In order to begin my research, I started very broadly. By looking into general resources pertaining to the Carmen Saeculare and the Secular Games themselves, I was able to branch off from there and find resources particularly pertaining to my interests. For example, I came across a passage in Michael Putnam’s book, Horace’s Carmen Saeculare: Ritual Magic and the Poet’s Art, which stated that part of the reason Augustus may have wanted to re-establish this event was to placate the senate after he enforced the Leges Iuliae. These are a set of laws which set moral standards encouraging marriage and children, and also established adultery as a private and public crime. For my project, I am focusing on the way that women were treated within the context of Roman ritual and literature, so these laws being placed only one year prior to the Secular Games is very interesting. I then argue within my project that these laws have a direct impact on why the emphasis on women’s fertility and purity was present in the games. With the help of my mentor, Dr. Possanza, I asked not only his opinion on these matters, but also for assistance in gathering resources in order to derive more analysis from the original Latin. I also asked for any other sources that directly talk about the impact of the Leges Iuliae.
For anyone just beginning to conduct research, I highly recommend taking this route, especially if you don’t know where to start. Once you find something even a little interesting, see if you can connect it to other things you find interesting and go from there. Even if it is difficult to find something by yourself, taking advantage of the resources around you and asking for advice is the best way I’ve found when encountering a blockage. In my own research of other Augustan artifacts which depict treatment of women in ritual, I found an article on the Terme Alter, by Harriet I. Flower and Meghan J. Diluzio , which shows two women pouring libations to guardian divinities known as Lares. This is extraordinary due to how women were usually not seen on public monuments, excepts for female members of the imperial family. The article talked about how it’s purpose was to show new brides offering sacrifice in their neighborhood in Rome. So I told my mentor about this, which led Dr. Possanza to providing me with more resources on Roman marriage and its connection to my research. The second part to conducting research is then to understand that when you find a lead, to follow it until you can’t get any more pertinent information out of it for your project.
As my career goals include going into the museum field or academic field as a researcher, the experience I gain from conducting such research is a definite advantage. In order to gain further resources, I think my biggest focus would be networking with other researchers and understanding more fields, including the very specific and niche works in the Mediterranean archeological field. Also being able to connect my research in an interdisciplinary way leads me to obtain many different perspectives on my project and the interest of many more fields.
The Terme Altar
The center panel depicts twin Lares; the left and right panel depicts brides, dressed elaborately, wearing veils. Notice in the right panel, the bride is pouring the libation at the altar.