Temple, Nicholas (2013) Changing Identities in the Oecumene: Geography and Architecture in the Greco-Roman World. In: Territories of Identity: Architecture in the Age of Emerging Globalization. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 3-18. ISBN 9780415622882

This chapter is based on a keynote paper I delivered at an international conference, The Multiples Faces of Identity in the Designed Environment, at Nottingham Trent University in September 2008. It examines the shifting relationships between perceptions and representations of geography, empire and identity in the Greco-Roman world and how these informed the itineraries and symbolism of ritual and architecture in imperial Rome. The theme relates to a long-standing interest in the connections between architecture and geography, which began during my period as a Rome Scholar in Architecture (1986-88) when I researched pilgrimage and conversion in Early Christianity. It has more recently included investigations of Jesuit missionary activities in China which forms part of a research project for a Paul Mellon Rome Fellowship. The present chapter considers the geographical frontiers and cultural differences between Rome, the Mediterranean and those regions north of the Danube (Germania and Dacia). Applying the Greek concept of oecumene (‘known world’), the study examines the notion of Roman identity as a largely unstable and ill-defined construct. It reveals how this construct was influenced by territorial expansion and conquest of empire, which served as a rich reservoir of symbolic material for architecture and ritual highlighted in the specific examples of Trajan’s Forum and the Pantheon. The research is original in that it attempts to convey, for the first time (to my knowledge), a direct connection between the symbolism of built form and the geography of empire in the Roman world. Finally, the chapter concludes with a brief examination of the notion of oecumene in the contemporary age of globalization, questioning how expectations of boundless zones of communication – whether virtual or actual - have a bearing on the spatial/geographical understanding of identity.

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