Urban Legends

Civic Identity and the Classical Past in Northern Italy, 12501350

By (author) Carrie E. BeneŇ°

Hardback - £69.95

Publication date:

21 March 2011

Length of book:

296 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271037653

Between 1250 and 1350, numerous Italian city-states jockeyed for position in a cutthroat political climate. Seeking to legitimate and ennoble their autonomy, they turned to ancient Rome for concrete and symbolic sources of identity. Each city-state appropriated classical symbols, ancient materials, and Roman myths to legitimate its regime as a logical successor to—or continuation of—Roman rule. In Urban Legends, Carrie Beneš illuminates this role of the classical past in the construction of late medieval Italian urban identity.

“Carrie Beneš has emerged, through a series of important articles, as a leader—in fact, a pioneer—in a new and fruitful field of scholarly endeavor: the medieval history of classical, which is to say Greco-Roman, symbols, myths, and objects. While the manifold uses of the ancient world have long been recognized and seen as characteristic of the Italian Renaissance, Beneš shows that high and late medieval Italian city-states made use of the ancient world in interesting and often surprising ways. She blends the acumen of a specialist in documentary culture with the scholarly imagination characteristic of the best cultural historians. This book—as thorough, information packed, and clearly written as it is—will help redraw the picture of the history of medieval Italy, and it will serve as a model for engagement and debate regarding a period and a region often overlooked.”

—Christopher S. Celenza, American Academy in Rome