Criers, Impresarios, and Sextons: Disreputable Occupations in the Roman World Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Bond, Sarah Emily
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Roman law stigmatized not only the individual but also the collective for dishonorable acts. Numerous professions incurred varying degrees of disrepute that carried legal and civic disabilities. Professionals in the sex and entertainment trades who incurred the legal stigma of infamia have been investigated by modern scholarship; yet, those people who worked in the disreputable occupations of praeco (crier), dissignator (event coordinator), libitinarius (funeral director), and in the mortuary trade have not been fully discussed in terms of either the reasons for their disrepute or their significance within social, economic, administrative, and religious networks. To counteract this void of literature, I analyze the status and role of these professionals from the Republic to Late Antiquity. Through this research, I show the origins of social perceptions of disrepute and their codification into legal statute in the first century BCE, and illustrate the creation of a marginal society that was placed outside the civic realm in Roman cities. I argue that these professionals were crucial negotiators between the civic and marginal society. Moreover, my use of predominantly epigraphic remains such as dedications and epitaphs allows me to investigate the identities and associative relationships formulated by these professionals, as well as the shifts in their status related to broad administrative and religious changes in the Roman world. The elevation of groups of funeral workers in Late Antiquity--fossores, copiatae, decani, and lecticarii--and their use within the minor orders of some early Christian churches illustrates this status shift. Though disreputable, these professionals did have a level of social and economic mobility and served as vital cultural mediators within Roman society.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History."
  • Talbert, Richard J. A.
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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