Classical Reception and the Problem of Rome's Flaws
Author: Basil Dufallo
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Category: Literary Collections
In the eyes of posterity, ancient Rome is deeply flawed. The list of censures is long and varied, from political corruption and the practice of slavery, to religious intolerance and sexual immorality, yet for centuries the Romans' "errors" have not only provoked opprobrium, but also inspired wayward and novel forms of thought and representation, themselves errant in the broad sense of the Latin verb. This volume is the first to examine this phenomenon in depth, treating examples from history, philosophy, literature, psychoanalysis, and art history, from antiquity to the present, to examine how the Romans' faults have become the basis for creative experimentation, for rejections of prevailing ideology, even for comedy and delight. In demonstrating that the reception of Rome's missteps and mistakes has been far more complex than simply denouncing them as an exemplum malum to be shunned and avoided, it argues compellingly that these "alternative" receptions are historically important and enduringly relevant in their own right. "Roman error" comes to signify both ancient misstep and something that we may commit when engaging with Roman antiquity, whereby reception may even be conceived as "error" of a kind: while the volume ably addresses popular fascination with a wide range of Roman vices, including violence, imperial domination, and decadence, it also asks us to consider what makes certain receptions matter, how they matter, and why.