Roman(us): Ancient and Modern Conceptions of Romanness

16 September 2019 - 17 September 2019

Room S1, Alison Richard Building, Sidgwick Site

The adjective 'Roman' and noun 'Romans' are ubiquitous in modern scholarship, not least due to the proliferation of references to ‘being or becoming Roman'. There has, however, been a surprising lack of critical reflection on what the category ‘Roman’ meant within its ancient context or on how modern applications of the category ‘Roman’ might diverge from ancient ones. It is not obvious that identities or processes of being/becoming that are labelled by modern historians as ‘Roman’ would have been described as such by contemporaries.

This workshop will bring together historians and classicists working on evidence dating from the archaic period to the early Middle Ages. Our aim is to investigate the ancient vocabulary of being ‘Roman’ and the ways that it evolved across time. We argue that a proper understanding of these semantics has the potential to shed new light on the components and boundaries of ‘Roman’ as a category/identity and on the nature of the Roman empire as a political formation.

Key questions include: What are the key horizons/events in the history of the category ‘Roman’? What does an analysis of ancient vocabulary reveal about the relative importance of citizenship, ethnicity, language etc. in conceptions of ‘Roman’ as a category? What different political and/or cultural projects was the category ‘Roman’ made to serve?

The workshop is intended as an opportunity for conversation across different periods and disciplines. Papers will be relatively short with plenty of time scheduled for discussion. The event is convened by Olivia Elder (University of Cambridge; BSR) and Myles Lavan (University of St Andrews).

A provisonal programme can be seen by clicking on the relevant tab. The workshop is free to attend, but places are limited. To register, please email

This event is generously supported by the Isaac Newton Trust, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and the British School at Rome.


Monday 16 September

1.30-2.00 2.00-2.15


Welcome and Introduction


Olivia Elder (Cambridge)
Urbs Romana: being ‘Roman’ in the city of Rome


Myles Lavan (St Andrews)
‘Romans’ beyond Italy: from Augustus to the Severans


Tea Break


James Crooks (St Andrews)
Finding the first ‘Roman'


Giuseppe Pezzini (St Andrews)
s.v. Romanus in the Middle-Republic: semantics and usage of anatypical term




Rebecca Flemming (Cambridge)
Roman Medicine?

Tuesday 17 September


Alex Mullen (Nottingham)
Language and Romanness


John Weisweiler (Cambridge)
“Roman” and “Romans” in the Later Roman State


Coffee Break


Rosamond McKitterick (Cambridge)
Papal 'nationes' in the Liber pontificalis


Walter Pohl (Vienna)
Romans after Rome: the early Medieval West