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

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

The project examines the idea of identities (rather than identity) into the European cultural heritage, based on biographical sources written between the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire, which reveal values of identity and integration of foreign cultures within the Roman world. Rome, due its inclination to juridical, cultural and religious incorporation is the privileged focus of this project, point of arrival and departure, center of fusion, consolidation and transmission of cultures, archetype that generates essential marks for the construction of the European being. We thus aim to find in these sources marks of identity and of alterity in the Greco-Roman unity; to examine the integration processes of the Other and (re)definition of the identity(s); to analyse local reactions to the Roman paradigm. Thus, we aim to justify the integrative vocation of Europe through its ability to think about its own genesis, its space and its ethnic and ethical wealth.


This project aims to explore authors and biographical figures that address the issue of inclusion and identity, which is not only essential to Roman culture, but also one of the reasons for its great success and stability. If the challenge for today’s Europe can be defined by the ability to welcome and include different national cultures without losing 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 experience shows a way of using this demographic influx (work force, knowledge, values, religion) to build a broad identity with the potentialities, challenges and tensions that such an experience entails.

It is therefore crucial to understand how these texts reflect the definition of the Roman identity, understood as the feeling of belonging to a community shared by the individuals that integrate it, and whose formation combines antagonistic perspectives: on the one hand, it shows a ontological character, i.e. based on values and reality ‘common’ to all, which is the outcome of the awareness of the border between the Romanity and the Other. On the other hand, this identity is itself also ‘integration’, which combines from the outset, multiplicity and difference.

The analysis of these texts, combined with the underlying historical frameworks, will allow us to see how the biographies of the great historical agents (largely written during the Roman Empire) aim to explore the problem of incorporation of difference into a common culture, as well as to identity the network of policies and of methodologies used by these agents for the construction of the identity of the all different communities integrated in the Roman territory. For instance, Plutarch’s work, being Greek and writing in Greek under the Roman Empire, does show the effort made to find a balance between Roman structures of power and Greek traditions and local identities.

For this reason, the project brings together a group of specialists from Classical Studies, Archaeology and Ancient and Byzantine History in different career stages, who have been working on Greek-Latin biographies, studies and translations with commentary in the last few years. The intersection of literary and philological knowledge with the methods of historical research is essential to this work plan which aims to achieve the following results:

  1. to contribute to the understanding of methods of cultural integration carried out in the context of the Imperial Rome, by taking into consideration the political action of the great historical agents individually considered;
  2. to establish the framework of practices and integrative actions developed by the various agents and define their degree of productivity or division for the establishment of a common cultural framework;
  3. to study specific cases of regional tensions within a cosmopolite culture.