CLSS-422-01 Speaking to Power in Antiquity
Fall for 2017-2018
After the assassination of Cicero in 43 BCE, Mark Antony ordered the great orator’s tongue and right hand be cut off and nailed to the speaker’s platform in the center of Rome, in retribution for Cicero’s vituperation. Antony was just one of many powerful individuals in the ancient world, and, as Cicero’s story demonstrates, it mattered how you spoke to them. This class will focus on a range of Greek and Latin authors, their relation to powerful figures, and how they navigated that dynamic in their writing. We will read a variety of texts, including Hellenistic court poetry, Cicero’s attacks on Antony, and Lucan’s ambiguous praise of the emperor Nero. Discussions will focus on the primary texts, but we will also consider modern scholarly interpretations of these works, the range of which shows just how fine a line many of these authors walked between self-expression and safety.
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