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Project D1

The Heroic in Intercultural and Political Relations of the Imperial Roman World up to the 7th Century

Prof. Dr. Peter Eich
Prof. Dr. Ralf von den Hoff
Prof. Dr. Sitta von Reden
Dr. Jens-Arne Dickmann
Sebastian Bauer
Matthias Bensch

Department of Ancient History
Department of Archaeological Sciences

In collaboration with the Departments of Ancient History and Archaeological Sciences, this project examines the role of mythological heroes, real-life heroes and heroization in visual and textual media in the Roman Empire and the kingdoms of the post-Roman world between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE. At the centre of this research is the question of which foundational cohesions, identity constructions and conflict escalations were achieved in the changing political atmosphere of a loosely held together Roman Empire through attraction to the heroic, as well as through the hero and ruler figures behind the construction of “political myths”.

This project is further divided into three subprojects. The Classical Archaeology team is working on a project titled “Aeneas, Romulus, and the Princeps: Models of Heroic Figures in the Roman Empire from Augustus to Late Antiquity”. Alongside other research goals, Matthias Bensch’s dissertation project, for example, investigates the role of visual elements in the reciprocal heroizations of the founding heroes of Rome and that of the Princeps in both Rome and the provinces during the transition to the Principate from the late 1st century BCE to the 4th century CE. This timeframe overlaps with Subproject B, in which Sebastian Bauer (Ancient History) is researching the pattern of heroic elements in Greek identity constructs during Roman rule from the 1st to the 3rd century, using the Greek-Roman Parallelviten of Plutarch and epigraphic documentation of Greek cities as a basis. This dissertation project is titled “Vom Heros zum Held: Transformationen des Heroischen in griechischen Städten unter römischer Herrschaft” (“From Mythological Hero to Non-Mythological Hero: Transformations of the Heroic in Greek Cities under Roman Rule”). In his planned book, “Heroisierungen in Zeiten der Orientierungslosigkeit: Umschreibungen monarchischer Rollen in der nachjustinianischen Mittelmeerwelt” (“Heroization in the Time of Disorientation: Understanding Monarchical Roles in the Post-Justinian Mediterranean”), project leader Peter Eich will research the Emperor and West European monarchs in the Mediterranean, a region strongly culturally influenced by Rome, in a somewhat later transformation period. His research will focus on the conception of a new type of heroic monarchy, with its roots in Christian rule, which developed in the 6th and 7th centuries. Through the analysis of historiography, poetry and epistolography, this subproject strives to provide a better understanding of the conceptualization of how rulers were conceived in areas that were culturally related to one another but with varying political histories (Byzantine Empire, Italy, Gaul, Iberian Peninsula). Additionally, this project will also result in a report presenting a long-term perspective of the conceptions of how heroes are conceived and transformed in a transcultural study of the Roman Empire.