The project

Poetry was the most affordable art form in the Roman world: all it required were words, and someone with a talent to arrange them in a meaningful, aesthetically convincing way. Yet, the study of Latin poetry has traditionally almost exclusively focused on a small, judiciously transmitted canon of texts – a segment of Rome’s artistic production that favours the poetry that was produced, enjoyed, and controlled, by a political, social, and financial urban elite, reinforcing their claim to cultural superiority.

Focusing on a body of over 4,000 Latin verse inscriptions that have survived from the third century B. C. to Late Antiquity and cover the Roman empire in its entirety, representing ancient Rome’s middle and lower social strata in particular, MAPPOLA is an unprecedented effort to democratise our understanding of Roman poetry.

A fundamentally multidisciplinary project that will make use of recent methodological advances in linguistic, historical, and archaeological scholarship, MAPPOLA’s prime aim is fundamentally to reassess the verse inscriptions as evidence for poetry as a ubiquitous, inclusive cultural practice of the people of ancient Rome beyond the palaces of its urban aristocracy. It will provide answers to the following questions: How is the empire’s considerable regional and ethnic diversity reflected in the engagement with inscribed verse? How and where did poetic landscapes emerge, and what inspired them? What was the cultural and social significance of inscribed Latin verse? How did subcultures and poetic subversion take shape? How did inscribed poetry transcend and transgress artificially imposed boundaries and abstractions?

Over five years, organised into five integrated Work Packages and firmly rooted in the PI’s long-term vision, MAPPOLA will open a new area of empirical and quantitative research, alongside traditional qualititative approaches, into Latin poetry and its European legacy.

The emergence of regional poetic habitsThe creation of poetic landscapes and spacesThe social and cultural relevance of public poetryHidden in plain sight: subcultures and subversionInteractions and (re-) imaginations
Focus on regional contextsFocus on a local levelFocus on social stratification and typologyFocus on urban networksFocus on paradigmatic shifts
Celtic provinces

Greek hemisphere

North Africa
Hotspots of inscribed verse from across the empire

Social layering in versified communication

Chronological dynamics
Communicative settings

Poetic form and social diversity

Displaced people (e. g. slaves, migrants, soldiers)

Religious networks
Latin and local codes

‘Pagan’ vs. Christian

Latin – Proto-Romance
Ethnic and regional diversitySocio-cultural diversityCross-cultural transformations