Departmental Papers (Classical Studies)

For over two centuries Penn has offered a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs representing all aspects of the broad field of Classical Studies, from languages and literature to history, archaeology and cultural studies. The Department encourages interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to teaching and research and maintains productive ties with a variety of programs, including Religious Studies, English, Comparative Literature, Medieval Studies, Philosophy, Linguistics, Italian Studies, History of Art, and the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.



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Now showing 1 - 10 of 60
  • Publication
    Potior utroque Vespasianus: Vespasian and His Predecessors in Tacitus's Histories
    (2006-01-01) Damon, Cynthia; Damon, Cynthia
    The 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.
  • Publication
    The Death of Thersites and the Sympotic Performance of Iambic Mockery
    (2003-01-01) Rosen, Ralph M; Rosen, Ralph M
    One 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
    Body and Voice in Greek Tragedy
    (1988) Murnaghan, Sheila; Murnaghan, Sheila
  • Publication
    Eduard Fraenkel on Horace and Servius, or, Texts, Contexts, and the Field of "Latin Studies"
    (2005-01-01) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph
    This 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
  • Publication
    Dialogue of Genres in Ovid's "Lovesong of Polyphemus" (Metamorphoses 13.719-897)
    (1992) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph
    Among 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.
  • Publication
    On the Prosecution of C. Antonius in 76 B.C.
    (1995) Damon, Cynthia; Damon, Cynthia
  • Publication
    Reading and Writing the Heroides
    (1998) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph
    A more accurate title for this paper might have been "Reading, Writing, Editing, and Translating the Heroides" because it will treat not only of the polar relationship between reader and writer but also of the mediating roles represented by those sometimes troublesome interpreters who stand between them. Accordingly, I will be drawing attention to certain more or less traditional literary issues as well as to a set of philological problems that have tended to inhibit the appreciation of these poems as literature-namely, those problems that crop up in the debate over the authenticity of certain poems and parts of poems in the collection.
  • Publication
    The Six Books of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura: Antecedents and Influence
    (2010-01-01) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph
    Lucretius’ De rerum natura is one of the relatively few corpora of Greek and Roman literature that is structured in six books. It is distinguished as well by features that encourage readers to understand it both as a sequence of two groups of three books (1+2+3, 4+5+6) and also as three successive pairs of books (1+2, 3+4, 5+6). This paper argues that the former organizations scheme derives from the structure of Ennius’ Annales and the latter from Callimachus’ book of Hynms. It further argues that this Lucretius’ union of these two six-element schemes influenced the structure employed by Ovid in the Fasti. An appendix endorses Zetzel’s idea that the six-book structure of Cicero’s De re publica marks that work as well as a response to Lucretius’ poem.
  • Publication
    Precincts of Venus: Towards a Prehistory of Ovidian Genre
    (2005-01-01) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph
  • Publication
    Reimagining Ancient Italy: New Directions in Italian Archaeology
    (2011-01-01) Bowes, Kimberly; Bowes, Kimberly
    In the modern imagination, Italy is a land of rolling vineyards, dramatic coastal vistas, and of course, extraordinary food— infinite varieties of pasta, delicate pastries, rich cheeses, and earthy wines. Italian archaeology does not perhaps conjure up quite such an image of richness and diversity. The great monuments of Rome—the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and the catacombs—have dominated foreigners’ experience of Italian archaeology since the era of the Grand Tour. The practice of archaeology was, until the 1960s, similarly limited: the search for Greco-Roman antiquities— sculpture, vases, temples, and rich houses—preoccupied Italian and foreign archaeologists alike, and modern archaeological technique was slow to take hold.