Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 September 2020
Scholars have established that Rome is at once a place and an idea. This double formula, however, which limits Rome to a specific distant place (distant, that is, from the perspective of Britain) and an idea (that is, an immaterial concept or notion of that distant place), needs to be supplemented by an acknowledgement that the Roman Empire had left in its wake material remains and cultural practices that ensured that Rome could always be close-to-hand, familiar, and domestic—even a thousand or more miles from the Eternal City. Ruins, roads, the Latin language and the thickets of its grammar, cultural and spiritual institutions, liturgical texts and devotional regimens: these phenomena ensured that Rome could be, even as far away as Medieval or Renaissance Britain, experienced as near rather than far, and as a network of material remains and cultural practices rather than as an abstract idea. The book gathers these disparate phenomena under the rubric of the ‘fact’ of Rome (with an eye to the word’s derivation from the Latin factum) in an effort to show that lives lived in Medieval and Renaissance Britain were continually immersed in versions of Rome that oscillated between conspicuousness and invisibility.