“The triumph of the senses : sensory awareness and the divine in Roman public celebrations”, Séminaire Synaesthesia

conférence donnée par Mark Bradley (Nottingham), 

jeudi 14 avril 2016


Musée Saint Raymond, Toulouse


It is well known that Roman triumphal celebrations – annual rites of passage, major festivals and the triumph itself – were a giant multisensory experience for the populus Romanus : vivid colours and gleaming spectacles ; musical instruments and singing that resound through the city ; the odours of burning sacrifice and incense ; the taste of public banquets ; and tactile encounters with cult statues, booty and jostling crowds. But it is not enough just to reconstruct what this synaesthetic experience might have been like.The senses in ancient thought were tools for knowledge and understanding, and one of Varro’s Menippean Satires compared them to the gates of the city, allowing people to keep a careful eye, ear and nose on what entered the community and what left.

This paper will examine descriptive accounts of public celebrations across a range of Roman literary genres (epic, elegy, historiography and satire) to explore what this ekphrasis can tell us about the role of heightened sensory awareness in moments of public rites de passage, when the urban community came closer to the gods by sharing their perception and used their senses to diagnose and understand the changes that were affecting the state.


Conférence organisée dans le cadre du séminaire :

Synaesthesia. Expérience du divin et multi-sensorialité : une approche comparée

(Programme de recherche soutenu par l’Idex de Toulouse)

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