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Grant number like: FA-54494-09

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David Eric Petrain
Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN 37240-0001)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2010 – 12/31/2010

The Tabulae Iliacae and the Development of Visual Storytelling in the Early Roman Empire

The Tabulae Iliacae are a group of carved stone plaques from early imperial Rome that retell the story of Troy in visual form. Far from being mere plot summaries, the Tabulae develop novel forms of visual argumentation in order to reshape the Troy saga so that Aeneas, Rome's national hero, seems to be its central figure. The tablets thus forge a Roman version of mythic history seemingly endorsed by the traditions of Greek epic. Drawing on ancient literature, art history, and modern narratology, I reevaluate this neglected group of monuments that are unprecedented in ancient art for the richness and compression of their pictorial narratives. My work will be the first English-language monograph on the Tabulae. It will illuminate the complexity and sophistication of visual communication in ancient Rome; it will contribute to discussions of the relationship between image and text, and to debates among narratologists about the proper way to describe and interpret narrative sequence.