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Roman Literature: Gender, Virtue, Empire
/ COMP 108
In the first book of Vergil’s Aeneid, the god Jupiter prophesies the foundation and the greatness of Rome: “I place no limits on their fortunes and no time; I grant them empire without end.” Yet elsewhere in this epic account of Rome’s origins, this promise of unlimited power for the descendants of Romulus seems to be seriously abridged. Some readers have seen, not only in the Aeneid but throughout classical Roman literature, a persistent tendency to inscribe the decay and disintegration of Roman power into the very works that proclaim and celebrate Roman preeminence. This course explores the ancient Romans’ own interpretations of their past, their present, and their destiny: the humble beginnings of their city, its rise to supreme world power, and premonitions of its decline. Related topics for our consideration will include Roman constructions of gender, the location and expression of virtue in the public and private spheres, the connections and conflicts between moral probity and political success, the exercise of individual power versus action on behalf of the commonwealth, the absorption of foreign customs and peoples into Rome, the management of literal and imaginary frontiers, and other anxieties of empire. We will read selections and complete works by a wide variety of Roman authors, including Cicero, Catullus, Caesar, Vergil, Sallust, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, and Tacitus. All readings will be in translation.
Format: seminar; discussion
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
short written assignments, midterm and final exams with essays, and contributions to class discussion
first-year students and sophomores and majors in Classics and Comparative Literature
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: