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BioRom - Rome our Home: (Auto)biographical Tradition and the Shaping of Identity(ies)

Project Reference: PTDC/LLT-OUT/28431/2017 (1.10.2018 a 30.09.2022)

This project delves into the concept of plural identities within European cultural heritage, drawing from biographical sources penned between the twilight of the Republic and the dawn of the Empire. These sources reveal the values of identity and the integration of foreign cultures within the Roman domain. Rome, renowned for its inclination towards legal, cultural and religious assimilation, serves as the central focus of this endeavour – an epicentre of fusion, consolidation and dissemination of cultures, acting as an archetype that leaves essential imprints on the formation of European identity. We thus aim to uncover within these sources traces of identity and alterity within the Greco-Roman unity, to scrutinise the integration processes of the Other and the (re)definition of the identities, and to analyse local reactions to the Roman paradigm. In doing so, we aim to elucidate Europe’s integrative character by delving into its ability to contemplate its own genesis, spatial identity, and the diversity of its ethnic and ethical heritage.


This project aims to explore the works of authors and biographical figures that delve into the issue of inclusion and identity, not only essential to Roman culture but also pivotal in its great success and stability. In today’s Europe, which grapples with the challenge of accommodating and including different national cultures while retaining a sense of identity, a model of integration can be found in the formation of the idea of Rome, framed within the Italian and Mediterranean context. This historical narrative illustrates a way in which this demographic influx (including workforce, knowledge, values, and religion) was used to construct a broad identity. This experience serves as a paradigm, showcasing the potentialities, challenges and tensions inherent in such integration processes.

It is therefore crucial to understand how these texts mirror the construction of the Roman identity, conceived as a sense of belonging to a community shared by its members. This identity formation combines conflicting perspectives: firstly, it assumes an ontological character rooted in shared values and realities that are deemed ‘common’ to all, underscored by an awareness of the distinction between Roman-ness and the Other. However, this identity also embodies the concept of ‘integration’ inherently embracing multiplicity and difference from its inception.

Examining these texts alongside their historical frameworks will provide insight into how biographies of great historical figures, predominantly written during the Roman Empire, seek to address the challenge of incorporating diversity into a cohesive culture. Additionally, it will illuminate the array of policies and methodologies employed by these figures to shape the identity of the various communities integrated within the Roman domain. For example, the works of Plutarch, a Greek author writing in Greek under the Roman Empire, exemplify the effort to strike a balance between Roman power structures and Greek traditions and local identities.

Hence, the project assembles a team of experts in Classical Studies, Archaeology and Ancient and Byzantine History at various career stages. These scholars have dedicated themselves to the study of Greco-Latin biographies, conducting research and producing translations accompanied by commentary in the recent years. The intersection of literary and philological knowledge with historical research methodology is essential to this endeavour, which aims to accomplish the following objectives:

  1. contributing to the understanding of methods of cultural integration within Imperial Rome, focusing on the political endeavours of significant historical figures on an individual basis;
  2. establishing a framework outlining the practices and integrative actions employed by various agents, evaluating their effectiveness or divisiveness in shaping a unified cultural framework;
  3. investigating specific instances of regional tensions within a cosmopolitan cultural context.