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Cultivating Empire: Transplanting and Translating Rome

Kaja Tally-Schumacher, Cornell University, Junior Fellow 2017–2018, Fall

My dissertation focuses on the interaction between newly imported garden plants and their slave and free gardeners in first-century BCE and CE Roman elite gardens. My work draws from ancient authors who categorized plants as distinctly human-like, exploring the inverse relationship the plants had to Roman slave gardeners—who in the first century BCE were further denied personhood through new Augustan laws limiting manumission. I am indebted to my Byzantine colleagues for their insightful recommendations of early Christian sources and of late antique representations of garden labor, both of which have greatly strengthened my project. I am equally indebted to my Pre-Columbian colleagues for our discussions on archaeological methodology, plantation archaeology, and the archaeology of the night. My semester was immensely productive: access to Roman garden scholarship at Dumbarton Oaks is unparalleled, and I was able to dive deeply into rare sources. I also explored comparative discourse on human-plant interactions in contemporary cultural geography, which was especially influential in developing my methodology. My project benefited from access to the Wilhelmina Jashemski Papers held at the University of Maryland, and the library collection at the Center for Hellenic Studies.