The Roman empire afforded a kaleidoscope of sensations. Through a series of multisensory case studies centred on people, places, buildings and artefacts, and on specific aspects of human behaviour, this volume develops ground-breaking methods and approaches for sensory studies in Roman archaeology and ancient history. Authors explore questions such as: what it felt like, and symbolised, to be showered with saffron at the amphitheatre; why the shape of a dancer’s body made him immediately recognisable as a social outcast; how the dramatic gestures, loud noises and unforgettable smells of a funeral would have different meanings for members of the family and for bystanders; and why feeling the weight of a signet ring on his finger contributed to a man’s sense of identity. A multisensory approach is taken throughout, with each chapter exploring at least two of the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The contributors’ individual approaches vary, reflecting the possibilities and the wide application of sensory studies to the ancient world. Underlying all chapters is a conviction that taking a multisensory approach enriches our understanding of the Roman empire, but also an awareness of the methodological problems encountered when reconstructing past experiences.

chapter |12 pages


Senses of empire

chapter 1|10 pages

The sounds of the city

From noise to silence in ancient Rome

chapter 3|15 pages

Beyond smell

The sensory landscape of the Roman fullonica

chapter 4|17 pages

Soundscape of the street

Architectural acoustics in Ostia

chapter 5|15 pages

Sensory archaeologies

A Vindolanda smellscape

chapter 6|18 pages

A sense of grief

The role of the senses in the performance of Roman mourning

chapter 7|16 pages

Blood, fire and feasting

The role of touch and taste in Graeco-Roman animal sacrifice

chapter 8|17 pages

Babes in arms?

Sensory dissonance and the ambiguities of votive objects

chapter 9|10 pages

All that glitters

Roman signet rings, the senses and the self

chapter 10|12 pages

Tuning into the past

Methodological perspectives in the contextualised study of the sounds of Roman antiquity

chapter 11|17 pages

Motion sensors

Perceiving movement in Roman pantomime

chapter 12|17 pages

Scents of place and colours of smell

Fragranced entertainment in ancient Rome