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War and remembrance. Memories of defeat in ancient Rome

Paper i proceeding
Författare Ida Östenberg
Publicerad i Attitudes towards the past in Antiquity. Creating identities, Proceedings of an International Conference held at Stockholm University, 15-17 May 2009
Sidor 255–265
ISBN 978-91-87235-48-1
ISSN 0562-1062
Publiceringsår 2014
Publicerad vid Institutionen för historiska studier
Sidor 255–265
Språk en
Ämneskategorier Historia och arkeologi


Battles and battlefield strategies have long held a prime place of interest among Roman scholars. In recent years, attention has also turned to martial rituals, war memorials and the sense of oneness as shaped by joint experiences of war. These current discussions focus almost without exception on Roman victories. In contrast, this paper aims at exploring aspects of defeat, asking how battlefield failures were received, remembered and how they contributed to the creation of identities in ancient Rome. The basic questions are these: How did Rome handle her own defeats? Which losses were forgotten and which were remembered? How were defeats committed to memory (or consigned to oblivion) – what rituals, monuments and narratives were employed? This paper will argue that, while contemporary battle losses must certainly have triggered enormous sorrow and fear, there are very few traces of former defeats visible in Roman ceremony and cityscape. Only a very limited set of failures from the distant past were embraced as specific events by the communal Roman memory. Most defeats were instead taken up by the writers of the Early Empire as preludes to later victories and were thus absorbed into the larger picture of constant Roman success.

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