Classical Studies at Penn
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PublicationPotior utroque Vespasianus: Vespasian and His Predecessors in Tacitus's Histories(2006-01-01) Damon, CynthiaThe Histories are threaded through with incidents that allow a comparison between two or more principes. Readers need to be alert to such passages, for Vespasian was preceded by three emperors who got as far as he did but failed to keep their footing there. In essence, Tacitus tells the stories of fall (Galba, Otho, Vitellius) and rise (Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian) three times each, and uses the failures of Vespasian's predecessors to help explain Vespasian's success. Given what remains of the Histories (the last two weeks of Galba, the three months of Otho's principate, Vitellius's uprising against Galba, his defeat of Otho, and his eight-month principate, the Flavian uprising against and defeat of Vitellius, and Vespasian's first eight or so months as princeps in absentia), we can see only how Vespasian succeeded in establishing himself. As to how far, according to Tacitus, success carried into the rest of his decade in power, we are in the dark. In saying that Tacitus creates a portrait of success for Vespasian, I do not mean to imply that his account of that emperor's principate is wholly positive. Indeed, some of the parallel episodes considered below suggest that the civil war context in which Vespasian came to power is characterized by a certain number of constant negatives, such as the excessive influence of imperial freedmen and the fickleness of the Roman populace, and even by deterioration over time, as is illustrated by the decline in military discipline and the increase in senatorial servility. My point is that the presence of parallel incidents in two or more principates enables, and indeed encourages, the reader to measure one princeps against the others and that Vespasian emerges from such an assessment with more to his credit than any of his predecessors. The first such comparative assessment is present in the text: public opinion in Rome in 69, says Tacitus, considered Vespasian better than either Otho or Vitellius (1.50.4: potior utroque Vespasianus). Better, but not necessarily good. PublicationThe Death of Thersites and the Sympotic Performance of Iambic Mockery(2003-01-01) Rosen, Ralph MOne of the greatest frustrations confronting the student of archaic Greek poetry is the relative paucity of evidence about performance context. It is often lamented that if we only knew more about the conditions under which a work was performed, we would be in a much better position to understand its poetics - not only its meaning and function for a putatively "original" audience, but also the vicissitudes of its afterlife. Our frustrations in this regard are particularly acute in the archaic iambus - that infamous genre of satire and personal mockery - particularly because of its many transgressive conceits (e.g., aischrologia, abusive mockery, unelevated subject matter, etc.) have always made it difficult for critics to imagine why a poet would be moved to compose this sort of poetry in the first place, and who would want to hear it. If we knew a little more than we do about the circumstances in which iambographers composed and performed, and the particular relationships they expected to develop with an audience, we would presumably be in a much better position to assess cultural attitudes toward poetic satire and mockery, as well as the general dynamics that informed the composition of such poetry. Publication PublicationBody and Voice in Greek Tragedy(1988) Murnaghan, Sheila PublicationComic Parrhêsia and the Paradoxes of Repression(2013-01-01) Rosen, Ralph MComic satirists such as Aristophanes thrive on the tension that arises from their need to ridicule prominent figures of contemporary society and the possibility that this ridicule will cause genuine offense. The history of satire is full of complaints by authors that they work in a dangerous profession, and that their detractors fail to appreciate their high-minded, often explicitly didactic intentions. In such moments, satirists attempt to leave the impression that those who try to repress their freedom to mock and abuse are unwelcome obstacles to their enterprise. It is precisely such allegations of risk and danger, however, that make for effective satire and allow satirists to present themselves as comically “heroic” in the first place. And if satire requires a fraught, antagonistic relationship between author and target, we cannot trust the satirist’s account of the relationship or accept the claim that the alleged oppression is unwelcome. This study begins with such conundra in