Title: From Murdering Emperors to Saving the State: Varying Depictions of the Roman Army in the Historia Augusta  

Abstract: The Roman army’s reputation in Imperial historiography is overwhelmingly negative. While the need to defend the empire meant that the army was always understood to be necessary, it was also consistently criticised in historical works, often using a series of standard negative tropes. The army was derided for the financial burden it placed on the empire, the cruelty of its soldiers to the civilian population, and the instability it wrought through its instigation and support of usurpers. Against this negative historical tradition, the series of Imperial biographies known as the Historia Augusta and the approach of its anonymous author stand out as something of an anomaly. While the army is still criticised in the Historia Augusta, the author’s views are clearly idiosyncratic and his portrayal, at times, diverges considerably from the standard negative historical tradition. This seminar will explore this variable depiction of the army throughout the Historia Augusta. Through an analysis of the army’s role across a number of the Historia Augusta’s biographies it will be demonstrated that the author does not present a consistent view of the army and its place within the empire. Instead, he routinely changed his depiction of the army based on his opinion of individual emperors and the role the army played during their reign. This biographical approach resulted in a depiction of the army which is notable for being both innovative and at times strikingly positive.

Presenter: Duncan Grey (UQ), HDR candidate in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry.

Will be presented alongside a presentation by Sarah Prince (UQ), HDR candidate in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry.

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 (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) 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 (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) 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 https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity