On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity

On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity

On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity

On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity


Because they list all the public holidays and pagan festivals of the age, calendars provide unique insights into the culture and everyday life of ancient Rome. The Codex-Calendar of 354 miraculously survived the Fall of Rome. Although it was subsequently lost, the copies made in the Renaissance remain invaluable documents of Roman society and religion in the years between Constantine's conversion and the fall of the Western Empire.

In this richly illustrated book, Michele Renee Salzman establishes that the traditions of Roman art and literature were still very much alive in the mid-fourth century. Going beyond this analysis of precedents and genre, Salzman also studies the Calendar of 354 as a reflection of the world that produced and used it. Her work reveals the continuing importance of pagan festivals and cults in the Christian era and highlights the rise of a respectable aristocratic Christianity that combined pagan and Christian practices. Salzman stresses the key role of the Christian emperors and imperial institutions in supporting pagan rituals. Such policies of accomodation and assimilation resulted in a gradual and relatively peaceful transformation of Rome from a pagan to a Christian capital.


By modern standards, Roman methods of counting time were extremely imprecise. Yet the Romans retained their awkward system of calculating time by Kalends, Nones, and Ides for centuries. Clearly, what the Romans required in a calendar was not mere efficiency. What functions, then, did a Roman calendar serve? How does the Roman calendar reflect the society that used it? These questions intrigued me as I wrote this book. in order to answer them, however, it seemed best to focus on a particular document, in a specific time and place. the choice was simple—only one calendar has survived in its entirety from the time of the Roman Empire: the Codex-Calendar of A.D. 354. This document represents the culmination of centuries of tradition and change in Roman calendars. It also reflects the society that produced it; written in Rome, it leads us down the streets of that late-antique city, allowing us to see aspects of daily life and institutions otherwise closed to view.

In a graduate seminar, Professor Agnes K. L. Michels first opened my eyes to the possibilities calendars offered for understanding Roman religion and society. From that seminar, I proceeded to undertake dissertation research; this book grew out of that work. Thus, above all, I would like to thank my teachers at Bryn Mawr College, Agnes K. L. Michels and Russell T. Scott, the supervisor of my dissertation, for sharing with me their wisdom, for giving me the tools necessary to pursue such research, and for their support through the years. I am indebted to many other teachers as well; in particular, I should like to thank Arlene Fromchuck-Feili, Julia Gaisser, and Myra Uhlfelder.

My greatest debts are to Alan Cameron and Peter Brown. As a friend and colleague, Alan Cameron has made me see the world of late antiquity in a new light. I have benefited greatly from discussions with him over the years, and from his comments on early drafts of this book. As series . . .

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