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The Roman writer Cornelius Nepos was a friend of Cicero and Catullus and other first-century BCE authors, and portions of his encyclopedic work On Famous Men are the earliest surviving biographies written in Latin. In The Political Biographies of Cornelius Nepos, Rex Stem presents Nepos as a valuable witness to the late Republican era, whose biographies share the exemplary republican political perspective of his contemporaries Cicero and Livy. Stem argues that Nepos created the genre of grouped political biographies in order to characterize renowned Mediterranean figures as role models for Roman leaders, and he shows how Nepos invested his biographies with moral and political arguments against tyranny. This book, the first to regard Nepos as a serious thinker in his own right, also functions as a general introduction to Nepos, placing him in his cultural context. Stem examines Nepos' contributions to the growth of biography, and he defends Nepos from his critics at the same time that he lays out the political significance and literary innovation of Nepos' writings. Accessible to advanced undergraduates, this volume is addressed to a general audience of classicists and ancient historians, as well as those broadly interested in biography, historiography, and political thought.
One of the masterpieces of Latin and, indeed, world literature, Virgil's Aeneid was written during the Augustan “renaissance” of architecture, art, and literature that redefined the Roman world in the early years of the empire. This period was marked by a transition from the use of rhetoric as a means of public persuasion to the use of images to display imperial power. Taking a fresh approach to Virgil's epic poem, Riggs Alden Smith argues that the Aeneid fundamentally participates in the Augustan shift from rhetoric to imagery because it gives primacy to vision over speech as the principal means of gathering and conveying information as it recounts the heroic adventures of Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome. Working from the theories of French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Smith characterizes Aeneas as a voyant-visible, a person who both sees and is seen and who approaches the world through the faculty of vision. Engaging in close readings of key episodes throughout the poem, Smith shows how Aeneas repeatedly acts on what he sees rather than what he hears. Smith views Aeneas' final act of slaying Turnus, a character associated with the power of oratory, as the victory of vision over rhetoric, a triumph that reflects the ascendancy of visual symbols within Augustan society. Smith's new interpretation of the predominance of vision in the Aeneid makes it plain that Virgil's epic contributes to a new visual culture and a new mythology of Imperial Rome.
Antigone and the Invention of Individuality
In Private Lives, Public Deaths, Jonathan Strauss shows how Sophocles' tragedy Antigone crystallized the political, intellectual, and aesthetic forces of an entire historical moment--fifth-century Athens--into one idea: the value of a single, living person. That idea existed, however, only as a powerful but unconscious desire. Drawing on classical studies, Hegel, and contemporary philosophical interpretations of this pivotal drama, Strauss argues that Antigone's tragedy, and perhaps all classical tragedy, represents a failure to satisfy this longing. To the extent that the value of a living individual remains an open question, what Sophocles attempted to imagine still escapes our understanding. Antigone is, in this sense, a text not from the past, but from our future.
Vergil's Georgics, Octavian, and Rome
Reading after Actium is a study of Vergil's Georgics, a didactic poem ostensibly about farming but in fact a brilliant exercise challenging readers to develop a broader perspective on the basic problems and the dangers of human life. Octavian is treated as one of the poet's students and given the opportunity to learn lessons in handling power, in controlling Rome's vast resources, and in preventing the bloody cycle of civil war from beginning again. Most of all the Georgics asks Octavian to consider what is involved in assuming godlike power over his fellow citizens. Reading after Actium provides an introduction to the history of scholarship surrounding the Georgics and the political questions surrounding Octavian and his career. Nappa gives a book by book analysis of the entire poem, and a conclusion that draws together the themes of the whole. Reading after Actium will appeal to students and critics of Vergil and other Augustan Literature as well as those of didactic poetry and its traditions. Students of Roman history and politics should read this as well. Christopher Nappa is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Minnesota.
