Culture And National Identity In Republican Rome

Culture And National Identity In Republican Rome

Erich S. Gruen
Volume: 52
Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 360
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    Culture And National Identity In Republican Rome
    Book Description:

    Few encounters in antiquity have had more profound consequences than that between Greek culture and Republican Rome. Focusing on the ruling elites of the middle and later Republic, for whom Hellenic literature, religion, and visual arts were at once intimidating and appealing, Erich S. Gruen offers a compelling account of the assimilation and adaptation of Greek culture by the Romans.

    Gruen examines such key cultural developments in the history of Republican Rome as the adaptation of the legend of Troy to create a special place for Rome within Hellenic traditions and Cato's campaign to distinguish Roman cultural achievements by defining them in contrast to those of the Greeks. He describes the diverse purposes-civic, religious, and political-for which the Romans used Greek art, as well as the reshaping of Hellenic models to express a distinctively Roman character in historical reliefs, portraiture, and comic drama. The book treats a variety of means whereby the Greek legacy was molded to suit the living Roman tradition. Gruen shows that this complex process of cultural transformation served to sharpen the Romans' sense of their own values their national character, and their international image.

    Demonstrating that the Roman response to Hellenism was far more subtle and dynamic than has generally been acknowledged, Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome will be welcomed as an outstanding contribution by readers interested in ancient history, classical literature, and the history of art.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6692-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-5)

    The topic embarked upon here is fascinating but formidable. Few experiences in antiquity had more resonant or enduring effects than the encounter of Rome with the legacy of the Greek East. One can trace influence and impact from nearly the beginnings of Roman history. But the pivotal time came when circumstances called forth a form of collective introspection, when the Roman elite felt compelled to articulate national values and to shape a distinctive character for their own corporate persona. The process cannot, of course, be confined to precise chronological limits. It occupied much of the third and second centuries B.C.,...

    (pp. 6-51)

    The canonical tradition on Rome’s origins had taken firm root by the age of Augustus. As the orthodox tale had it, the city derived from a settlement of Trojan refugees, adversaries of the Greeks, remnants of a people defeated by the Achaean expedition that sacked Troy. Survivors ofthat calamity, under the leadership of the intrepid hero Aeneas, made their way west, suffered hardships and detours, and eventually reached the shores of Italy. There they faced still further struggles with the indigenous inhabitants before establishing themselves on a permanent basis. The progeny of Aeneas ultimately effected the founding of Rome—via...

    (pp. 52-83)

    M. Porcius Cato has earned a memorable and enduring reputation. He is the Roman curmudgeon par excellence. The stern censor and gruff champion of native values gained repute as arch-critic of Hellas and Hellenism. The culture of the Greek world, its practitioners, and its admirers came in for sharp rebuke. Cato’s statements, actions, and postures created an image that persists and prevails. He became an emblem of resistance to the alien intrusion.

    Yet that is but part of the story. As is well known, the Censor was no stranger to things Hellenic. He gained considerable familiarity with the language, literature,...

    (pp. 84-130)

    Roman moralists deplored the effects of alien art upon the national character. The complaint became a topos, repeated in various forms and at various times. Hellenic art, of course, was a prime culprit. Its allurements eroded Roman morals, corrupted attitudes, and weakened the fiber of the nation. Ancient writers acknowledged the attractiveness but lamented the corrosive consequences of Greek art. The censure plainly exaggerates and misrepresents. Yet the misrepresentation itself has had a potent impact, affecting interpretation of the relationship between Rome and the arts of Hellas down to the present day. The subject calls for more probing inquiry.


    (pp. 131-182)

    The Romans’ high regard for Greek art should admit of no doubt. Statuary from Magna Graecia, Sicily, and the Greek East graced temples, enhanced monuments, and gained prominent display in civic buildings and public spaces. In the late Republic sculpture and paintings multiplied as decorative items in private villas, estates, and gardens, available for more restricted viewing but by no means concealed or disclaimed. Romans took pride in the quality, significance, and implications of the art.

    Yet contemporary artists themselves did not enjoy commensurate distinction. Far from it. Vergil’s celebrated lines constitute the locus classicus: others will breathe life into...

    (pp. 183-222)

    Roman drama was as much a social as a literary phenomenon. From the late third century B.C. crowds flocked to the theater, occasions for plays multiplied, the popularity of the genre soared. Public opinion held playwrights, producers, and performers to account. The institution carried significance that went well beyond mere entertainment. Dramatic art impinged upon the public scene at various levels: plays became an integral part of religious celebrations; magistrates of the Republic took responsibility for supervising the shows that recurred at regular intervals; individual aristocrats sponsored them on ad hoc occasions to advance particular purposes; funeral games presented by...

    (pp. 223-271)

    Diplomacy and war thrust together the lands on both sides of the Adriatic. The period that commenced in the late third century brought increasing intensity to political and military interchange between Rome and the Hellenistic world. And with it came an ever more urgent drive on Rome’s part to come to grips with the meaning and relevance of Greek culture. The effort to define a place in the larger cultural world of the Mediterranean took on special significance in an era when Roman power and authority expanded in the East. Rome strained both to participate in that cultural world and...

    (pp. 272-318)

    The Roman elite by the later second century had confirmed its cultural credentials. The legend of Trojan origins, now widely circulated and generally acknowledged, set Rome within the antique traditions of the Mediterranean world. The acquisition and encouragement of Hellenic art and artists added distinction to the city and exhibited the discernment of the aristocracy. The ruling classes promoted literature to express national values and employed the theater as a medium to refine the tastes of the populace. The advance of cultural aims had two significant corollaries. It gave testimony to Roman power through the commandeering of Greek art and...

    (pp. 319-338)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 339-347)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-349)