Brian Turner

Date of Award

Winter 7-23-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 148 pages)


Rome -- History -- Empire (30 B.C.-476 A.D.), Rome -- Civilization, Self-presentation -- Rome, Rome -- Social life and customs




The presentation of the body in early imperial Rome can be viewed as the manipulation of a semiotic language of dress, in which various hierarchies that both defined and limited human experience were entrenched. The study of Roman self-presentation illuminates the intersections of categories of identity, as well as the individual's desire and ability to resist essentializing views of Romanness (Romanitas), and to transform destiny through transforming identity. These categories of identity include gender; sexuality or sexual behavior; social status; economic status; ethnicity or place of origin; religion; and age. Applying the model of a matrix of identity deepens our appreciation for the work of self-presentation and its ultimate purposes. In this paper the practices and products used by Romans are described as vital indicators of self-identification, and as segues into Roman social semiotics, providing a more complete view of the possibilities for life in early imperial Rome. In the introduction, the use of queer theory and the function of the matrix model are outlined. Haircare, the maintenance of facial and bodily hair, the use of cosmetics, perfumes, skincare products, and beauty tools, the accessorizing of the body with jewelry, color, and pattern, and the display of these behaviors are examined in the main body chapters. The conclusion discusses the relevance of the matrix model to self-presentation studies in general and possible future uses.

Persistent Identifier