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The reign of Janus: towards a semiotics of mid-republican Rome

Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Princeton)
Dan-el Padilla Peralta academic portrait
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 4:30pm
303 Denny Hall

Prof. Padilla Peralta's description:  Modern narratives of Rome's transformation from city-state to imperial Republic justifiably make much of military exploits, and the constitutional and political innovations that fueled and sustained Roman bellicosity. In the spirit of Tzvetan Todorov's attention to signs and signification as instruments of empire formation (The conquest of America [1984]), this talk will argue for the existence of a semiotic battlefield in 3rd-century BCE Italy, one whose rules Romans became increasingly adept at manipulating and mastering. My chosen case study will be the cult of Janus, a divinity whose appearance on Rome's third-century coinages reflects the middle Republic's quickening interest in fixing and projecting a particular brand of signifying power.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta is Assistant Professor of Classics at Princeton University, where he is also affiliated with the Program in Latino Studies.  He took up his appointment at Princeton (his undergraduate alma mater) following two postdoctoral years at Columbia’s Society of Fellows, a 2014 PhD at Stanford, and a 2008 M.Phil. in Greek and Roman History from Oxford.  His core research and teaching focus is the Roman Republic and Early Empire, in the study of which he blends social-scientific techniques with literary and material evidence.  His book in progress, Divine Institutions, argues that temple construction and pilgrimage networks held the ‘imperial Republic’ together as it expanded across Italy and the Mediterranean; all his work is driven by a concern with patterns of cultural and intellectual exchange.

Dominican by birth and a New Yorker by upbringing, Dan-el is a public intellectual who regularly writes and speaks on issues of education and social justice; he is the author of the 2015 autobiographical memoir, Undocumented: A Dominican boy’s odyssey from a homeless shelter to the Ivy League (Penguin 2015).

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