Prudentius and the Poetics of the Soul
The Roman Self in Late Antiquity for the first time situates Prudentius within a broad intellectual, political, and literary context of fourth-century Rome. As Marc Mastrangelo convincingly demonstrates, the late-fourth-century poet drew on both pagan and Christian intellectual traditions—especially Platonism, Vergilian epic poetics, and biblical exegesis—to define a new vision of the self for the newly Christian Roman Empire. Mastrangelo proposes an original theory of Prudentius's allegorical poetry and establishes Prudentius as a successor to Vergil. Employing recent approaches to typology and biblical exegesis as well as the most current theories of allusion and intertextuality in Latin poetry, he interprets the meaning and influence of Prudentius's work and positions the poet as a vital author for the transmission of the classical tradition to the early modern period. This provocative study challenges the view that poetry in the fourth century played a subordinate role to patristic prose in forging Christian Roman identity. It seeks to restore poetry to its rightful place as a crucial source for interpreting the rich cultural and intellectual life of the era.
Theatre to Theatricality
Mario Erasmo draws on all the available evidence to trace the evolution of Roman tragedy from the earliest tragedians to the dramatist Seneca and to explore the role played by Roman culture in shaping the perception of theatricality on and off the stage.
Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940
When Athenians suffered the shame of having lost a war from their own greed and foolishness, around 404 BCE the public’s blame was directed at Socrates, a man whose unique appearance and behavior, as well as his disapproval of the democracy, made him a ready target. Socrates was subsequently put on trial and sentenced to death. However, as René Girard has pointed out, no individual can be held responsible for a communal crisis. Plato’s Apology depicts Socrates as both the bane and the cure of Greek society, while his Crito shows a sacrificial Socrates, what some might consider a pharmakos figure, the human drug through whom Plato can dispense his philosophical remedies. With tremendous insight and satisfying complexity, this book analyzes classical texts through the lens of Girard’s mimetic mechanism.
Horace's Satires, Book 1
In his first book of Satires, written in the late, violent days of the Roman republic, Horace exposes satiric speech as a tool of power and domination. Using critical theories from classics, speech act theory, and others, Catherine Schlegel argues that Horace's acute poetic observation of hostile speech provides insights into the operations of verbal control that are relevant to his time and to ours. She demonstrates that though Horace is forced by his political circumstances to develop a new, unthreatening style of satire, his poems contain a challenge to our most profound habits of violence, hierarchy, and domination. Focusing on the relationships between speaker and audience and between old and new style, Schlegel examines the internal conflicts of a notoriously difficult text. This exciting contribution to the field of Horatian studies will be of interest to classicists as well as other scholars interested in the genre of satire.
Studies in Reading and Reception in Hellenistic Poetry
One of the most prominent figures in American Hellenistic poetry scholarship, Peter Bing has long served as a model for acute criticism and careful reading. He has a marvelous ability to make readers rethink their preconceptions; his work is always beautifully argued and documented and his writing style is a pleasure to engage with. ---Benjamin Acosta-Hughes, Ohio State University While people of previous ages relied on public performance as their chief means of experiencing poetry, the Hellenistic age developed what one may term a culture of reading. This was the first era in which poets consciously shaped their works with an eye toward publication and reception not just on the civic stage but in several media---in performance, on inscribed monuments, in scrolls. The essays in Peter Bing's collection explore how poetry accommodated various audiences and how these audiences in turn experienced the text in diverse ways. Over the years, Bing's essays have focused on certain Hellenistic authors and genres---particularly on Callimachus and Posidippus and on epigram. His themes, too, have been broadly consistent. Thus, although the essays in The Scroll and the Marble span some twenty years, they offer a coherent vision of Hellenistic poetics as a whole. Peter Bing is Professor of Classics at Emory University and editor, most recently, of the Companion to Hellenistic Epigram: Down to Philip (coedited with Jon Steffen Bruss). Jacket illustration: Film still from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, directed by Frank Capra, Columbia Pictures 1939. Courtesy of Sony Pictures.