h. 18:00 – Aula del Dipartimento di Studi sul Mondo Antico
Chair: Marcello Nobili (Università di Roma – La Sapienza)
The Good Usurper? Constantius II and the ghost of Magnentius
Rebecca Usherwood (University of Nottingham)
Magnentius was only one of several usurpers who seized power in opposition to the Constantinian dynasty in the 350s. But while ancient sources are generally dismissive about the nature and impact of the others, Magnentius stands apart: ruling not for weeks or months but three and a half years, and with his influence spreading across all of Gaul, Spain, Italy and Africa. Though an overwhelmingly negative picture of him survives in ancient sources as a nameless, transgressive figure of barbaric origins, traces of an alternative history linger. Ten years after his death, the emperor Julian remarked how “much that he achieved had the appearance of merit” (Caesars 316.A), and Zosimus, writing at the turn of the sixth century, still felt the need to contradict this persisting tradition that Magnentius had been a positive and popular ruler.
This paper will use epigraphic and numismatic evidence to assess how Magnentius styled himself as emperor, and then how Constantius II deconstructed this legitimacy after his downfall in 353, warping and destroying Magnentius’ political memory to reassert his own control over the western empire. How far did Constantius go in erasing Magnentius from the west? How does Magnentius’ popular reputation persist? Ultimately we will see how the spectre of Magnentius and what he represented hung in the west for far longer than his short rule, and how he persisted as a figure which blurred the lines between what constituted legitimate and illegitimate imperial power in the fourth century.
Monument and Memory in Archaic Latin literature
Eleanor Reeve (University of Oxford)
The emergence of Latin literature in the mid 3rd century BC comes within the context of great changes in Roman commemorative culture. The military conquests of this century saw the proliferation of different forms of monument and memorial across the cityscape, while these newly imported artefacts played an important role in the increasing competition between individuals of the Roman elite. This paper argues that early Latin prose and poetry carefully engage with this changing monumental culture in order to establish the significance of literature as a commemorative medium alongside these stones and statues. The paper begins by examining the engagement of Ennius’ works with contemporary monuments. The Annales have been posited as a textual form of the Aedes Herculis Musarum (Gildenhard 2003) and the notion of the monument of praise recurs within the poem (Zweirlein 1982). The Euhemerus, too, is closely connected with record keeping and research and Ennius’ Scipio even imagines a speaking column. The poet’s signature, hidden as an acrostich in the Epicharmus, echoes the marks of contemporary artists and may recall the increasing popularity of commemorative paintings during this period. Similar engagements are found in other contemporary authors: Naevius’ Bellum Punicum may have included an extended ecphrasis (Mariotti 1955) and Cato’s prose is embedded in epigraphic culture, borrowing inscriptional formulae and phrasing. This connection between text and monument, it will be concluded, highlights the multiplicity of commemorative media in the 3rd and 2nd centuries
BC as well as leaving a lasting legacy for later Latin literature.