Roman Inheritance: Romanitas and Civic Identity in Trecento Siena
This dissertation examines the role of Roman antiquity in crafting civic identity in fourteenth-century Siena. Roman heritage was a point of pride for Italian communes and had political and cultural relevance by informing values and legitimizing republican governments for contemporary audiences. Without provable classical settlement, trecento Siena fabricated an elaborate origin myth that stressed ancient foundations—by the twin sons of Rome’s own Remus—and promoted the legend in a city-wide iconographical and philosophical program. This dissertation presents a series of case studies that analyze specific occurrences of the civic deployment of Siena’s invented classical identity and examines the socio-political value of this Romanitas, or “Roman-ness,” in a pivotal period of transformation where the combination of a state-crafted visual campaign rooted in classicism and the political shift from one republican regime to the next provides the opportunity to trace the invocation of Rome in various forms across the city’s landscape. I begin by examining the origin legend as a response to foreign challenges to Siena’s historicity. I then analyze Sienese political discourse, both local and in broader Guelph-Ghibelline debates, to argue that Roman republicanism provided necessary legitimacy to republics and a vocabulary to express communal virtues. Chapter three follows Sienese efforts to emphasize ancient material through the celebration of spolia—native and imported—and attention to Rome in original art. Chapters four and five examine the presence of Christian antiquity in Siena, demonstrated by the selection of ancient martyrs as their patron saints and the religious ideals of the Gesuati order, dedicated to Jerome. The final chapter identifies instances where pagan and Christian antiquity appeared in the same civic space and questions how both expressions of Romanitas functioned together to create a cultural identity in Siena dependent on classical influence. This dissertation expands scholarship’s definition of antiquity to include both pagan and Christian manifestations and recognizes the role of Sienese communal government in developing the rebirth of antiquity. I suggest that the Sienese state cultivated a self-image that stressed Siena as a Roman city physically and philosophically built upon classical origins and benefiting from Rome’s political and spiritual inheritance.