In 2016 I began work on the project ‘Landscapes of War in Roman Literature’. Until the summer of 2020, I will be investigating war commemoration in the Roman world, focussing on ‘landscapes of war’ in Roman literature. Roman battlefields often remained unmonumentalised, and fallen soldiers were usually cremated and buried in unmarked mass graves. This frequent lack of physical commemoration contrasts sharply with the attitude towards landscapes of war in Roman literature. There, the very unmarkedness of battlefields allowed for a nuanced form of remembrance: reflections on the consequences and the costs of wars, on their gains as well as their losses. While the physical sites were gradually reclaimed by nature or agriculture, their equivalents in the world of text and imagination crystallised different interpretations of wars and conflicts for centuries to come. I analyse representations of selected battle sites in Roman literature in their material, intellectual and literary context. Through this context-sensitive literary analysis I unpack the cultural importance of landscapes of war in ancient Rome, arguing that Roman authors turned landscapes into ‘shadow memorials’ of war and its consequences. I introduce the project in one minute in this video.
The project is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Academic Research (NWO) through a VENI grant.