University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


When confronting a piece of ancient Roman artwork, the modern viewer faces the question, "How do we see like the Romans did?" Geographical, temporal, and cultural differences combine to make the process of understanding ancient art particularly complex. This piece attempts to bridge the gap between ancient Rome and the present through an analysis of the central mythological paintings located in region VI, insula 8 of Pompeii. A three-dimensional model of the insula, created in the honors research colloquium "Digital Pompeii" at the University of Arkansas, is essential to the examination of the complex interaction between the paintings and their architectural context. By utilizing gender and gaze theory, examining Roman oratorical and memorization practices, and the rituals of daily life, this piece traces the social messages encoded in these paintings through the spatial sequence of the insula, paying particular attention to issues of gender instability, phallic power, and political hierarchy in Roman society.