Politics in the late Roman Republic often revolved around personal rivalries.  Politicians regularly flung insults at their opponents in public speeches.  To carry on the attack, they penned pamphlets and memoirs.  Some feuds raged on for years, like those of Caesar and Cato, or Cicero and Clodius.  Quarrels boiled over into violence and even civil war.  Why did Romans practice such a potentially destructive politics?  This lecture explores some answers.  Rivalries were good for publicity; a young man or one with an unfamiliar name grabbed attention by taking on somebody more powerful. Another factor was Rome’s competitive honor culture.  A politician’s prestige was nearly always in danger of sinking.  Even ex-consuls fretted over what order they were called on in the Senate.  You had to edge out anyone overtaking you.  Finally, there were no organized political parties to line up in conflict.  A contest between two champions helped frame debate.  In personal attacks, political leadership was discussed.  As a parallel for Rome, this lecture also considers the raucous politics of the early United States, encapsulated most famously by the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

All research seminars begin at 4 pm on Friday.

They will take place simultaneously in person and online.

The in-person venue is room E302 of the Forgan-Smith Building (building no. 1) on the St-Lucia campus of the University of Queensland.

The zoom link for viewing seminars online will remain unchanged for the whole semester: https://uqz.zoom.us/j/87545523375

For further information please contact the Seminar Convenor Associate Professor David M. Pritchard (d.pritchard@uq.edu.au or +61 401 955 160).