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During the late Republic and early Empire, Rome had a voracious appetite for importing luxury objects from around the Mediterranean: spices from the Arabian Peninsula, sculptures and bronzes from Greece, glassware from Egypt and the Levant, and textiles from India, to list a few examples. Some of these so-termed luxuries have been preserved in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, yet these objects only represent a small portion of the overall cargoes. By examining several Roman shipwrecks (ca 200 BCE – 200 CE) that were transporting such luxury objects, I discuss how these assemblages force us to re-evaluate static definitions of luxury and assess the impact of mobility upon shifting social importance in multi-scalar networks. In particular, through considering cargoes as assemblages, I discuss agents who were often overlooked in literary accounts, and I de-centralize Rome as the main consumer of luxuries by showing the transportation of these goods to the western Mediterranean.
Atkins, Carrie, "Shipwrecks and the Transport of Luxury in the Roman Mediterranean" (2021). Lecture Series. 33.