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Conference: Standardisation and Localism in the Legal and Economic world of the Romans

6. November 2022

Brussels and Ghent 8-10 June 2023

A conference of the international network ‘Structural Determinants of Economic Performance in the Roman World’, organised under the auspices of the Committee for Legal History (KVAB)
by Emilia Mataix (Bilbao, Universidad del País Vasco UPV/EHU), Koenraad Verboven (Ghent University), Paul Erdkamp (Brussels, VUB)

The adoption of standards in the Roman world is manifested in the production of objects, the use of measuring units, the construction of infrastructure, but also in symbolic representations of power by means of material culture, as well as in the use of standard contracts or reproducing legal formulaic writings. The effective use of these standards shows that individual beliefs, cultural norms, and formal institutions were aligned so as to reinforce trust among parties. Rome saw a proliferation of such abstract systems of trust, for example, by using standard weights and measures, which profoundly affected people’s lives from the most public settings to the most intimate.
However, one of the paradoxes of the Roman world is that, while standard objects or practices echoing Roman influences spread along different areas, the extension of these involved in many cases the further development or assimilation of foreign practices, objects or concepts, mixing cultural traditions or instead, reinforcing self-identity at a local level. One key example are the weights employed at different eastern Mediterranean ports, which translated Roman imperial units into local ones.
This international conference will be devoted to the study of the manifestations of standardisation and localisms in law and the economy of the Roman world, and consequently, their impact in diverse phenomena such as symbols, legal culture or commercial practices, but also in material culture, infrastructure and landscapes. The event also aims to recontextualize standards not only as echoes of Roman domination but as evidence of diverse socioeconomic practices and cross-cultural encounters, and how these are materially reflected echoing issues such as integration, assimilation, resilience, or a combination of imperial and provincial practices.

The conference focuses on six research questions:

- What is imperial and what local in the use of standards in different contexts? What does that imply about scale and integration in the Roman world?

- How did people in the empire negotiate and integrate “Roman” standards in their society, economy, and culture? And vice versa?

- What are the ethnic, cultural economic, legal or political reasons behind the attribution of specific names to phenomena or items linked with numeracy metrology or scale (e.g. pecunia from pecus, sheep)? Vice versa, what is the impact of a standard’s “identity” on how people perceive phenomena such as numeracy or scale?

- How idiosyncratic or diverse could local adaptations of standards be in order to be understood by different economic agents?

- How accurate were standards in the Roman world expected to be?

- How did Roman standardised objects (e.g. amphorae or coins) or practices (e.g. legal procedures) and their particularities relate to their descriptions in textual sources?


Day 1. Thursday 8th of June, 2023

9:30 Registration

9:45 Welcome: Koenraad Verboven (PI SDEP network), Emilia Mataix (organizer)

Session 1. Law and Legal Symbols

  • 10:00 Keynote Kaius Tuori (University of Helsinki)
  • 10:45 Questions and discussion

10:55 Coffee & tea break

  • 11:15 Jakub Urbanik (University of Warsaw), ´ The so-called Gnomon of the Idioslogos. Towards standardization of law in Roman Egypt? ´
  • 11:45 Lucia Colella (University of Naples. ‘Federico II’), ´ Latin and bilingual petitions to the prefect of Egypt´
  • 12:15 Peter Candy (University of Edinburgh), ´ Standard form contracts in long-distance trade´
  • 12:45 general recap and discussion

Lunch break. 13:15-14:15

Session 2. Numeracy, Money, and Coinage

  • 14:15 Keynote Serafina Cuomo (Durham University)
  • 15:00 Questions and discussion

15:10 Coffee & tea break

  • 15:30 Charles Doyen (Université Catholique de Louvain), Glocalisation of weight standards: The adoption of the Roman libra in the Eastern Mediterranean (1st c. BCE – 3rd c. CE)
  • 16:00 Merav Haklai (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), ´ Interest-bearing deposits in the Roman empire: A triple comparison´
  • 16:30 Gianluca Mandatori (CSIC-Escuela Española de historia y arqueología, Roma), ´Identity, Integration and Markets: Roman monetary production between localism and standardization´
  • 17:00 George Watson (Swansea University, UK), ´Denominational standardisation in the Roman provincial coinage of southern Asia Minor´
  • 17:30 General recap and discussion
Day 2. Friday 9th June, 2023

Session 3. Infrastructure: From Buildings and institutions to Socio-Economic Phenomena

  • 10:00 Keynote Astrid Van Oyen (Radboud University Nijmegen)
  • 10:45 Questions and discussion

10:55 Coffee & tea break

  • 11:15 Kevin Woram (University of Virginia), ´ Probus Agoranomus: Greek Influence on the Aedileship and Marketplace Standardization at Rome in the Third Century BCE. ´
  • 11:45. Marine Lépée (Univ-Lyon 2-Univ Lausanne), ´Commercial buildings in Lugdunum and Vienna: between Roman models and local specificities (1st century BC – 3rd century AD)´
  • 12:15 Francesco Cassini (Columbia university), ´Serial honors: public spaces and honorific practices in Republican Italy (2nd-1st century BCE)´
  • 12:45 general recap and discussion

Lunch break. 13:15-14:30

Session 4. Material culture: Objects, Metrology and Technology

  • 14:30 Keynote Andrew Riggsby (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 15:15 Questions and discussion

15:25 Coffee & tea break

  • 15:45 Mariagrazia Rizzi (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca), ´Standardization: Overcoming trade barriers while preserving local traditions in IG II2 1013´
  • 16:15 Nicolas Solonakis (Université de Bordeaux-Montaigne), ´Roman standards and Greek traditions in the shaping of ancient agriculture´
  • 16:45 Jordi Pérez González, Javier Heredero Berzosa y Antonio Aguilera Martín (CEIPAC Barcelona), ´Quantifying Hispanic Numerals. Capacities and weights under control´
  • 17:15 general recap and discussion

19.00. Conference dinner

Day 3- Saturday 10th of June

Session 5: Landscape, Space and Scale

  • 9:00 Keynote Miko Flohr (Leiden University)
  • 9:45 Questions and discussion (10 min)

9:55 Coffee & tea break

  • 10:15 Alexandru Martalogu (University of Oxford), ´ Centuries in the Making? Augustan City Foundations, Legal Denominations, and the Integration of ‘Roman’ Standards ´
  • 10:45 Filippo Incontro (Universitâ di Trento), ´Legal standardisation and localism in Africa Romana. Sufetes Africae as ‘good’ romanisation? ´
  • 11:15 Mateo González Vázquez (Universität Trier), ´Amphorae as a Proxy for Standardized Consumption and Market Integration: A Case Study from the Roman Province of Upper Germania´
  • 11.45 general recap and discussion
  • 12:15 Closing remarks: Nicholas Purcell (Brasenose college Oxford).
  • 12.45 final comments

13.00 Closure of the workshop

Source: https://www.sdep.ugent.be/events/standardisation-and-localism-in-the-legal-and-economic-world-of-the-romans (6.11.2022)