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Current Research

Cicero's Oratory

Jon Hall has just completed a book on Cicero’s use of emotional theatrics in the Roman law courts (published by University of Michigan Press). The work examines in particular Cicero’s exploitation of tears and supplication during the perorations of his speeches, and the wearing of specially dirtied attire (sordes) by participants in the proceedings. The prevalence of such devices in the courts arguably derives, not from Greek rhetorical theory, but from the native theatricality of political life in ancient Rome, where similar techniques were regularly exploited.

Cicero the Philosopher

Sean McConnell is currently writing articles on various aspects of Cicero’s philosophical thought. One paper focuses on a famous epistolary exchange between Cicero and Cassius concerning the use of the Latin term ‘spectrum’ as a translation for Epicurus’ technical Greek term εἴδωλον. Remarkably, this episode is the only time that we see the now ubiquitous term ‘spectrum’ at all in the corpus of classical Latin. The paper demonstrates the insights these letters offer into the sort of critical processes and questions that exercised an elite Roman intellectual community at a most febrile period in the development of Latin philosophical vocabulary, and it includes a fascinating tale about how the word ‘spectre’, and indeed ‘spectrum’ itself, came to be used in French and then English around the turn of the sixteenth century. Another paper examines Cicero’s engagement with the golden age tradition of utopian thinking in Greek literature and philosophy. It argues that Cicero draws on this tradition when assessing the Roman res publica and the nature of Roman political virtue: in particular, he identifies the characteristics of the golden race with the native qualities of the Romans themselves. A positive aspect of Cicero’s engagement with utopian models is thus revealed: rather than advocate an unworkable and problematic top-down imposition of a utopian model of an ideal state, Cicero has faith that the best state will come to be from the bottom-up, if the superior nature of the Roman people is simply allowed its full natural expression.

Demetrius the Besieger

Pat Wheatley is currently writing a book on Demetrius Poliorcetes, “The Besieger of Cities“ (336-282 BC), the most outstanding of the Diadochoi, or Successors to Alexander the Great. As his name suggests, Demetrius was prodigious in his military adventures, and profligate in his private life. However, he was an enigmatic character, oscillating wildly between successful and catastrophic ventures, and his intrinsic qualities remain debatable to this day. Demetrius' endeavours resulted in the fusion of Asiatic and Greek cultures, producing the hybrid Hellenistic kingdoms which dominated the ancient world until the rise of the Roman empire. Research on Demetrius’ life is beset by pernicious historiographic difficulties: the last scholarly book on him was in French in 1968, and no work in English has ever been attempted.

Hermes

Arlene Allan is currently completing a book-length study of the god Hermes and his various manifestations in Greek culture.

Roman Spain

Dan Osland is currently working on a project that uses the archaeological record from the city of Mérida, Spain, in order to illustrate the kinds of changes that took place in the urban setting across the period of Late Antiquity. The overarching idea behind this work is to add to the published body of evidence as to what factors were most influential in causing urban change in the fourth through eighth centuries AD.

Political uses of Roman Myth

Gwynaeth McIntyre’s current projects focus on the political uses of myth in the Roman imperial period. She is co-editing a volume on Anna Perenna, a goddess whose identities range from Anna, the sister of Dido who became a nymph through a transformation in the river Numicius, to Anna of Bovillae, an old woman who gave cakes to the plebs in their time of need. She is also conflated with other deities such as the Moon, Themis, or the Inachian cow. This project examines how this elusive and enigmatic figure appears in literary, archaeological, numismatic, and epigraphic sources and explores the ways in which Roman mythological figures are adopted and adapted in various media. A smaller project, on the use of Castor and Pollux by Maxentius as a means to legitimize his claim to power in Rome, also addresses similar themes.

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