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After the Bell: “The Wine Was Never Lacking”: A Roman Life and Death on the Margins with Dr. Jeremy Hartnett

Wednesday, August 31, 2022
7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (EDT)

Wabash "rings-out" a new class to our alumni ranks each year. After the Bell offers opportunities to come back to the Wabash classroom and attend virtual liberal arts sessions with current faculty members. Join us for this live virtual event being offered for Wabash alumni, spouses, partners, parents, and friends.

In 1626, workers digging foundations within St. Peter’s basilica in Rome accidentally unearthed the funerary monument of an ancient Roman named Flavius Agricola.  It consisted of a marble sculpture portraying him reclining at a table and a poetic inscription encouraging readers to enjoy wine, women, and whoopie.  Since the discovery was made immediately adjacent to the supposed tomb of the apostle Peter, alarmed papal authorities removed the inscription and locked down the site.  Thanks to antiquarians, the epitaph was transcribed before its deletion and the statue is exhibited today at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

This talk considers what Flavius’ life and commemoration in death illustrate about individual experience in the Roman world.  One generation removed from slavery, married to a “chaste worshipper” of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and proudly showing himself living it up for all eternity because “after death, earth and fire consume all else,” Flavius grants us the remarkable opportunity to investigate an otherwise-unknown Roman.  Additionally, the travels of his monument from Rome to Indy via Paris and New York showcase the many ways that ancient Rome has been packaged and re-packaged through the centuries.


Dr. Jeremy Hartnett, Charles D. and Elizabeth S. LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities

Professor Jeremy Hartnett began teaching at Wabash in 2004 after graduate work at the University of Michigan and a post-doc year at Oberlin College.  A specialist in Roman archaeology and social history, he studies sites in Italy including Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Rome.  In particular, Dr. Hartnett is drawn to daily, ground-level interaction in Roman cities.

His first book, The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Rome (Cambridge University Press, 2017 -- Winner of 2018 James Henry Breasted Prize from the American Historical Association) breathes life back into urban thoroughfares.  Recapturing the flurry of city activity involves drawing on the evidence of historical and poetic texts, inscriptions, artwork, monuments, and buildings as well as mixing in comparative evidence.  A New Directions Grant from the GLCA has allowed Prof. Hartnett to place Roman street life in a broader cross-cultural context by examining public urban space in a variety of times and places, from Early Modern Florence to today’s Mexico City.

Dr. Hartnett’s current project is a book about a Roman funerary monument accidentally discovered under St. Peter's basilica in 1626, which now resides in the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Intended for students and general readers who desire more depth and nuance about Romans outside the halls of power, the project reconstructs an ancient life in as many dimensions as possible and also traces the sculpture's remarkable odyssey between Rome and Indianapolis.

Also in the works is another book, tentatively entitled Face to Face with the -PQR, that offers case studies of the daily embodied experience of Rome's lower social strata.  An additional current of research tackles the intersection of sound and Roman urban society: not so much what cities sounded like, but how Romans made sense of their world through what they heard and how they sought to control it through the noises they made.  Another New Directions Grant has aided this work.

Dr. Hartnett teaches across the discipline of Classics, including both ancient languages as well as the history and archaeology of Greece and Rome.  His Elementary Latin classes are renowned for a combination of jocularity and rigor (daily quizzes!), while special-topics courses have wrestled topics as diverse as Pompeii, Early Christianity, and Wabash's next campus center.

During the 2008-2009 academic year Prof. Hartnett taught at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, where he studied in 1995; he has served a term on the Centro’s managing committee and returned to Rome as Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge in 2017-2018.  He now serves as the chief executive of the Centro as the Managing Committee Chair.

One of Dr. Hartnett's greatest joys as a teacher is leading students overseas, especially to Italy – for pleasures intellectual, cultural, artistic, architectural, and definitely culinary.  In addition to his two teaching stints at the Centro, he has led somewhere around 10 other groups abroad.

Dr. Hartnett is proud to uphold the Classics Department’s reputation for feeding hungry Wallies in grand style.  Students know his gift for the grill and the pasta pot, but his family (including sons Henry and Silas) acknowledges that he is a whiz with leftovers.  Prof. Hartnett’s passion for Michigan football and basketball, despite the playful ribbing of his students, still runs strong.  He is a proud member and frequent director of the Wabash College Pep Band; he zealously wields the herald trumpet and also holds the current record for most drums broken due to rabid, insatiable pep (at least 7).