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Dr. Virginia Fabrizi

Focus Area: Organisation of Memory and Forgetting
Postdoctoral Fellow: November 2014 - Oktober 2017


Das Imperium Romanum erzählen: Raumstrukturen in der römischen Geschichtsschreibung der frühen und mittleren Kaiserzeit.

In recent years, narratological analyses of ancient historical writings have greatly improved our understanding of Greek and Roman intellectual discourses about the past. However, one major narratological category, namely space, has been relatively neglected by scholars of Roman historiography. This lacuna appears all the more remarkable given the increasing attention that narratology has accorded to space during the last few decades, and especially since the occurrence of the “spatial turn” at the outset of the millennium. My research project aims to fill this gap by carrying out a narratological analysis of space in Livy’s Ab urbe condita. In particular, I focus on Livy’s construction of the settings of the events he narrates, with the aim of showing their role as functional elements in the historian’s construction of the Roman past.

In a first section of my project, I concentrate on the linguistic instruments and narrative techniques that Livy employs to convey information about the space within which the narrated events take place. I examine, among other things, the criteria governing the historian’s selection of spatial information, as well as his use of description and focalisation in the construction of settings. A second section of the project analyses spatial semantics in the Ab urbe condita. The focus of my attention is here constituted by the techniques through which spatial elements are made to bear extra-spatial meaning within Livy’s narrative universe: in particular, I am concerned with space as embodying culture-related values such as gender and ethnicity. Finally, I investigate the role of speeches in modelling space within the Ab urbe condita. I argue that the words pronounced by characters interact with the voice of the primary narrator in conveying a mental model of space and that precisely the interplay among different voices is one of the most productive means of spatial semantics.

The ultimate objective of my project is twofold. On the one hand, it will contribute to the general understanding of Roman perception and imagination of space. On the other, it will shed some new light upon the complex relationship between Roman historical writing and factual reality. In other words, it will make one even more aware of the cultural and literary concerns governing the representation of historical sites in a Roman historiographical account; in so doing, it will allow for a more balanced approach to the Ab urbe condita as a historical source.