Friends of Antiquity Sunday Series seminar

Presenter: Dr Shushma Malik

Mary Stocks’ 1933 play Hail Nero!: A Reinterpretation of History in Three Acts offers a very different portrait of the emperor Nero to that of the ancient sources. He is not, Stocks posits, a tyrannical murder and arsonist, but a kind, dedicated emperor, and a champion of the urban poor. Taking the growth of revisionist historiography in the late-nineteenth century as a cue to spread an alternative vision of Nero to a wider audience, Stocks’ Nero mirrors her own desire to champion the underdog and achieve progressive change in society. As Stocks campaigned for the rights of women and helped to establish the first birth control clinic outside of London in the UK (1926), her Nero too wished to promote the role of women in his own society, and made it his life’s work to improve the living conditions of the urban poor with schemes including a holiday camp in Antium and state-funded vaccinations against disease. Given the fairly recent resurrection of Nero’s association with the Antichrist in literature and popular culture, e.g. F.W. Farrar’s Darkness and Dawn or Scenes in the Days of Nero (1891), which inspired Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis (1895), and Barrett’s Sign of the Cross (1895), I will consider what Stocks hoped to achieve from her vindication of Nero, and how its interbellum context facilitated its creation and moderate success.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at