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Deconstructing the symbolic city: Jerome as guide to late antique Rome

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    Rights statement: © Grig, L. (2012). Deconstructing the symbolic city: Jerome as guide to late antique Rome. Papers of the British School at Rome, 80, 125-143doi: 10.1017/S0068246212000074

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-143
Number of pages18
JournalPapers of the British School at Rome
Early online date24 Sep 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


This article considers the writings of Saint Jerome as a source for writing a cultural history of the city of Rome in late antiquity. Jerome is of course, in many respects, an unreliable witness but his lively and often conflicted accounts of the city do none the less provide significant insights into the city during an age of transition. He provides a few snippets for the scholar of topography, but these do not constitute the main attraction. Jerome's city of Rome appears above all as a textual palimpsest: variously painted in Vergilian colours as Troy and frequently compared with the biblical cities of Babylon, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. In the final analysis, it is argued, Jerome's Rome is surprisingly unstable, indeed a ‘soft city’.

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