Professor shares experience as Rome Prize recipient

Published: July 1, 2023

Anushka Chakrabarti | July 1, 2023

Sarah Beckmann, an assistant professor of Roman archaeology in the classics department and a faculty member at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, has been named the 2023 Andrew Heiskell Rome Prize Fellow in ancient studies.

“For over a century, the American Academy in Rome has awarded the Rome Prize to support innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities. Each year, the Rome Prize is awarded to about thirty artists and scholars who represent the highest standard of excellence,” according to the American Academy in Rome’s website.

Beckmann received the award for her book project, “The Villa in Late Antiquity: Roman Ideals and Local Identities.” In the project description, she states:

“This project explores the elite monolith that dominates discussions of late Roman villas in the western provinces (ca. 250–450 CE). I treat the villa as a window onto the full breadth of late antique society, from top to bottom. First, I argue that variety across domestic assemblages (e.g., interior décor schemes) parallels the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the upper class, who were much more colorful than current scholarship admits. To move conversations beyond villa owners, moreover, I analyze evidence for estate laborers, both as actors in their own right and as pawns in the villa’s promotion to status symbol. Synthesis of the heterogeneity of villas and their inhabitants — their lives and their worlds — is poised to advance our understanding of rural life in the waning years of the empire.”

According to Beckmann, the purpose of the fellowship is to give people space to work on the projects for which they are being supported.

“It’s really to bring everyone together — to give people time and space to work on their own project, but then also to encourage interdisciplinary discussions about what people are interested in, how people think of methodologies, and really bring together groups that don’t always talk to each other when they’re in the university,” said Beckmann.

She values the opportunity to take time to focus on the project away from academic work as well.

“For someone like myself who is in an academic institution, it’s a chance to take a break from your university, meet people working in your field but also outside of your field, and it encourages you to think in new ways and ideally form collegial connections but also friendships that will encourage interdisciplinary dialogues when you leave here and when you go back to the states,” said Beckmann.

She added that she has been able to talk to people from all different backgrounds and plans to continue the dialogue and discussion with colleagues about potential collaborations they can undertake together — an opportunity she would not have without the fellowship.