Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies
This dissertation treats the nostalgic Roman conception of the heroic Republican past, as expressed in four exemplary figures: Camillus, Regulus, Scipio Africanus, and Cato the Younger. The project is aimed at explicating the often neglected affective component of the Roman process of identity formation; that is, the way these figures speak to the emotions and spark the desire for emulation. This emotive mechanism, I argue, is important for marking what is deemed essential to Romanness, or Romanitas. For evidence, this dissertation will use largely literary and philosophical works, with formal histories to provide background. The span of time covered by these works is roughly from the middle of the first century B.C.E. (with Cicero) to the beginning of the fifth century C.E. (with Augustine).
In the introduction, I explicate my conception of temporal nostalgia—the active reconstruction of an idealized, static past. I then explain how I use the notion of exemplarity, relying on theorists who deal with the reception of antiquity in Renaissance Italian authors. Briefly, an exemplum is historical person who offers, through a particular deed or series of deeds, a model of action. In the case of Rome, whatever the other attendant virtues, the exemplum must always fit the mold of Romanitas. Each chapter, then, deals with a single figure and his exemplary portrait. First, Camillus saves Rome from the Gauls and insists that the city not be abandoned. Next, Regulus keeps his oath to Carthage, and consequently returns calmly to certain death. Scipio Africanus, a whirlwind of energy, defeats Hannibal. Cato, finally, refuses to bow to Caesar’s rule and kills himself at Utica.
Romanitas is constantly negotiated throughout Rome’s history, even its authority relies on the fiction that it is uncomplicated and self-evident. Following the stories of these men through the later centuries of the western empire, I outline how the same themes are deployed for different effects depending on the necessities of the time, clearly showing that these figures retain their affective force at least through the writings of Augustine.
Mulhern, Eleanor V. "Roman Nostalgia Exemplarity and Romanitas in Late Republican and Imperial Literature." PhD diss., Bryn Mawr College, 2014.