth of archaeological monuments preserved both above and beneath ground level as well as the opulent documentary evidence in archives and digital resources (mainly photographs), make a very detailed multidisciplinary analysis of the history of the road and its surroundings possible. At the same time, this huge amount of wide-ranging data poses some methodological challenges and requires the development of new documentation and analysis strategies. The complex architectural design of several monuments, as well as the detailed archival records, have resulted in an archaeological and historical landscape which cannot be studied by only using established recording systems like regional field survey projects

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The Renaissance of Roman Colonization

Royal Netherlands Institute Rome with Arthur Weststeijn (Utrecht University)

Colonisation has been a crucial phenomenon in the making of the modern globalised world. From the sixteenth century onwards, European states have expanded their power and their population worldwide through the establishment of colonial settlements from Asia to the Americas. The legal background to European colonisation has however not yet been analysed in detail from a historical point of view. While colonisation is often considered a mere synonym to modern imperialism, it should be defined, in line with the original meaning of the Roman colonia, as a specific form of expansion based on land reform and population settlement. The colonisation policies of Ancient Rome followed a range of legal arrangements concerning property division and state formation, documented in textual and epigraphic sources. Once antiquarian scholars rediscovered and scrutinised these sources in the Renaissance, their analysis of the Roman colonial model set the intellectual boundaries for the concurrent development of European colonisation overseas.

This project aims to show how contending interpretations of the Roman colonial model have shaped dominant views and practices of colonisation between the late sixteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In particular, it highlights the crucial impact of the meticulous legal interpretation of Roman colonisation brought forward by the Italian humanist scholar Carlo Sigonio (1520-1584). As the volume argues, Sigonio’s interpretation of Roman colonisation as a vehicle of social emancipation and agrarian reform greatly influenced the study and understanding of the Roman model and colonial policies until the nineteenth century. Bringing together scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds, the volume shows how Sigonio’s interpretation of Roman colonisation departed from earlier Machiavellian notions of imperial strategy and critically informed practices of European colonisation in the seventeenth century, visions of colonial rebellion in the nascent United States of America, Enlightened accounts of state formation and private property, and a specific juridical strand in twentieth century historiography. The result is a novel account of the impact of Roman imperial history on modern legal and intellectual history.

Santa Prisca Project

Royal Netherlands Institute Rome & Archaeological Service of Rome with M. Taviani (Archaeological Service of Rome)

In close collaboration with the Archaeological Service of Rome, the KNIR Santa Prisca Project intends to unlock and re-examine the legacy data of the first Dutch excavations in Italy, beneath the church of Santa Prisca on the Aventine hill. These excavations, directed by Maarten Vermaseren (UU) and Carel van Essen (NIR) lasted for more than a decade (1952-1968) and yielded parts of a Roman imperial insula and one of the most important Mithraea in the world. While the results of the first phase of these excavations have been thoroughly published in 1965 (The excavations in the mithraeum of the church of Santa Prisca in Rome, Leiden-Brill), the results of the second phase of research which concentrated on the courtyard of the Santa Prisca complex (1964-1968) have thus far remained mostly unpublished. In the context of a recent project of the archaeological service of Rome to map and study all known archaeological remains on the Aventine Hill (Aventino tra Visibile e Invisibile), the KNIR has decided to change this state of affairs by unlocking its Vermaseren Archive. This recently obtained archive, consisting of around forty notebooks with field reports, architectural and stratigraphical descriptions, sketches and more than thousand photos offers a wealth of unpublished data concerning the archaeological fieldwork project at the Santa Prisca. Moreover, a complementary archive, consisting of institutional correspondence concerning the Dutch excavations, has been made accessible by the Archaeological Service of Rome.

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Last modified:25 June 2022 10.59 a.m.