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Week 3: contextualising Petronius

“What an artist dies with me.”—famous last words…

Recap: prose vs. verse

  • Muses, authority, and truth-claims: ‘cultural capital’
  • The rise of Greek prose in the Hellenistic and Roman era
  • But what do Romans do with it? — Vitruvius and Frontinus vs. Petronius, Seneca, Apuleius…

1. Artifice and irony in Nero’s Rome

  • Dissimulation and doublespeak: Dio (16.9.3) on Julius Montanus’ fatal apology
  • Actors in the Audience: Dio (62.15.2-3) on Nero’s tour of Greece
  • ‘Fatal Charades’: Loukillios (AP 11.184) on Meniscus / ‘Hercules’
  • Flights of violent fancy: Suetonius, Nero (12.2) on ‘Icarus’ and ‘Pasiphae’
  • par’ historian: Loukillios (AP 11.254) on fake authenticity
  • The Domus Aurea: fictions of space. (Trompe l’oeil, sfx, irony…)
  • Receptions of the Domus Aurea: inventing the ‘grotesque’

2. smoke and mirrors: Hero and Seneca as prose exponents

  • Playing with scale: Hero of Alexandria and his puppet theatre
  • A technology of imagination / fibbing with precision: Hero’s Dioptra
  • Following Cicero: Seneca as correspondent
  • Following Plato: Seneca as philosopher and political adviser
  • Lucan, and Nero as poetic rival: is prose just a safer bet?

Further reading:

Shadi Bartsch (1994), Actors in the Audience: Theatricality and Doublespeak from Nero to Hadrian
Glen Bowersock (1994), Fiction as History: Nero to Julian
Kathleen Coleman (1990), ‘Fatal Charades: Roman executions staged as mythological enactments’, JRS 80: 44-73.