“Overburdened by Greatness”: Rome and exemplary history

“Overburdened by Greatness”: Rome and exemplary history

Event Description

Ferdinand Addis: “Overburdened by Greatness”: Rome and exemplary history

No city can have been subjected to so much historiography as Rome. Amid such a crowd of writers – tanta scriptorum turba, as Livy lamented in the preface to his History – how can anyone justify the spilling of more ink? This talk starts by examining Livy’s answer: the idea that the history of Rome is a paramount source of exempla, specimens of behaviour both good and ill, and that the study of these exempla can be a sort of moral medicine.

From Livy onwards, Rome has been the subject of repeated, and often conflicting, “exemplary histories” – so much so that the city becomes almost a sort of self-consciously historical stage, where the limelight of history conditions and directs the behaviour of the players who strut upon it.

And although the Roman idea of straightforward “exemplary history” is out of favour, I want to argue that the idea of the exemplum continues to lurk, somewhat obliquely, near the heart of modern histories of the city, including most lately my own.

Event Info

Sep 23, 2023 at 12:00 PM - 01:00 PM EDT


Guest Speaker