From Early Rome to Modern Nationalism: What an Ancient Ritual Can Teach Us about the Meaning of Home

Paul O’Connor

Department of Government and Society, United Arab Emirates University

Abstract

This article uses the Etruscan rite, an ancient ritual associated with the foundations of Roman colonies, as a prism through which to study the way in which a collective home is created. This involves a process of cosmicization, orchestrating the elements of our experience into a meaningful unity. Parallels are drawn between the Roman foundation ritual and similar practices and beliefs from cultures around the world. Underlying them all, it is argued, are a set of fundamental principles for organizing experiences which have appeared in almost every settled agrarian society. These include a microcosmic organization of space, the organization of time in terms of ‘primordial depth’ (Casey 1993), the ritual establishment of ‘mutuality of being’ (Sahlins 2011), and the inscription of symbolic boundaries. Finally, it is suggested that while these ways of organizing experience have all but disappeared in the contemporary household, they persist as part of the affective underpinning of nationalism and help explain its contemporary resurgence.

Keywords

Etruscan Rite; Home; Household; Belonging; Nationalism; Place

Author contact: pauloconnor1978 [at] uaeu.ac.ae

Citation: O’Connor, P., 2020. “From Early Rome to Modern Nationalism: What an Ancient Ritual Can Teach Us about the Meaning of Home”, Irish Journal of Anthropology, 23(1), 6-20.