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CHAPTER 25. Literature

William W.Batstone

Subject Literature, Philosophy
Roman History » Roman Republic
Classical Literature » Latin Literature

People Catullus

Key-Topics comedy, lyric, republic(s), rhetoric, satire

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405102179.2006.00028.x


In the early years of Augustus' rule, the Roman historian Livy told the following story of Rome's early growth: Meanwhile, the city was expanding with its fortifications by adding place after place … Then, Romulus deployed a plan used by the founders of cities for increasing the population: they gather to themselves an obscure and impoverished band and pretend that the earth has produced autochthonous offspring for them. So, he opened a sanctuary in a place enclosed between two groves as you ascend the Capitoline. Rabble from the surrounding peoples fled to this place, all without distinction as to whether they were free or slaves, but eager for a change in circumstances. This was the first source of strength for the greatness that had begun. (Livy 1.8.4-6). Roman identity even at its origins is not a natural state, but rather a naturalized status. The Romans are not an autochthonous or essentialized people (see also Chapter 22 ). Their city was named for Romulus, an Alban, a shepherd, and a murderer. In fact, in Livy's story, the early Romans are not even all free men. The story suggests that Roman identity is not to be reduced to the normative claims that the Romans made about themselves. Those claims, like the claim of autochthony, reflect political ambitions, moral posturing, and power plays. They are but the pretense of unity behind which the complex process of identity formation ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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