Dead in Lead: Lead Coffins and Cultural Exchange in the Roman Empire
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As the Roman Empire expanded,Roman customs were exported to the provinces and combined with a variety of different native cultures from the Levant to Britain. There are many ways in which cultural exchange manifests itself as cultures interact through trade and migration, such as in art, architecture, religion, and the way by which the elite display their status. The fusion of burial customs is only one example of the sort of cultural exchange that was going on as the borders of the Roman world were reaching farther and farther away from Rome itself. However, the adoption of new cultural traditions was not a one-way phenomenon but a two-way exchange, because aspects of the provinces' cultures were also being brought back to Rome. In this paper I focus primarily on the exchange of burial and funerary customs between Rome and its provinces, especially Britain, from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD and the changes that can be seen in those customs during that time. I explore how the shift from Republic to Empire affected the burial customs of the Romans in Italy and peoples elsewhere in the Roman world. I also discuss some specific factors which contributed to the changes that occurred in customs across the Empire, including the role the army played in the interaction between Rome and the provinces and the many complex incentives that caused elite provincials to strive to be more Romanized. It is easy to see how the conqueror affects the conquered, but if one digs a little deeper it is also possible to see how the native cultures came to affect the conquering Romans. From this point of view it is possible to look at Romanization as both a force of change and a changing concept, because as the Romans incorporated new customs into their own culture, what it meant to be Roman also took on a new meaning.