This article examines the tradition of punitive house demolition during the Roman Republic, but from a sociocultural rather than institutional-legal perspective. Exploiting recent scholarship on the Roman house, on exemplarity, and on memory sanctions, I argue that narratives of house demolition constitute a form of ethically inflected political discourse, whose purpose is to stigmatize certain social actors as malefactors of a particular sort (“aspiration to kingship” being the central instance). The demolition itself is symbolically resonant, and the resultant stigma is propagated by subsequent monuments—various structures, toponyms, narratives, etc.—that attach to the housesite. These monuments are thought to bear the trace of what went before, hence transmit an account of the alleged malefactor's deed and disgrace. Far from obliterating the doer of misdeeds, then, the discourse of punitive house demolition fixes him in cultural memory as a negative exemplum.
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