Singles and the Single Life in the Roman and Later Roman World

Academia Belgica, Via Omero, 8 I-00197 Roma
Organizers: Prof. Dr. Christian Laes, University of Antwerp, Free University of Brussels; Prof. Dr. Sabine R. Huebner, Universität Basel, Switzerland
28.05.2015 - 30.05.2015
Sabine R. Huebner

Singleness is not only a new and rapidly increasing lifestyle of the present day. It has also become a fashionable field of research in social history. During a series of sessions at the European Social Science History Conference (Glasgow, 2012), questions were raised about the structural and cultural particularities of ‘single life’ in cities. A conference at the University of Antwerp (Singles in the Cities of North-West Europe, c. 1000–2000) in March 2013 further expanded upon the insights from the Glasgow conference.
In this new field of research the silence of ancient historians is striking. This may be partly explained by the lack of demographical data: there are virtually no statistics or censuses to indicate how many men or women were single in the towns and villages of the Roman Empire. But far more problematic is the definition of singleness. In a society which did not yet know the Christian concept of marriage, in an environment where both the contracting of a marriage and divorce were quick and easy, the lines between married and unmarried were somewhat vague. This may explain why there is no proper or much-used Latin or ancient Greek word to denote the status of a bachelor or spinster. We might even raise the question whether singleness for the ancient period could possible be defined as being unmarried. But even without the criterion of marriage, other approaches towards singleness in antiquity are possible.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

15:30-16:00 Welcome & Coffee

16:00-16:30 Christian Laes „What’s in a Single? Roman Antiquity and a Comparative World Approach“

Panel I: Demographic, Archaeological, and Socio-Economic Approaches
Chair: Christian Laes

16:30-17:00 Sabine Huebner „The Demographic Background for Singles: Roman Egypt and Beyond“

17:00-17:30 Anna Boozer „Looking for Singles in the Archaeological Record“

17:30-18:00 Wim Broekaert „Singleness as Business Strategy? Economic Incentives or Drawbacks of Living Alone“

18:00-18:30 Discussion

18:30-19:30 Reception

Friday, May 29, 2015

Panel II: Singles in Judaism, Chair: Ville Vuolanto

9:30-10:00 Ranon Katzoff „Age at Marriage of Jewish Girls in Late Antiquity and the Rabbinic Rejection of Singleness“

10:00-10:30 John Martens „Was Jesus Single?“

10:30-11:00 Coffee break

11:00-11:30 Kevin Funderburk „Contesting the Temple: Nazirite vows and primitive Christian celibacy“

11:30-12:00 Discussion

12:00-14:00 Lunch

Panel III: Being Single in the Roman world
Chair: Sabine Huebner

14:00–14:30 Judith Evans Grubbs „Penalizing celibacy? A Socio-cultural approach to Augustus’ marriage legislation“

14:30-15:00 Harri Kiiskinen “Living “Single” by Catullus and Cicero”

15:00-15:30 Elina Pyy „Detecting Roman Ideas on Female Singleness: a Literary Perspective“

15:30-16:00 Coffee break

16:00-16:30 Single Hanne Sigismund Nielsen „Commemoration in Latin Epigraphy“

16:30-17:00 Mina Petrova Petrova „Single as a Lena. The Depiction of Procuresses in Roman Augustan Literature“

17:00-17:30 Ilse Mueller „Single Women and Slaves in Roman Antiquity“

17:30-18:00 Discussion

20:00 Conference Dinner

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Panel IV: Late antique Christianity: the rise of the ideal of being single

Chair: John Martens

9:00-9:30 Thomas Goessens „Single Commemoration in Christian inscriptions from Rome“

9:30-10:00 Raffaella Cribiore „Three Different Ways of Life: Being Single in the Fourth Century CE“

10:00-10:30 Ville Vuolanto „Ascetics as Single Men and Women“

10:30-11:00 Geoff Nathan „Augustine, “Philosophical Retirement” and the Singles Life“

11:00-11:30 Coffee break

11:30-12:00 Stephanos Efthymiadis „Singles in Early Byzantine Literature“

12:00-12:30 Jennifer Cromwell „’Listen to my mistreatment’: Coptic evidence for the difficulties faced by single women in Late Antique and early Islamic Egypt „

12:30-13:00 Discussion

13:00-14:30 Lunch

Panel V: Comparative voices; Chair: Christian Laes and Sabine Huebner

14:30-15:00 Mohammed Hocine Benkheira „Singles and Celibacy in Early Islam“

15:00-15:30 Julie De Groot „Singleness in the Early Modern Period: How Do Historians Cope with It?“

15:30-16:00 Matteo Manfredini “Singleness in the Libri Animarum (19th Century Italy)“

15:30-16:00 Final Dis


Sabine Huebner

Departement Altertumswissenschaften, Fachbereich Alte Geschichte
Petersgraben 51, 4051 Basel

Singles and the Single Life in the Roman and Later Roman World, 28.05.2015 – 30.05.2015 Rom, in: H-Soz-Kult, 03.02.2015, <>.
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