Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)


Classical Studies


Molly Swetnam-Burland

Committee Members

Vassiliki Panoussi

Brad Weiss


In this thesis, I argue that the naturalistic wall-paintings decorating Pompeian peristylia during the late 1st century BCE and early- to mid-1stcentury CE sought to identify the homeowner with broader cultural movements celebrating “Romanness.” A new understanding of Roman identity originated with Augustus’ programs of urban and civic renewal, which adopted images of nature, both literary and artistic, to put forth ideas of peace, cultural fertility, and nationalistic superiority. As the Roman empire continued to expand and change under the principate, such symbols established an opposition between the notion of proper Roman personhood and the moral decay of late Republican Rome, as well as the practices of non-Romans in the Mediterranean. My hypothesis counters scholarship that posits that naturalistic Pompeian wall-paintings created spatial illusions in an attempt to emulate wealthier homeowners for the purposes of gaining prestige. I instead develop a framework that contextualizes this artistic form within the transitionary historical period from which it hailed.

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