The Public Life of Monuments: the Summi Viri of the Forum of Augustus

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The academic literature on monuments has boomed in the last 30 years. Together with museums, tourist sites, and community rituals, monuments play a key role in the construction of the past. This article examines how monuments worked in the Roman world. It considers one monument as a case in point - the collection of summi viri that lined the porticoes in the Forum of Augustus - examining it in light of recent scholarship on monuments and historical commemoration. The story of the summi viri collection cannot be separated from its public life. Many have presented the summi viri and indeed the entire forum as an ideological production. That fits a reading of the monument itself, but the collection was not a static record of Rome's past. Rather, if we look at its public life, especially the ways in which it was viewed and reproduced, we see that its meanings were much more dynamic.

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