Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2021
This chapter examines the role played by lectica (litter) in Roman literature. Investigating Roman accounts of the conveyance's origins, it shows how lectica was repeatedly framed as an exotic import from the Near East, only available to Romans upon their exposure, through the process of imperial expansion, to Eastern softness. But such a projection involved carefully distinguishing this ‘decadent’ litter from already existing, sanctioned litter use (including its use as a 'stretcher'). The litter’s status as a newfangled import is moreover belied by coexisting narratives of republican-era patriarchs riding in lectica because of injury, old age, or disability, and numerous able-bodied Roman commanders who take the field in a lectica. That Cicero could at one moment lambast his juridical or political opponents for employing the litter and then invite a friend for a lectica joy-ride points up how such an object was used to focalize moral discourses in conflict. The chapter ultimately argues that the vehicle's configuration as an awkward boundary-crosser, constantly out of place whether in public or in private, helps shore up other more dominant categories, vehicular and otherwise.
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