Assignments

Paper #3

Topics for Paper #3

  • Pater Patriae: Of all the achievements he chose to include in his Res Gestae, Augustus gave pride of place to his receipt of the honorific title Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland). Why?

A good paper on this topic will look not only at the Res Gestae itself but also at Suetonius’s Life of the Deified Augustus, Tacitus’s Annals, and the Romans textbook for further commentary on the nature of the Augustan Principate.

  • Tacitus and the imperial villainess: Tacitus’s account of the reigns of Augustus and Nero in the Annals contains vivid and thoroughly hostile portrayals of three (in)famous women of the imperial court: Livia, Agrippina, and Poppaea. How do you account for the way in which Tacitus portrays these three historical figures? What does his portrayal tell us about the role of women in the imperial family and about Tacitus’s views on the Principate?

A good paper on this topic will acknowledge that ‘misogyny’ is an insufficient explanation of Tacitus’s motivation. A deeper analysis of the impact of these influential women on the public life of the state, as Tacitus tells it, and of Roman expectations of elite behavior more generally is called for. You should feel free to focus on one of the three women or on features common to Tacitus’s portrayals of all three.

  • Imperial virtues and vices in Suetonius: Suetonius’s biographies of Augustus and Nero are replete with detailed examples of imperial virtues and imperial vices. What do those details tell us about the expectations the political elite had of their emperors in the early Imperial period? Put another way, what was the most important virtue for an ideal emperor to possess?

The challenge in answering this question will be to avoid producing a simple list of good things emperors were expected to do, and instead to distill the multiple specifics into one core virtue that encompasses as many of those specifics as possible.

Paper #3 is due by Session 24.

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