Category Archives: Multiple Masculinities in Roman Archaeology- No Girls Allowed!!

Session Abstract – Multiple Masculinities in Roman Archaeology- No Girls Allowed!!

This session aims to look past the idea of a homogenous Roman male elite identity in order to understand masculinities, which have been marginalized by both Roman society and contemporary gender studies. A wealthy husband and statesman in Rome would have had a completely different life experience and gender identity than an unmarried young soldier on the British frontier. Contemporary scholarship, however, often groups such individuals together under the heading of “men.” By focusing solely on male identities, this session endeavours to demonstrate that literary evidence, artistic depictions and archaeological artefacts, including jewellery and personal adornment, offer a rich resource in uncovering multiple masculinities and understanding the ways in which these masculinities were created and displayed by Roman men throughout the Empire.

Over the past thirty years, gender studies have successfully “added” women into investigations of Roman culture and society and the theoretical importance of these studies has been reflected in TRAC. In 2010, TRAC had two fruitful and successful sessions on gender theory, ‘Cloth, Clothing and Gender in Roman Archaeology’ and ‘Engendering Material Cultural Packages in Roman Archaeology.’ Our session argues that gender theory has moved on enough to allow scholars to “subtract” women briefly in order to better understand the various and diverse masculinities, which existed in the Roman world and have been overshadowed by uncovering female identities. Potential themes include multiple masculinities within Roman society, differing views of masculinity based on ethnicity and so-called deviant masculinities.

Creating Gender: Castration in Rome – Kathryn Reusch (Oxford)

The introduction of the cult of Cybele into Rome in 210 BC made the Romans intimately aware of castration and its many uses. The strong patriarchal foundation of Roman society was unsure of how to handle the castrate, but initial revulsion came to be replaced by a practical attitude to castration – as long as it was not practiced within the borders of the empire, its product was useful and often desired. Castrates were seen to inhabit a dangerous liminal position in the sexual and therefore gender hierarchy. This made them into a distinctive other which allowed them to serve as priests and prostitutes, tutors and slaves. Despite the importance of this topic for gender, economic and cultural historians and archaeologists, most of our information remains text-based. This paper will discuss the merits of a more in-depth archaeological study of castration, which has the potential to expand our knowledge of castrates and castration and the links between kingdoms and empires of the Roman and Late Antique worlds. Evidence from funerary deposits will give more information about treatment of castrates in death, which will point to their social standing, treatment and gender roles in life. Information about how castrates were treated and how this was fed by and fed into their gender and social roles will create a greater resolution of overall gender perceptions and how they changed over time in this period.

Multiple Masculinities and Personal Adornment from Herculaneum – Courtney A. Ward (Oxford)

Gender has been a critical influence in archaeology over the past 30 years, however there is still a tendency to view jewellery and personal adornment purely as the realm of wealthy women. Yet, freeborn boys were marked by a gold bulla and men of various financial and social statuses wore finger-rings. This paper will provide a new perspective regarding discussions of gender and identity by uncovering the multiple masculinities extant in the Roman world through an analysis of personal adornment and skeletal remains preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

Though his rank and economic means remained constant, a man in the political sphere would have been identifiable as a boy, a young politician, a husband, a successful statesman and ultimately a head of household. These stages in the life of this fictitious man would have been differentiated not only by levels of responsibility and respect but also through variations in clothing and personal adornment. The gender identities associated with these stages would have also varied according to individual circumstances of wealth and status. The goal of this paper is to uncover not only how these gender identities were conveyed but also how they interacted with other interrelated social factors, such as social standing and financial means. In order to more accurately assess these multiple gender identities, skeletal remains from Herculaneum will be examined for aspects, such as age, sex, health and social status. These will then be compared to assemblages of personal adornment found with the individual remains.

Gender has been a critical influence in archaeology over the past 30 years, however there is still a tendency to view jewellery and personal adornment purely as the realm of wealthy women. Yet, freeborn boys were marked by a gold bulla and men of various financial and social statuses wore finger-rings. This paper will provide a new perspective regarding discussions of gender and identity by uncovering the multiple masculinities extant in the Roman world through an analysis of personal adornment and skeletal remains preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

 

Though his rank and economic means remained constant, a man in the political sphere would have been identifiable as a boy, a young politician, a husband, a successful statesman and ultimately a head of household. These stages in the life of this fictitious man would have been differentiated not only by levels of responsibility and respect but also through variations in clothing and personal adornment. The gender identities associated with these stages would have also varied according to individual circumstances of wealth and status. The goal of this paper is to uncover not only how these gender identities were conveyed but also how they interacted with other interrelated social factors, such as social standing and financial means. In order to more accurately assess these multiple gender identities, skeletal remains from Herculaneum will be examined for aspects, such as age, sex, health and social status. These will then be compared to assemblages of personal adornment found with the individual remains.

An Holistic Approach to Roman Gender – Melanie Sherratt (Durham)

Discussions of gender in Roman archaeology often focus on identifying and defining the presence and roles of women rather than discussing the roles of the entire community.  This paper will discuss the explicit and implicit biases created by such approaches, arguing that not only do such approaches do a great disservice to our understanding of past cultures but also that such approaches have allowed gender studies to be inadvertently marginalised within current archaeological discourse.  By seeing identity as multifaceted, incorporating not only biological sex but also age, status and ethnicity, a greater understanding of gender roles and gendered identity can emerge in the archaeological record. This paper will focus on material from South East England and will discuss the transition from the late Iron Age through the early Roman period. By addressing changes in how gender is displayed in funerary contexts, it will be argued that concepts of what it was to be male shifted significantly during this period and can therefore contribute to the complex issues surrounding the study of this period. Therefore, rather than limiting inquiry on gender to specific minutia of provincial life or examples of the exotic, which can be dismissed from larger narratives of understanding, gender can and should be at the heart of discussions of Roman Britain.