The Art of Forgetting: Disgrace and Oblivion in Roman Political Culture

Univ of North Carolina Press
Free sample

Elite Romans periodically chose to limit or destroy the memory of a leading citizen who was deemed an unworthy member of the community. Sanctions against memory could lead to the removal or mutilation of portraits and public inscriptions. Harriet Flower provides the first chronological overview of the development of this Roman practice--an instruction to forget--from archaic times into the second century A.D. Flower explores Roman memory sanctions against the background of Greek and Hellenistic cultural influence and in the context of the wider Mediterranean world. Combining literary texts, inscriptions, coins, and material evidence, this richly illustrated study contributes to a deeper understanding of Roman political culture.

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About the author

Harriet I. Flower is professor of classics at Princeton University. She is author of Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture and editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of North Carolina Press
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Published on
Feb 1, 2011
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Pages
424
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ISBN
9780807877463
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / Rome
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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A historical tradition of Roman origin represents Livia Drusilla, the third and much beloved wife of Caesar Augustus, as a conniving, Borgia-like criminal. This view of Livia maintains, that to promote the political career of her son by her former husband, Livia killed or incapacitated Augustus' descendants through his previous wife. Author Robert Graves, in his famous novel, I, Claudius, based his fictitious rendering of Livia upon this malevolent representation of her. The conceit is patently wrong, and essentially all modern scholars of Roman history reject it. But thanks to Graves' immensely entertaining book, and the British Broadcasting Corporation adaptation of it for television, the image of Livia as a devious dynastic murderess prevails in the popular mind. I, Livia: The Counterfeit Criminal aspires to correct the misconception, and present an accurate assessment of this much-maligned woman. The study's comfortably readable style is intended for general audiences. The first three chapters present a biographical sketch, which focuses on Livia's public life. Livia was accepted as an extraordinarily visible, dynamic and influential political personage, by a society and culture that maintained that women must confine their activities childrearing and other domestic pursuits. The following two chapters demonstrate the absurdity of Livia's criminal reputation, and offer explanation for its development. Three subsequent chapters seek Livia's private side - her habits, tastes, and interpersonal relationships. Livia (who suffered from colds and chronic arthritis) was an amiable soul, with a self-deprecating sense of humor. She was a loving, supportive forbearant wife and mother, an intellectual with profound political insights, an enthusiastic traveller, a connoisseur of art. Although generally patient and demure, she could also be impulsive, assertive, opinionated and, especially in later life, petulant. The final chapter examines how Livia became, and remained, a symbol of Roman imperial power. The brief epilogue describes the physical appearances of Livia and the members of her family. Also included are relevant appendices, a comprehensive bibliography, and color images of surviving wall paintings from her homes.
The most pervasive gods in ancient Rome had no traditional mythology attached to them, nor was their worship organized by elites. Throughout the Roman world, neighborhood street corners, farm boundaries, and household hearths featured small shrines to the beloved lares, a pair of cheerful little dancing gods. These shrines were maintained primarily by ordinary Romans, and often by slaves and freedmen, for whom the lares cult provided a unique public leadership role. In this comprehensive and richly illustrated book, the first to focus on the lares, Harriet Flower offers a strikingly original account of these gods and a new way of understanding the lived experience of everyday Roman religion.

Weaving together a wide range of evidence, Flower sets forth a new interpretation of the much-disputed nature of the lares. She makes the case that they are not spirits of the dead, as many have argued, but rather benevolent protectors—gods of place, especially the household and the neighborhood, and of travel. She examines the rituals honoring the lares, their cult sites, and their iconography, as well as the meaning of the snakes often depicted alongside lares in paintings of gardens. She also looks at Compitalia, a popular midwinter neighborhood festival in honor of the lares, and describes how its politics played a key role in Rome’s increasing violence in the 60s and 50s BC, as well as in the efforts of Augustus to reach out to ordinary people living in the city’s local neighborhoods.

A reconsideration of seemingly humble gods that were central to the religious world of the Romans, this is also the first major account of the full range of lares worship in the homes, neighborhoods, and temples of ancient Rome.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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