The reception of a Roman villain: The story of Catiline

The reception of a Roman villain: The story of Catiline
30 May 2018, 5.00pm - 7.00pm
Room 349, Third Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Mathilde Skoie, University of Oslo

The story of Catiline and his conspiracy has been a popular tale throughout history. As the primary sources of the affair, Cicero's Catilinarian speeches and Sallust's Bellum Catilinae have been on the school curriculum from Antiquity till today, we find Catiline and his conspiracy used in everything from declamatory exercises, Jesuit drama to You-tube reenactments. His name has even been used as a paradigm for nouns in the first declension. And major figures like Ben Jonson, Voltaire, Ibsen and Salieri have found inspiration in his story.

We mostly find Catiline cast in line with the negative presentations of Cicero and Sallust. For instance, when briefly alluded to by poets, Catiline is mostly used as shorthand for villain. But there are also more subversive voices, and ever so often there have been attempts to rehabilitate Catiline, though perhaps not as many as one might expect. One of these more subversive voices is the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in his very first drama, Catilina (1850). 

In this seminar I would like to take a closer look at some of the issues that are at stake in the reception of Catiline and use Ibsen´s drama as my primary example.  Through this exploration I would also like to focus on some more general questions about the reception of historical figures.


Valerie James
020 7862 8716