a bimillennial re-evaluation
University of Leeds, 18th-20th August 2014
The bimillennium of Augustus’ death on 19th August 2014 commemorates the end of his life and the beginning of a rich posthumous reception history. Running over the bimillennium itself, the Commemorating Augustus conference represents the first systematic, comparative exploration of this history of responses, from AD 14 to 2014.
Already in his lifetime, Augustus was a man of many images. Since his death, he has served in one context as a model of ideal rule and another as a tyrant, while playing a key role in narratives about the emergence of Christianity, the foundation of Europe and the relationship between politics and the arts. His reception history is a vivid exemplum of historical relativism in action, demonstrating the scope of the source material to support utterly conflicting interpretations. Yet to date it has been studied only sporadically. The Commemorating Augustus conference aims to address the full range of Augustus’ reception history, to trace its evolution, to explore its connections and disjunctions, to understand its impact on contemporary perspectives, and to put us in a better position to articulate what Augustus means to us in the 21st century.
The major 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?
- Can past assessments of Augustus enrich our understanding of the first emperor in the 21st-century?
- Conversely, have some of them left us with assumptions which we need to re-examine?
Speakers and topics
Invited speakers and their titles 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 (UCL) – ‘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 (KCL) – ‘Montaigne and Augustus’
Martin Lindner (Göttingen) – ‘In Search of a German Princeps: Günther Birkenfeld and his Augustus novels (1934-1962)’
Keynote speaker: Karl Galinsky (Austin Texas) – ‘Augustus – an assessment’
Other topics covered in accepted papers include:
- Worship and deification
- Tiberius, Nero and the Flavians
- Seneca, Tacitus and Suetonius
- Posthumous provincial responses
- Late antique responses (including Symmachus, Julian, Servius)
- Byzantine politics and literature
- Augustus in early Christianity
- Medieval history and literature
- European literature (inc. Dante, Montaigne, Morisot, Dryden)
- European politics and power (inc. Papal Rome, Gramsci, Mussolini)
- Augustus on page and stage (inc. Birkenfeld, Williams, Van Wyk Louw)
- Augustus on screen (inc. I Claudius, HBO’s Rome, documentaries)
- The natal bimillennium in 1938
- Rhetoric and historiography
- Coinage and the visual arts
- Monuments and architecture
Papers are 20 minutes long, and will be followed by 10 minutes for discussion. A selection of papers offered at the conference will be published afterwards in the form of an edited volume.
Venue and registration
The conference will take place in Devonshire Hall, a self-contained University of Leeds residence in the style of an Oxbridge college.
Registration will open in early spring