Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Luxury and Decadence

Cultural foundations of integration and disintegration in ancient Rome

Prof. Dr. Barbara Feichtinger


This comprehensive, multi-part project involves an analysis of the complex localization and constitution of luxury and (anti-) luxury discourses as exclusive or integrative elements of Roman culture. The project focuses on:


  • the functional interplay and counterplay between the practice and critique of luxury as a cultural foundation for social and political integration and disintegration in Rome;
  • the role of literature and art in the context of luxury- and anti-luxury-centered discourses:
  • interdependencies of the discourses of (moral) decadence, (artistic) ascendance, and (political) (anti-) luxury;
  • the change in contents and functionality of the discourse of luxury from the Roman republic to the empire and onward to Christian late antiquity.

Five research fields (subordinate projects) are here in planning:

  1. Luxuria – a moral fighting word in the Roman nobility’s political game of exclusivity and integration.
  2. Roman historiography, decadence, and the political elite.
  3. Literature of luxury”—“luxury as literature.”
  4. The world of fine differences: the aristocratic life-style of republican, imperial, and late antique Rome (Cicero – Pliny - Symmachus).
  5. From the enjoyment of decadence to deadly sin: Christian modification of antique life-styles.