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Alexander the Great, reception of  

Diana Spencer

What makes Alexander Great? His story has captured the imagination of authors, artists, philosophers, and politicians across more than two millennia. He has provided a point of convergence for religious and spiritual thinkers, he has been co-opted as a champion for gender and sexual openness, he represents a paradigm for would-be charismatic dictators (and their opponents), he gives us scientific imperialism and justification for conquistadorial dreaming, and he exemplifies the risks of cultural appropriation. To understand why Alexander resonates so widely across so many different fields of study, interest groups, and media, is an exercise in reception. This Alexander who has captured the imagination is triumphantly equivocal and it is in the plurality of traditions through which this complexity is expressed that his enduring “greatness” lies. The imaginary quality of Alexander is unsurprising because more profoundly than for any comparable individual from classical antiquity, his history is a product of reception from the start: every encounter with Alexander the Great is part of a conversation that depends substantially on accounts and narrative evidence from long after his death, and at the least at one remove from the historians who first and contemporaneously chronicled his life and achievements.


Column of Trajan, reception of  

Elizabeth R. Macaulay

Since Late Antiquity, architects, leaders, and nations have emulated, adapted, and reinterpreted the Column of Trajan. Its appeal has been due to its height, ability to dominate the surrounding landscape, and complex spiral reliefs detailing the emperor Trajan’s annexation of Dacia as a Roman province. Its form has inspired countless honorific, triumphal, and commemorative monuments in the post-antique era.

Honorary columns were erected in Rome, possibly as early as 439bce; they were certainly known by 318bce. Rostral columns—columns with the beaks of captured warships attached—were erected in 260 and 255bce to celebrate Roman victories over the Carthaginians. None were so important in the tradition of erecting monumental, honorific, columns as the Column of Trajan (figure 1). Erected by the Senate in the Forum of Trajan in honour of Trajan’s two successful campaigns in Dacia (101–102ce; 105–106ce), it stood between the forum’s two libraries and the Basilica Ulpia. The Column (38 m tall and 3.7 m in diameter) was topped by a bronze statue (4.7 m) of Trajan in military attire. The column is hollow and contains a spiral staircase to the platform at the top of the column’s capital. The Column is famous for the finely carved helical sculptural relief program that depicted the Dacian wars. If rolled out, this frieze would be approximately 200 m long. There are 155 scenes with more than 2,600 figures, each at about two-thirds life size. The height of the frieze increases, as it spirals up the Column, from 0.89 m to 1.25 m.


damnatio memoriae  

John Percy Vyvian Dacre Balsdon and Barbara Levick

After the deaths of persons deemed by the senate enemies of the state, measures to erase their memory might follow. Originally there was no set package, as the phrase implies (cf. Ulp.Dig. 24. 1. 32. 7) but a repertoire (Tac.Ann. 3. 17. 8–18. 1): images might be destroyed (*Sejanus; *Valeria Messal(l)ina), and their display penalized (L. *Appuleius Saturninus, 98 bce), the name erased from inscriptions, and a man's praenomen banned in his family (Livy 6. 20. 14; 384 bce!). With emperors their acts were abolished. *Claudius prevented the senate from condemning *Gaius (1) (Cass. Dio 60. 4. 5); but decrees were passed against *Domitian (Suet.Dom.23), *Commodus (SHA Comm. 20), and *Elagabalus (SHA Heliogab.17).


drama, reception of  

Emma Cole

Ancient drama has had a vast influence upon the literary, performance, and intellectual culture of modernity. From ancient Greece thirty-two tragedies, eleven comedies, and one satyr play survive, and from ancient Rome ten tragedies and twenty-seven comedies remain, alongside countless fragments from all genres. Many of the surviving plays are staged in contemporary theatre in both literal translation and more liberal adaptation, and today more ancient drama is seen in professional theatres than at any point since antiquity. Although all ancient dramatic genres have a rich reception history, Greek tragedy dominates the field, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Productions of Greek tragedy today range from masked performances in the original language through to radical, avant-garde, immersive, and postdramatic reinventions. Greek tragedy is also frequently used as a touchstone within literary theory and broader intellectual discourse, from the theorisation of the ideal form of performance (Wagner’s Gesamtkuntswerk) to the development of psychoanalytic theory (Freud’s Oedipus complex) and structuralism (Lévi-Strauss). Ancient drama has also provided inspiration for entirely new dramatic forms; the influence of Roman tragedy, for example, can be felt within the revenge tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, while traces of Roman comedy can be felt in slapstick comedy and Italian commedia dell’arte. Current growth areas within both artistic practice, and academic research into the reception of ancient drama, include the performance reception of dramatic fragments, an increased interest in forms such as burlesque and pantomime, and the use of ancient drama as a tool of resistance against oppressive political regimes.


