Courses for 2012
1. Clio and her Sisters: The Intimate Relationship between Poetry and History at Rome
Jeri DeBrohun, Brown University
We will begin with the Roman tradition of historical epic, reading fragments from the earliest examples (Naevius’ Bellum Poenicum and Ennius’ Annales), then passages from Cicero’s epics Marius and “On his own Consulship” (De Consulatu Suo), and continuing with Vergil’s mythico-historical Aeneid through to Lucan’s Bellum Civile and Silius Italicus’ Punica. Next, we will discuss selected poems whose subject matter is historiography (e.g., Horace Odes 2.1 on Asinius Pollio’s Civil War history) or significant historical events (e.g., Horace, Vergil, and Propertius on the Battle of Actium). All readings will be in English (with an eye on the Latin as well).
2. Letters and Papers from Vindolanda
Margaret Graver, Dartmouth College
Excavations at the fort of Vindolanda near Hadrian’s Wall have yielded a new kind of Roman document: postcard-size wooden pages bearing personal letters, military orders, grocery lists, and other jottings made by ordinary people including women, children, and even slaves. We’ll read through the history of the site and the story of Anthony Birley’s unprecedented discovery, then study the tablets themselves, comparing the original handwriting with transcriptions and facing translations. We will then consider the implications of the Vindolanda material for traditional studies in Roman literature and history.
3. Rabbis Confront Generals and Matrons: Encounters Between Jews and Romans
Rabbi Van Lanckton, Hebrew College
Because the Jews of Judea rejected Roman rule, Rome destroyed their Temple in 70 and crushed the Bar Kokhba Rebellion in 135. The surviving rabbis recorded their views on Romans in rabbinic literature: Midrash, Mishnah and Gemara. Their stories include: the Roman matron who questions what God has been doing since Creation; the rabbi who returns the Empress’s bracelet to her belatedly; the rabbi discussing with a Roman general the rabbi’s practice of bathing naked in the Roman bathhouse; and more. We will read the original texts in English and watch clips from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
4. Shakespeare Channeling Ovid
Bill Morse, The College of the Holy Cross
From his childhood at the King’s New School in Stratford, Shakespeare’s favorite reading was the Metamorphoses of Ovid, the great Augustan anti-epic compendium of the classical world’s mythological heritage; indeed, the Roman poem seems to “in-form” the dramatist’s imagination, shaping his work in myriad ways. We will read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night, focusing on their relation to the first four books of the Metamorphoses, in particular the “matter of Thebes” in Books 3 and 4.
5. Klio’s Monuments: Topography and History in Ancient Rome.
Geoff Sumi, Mt. Holyoke College
Public monuments were an important source of renown in ancient Rome, as aristocrats and the imperial family built monuments to commemorate important events and establish or preserve the fame of their families. Public monuments thus became repositories of social memory and a source of community identity. By the same token, a Roman who suffered memory sanctions (the so-called “damnatio memoriae”), as the result of a political transgression, might see his home destroyed or his likenesses removed from public places. This course will examine the complex role of public monuments in creating Roman identity and shaping Roman historical consciousness.
6. Liber Spectaculorum: Bids for Fame
Nell Wright, Malden High School
In this class we will read all the poems of Martial’s collection of poems celebrating the opening of the Colosseum. We’ll refer to K. Coleman’s excellent and thorough commentary for historical, grammatical and social details in order to address the questions of eternal fame (his and emperors’) posed by Martial in these poems and in others of his epigrams.
7. History – Ancient Near Eastern Style.
Peter Machinist, Harvard College
This course will examine some of the ways in which history was conceived, analyzed, and written in the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds. Our perspective will be comparative, taking in texts from the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Israel, together with a look at classical Greece and the Judaism of the Second Temple period. Our focus will be less on the use of these texts to reconstruct the events they purport to record – though this will not be ignored – than on how the texts understand history and go about writing it: in other words, less on history and more on historiography. The texts will be read in English translation, though reference will constantly be made to the originals in Akkadian, Sumerian, Hebrew, and Greek.
Tacitus and the New Exempla for Imperial Rome
Tim Joseph, The College of the Holy Cross
This course considers Tacitus’ writing within the tradition of instructive, exemplary historiography. Tacitus’ work shares its instructive function with his predecessors’, but the lessons he hands down are of a different sort, and particularly suited for those practicing politics under the precarious state of the Empire. We will read selections from the Histories and Annals and the entirety of the Agricola, Tacitus’ biography of his father-in-law that offers a good test case of the historian’s “new imperial exemplarity.” Readings will be in English, with an eye on the Latin.
The Enemies of Cicero
Margaret Imber, Bates College
In this course, we will consider Cicero’s relationship with some of his most notorious enemies, from Verres to Antony. We will consider the reasons for these enmities, Cicero’s attitude towards his enemies and the problem of reconstructing the perspective of his enemies towards Cicero. Readings from the works of Cicero, Sallust and Plutarch will be in English. We will also read some scholarly work on the problem of enmity in Roman political culture and on the particular enemies of Cicero whom we will study.
10. Written in Stone
Roberta Stewart, Dartmouth College
This class looks at the epigraphic habit in the Roman world. We will look at the range of texts that Romans committed to writing (esp. laws and funerary epitaphs), the cultural significance of written texts and the value of inscriptions for understanding the ancient Roman world. Basic text: John Bodel, Epigraphic Evidence: Ancient History from Inscriptions. London: Routledge, 2001. Pp. xxvi + 246. ISBN 0-415-11623-6. $24.95. A collection of epigraphic material will be distributed in class.
11. The Purpose of Writing History in Classical Antiquity: History as Education for Life and Politics
Kurt Raaflaub, Brown University
Cicero coined the famous phrase, historia magistra vitae (history is a teacher for life). Indeed, beyond the obvious purpose of reconstructing and narrating the history of a distant or recent past, all major ancient historians pursued an ulterior motive: to educate their readers through the medium of history, to make them critically aware (in both moral and political respects), and to prepare them to cope with the challenges of their time. The seminar will examine this didactic purpose, its reasons, and its consequences in the works of five historians: Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, and Tacitus.
12. Renowned and Reviled Women in Republican and Augustan Rome
Judith Hallett, University of Maryland & Sheila Dickison, University of Florida
We will examine a variety of ancient sources on the lives and public images of four prominent Roman historical female figures: Cornelia, daughter of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus and mother of the Gracchi; Clodia, immortalized by Catullus as his “Lesbia”; Clodia’s sister-in-law Fulvia, who was later married to Mark Antony; and Augustus’ daughter Julia. While all readings will be in English, annotated Latin texts of key passages will be provided. Discussion will focus on the strategies employed by such authors as Cicero, Plutarch and Suetonius to present these women both favorably and unfavorably, at times rendering them similar to the fictionalized females who populate Roman poetry.