Universalization and Its Limits: An Anthropological Perspective on Cultural Interaction in the Roman Empire


  • Kristian Kanstrup Christensen


This paper employs an anthropological framework to understand the inter- action between imperial culture and local traditions in the Roman world by introducing the model of universalization and localization, designed by Redfield and Marriott for the study of Indian village communities. This model is applied to evidence for provincial languages supplemented with an analysis of a corpus of material culture to illuminate how constraints to communication, transportation and education affected cultural interaction. It demonstrates that while Roman imperialism spread shared practices across wide areas, due to the aforementioned conditions provincial populations were often only partially able to access them.