Art History Professor Publishes Book on Ancient Roman Ex-Slaves


Sinclair Bell, Assistant Professor of Art History in the NIU School of Art, has co-edited a volume on freed slaves in ancient Rome that was published this week. Free at Last! The Impact of Freed Slaves on the Roman Empire, which is co-edited with Teresa Ramsby, was published by Bloomsbury Press in London, and will become available in the United States next month.

The book builds on recent dynamic work on Roman freedmen. The contributors draw upon a rich and varied body of evidence – visual, literary, epigraphic and archaeological – to elucidate the impact of freed slaves on Roman society and culture amid the shadow of their former servitude. The contributions span the period between the first century BCE and the early third century CE and survey the territories of the Roman Republic and Empire, while focusing on Italy and Rome.

Advance notice of the book has been highly positive. Glenys Davies, Senior Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, writes: “The essays in this book explore the experiences of Roman freedmen (and women) from a new set of perspectives: they enrich our knowledge and understanding of a social group which has no exact equivalent in any other society.” Eve D’Ambra, Professor of Art on the Agnes Rindge Claflin Chair at Vassar College and a noted authority on ancient art, writes: "Roman freedmen have taken central stage in historical and literary studies recently, but their role as independent actors (e.g. as patrons of art and architecture) has long been suspect. This compelling and lucid volume addresses this oversight and plots a course for future research."

This is Professor Bell’s fifth edited volume and his third since arriving at NIU in 2008.

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