Sanja Vucetic

Sexualities in Roman provinces. Creating identities through sexual representations in colonial settings

Much of Roman archaeology is concerned with the character of Roman imperialism and its effect on provincial people. Yet, Classical scholarship has thus far remained only marginally concerned with sexualities in the imperial periphery. Due to a continuous focus on the material culture from the centre of the empire, in the current archaeological discourse, Roman sexuality is frequently presented as a monolithic and static concept that uniformly pertains to culturally distinct Roman provinces over a prolonged period of time.

In my project, I investigate sexualities in the western and Mediterranean Roman provincial regions (Achaia, Cyprus, Gaul, Roman Asia, and North Africa) in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of ways provincial communities reconfigured their identities as they were integrated into the new and changing socio-political landscape of the empire. I do so through the study of the nature of visual representations of humans engaged in sexual acts and of myths with sexual narratives on mass-manufactured moulded lamps and fine tableware upon which such imagery occurs.

Along with the reading of bodily representations and practices on these sexual vignettes, I also examine changing patterns of consumption and deposition of lamps and fine tableware at multiple scales. In other words, I examine the ways sexualities and hierarchies were generated and transformed through bodily representations, while taking into account the ways broader economic aspects framed provincial social practices and identities.

Through the application of quantitative and qualitative analytical techniques to the study of visual and material culture, my project aims to produce a diachronic, comparative study of Roman regional sexualities and thus contribute to the integration of sexuality into broader archaeological debates of ancient Roman imperialism and cultural change.

Funding organisation

  • Fieldwork: UCL Institute of Archaeology, UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, The Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI)


 Educational background

  • Postgraduate Course in Prehistoric, Greek and Roman Pottery, British School at Athens, Knossos, Crete 2015
  • MA, Research Methods for Archaeology, UCL, UK 2012
  • MA, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies, Deakin University, Australia 2008
  • BA, Classical Archaeology, University of Sydney, Australia 2006

Vucetic, S. In press. Greek sex and the Roman Empire. Consuming lamps with sexual imagery in the changing

social landscape. In: V. Evangelidis, V. Di Napoli, D. Rogers, D. Grigoropoulos, F. Cami, S. Vlizos, (eds.) What's New in Roman Greece. Proceedings of an international conference held at Athens, 8th- 10th October 2015. Athens: The National Hellenic Research Foundation.

Vucetic, S. 2014. Roman Sexuality or Roman Sexualities? Looking at Sexual Imagery on Roman Terracotta Mould-made Lamps. In: H. Platts, C. Barron, J. Lundock, J. Pearce, J. Yoo (eds.) TRAC 2013: Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, London 2013. Oxford: Oxbow. 140-158.

Conference papers:

2016 “Sexuality embodiment in Roman Imperial periphery. Towards improved theoretical and methodological models.” Roman Archaeology Conference XII (RAC), LA Sapienza University of Rome, Italy.

2015 “Greek sex and the Roman Empire. Consuming lamps with sexual imagery in the changing social landscape.” ‘What’s New in Roman Greece’ Conference, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens. 

2015 “Negotiating provincial sexualities through everyday objects. The case of sexual representations on moulded terracotta lamps.” Limes XXIII. International Congress on Roman Frontier Studies, Ingolstadt.

2014 “Overcoming the Enlightenment Heritage. Cartesian Representationalism in the Archaeology of Gender and Sexuality.” Philosophy, Archaeology, and the Enlightenment Heritage Workshop, University of Kiel, Germany

2013 “Sexual Identity(ies) and Roman Lamps: Exploring Iconography of Human Sexual Activity and Mythological Erotic Pursuits on Terracotta Mould-made Lamps.” Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC), King’s College London, UK.

  • Roman period lamps from Athens and Corinth
  • Roman period lamps from Athens and Corinth
  • Roman period lamp from Vindonissa

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