Event Title

The Essential Outcasts: Infames in the Roman Empire

Faculty Advisor

Amanda Coles

Graduation Year

2019

Location

Room E103, Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

Start Date

13-4-2019 11:00 AM

End Date

13-4-2019 12:00 PM

Description

During the early empire (27 BCE- 200 CE) elite Romans suppressed the legal rights of infames due to their own insecurities about their loss of power to the emperor. Infames are a social group comprised of actors, gladiators, and prostitutes who were barred from certain legal privileges. Actors and gladiators performed and fought in public religious festivals in which every member of Roman society participated. Even prostitution was part of the revelry surrounding these festivals. One of the nobility’s chief fears was losing bodily autonomy to omnipotent emperors. These professions were seen as forms of selling one’s body which went against this need for autonomy. I use Kristeva’s theory of abjection to analyze satirical works, legal documentation, and graffiti to determine the legal and social significance of the infames’ exclusion. Kristeva argues that society regulates that which it fears, and because Romans feared losing their autonomy, they limited the actions of those who willingly relinquished it. My research into this group sheds light on the often ignored experience of the lowest members of Roman society.

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Apr 13th, 11:00 AM Apr 13th, 12:00 PM

The Essential Outcasts: Infames in the Roman Empire

Room E103, Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

During the early empire (27 BCE- 200 CE) elite Romans suppressed the legal rights of infames due to their own insecurities about their loss of power to the emperor. Infames are a social group comprised of actors, gladiators, and prostitutes who were barred from certain legal privileges. Actors and gladiators performed and fought in public religious festivals in which every member of Roman society participated. Even prostitution was part of the revelry surrounding these festivals. One of the nobility’s chief fears was losing bodily autonomy to omnipotent emperors. These professions were seen as forms of selling one’s body which went against this need for autonomy. I use Kristeva’s theory of abjection to analyze satirical works, legal documentation, and graffiti to determine the legal and social significance of the infames’ exclusion. Kristeva argues that society regulates that which it fears, and because Romans feared losing their autonomy, they limited the actions of those who willingly relinquished it. My research into this group sheds light on the often ignored experience of the lowest members of Roman society.