explanation, historical  

Christopher Pelling

‘Which of the gods was it that brought the two together in strife?’, asks the Iliad as it launches its narrative (1.8); early in the Odyssey*Zeus complains that mortals blame the gods when they are responsible for their own sufferings (1.32–3). Both poems however swiftly complicate any attempt to limit explanations to either the human or the divine level. Achilles and Agamemnon quarrel, Achilles kills Hector, and Odysseus gets home, largely because they are the people that they are, but gods often intervene too. The Greeks win because they are better fighters; they also win because more gods are on their side. The poems also suggest another form of explanation, not tracing events to their origins but relating them to a familiar pattern of human life. Suffering is the lot of humanity (Il. 24.525–6); outrages like those of the suitors are punished. Life is like that, and one should not be surprised.


Julius Caesar, reception of  

W. Jeffrey Tatum

The reception of Caesar constitutes, for obvious reasons, an immense topic. As a political idea, Caesar exhibits from the very beginning a tension between his role as dictator and destroyer of the Republic and his standing as the political and military genius who founded the Empire. This contrariety, not least by way of the analytic category of Caesarism, is especially marked in the political discourse of the 19th and 20th centuries. Caesar’s literary reception, though influenced by contemporary political conflicts, is not always tethered to them in straightforward ways. The Caesar of literature is often a reaction to the Caesar of Shakespeare. And there are other important issues: Caesar as a problem in the recovery of authenticity, or Caesar, because he is a canonical author, as a symbol of the conservative claims of the established order. In art, Caesar the god and Caesar the chivalrous king gradually give way to Caesar the slain dictator or Caesar the imperious conqueror. In popular culture, however, Caesar’s manifestations vary wildly: although he continues to register at a political level, he can also signify imperial excess or martial prowess, and he is available as a medium for lampooning the various guises of his own reception.



Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth

Prosopography is a modern term for the study of individuals, and is derived from the Greek prosōpon, one meaning of which is ‘person’. There is no agreed or official definition of prosopography, which goes under different names in different disciplines (to the social scientist, prosopography in one of its manifestations is ‘multiple career-line analysis’: see L. Stone in bibliog. below). Prosopography, as used in ancient history, is a historical method which uses onomastic evidence (see names, personal, greek and roman) to establish (i) regional origins of individuals and (ii) family connections, esp. via marriage-ties but also via *adoption (which leaves traces on nomenclature), between individual and individual and between group and group. (See genos and gens for the basic large *kinship units; but ‘group’ theories of Roman politics, see below, presuppose units made up of more than one gens. Thus Scullard posited a ‘Fulvian-Claudian group’ in late 3rd cent. Rome, see various entries under Fulvius and Claudius.) Conclusions about the origins and family connections of individuals then classically lead to inferences about their likely political sympathies and allegiances.



Denise Eileen McCoskey

Contrary to the assumptions of previous eras, since the late 20th century, race has been widely regarded as a form of identity based in social construction rather than biology. The concept of race has experienced a corresponding return to classical studies, although this approach gives it significant overlap with terminology like ethnicity and cultural identity. The ancient Greeks and Romans did not consider human biology or skin color the source of racial identity, although the belief that human variation was determined by the environment or climate persisted throughout antiquity. Ancient ethnographic writing provides insight into ancient racial thought and stereotypes in both the Greek and Roman periods. Race in the Greek world centered in large part around the emergence of the category of Greek alongside that of barbarian, but there were other important racial frameworks in operation, including a form of racialized citizenship in Athens. Modes for expressing racial identity changed in the aftermath of the campaigns of Alexander the Great, a figure whose own racial identity has been the subject of debate. In the Roman period, Roman citizenship became a major factor in determining one’s identity, but racial thought nonetheless persisted. Ideas about race were closely correlated with the Roman practice of empire, and representations of diverse racial groups are especially prominent in conquest narratives. Hellenistic and Roman Egypt provide an opportunity for looking at race in everyday life in antiquity, while Greek and Roman attitudes towards Jews suggest that they were perceived as a distinct group. Reception studies play a critical role in analyzing the continuing connections between race and classics.


