Complex Inferiorities: Roman Philhellenism and Latin Literature (CLAM115)
‘Conquered Greece took her savage conqueror captive and brought her arts to the fields of Latium’, writes Horace (Ep. 2.1.155-6), and an almost boundless admiration for all things Greek combined with a painful sense of inferiority is indeed the most striking feature of literary discourse and even cultural identity in ancient Rome. While the importance of Greek models for Latin literature is often acknowledged and discussed, this module examines the complexities of Roman philhellenism at large, and it does so by framing it as, effectively, a self-imposed subjugation to a foreign culture. Instead of focusing on the reception of individual Greek texts in individual Latin texts, the readings and discussions in this module consider the rhetoric and poetics of Latin texts which (explicitly or implicitly) address, problematise, negotiate, (re-)imagine, and comment on the relationship between Greek and Roman literature and culture. By adopting this perspective, this module allows students to radically reconsider the literary history of Latin literature. Yet the key question at stake here not only affects our understanding of one extraordinary historical phenomenon, it is also highly relevant to our own globalised world: how do cultures achieve influence and dominance over others without exerting any political, military or economic power?