Color photograph of the head and torso of a light skinned woman with long blond hair standing in an outdoor garden location; she smiles directly at the camera

Sarah Beckmann

Andrew Heiskell Rome Prize
September 2, 2022–July 14, 2023
Assistant Professor, Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles
Project title
The Villa in Late Antiquity: Roman Ideals and Local Identities
Project description

This project explores the elite monolith that dominates discussions of late Roman villas in the western provinces (ca. 250–450 CE). I treat the villa as a window onto the full breadth of late antique society, from top to bottom. First, I argue that variety across domestic assemblages (e.g., interior décor schemes) parallels the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the upper class, who were much more colorful than current scholarship admits. To move conversations beyond villa owners, moreover, I analyze evidence for estate laborers, both as actors in their own right and as pawns in the villa’s promotion to status symbol. Synthesis of the heterogeneity of villas and their inhabitants—their lives and their worlds—is poised to advance our understanding of rural life in the waning years of the empire.