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A City of Marble

The Rhetoric of Augustan Rome

Kathleen S. Lamp

Publication Year: 2013

In A City of Marble, Kathleen Lamp argues that classical rhetorical theory shaped the Augustan cultural campaigns and that in turn the Augustan cultural campaigns functioned rhetorically to help Augustus gain and maintain power and to influence civic identity and participation in the Roman Principate (27 b. c. e.—14 c. e.). Lamp begins by studying rhetorical treatises, those texts most familiar to scholars of rhetoric, and moves on to those most obviously using rhetorical techniques in visual form. She then arrives at those objects least recognizable as rhetorical artifacts, but perhaps most significant to the daily lives of the Roman people—coins, altars, wall painting. This progression also captures the development of the Augustan political myth that Augustus was destined to rule and lead Rome to greatness as a descendant of the hero Aeneas. A City of Marble examines the establishment of this myth in state rhetoric, traces its circulation, and finally samples its popular receptions and adaptations. In doing so, Lamp inserts a long-excluded though significant audience—the common people of Rome—into contemporary understandings of rhetorical history and considers Augustan culture as significant in shaping civic identity, encouraging civic participation, and promoting social advancement. Lamp approaches the relationship between classical rhetoric and Augustan culture through a transdisciplinary methodology drawn from archaeology, art and architectural history, numismatics, classics, and rhetorical studies. By doing so, she grounds Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s claims that the Principate represented a renaissance of rhetoric rooted in culture and a return to an Isocratean philosophical model of rhetoric, thus offering a counterstatement to the “decline narrative” that rhetorical practice withered in the early Roman Empire. Thus Lamp’s work provides a step toward filling the disciplinary gap between Cicero and the Second Sophistic.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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Series Editor’s Preface

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pp. xiii-xiv

The role of rhetoric in Rome after the fall of the republic has been debated for two thousand years. In City of Marble: The Rhetoric of Augustan Rome, Kathleen S. Lamp synthesizes scholarship from rhetorical studies and several related fields to create a fresh understanding of rhetorical theory and practice in the principate of Augustus, who ruled Rome from 27 b.c.e. to 14 c.e. Lamp finds...


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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: A City of Brick

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pp. 1-9

Perhaps no words that Augustus, the first sole ruler of Rome, who reigned from 27 B.C.E. to 14 C.E., actually spoke are quite as memorable as the ones ancient historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio have attributed to him: “I found Rome built of brick and I leave it to you in marble.”1 For Suetonius, the improvements to Rome were both a matter of practicality and stature: “Since the city was not...

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1. Augustus’s Rhetorical Situation

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pp. 10-23

The principate, the era marked by the sole rule of Augustus, spans from 31 B.C.E. to 14 C.E., standing as the transitional period between the Roman republic and empire.1 By the end of 31 B.C.E., the often romanticized chaos that inspired Shakespeare and still captivates modern audiences through television shows such as HBO’s Rome—the assassination of Julius Caesar, the rise of a young...

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2. Seeing Rhetorical Theory

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pp. 24-37

Certainly the transition from republic to principate led to changes in the practice of rhetoric in Rome, which, for at least to some scholars, indicate a broadening in the practice of rhetoric.1 For example, for Laurent Pernot, who defines rhetoric rather narrowly as “persuasive speech,” the early empire is a time when rhetoric expands beyond the traditional genres to include many other literary...

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3. The Augustan Political Myth

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pp. 38-57

Augustus is remembered as a number of things—as a boy of nineteen who was named as Julius Caesar’s successor; as a general who marched on Rome not once, but twice; as a youth who inspired disdain from Cicero; as a victor over Antonius and Cleopatra; as a patron of the arts whose sponsorship led to the “Golden Age” of Roman poetry and literature; and finally as a beloved ruler, religious...

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4. Let Us Now Praise Great Men

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pp. 58-79

The technique of imitation, as is well known, has a long history in rhetorical education. As early as the fifth century B.C.E., Isocrates stresses the importance of imitation in order to develop moral character and critical judgment. For example, he advises the ruler Nicocles to “Imitate the actions of those whose reputations...

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5. Coins, Material Rhetoric, and Circulation

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pp. 80-108

The Augustan political myth presented on the Ara Pacis argues that Rome had been founded with the favor of the gods, that the people’s lack of piety had brought about great suffering and the civil wars, that the Julian line was descended from the gods and destined to restore peace and prosperity to Rome, and that only a successor from the Julian line would be able to continue the...

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6. The Augustan Political Myth in Vernacular Art

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pp. 109-130

Paul Zanker argues of the principate that, because of “the dominance of the official imagery, it became impossible to find a means of individual artistic expression.” 1 Writing about the same period, Tacitus mentions a lack of freedom of speech, though one that was driven more from sycophancy than imposed by...

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7 (Freed)men and Monkeys

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pp. 131-147

The fictional Trimalchio from Petronius’s Satyricon is likely the best known Augustalis, a magistrate position usually filled by freed slaves in the western Roman empire, because he is the only one known to us from a literary source. It is hard to think of Trimalchio, who behaves in such a manner that he must be reminded “that such low fooling . . . [is] beneath his dignity” by his wife, Fortunata...

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Conclusion: A New Narrative

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pp. 148-156

Though Ronald Syme labeled Augustus’s reign a “revolution,” there was not anything inherently revolutionary about the principate. Nor was there much that was, strictly speaking, new. More often than not, Augustus turned back to the things that had worked well in the republic, making changes to fit the needs of the principate. The scale of his reforms and the blend of innovation and tradition...


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pp. 157-178


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pp. 179-184


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pp. 185-196

About the Author

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p. 214-214

E-ISBN-13: 9781611173369
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611172775

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication