Vicinitas In Urbe: Neighborliness And Urban Community In Mid-Republican Rome

Jordan Reed Rogers, University of Pennsylvania


Vicinitas in Urbe: Neighborliness and Urban Community in Mid-RepublicanRome is an analysis of the social and cultural strategies of urban neighboring at Rome during the mid-Republic, from approximately the end of the fourth century BCE to the end of the second century BCE. It adopts a dialectic framework of agency and structure in analyzing and interpreting the literary, archaeological, epigraphic, and numismatic sources for the creation and maintenance of urban neighborhood communities—vici— during the period in question and, in doing so, proposes novel ways of analyzing the interaction between Rome’s urban spaces and those dwelling within them. The dissertation argues that the social history of the mid-Republic must begin with the smallest communal unit of urban society, the vicus, to understand the norms that governed everyday life within the city of Rome. Further, it contends that a focus on these norms, and the strategies individuals employed to comply with, resist, or manipulate them, is fundamental for understanding major political events and upheavals in the middle and late Republic. In chapter one, I discuss the various ways in which the spaces of Rome, including its neighborhoods, were conceptually divided. Chapter two then treats how the formation, maintenance, and performance of collective memories through commemorative rituals was fundamental to local identities and social life. The dissertation then pivots towards a consideration of the social aspects of neighboring, first through an examination of neighborliness, vicinitas, in chapter three, in which I argue that claiming another as a neighbor (vicinus/a) was a claim designed to place an individual into a relationship of mutual obligation with oneself. Chapter four then treats how the exchange of information within the neighborhood, in the form of gossip, rumor, and reputation, underpinned every facet of urban life. The last chapter then sketches the various practices of public shaming designed to exert a communal control over individual behavior within neighborhoods. As a social history of urban community, Vicinitas in Urbe reasserts the role of Rome’s urban inhabitants in shaping both cultural discourse and the seminal events that have long defined Roman history in the middle Republic.