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My current research can be summarised by the conference paper abstract, that I’ve submitted for AMPHORAE 2012, the annual Australian/NZ Classics postgraduate conference (The ‘Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Hellenic Or Roman Antiquities and Egyptology’ to expand the acronym, which was originally started by postgrads here at my own institution, and now travels the Antipodean world of Classics.).

Landscape and Treachery: Hannibal and Romans and Literary Representations of Italian Landscape.

This paper deals with the interesting ways in which Latin writers have sought to represent the landscape of Italy during the course of Hannibal’s campaign of 218-6 B.C. in Italy. The battle of Lake Trasimene was a key battle in a dreadful series of Roman defeats by the Carthaginian invader, leading up to the complete rout of the Romans and the absolute devastation of their army at Cannae. This paper examines literary representations of the landscape during the war in Italy, particularly the battle of Trasimene with its rich tapestry of omens, prodigies, weather, landscape, and even a devastating earthquake mid-battle. First it seeks to understand the processes by which these representations could mediate Roman and Italian identity. Second, the paper seeks to determine in what manner these representations remained constant or underwent change in the period since the Second Punic War and the periods in which the literatary artefacts were constructed. Third and finally, it asks in what way these representations of landscape were connected to representations of the personality of Hannibal, who after all, had to first conquer the high mountains of the Alps long before he could defeat the armies of the Romans.

Last year’s conference paper, that I gave at AMPHORAE 2011, was on a link I found between Horace Epode 16 and Livy 5.51-4. It’s about the rhetorical and physical connections between literature and city (a not entirely original topic, I must admit). This abstract is for a slightly later and better version of the paper, which I hope (as all postgraduates do) to turn into paper for a journal submission shortly:

Horace, Livy and the Ruin of Rome: Epode 16 and Ab Urbe Condita 5.51-4.

At the end of book 5 of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, the Roman assembly argued over whether they should leave their destroyed city and found a new one. To counter this sentiment, the historian put an eloquent speech into the mouth of the scrupulous hero Camillus defending the sacred site of Rome from abandonment. In complete contrast, the poet Horace in Epode 16 writes of a Rome destroying itself. He urges, as if in an address to a species of political assembly, that the citizen body ought to do the manly thing and leave Rome, deserting it for a mythical island utopia with solemn oaths that forever prevent return. Clearly in the first century B.C. the city is a contested site, not just in political and military terms, but as a rhetorical space as well.

These two remarkable passages are at first glance diametrically opposed: the historian who writes of Rome as an idealised sacred space, which needs continuation, versus the poet who wants to relinquish the city for an idealised sacred island paradise. But are these two passages so hopelessly in opposition that there is no possibility of reading them together in combination? Or are there concordances, even by way of contrast, that can be discerned between them? What, if anything, can these two passages tell us about Roman conceptions of the city in this time of transition from republic to empire? This paper will examine these respective representations of the Roman city, its growing imperial power, and the idealised body of citizens that each claims to represent.

When I look at that, what I don’t see is my key point, that being the way that Horace frames his poem as an address to a species of Roman assembly (see Fraenkel 1957 who is still the best account of this). Although it’s not a real, identifiable, form of actual assembly, it none-the-less distinguishes that in at least some respect Horace was framing his ‘poetic’ proposal as a form of utopian political discourse. And through that, the connection to Livy’s version of Camillus’ speech.

In 2010, I gave a paper about Livy 5.36-49, which then became a chapter in my Master’s dissertation. This abstract at least gives a better sense of what’s in the paper:

The Reversal of Triumph and the Space of Spectacular Representation in Livy 5.36-49

The sack of Rome by the Gauls in 390 B.C. was one of the lowest of low points in Roman history. The boundaries were reversed; Romans acted as though they were Gauls, and Gauls become conquerors of Romans. The Romans are seen here to be brought to this disaster by their greed over the disposition of the spoils of Veii which leads them to impietas and military defeat. Building on Luce’s ideas about the ‘reversals’ in this section of Livy’s text (Luce 1971), this paper seeks to read the sack of Rome as a reversal (or inversion) of the Roman triumph. In doing so it examines the ways in which Livy writes the city as a stage for a spectacle which unfolds before the eyes of the Roman spectators barricaded in that most sanctified of Roman places, the Capitol. Drawing on recent work on the triumph (e.g Beard 2007), it inspects the simulacra of the ex-consuls in their triumphal finery confronting the awestruck Gauls, just as a first century Roman might be awestruck with the strange sight of a captured barbarian being forced to act out his capture on a float in the triumph.

Looking back on these two older abstracts and comparing it to my current one I can see a definite improvement in my ability to write them!