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Constructing Rome: the Politics of Public Building in Republican Rome

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posted on 2021-11-12, 09:06 authored by Hayes, Tania

This thesis explores Rome’s built environment from its early republican foundation to the period of the late republic and demonstrates that monumental construction remained an embedded and integral element of Roman society throughout this period. Public buildings and civic space played a significant role in shaping the cultural and political identity of early republican Rome. As an outward manifestation of the unification and urbanization of the city-state, these monumental structures represented and advertised the civic superiority of the great city over the wider Mediterranean. For the city’s elite, this monumental domain provided the ideal venue to display their own civic superiority, advertising the dignitas, gloria, and honos of individual men through the medium of Rome’s built environment. The embedded nature of Roman religion and politics further augmented the importance of many of these public buildings. In particular, temple structures provided magistrates with the platform from which to express highly personal - yet legitimate - glorifying and propagandist messages through the use of inscriptions, architectural innovation, and divine representation. Increasing political competition in the late republic saw the significance of public construction, both temporary and permanent, increase dramatically as magistrates strove to outshine their peers through the provision of public works. By the close of the republic, the city’s built environment came to represent the individual power and superiority of a wealthy and select few, signalling a new direction for Rome the city-state. A closer look at the various building projects of individual men confirms the significance of monumentalization for Roman republican society. Caesar’s forum Iulium, for example, clearly illustrates the immense potential such spaces held for the self-aggrandizement and personal glorification of these elite individuals. Situated at the intersection between republican and imperial Rome, the Caesarian phase of the forum Iulium provides a valuable insight into this important period of Roman politics and cultural development. This thesis will also demonstrate that smaller individual building projects, such as temporary theatres and temple refurbishments, served to provide significant political utility for the less powerful, yet elite, men of Rome.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Tatum, Jeffrey