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Rome in Africa, Africa in Rome

Lecture on Monday 6th November 2023 at 1:45PM

Lecturer: Paul Roberts
Venue: Larruperz Centre

This talk looks at the art and society of Roman North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt. Though divided, then as now, by their history and ethnicity these countries all once formed part of the Roman Empire – and a very important part, too.

We see how Rome gradually conquered them and why – their incredible natural resources, from the fish of Morocco to the grain of Tunisia, the olive oil of Libya and the fabulous agricultural and mineral wealth of Egypt. Roman influence spread through these provinces, in architecture, art and language, but it was clearly not a one way process. The flood of imports from these provinces included not only goods, but ideas and people, and with them came changes in art, religion and society.

Some Africans rose to be Emperors, including Septimius Severus, one of the greatest in Rome’s history. We’ll see the great interdependence between Rome and Africa, so great that the loss of Africa in the Late Empire was a body blow from which the Empire never recovered.

Dr Paul Roberts is Head of the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford University.

Paul has been a lecturer with the Arts Society/NADFAS for over twenty years, has travelled extensively to societies across the UK, and has also lectured on numerous cruises in and around the Mediterranean.

He studied Classics at the University of Cambridge, and Classical Archaeology at the Universities of Sheffield and Oxford. He then lived in Italy for several years, teaching and researching. He has travelled throughout the former lands of the Roman Empire, from Britain to Syria, and has excavated in Britain, Greece, Libya, Turkey and in particular Italy, where he is currently working on a Roman Villa in the Molise region of the Central Apennines. His research focuses on the daily life of ordinary people in the Greek and Roman worlds, and he has written books and articles on Greek and Roman daily life, Pompeii and Herculaneum, Sicily, Roman Emperors, mummy portraits, and Greek and Roman ceramics and glass. He is now writing a guide to the monuments and Emperors of ancient Rome.

From 1994 to 2015 he was Senior Roman Curator in the Greek and Roman Department at the British Museum, where he curated the exhibition Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (2013). Arriving in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in 2015, he co-curated Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Sicily and the Sea (2016) telling the history of Sicily through shipwreck finds. Most recently (2019/20) at the Ashmolean he curated Last Supper in Pompeii, a tribute to the Roman love affair with food and wine.

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