Aristophanes, and examines comparative evidence from other periods and literary forms, including Homer’s Thersites, Horace, Socrates and Lenny Bruce. PublicationFrom the Editors(2016-04-28) PublicationEduard Fraenkel on Horace and Servius, or, Texts, Contexts, and the Field of "Latin Studies"(2005-01-01) Farrell, JosephThis essay traces the recent trajectory of the field of "Latin Studies" using the example of interpretations of Horace's Carmen saeculare and showing, in particular, the increasingly comprehensive relevance attributed to historical context. It sketches a shift away from formalist interpretation and, to an even greater degree, away from practices, such as textual criticism, that once virtually defined the field PublicationDialogue of Genres in Ovid's "Lovesong of Polyphemus" (Metamorphoses 13.719-897)(1992) Farrell, JosephAmong the central critical issues surrounding Ovid's Metamorphoses--indeed, underlying many of this challenging text's unsolved problems--is the question of genre. Is the poem epic or a species of epic (e.g., anti-epic, epic parody, elegized epic, or epicized elegy); a type of Kollektivgedicht, stringing together either a series of examples from some miniature form such as the epyllion, or else sampling now one genre, now another; or is it simply unique, resisting any effort at categorization? Despite the intelligent and detailed discussion that the question has received during the past seventy-five years, it is safe to say that no critical consensus has emerged. PublicationThe Plan of Athena(1995) Murnaghan, SheilaThe Odyssey opens by dramatizing the Olympian negotiations behind its action, and the goddess Athena quickly emerges as the source and sponsor of the plot that follows. All of the gods except Poseidon are gathered in the halls of Zeus listening to his meditations on a story that is already concluded, the story of Agamemnon. Athena tactfully shifts Zeus' attention to the story that is on her mind, the still-unconcluded story of Odysseus. When Zeus allows that it is indeed time for Odys seus to return, she responds with a ready set of plans that constitute the two lines of action occupying the next twelve books of the poem: the adventures of Telemachos, initiated by her own visit to Ithaka in the guise of Mentes, and Odysseus' release from the island of Kalypso, initiated by Hermes sent as a messenger from Zeus (1.80- 95). At the end of that phase of the action, Athena takes an even more direct hand in events, meeting with Odysseus as he reaches the shore of Ithaka in Book 13 and devising with him the plot that will control the second half of the poem. PublicationRoman Homer(2004-01-01) Farrell, JosephLatinists are accustomed to measuring Homer’s presence in Rome by his impact on Roman poetry. Epic looms largest in this regard, but most poetic genres can be regarded to some extent as derivatives of Homer. And even outside of poetry, Homer’s impact on Latin letters is not small. But the reception of Homer by Roman culture is a very widespread phenomenon that is hardly confined to literature. Homerising literature in Latin needs to be understood as part of a much broader and more pervasive Homeric presence in material culture and social practice. Abundant evidence from the material and social spheres shows that elite Romans lived in a world pervaded by Homer, and would have done whether Roman poets had interested themselves in Homer or not. That the poets did so should be regarded as an outgrowth of material and social considerations rather than as their source. This is not to challenge traditional ideas about the importance of literary–historical engagements with Homer by Livius Andronicus, Ennius, Virgil and others. Such ideas have been voiced many times, and each of these important authors is in his own way justified to claim the title of ‘the Roman Homer’. But habitual celebration of poetic achievement without due attention to the broader cultural milieu in which the poets worked has produced a very partial picture of Homer’s presence throughout Roman culture. Accordingly, in part one of this essay I will survey the nonliterary presence of Homer in Rome and elsewhere in Italy as a context for understanding Homeric elements in the realm of Roman literature. In the second half of the essay, I will proceed to literary evidence, but will focus on those aspects that look to the circulation of Homer in Roman social life, again as a context for more belletristic performances of Homer. In following this procedure, I do not mean to give short shrift to such monuments of Homeric culture as Ennius’ Annales and Virgil’s Aeneid. Rather, I hope to redress an imbalance between the use of literary and nonliterary evidence in assessing Homer’s impact at Rome.