Can civil war ever be overcome? Can a better order come into being?
Michèle Lowrie and Barbara Vinken explore how the Roman civil wars of the first century BCE laid the template for addressing perennially urgent questions. The Roman Republic's collapse and Augustus' new Empire have remained ideological battlegrounds to this day. Integrative and disintegrative readings begun in antiquity (Vergil and Lucan) have left their mark on answers given by Christians (Augustine), secular republicans (Victor Hugo), and disillusioned satirists (Michel Houellebecq) alike. France's self-understanding as a new Rome – republican during the Revolution, imperial under successive Napoleons – makes it a special case in the Roman tradition. The same story returns repeatedly. A golden age of restoration glimmers on the horizon, but comes in the guise of a decadent, oriental empire that reintroduces and exposes everything already wrong under the defunct republic. Central to the price of social order is patriarchy's need to subjugate women.