This article studies the adoption of the nickname Malleolus (“little hammer”) by members of the gens Publicia in mid-republican Rome to illustrate the importance of grounding cultural history in the lives of seemingly minor political players and the mundane objects with which they came to be associated. After reviewing the occupational significance of hammers during the First Punic War (Part I), I scrutinize the ritual and cultic intersignifications of hammers in fourth- and third-century BCE central Italy (II) in order to set up a comprehensive reconstruction of the social and semiotic networks that structured and mediated the dedication of a temple to the goddess Flora by the brothers Publicii Malleoli at a time of internal political crisis and external conflict (III). Central to the political and intercultural contests of mid-republican Rome was the generative force of the polyvalent and object-centered cognomen in establishing and promoting individual and collective identities.
This article proposes a new interpretation of slave religious experience in mid-republican Rome. Select passages from Plautine comedy and Cato the Elder's De agri cultura are paired with material culture as well as comparative evidence—mostly from studies of Black Atlantic slave religions—to reconstruct select aspects of a specific and distinctive slave “religiosity” in the era of large-scale enslavements. I work towards this reconstruction first by considering the subordination of slaves as religious agents (Part I) before turning to slaves’ practice of certain forms of religious expertise in the teeth of subordination and policing (II and III). After transitioning to an assessment of slave religiosity's role in the pursuit of freedom (IV), I conclude with a set of methodological justifications for this paper's line of inquiry (V).