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Art & Death in Neronian Culture - Outline

The Roman historian Suetonius says that Nero had an 'unreasonable craving for immortal fame'. He almost achieved that aim, winning, if not immortal fame, at least notoriety in the eyes of later generations. At least as intriguing as Nero, however, are the Roman writers whose depictions of his reign have shaped posterity's image of him. These include the historian Tacitus, the satirical novelist Petronius, the philosopher Seneca, and the poet Lucan.

This module will introduce you to some of the finest literary history, philosophy and story-telling of the Roman world, taken from the first century A.D., the period known as 'silver Latin'. The lectures will provide broader overviews and introductions to themes, while the seminars will give you the opportunity to look more closely at the texts, and the essays will allow you to develop your own arguments. This should enable you to achieve the following objectives:

  • gain a good general understanding of silver Latin literature
  • gain an in-depth knowledge of some fascinating and influential authors
  • grasp the main ideas of Stoic philosophy and its impact on Roman thought
  • explore the relationship between different literary forms and the themes they present
  • reflect on the difference between ancient and modern ideas of historiography and biography
  • acquire a colourful and detailed picture of Roman culture of the first century A.D.

Those studying the works in Latin will further enhance their knowledge of the language and their appreciation of its literary and intellectual value.