reception in historical novels  

Tom Stevenson

Reception in historical novels set in ancient Greece and Rome differs fundamentally between the 19th and the 20th/21st centuries. In the 19th century, reception was governed heavily by imperial attitudes and religious controversies, particularly in regard to claims about the true Christian faith under the Roman Empire. Hence, novels set in Rome or the Roman Empire dominated the field. In the 20th century, attitudes to empire and religion were drastically revised in the wake of World War I. The growing authority of academic history in an age of scientific progress was another factor which helped to produce a decline in the reputation of historical fiction. Other changes, however, were more stimulating in nature, including the use of ancient Greece as a setting, more impressive source analysis, the rise of female novelists, different subjects and perspectives, and new social and sexual attitudes. These and other developments lifted the reputation of historical fiction once more.



Antony Spawforth, Martin Millett, and Stephen Mitchell

Romanization originally meant the spread of Roman civilization to Italy and the provinces. The term was coined in the 19th cent. and used unreflectively until the 1960s, when scholars influenced by post-colonialism started to question its underlying assumptions. In recent years its fitness to describe the complex processes of interaction between the dominant culture of Rome and the local cultures of the empire has been hotly debated, although an alternative term has yet to win broad consensus. A famous passage in Tacitus (Agr.21) suggests that the imperial state did, sometimes, deliberately promote Roman culture in the provinces as a tool of *imperialism. That same culture, however, was itself profoundly shaped by interaction with neighbouring peoples and cultures, especially *Hellenism. Today's exploration of the relationship between Roman and non-Roman cultures emphasizes the responses of the ruled as much as the rulers, and ‘ordinary’ provincials as well as elites. It engages with a range of ideas and models, including integration, acculturation, resistance, identity, and *creolisation.


senatus consultum ultimum  

Arnaldo Momigliano and Andrew Lintott

Senatus consultum ultimum ‘the ultimate decree of the *senate’, a modern term, deriving from Caes. BCiv. 1. 5, for what was in fact a declaration of emergency.This decree urged magistrates, usually the consul or consuls, to take measures to defend the respublica and see that it came to no harm (Cic.Phil. 5. 34; Sall.Cat. 29). It was interpreted as authorizing the magistrates to employ physical repression against (unspecified) public enemies without being bound by strict legality. Inevitably it was a matter of political controversy, since questions arose whether the circumstances merited this decree and what level of force and illegality was appropriate after it.The decree was first both passed and accepted by the consul in 121 bce, against C. *Sempronius Gracchus and M. *Fulvius Flaccus. It was later used against L. *Appuleius Saturninus and C. *Servilius Glaucia (100), M. *Aemilius Lepidus (2) (77), the Catilinarians (see sergius catilina, l.


triumphal arches, reception of  

Kimberly Cassibry

Triumphal arches originated in the Roman Empire and have been constructed for over two thousand years. These free-standing portals are more accurately known as arch monuments, commemorative arches, or honorific arches due to their diverse functions. Arcuated shapes allow these monuments to span significant roads; multiple façades create space for dedicatory inscriptions, relief sculptures, and statues. Varied reception of this fundamental design concept—a free-standing portal with words and images—is evident in each commemorative arch. Reception of individual arch monuments can be traced through descriptions, representations, and interventions.

The Roman arches dedicated to the emperors Titus (c. 81 ce), Septimius Severus and his sons (c. 203 ce), and Constantine I (315 ce) have strongly influenced the monument’s modern reception, even though they do not represent the monument’s full range of ancient designs and functions. In major European revivals since antiquity, ephemeral arches have adorned political processions, and permanent monuments have commemorated imperial military victories. In the 20th century, arch monuments arose in cities around the globe, often amid debates about national identity.