Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Art, Wellesley College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History of Art, University of California / Berkeley
Honor and Expectation: Negotiating Empire on Triumphal Arches of the Severan Dynasty (c. 193-217 C.E.)

My dissertation redefines the Roman Empire's signature monument, the triumphal arch. Rather than approaching them as emblems of triumph or as tools of Romanization, I argue that arches concretized local agency in imperial negotiations. The decree of an arch was a powerful right solely in the hands of local elites; the emperor did not decree arches, he only received them. The Severan Dynasty, considered the transitional era between the High and Late Roman Empire, offers the most promising place to begin this reappraisal because of its pivotal position in Roman history and because of the quantity, quality and location of the monuments that date to it. Sixteen Severan arches survive in North Africa, while two survive in the city of Rome. This unique coincidence of a large corpus of arches surviving both in the empire's capital {Rome) and in the emperor's homeland (North Africa) offers an unprecedented opportunity for a trans-regional study of imperial negotiation. Because of biases against material from North Africa and from the later empire, Severan arches have never been studied as a group, despite their consistently flamboyant design, innovative sculpture, and verbose inscriptions.