Publicity, Propaganda, and Power in the Roman Revolution

History 103A.003

Fall 2005
Instructor (text): 
233 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 4-6

This seminar will examine the relationship between public image and political power at Rome during a critical passage of Roman history: Julius Caesar's rise to absolute power, the advent of monarchy under Augustus, and the consolidation of the Julio-Claudian dynasty under Augustus' successor, Tiberius (50 BCñAD 37). Topics for discussion include the emergence of individual dynasts in the late Republic; the mechanisms available to these dynasts for projecting a specific public image across time and space in the Roman world; the aims and impact of political propaganda during periods of violent civil conflict; the nature of appeals to key "constituencies" within the Roman state (army, senate, urban population of Rome, municipal elites); and the legitimation of a new political order through law, religion, literature, art, and architecture. A central theme for the entire seminar will be the "symbolics of power" in ancient Rome. In investigating the dynamic relationship between power and its representation in various media, we will consider whether representation was in the service of power, or whether, as some cultural anthropologists have suggested, power was in the service of representation.

Weekly readings and discussion will focus on primary sources, both literary and material. We will draw on a wide range of literary genres, from history (Velleius Paterculus, Tacitus, Appian, Dio) and biography (Suetonius, Plutarch) to oratory (Cicero) and epic poetry (Vergil); we will also examine various public documents as well as the writings of the protagonists themselves (Caesar's Civil War and Augustus' Res Gestae). In order to study the visual representation of power during this period, we will also consider contemporary statues, coins, monumental architecture in the city of Rome, and relief sculpture. In addition, selections from modern studies of propaganda, ideology, and political symbolism will provide a theoretical framework and critical vocabulary for the seminar as a whole.

Course requirements: attendance at all sessions of the seminar and participation in class discussion (10%), two oral presentations of 15-20 minutes (30%), and two 10-12 page papers (60%).