a bimillennial re-evaluation
University of Leeds, 18th-20th August 2014
Deadline for abstracts: 1st December 2013
Recent publications by Barbara Levick, Karl Galinsky and others demonstrate the ongoing strength of contemporary interest in the historical Augustus. But while the reception histories of figures such as Nero, Julius Caesar and Elagabalus have benefited from focused large-scale scholarly investigations, Augustus’ remains seriously under-explored. Given the controversial nature of his career and the widely variant responses which he has provoked, this is a serious barrier to a full 21st-century understanding of Augustus. We cannot see him clearly for ourselves until we have explored the full range of his past receptions and their impact on our own view.
The bimillennium of Augustus’ death on 19th August 2014 is the perfect opportunity for a systematic assessment of his posthumous legacy and a re-evaluation of his current significance. Commemorating Augustus, a major international conference running over the bimillennium itself, will bring together experts from a wide range of disciplines to undertake this work. The aim is to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and enable new perspectives through a shared focus on a single iconic figure.
The over-arching questions which will define the conference and its debates include:
- What range of responses to Augustus has been expressed between his death and the present day?
- Who has generated them, when, where, how and why?
- How has Augustus’ equivocal and contradictory career been received in different cultural contexts?
- How and to what effect have receptions of Augustus reflected cultural exchange and interaction between past and present, and between contemporary cultures?
- How do 21st-century assessments of Augustus reflect those of the past?
Invited speakers and conference venue
Invited speakers and their titles / topics include:
Mary Harlow (Leicester) and Ray Laurence (Kent) – ‘Augustus and Old Age’
Alison Cooley (Warwick) – ‘The last days of Augustus’
Valerie Hope (Open University) – ‘Grieving for Augustus: emotion and control in Roman imperial mourning ritual’
Steven J. Green (Leeds) – ‘ex Augusti praescripto imperaturum se professus (Suet. Nero 10): spinning a model for a young prince’
Shaun Tougher (Cardiff) – ‘Julian Augustus on Augustus: a view from late antiquity’
Russell Goulbourne (Leeds) – ‘Montaigne and Augustus’
Barbara Levick (Oxford) – ‘Reverberations: the living and the dead Augustus’ (keynote 1)
Martin Lindner (Göttingen) – ‘In Search of a German Princeps: Günther Birkenfeld and his Augustus novels (1934-1962)’
Lucy Moore (Leeds Museums) – designing and delivering an exhibition for the bimillennium
Karl Galinsky (Austin Texas; provisional) – ‘Augustus – an assessment’
The conference will take place in Devonshire Hall, a self-contained University of Leeds residence in the style of an Oxbridge college. A selection of papers offered at the conference will be published afterwards in the form of an edited volume.
Call for papers and suggested topics
Proposals are now invited for papers which explore the conference’s major questions through specific aspects of Augustus’ death and posthumous reception. Papers should be 20 minutes long, and will be followed by 10 minutes for discussion. Topics might include:
The twilight years
- The closing years of the Augustan regime
- The elderly Augustus
- Final preparations for the succession
- Testamentary documents: Augustus’ will, the Res Gestae, the account of the empire and injunctions for Tiberius / the Roman people
- Representation in ancient literary sources
- Relationship to other ancient deaths and literary ‘death-bed’ scenes
- Representation in later art / literature / screen portrayals
Augustus’ funeral and burial
- Relationship to and departure from established Republican traditions
- Augustus’ funeral as a model / yardstick for later imperial funerals and burials
- History and uses of the Mausoleum from antiquity to the present
The deified Augustus
- Handling of the deification itself: in Rome and / or elsewhere
- Livia as priestess and Augusta
- The temple of Augustus: architecture, construction, location, usage, model for others
- Augustus’ deification as a model / yardstick for later emperors
The Augustan legacy in antiquity
- Tiberius’ transition into power and handling of the Augustan precedent.
