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Elisabeth Slingsby, University of Cambridge

This Postgraduate-work-in-progress seminar will be held online via Zoom and in person in room 102, Senate House. Booking is required.

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In his second Suasoria, Seneca the Elder has several declaimers assert that the Three Hundred Spartans must stand firm at Thermopylae, because fleeing would constitute a betrayal of their forebears, their city, and the liberty they had dedicated their lives to defending. Four suasoriae later, Seneca’s declaimers offer these arguments once more to convince Cicero that he should face death head on, rather than beg Antony to remove his name from the proscription lists. Why would Seneca suggest that in spite of their vastly differing circumstances, the grounds on which the Spartans and Cicero decided to die were identical? My proposed answer to this question rests on an examination of the implicit and explicit parallels between those who perished in the Triumviral period and those who fell in non-Roman conflicts, which are drawn in Latin and Greek literature in the century after Octavian’s victory at Actium. I contend that such parallels were a key means of commemorating the individuals, and occasionally the communities, who paid the ultimate price in this period of civil war. Specifically, I will focus on the ways in which comparison with non-Roman conflicts cause the proscribed and civil war combatants to appear to have sacrificed their lives for the same reasons as illustrious war heroes. By analysing the virtues which the Roman victims and non-Roman warriors supposedly shared, I will demonstrate that regardless of whether an individual died resisting the Liberators, the Triumvirs, Antony, or Octavian, they could be commemorated as if they had drawn their final breath fighting a foreign foe.