CLLA 405(F) Myth, Scandal, and Morality in Ancient Rome
Mythical stories of Rome's founding, which were formulated by many generations of Roman authors and public figures, simultaneously served as a framework for these very thinkers to analyze and articulate Roman self-image in rich and creative ways; one who stands out among these figures is the Augustan historian Livy. The "second founding" of the Republic by Augustus, and the careers of his successors, in turn gave later Roman writers like Tacitus fresh inspiration for Roman self-imagining and self-analysis. We will begin the semester in mythical Rome, reading selections from Book 1 of Livy's history which present figures like Aeneas, the Trojan refugee whose arrival in Italy was conceptually crucial to Rome's development and position in Italy and the Mediterranean; Romulus, by whom Rome was founded in an act of fratricide; the Sabine women, whose nobility prevented a deadly war between their fathers and their Roman kidnappers; and Lucretia, whose virtue and self-sacrifice led to the liberation of Rome from a decadent and violent monarchy and to the founding of the Roman Republic. We will examine how Livy deploys the storyteller's art to excite his readers' pathos, indignation, and sympathy; we will examine as well how Livy often filters his account of mythical Rome through the lens of his own time, thereby constructing Rome's past through the Augustan present. Writing more than a century after Livy, Tacitus offers a different view of Augustus, and his account of the rude and dissolute Tiberius, the unscrupulous Livia, Rome's craven and dispirited senators, and the many scandals attached to the imperial family, figures a Rome once again suffering under a decadent monarchy. Tacitus's compressed, fastidious, inimitable prose is the vehicle for his stern yet often sardonic psychological insights, which subtly manage to combine moral judgment with prurient pleasure in the scandals of others. Format: discussion. Evaluation will be based on class preparation and participation, an oral presentation, one medium-length 8- to 10-page paper, a midterm, and a final exam. Prerequisites: Latin 202 or permission of instructor. Enrollment limit: 12 (expected: 6).