- Explicit ancient written evaluations of his impact, character and reign
- Responses and reappropriations by later emperors (and others) – e.g. citations of precedent, references in coinage, building projects, use of titles etc.
- Augustus in late antiquity – e.g. Julian’s Caesars, Macrobius’ collection of anecdotes, imperial panegyrics
- Augustus in the early Christian tradition – e.g. Origen, Augustine, Orosius, John Malalas, the legend of his connection with Santa Maria in Ara Coeli
Augustus in post-antique politics
- Medieval responses and reappropriations – e.g. Holy Roman Emperors, John of Salisbury, Philip II of France, Cola di Rienzo
- Renaissance / early modern responses and reappropriations – e.g. Cosimo de Medici, Charles II, Louis XIV, House of Habsburg, House of Hanover, electors of Saxony / kings of Poland
- Modern responses and reappropriations – e.g. Napoleon, Mussolini.
- Explicit and implicit evaluations in political thinking – e.g. Petrarch, Leonardo Bruni, Machiavelli, Bodin, Justus Lipsius, Erasmus, Thomas Elyot, Montesquieu, Jonathan Swift
- Augustus since Mussolini – is the Augustan ‘brand’ now tainted? Do any politicians still want to associate themselves with him? What other approaches can we identify – e.g. disavowal?
- Comparisons drawn by others – i.e. identification of techniques and approaches as ‘Augustan’, whether or not intended as such. What functions do such comparisons serve?
Augustus in art, architecture, literature and popular culture
- Art and architecture – e.g. images of Augustus, emulation of his buildings
- Augustus in European literature – e.g. Dante, Montaigne, Fontenelle, Voltaire, Pierre Corneille, Heinrich von Kleist, Balzac
- Augustus in English literature, especially of the ‘Augustan age’ – e.g. Ben Jonson, Donne, Dryden, Pope, Robert Graves, John Williams, Allan Massie
- Augustus in modern popular culture – e.g. novels, films, television, comics, computer games, tourism and Augustan monuments
- Explicit and implicit evaluations expressed in these contexts
- How is he approached in these genres? How does he play with the main consumers of western popular culture today – i.e. the inhabitants of modern democracies? What about beyond the west?
Past evaluations of Augustus
- Examining the changing history of explicit evaluations – ancient, medieval, Renaissance, modern (see also individual periods and contexts, above).
- How have evaluations varied across time and in different contexts?
- What factors shape them, and what motivates the formation of explicit evaluations?
- How much are later evaluations responses to those expressed in earlier eras?
- Changing scholarly evaluations of Augustus – e.g. Thomas Blackwell, Gibbon, Mommsen, Meyer, Betti, Last, Buchan, Syme, Millar, Zanker, Levick, Galinsky
- How do scholarly evaluations differ from those expressed in political or literary writing?
A 21st-century perspective
- Can we identify a coherent 21st-century view of Augustus? Should we expect one?
- Which past evaluations of Augustus resonate most with us today – and what can we learn from the ones which do not?
- What is at stake when we judge Augustus? How does the gulf of two millennia affect the process? Whose standards are we applying? Who are we speaking to?
- What kind of judgements are we making / can we make? Of an individual (biography vs. history)? A literary / historical construct? A period?
- Are explicit evaluations appropriate in an academic context? What historical insights could be achieved by evaluating the qualitative impact of Augustus in different areas of ancient life?
Submitting an abstract
If you are interested in offering a paper, you should first email Dr. Penny Goodman, indicating the general topic which you wish to explore. This is to pre-empt overlaps between papers. A title and abstract (c. 300 words) will then be required by 1st December 2013.
The wider Commemorating Augustus project will launch officially with a half-day colloquium at Leeds on Friday 10th May 2013. Details of this colloquium, including speakers and abstracts, are available here. Anyone considering developing a paper for the bimillennial conference is warmly encouraged to attend the colloquium in order to find out more about its remit.