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Memory sanctions and damnatio memoriae, c. 200AD - c. 800AD - 05-06/09/2017, Cambridge (England)








This  conference will explore the changing concept of memory sanctions and damnatio memoriae (literally 'damnation of memory') in late antiquity and the early middle ages, c. 200 - c. 800. Traditionally, damnatio memoriae has been thought of as a purely Roman practice signalling formal attacks upon the memory and commemoration of convicted traitors and enemies of the state, akin to the memory purges of modern Communist regimes. Perhaps its starkest contemporary articulation comes in the form of a law issued on 21st April 395 in the wake of a civil war whose supposed instigator, Eugenius, was condemned to oblivion: ‘Let that time be reckoned as if it never was.’ 

Damnatio memoriae has been widely studied in the Roman world, but almost exclusively as a process of destroying and defacing images and of removing names from honorific inscriptions, that is as a physical and destructive process. Yet the bounds of human memory and the aim of these sanctions stretched far beyond physical memorials. It has been the effort of a number of scholars, including two of the participants in this conference, to broaden our understanding of this damnatio memoriae beyond the current disciplinary strictures under which it operates, and to engage with sanctions against memory in terms of more universal notions of cultural memory and of taboo in human societies. This conference will be the next step in that process.


FECHA/DATE/DATA: 05-06/09/2017


LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Trinity College, University of Cambridge (Cambridge, England)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Daniel Neary (PhD Candidate, Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge) ; Dr Adrastos Omissi (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Oriel College, University of Oxford) ; Sukanya Raisharma (DPhil Candidate, St John’s College, University of Oxford).

INFO: web -





DAY 1, Tuesday 5th September 2017

09:30 - 10:30: Session 1
Chair: Adrastos Omissi

Harriet Flower (Princeton University) – Roman Erasure: Strategies and Contexts for Memory Sanctions

10:30-11:00: Break

11:00 - 13:00: Session 2
Chair: Richard Flower

Adrastos Omissi (University of Glasgow) – The Memory of the Emperor Licinius and the ‘Foundation’ of the City of Constantinople (324-330 AD)

George Woudhuysen (University of Oxford) – Blackening the name of the Emperor Constans

Milena Raycheva (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) – 'Regular' and 'irregular' provincial attitudes to imperial condemnation in Roman Asia Minor, 3rd c. AD

13:00- 14:00: Lunch Break

14:00-15:30: Session 3
Chair: Mike Humphreys

Richard Flower (University of Exeter) – Remember Where You Put It: Heresiology and Memory Sanctions

Rosamond McKitterick (University of Cambridge) – The 'damnatio memoriae' of Pope Constantine II

15:30-16:00: Break

16:00-17:30: Session 4
Chair: Peter Sarris

Christine Luckritz-Marquis (Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond) – Remembering Scripture, Dismembering Idols: Ascetic Mobilization of the Cultural Logics of 'Damnatio Memoriae'

Irene Selsvold (University of Gothenberg) – Forgetting the Pagan past? Remembering and forgetting through material culture in the religious transformation in Late Antiquity

18:30: Dinner

DAY 2, Wednesday 6th September 2017

09:30-11:00: Session 5
Chair: Rosamond McKitterick

Gerald Schwedler (UZH, Zürich) – Memory Sanctions c. 300 AD – c. 800 AD. Provincialising and Christianising a Roman Practice

Kristina Mitalaité (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris) – Social memory at the end of the 8th century in the Frankish controversy on images and their veneration

11:00-11:30: Break

11:30-13:00: Session 6
Chair: Chris Wickham

Yegor Grebnev (University of Oxford) – Deciding the eternal fate of defeated enemies: politics of posthumous names in early medieval China

Philip Wood (Aga Khan University, London) – The West Syrian church and the posthumous reputation of Patriarch Athanasius Sandalaya (745-60)

13:00-14:00: Lunch

14:00-15:00: Session 7
Chair: Caroline Goodson

Leslie Brubaker (University of Birmingham) – Concluding remarks: Rewriting history, memory sanctions and the invention of the past


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