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Origins of Siena: Myth vs Memory

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American Italian Cultural Center

537 South Peters Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

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With no clear textual or physical proof of an ancient Roman settlement, Siena faced considerable challenges to its assumed antiquity in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Far more than a point of pride, an association with a Roman past linked the Italian city-states of the early Renaissance with the glory and achievements of the former power, offered political legitimacy to republics, and informed identities while augmenting cultural worth. The damaging insistence by leading Italian writers like Giovanni Villani and Flavio Biondo of Siena’s Gallic--and thus non-Roman--origins prompted the Sienese state to engage an elaborate civic program in defense of its antiquity and Roman-ness, or Romanitas. This presentation examines Siena’s intense efforts, most associated with an invented origin myth that linked the city’s foundation to Rome’s own Romulus and Remus, to manufacture a classical identity and assert its ancient authority.


Dr. Samantha Perez earned her M.A. and her Ph.D at Tulane University and works as an assistant professor at Southeastern Louisiana University. She is a native Louisianan.

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American Italian Cultural Center

537 South Peters Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

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