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CLASSICS 103L: Advanced Latin: Bad Emperors: Tacitus and Suetonius on Nero

Why was Nero remembered as a 'bad' emperor? Tacitus and Suetonius, who wrote the foremost histories of his life, described Nero's abuses and corruption in great detail. But what is the line between gossip and history? In this class, we will examine accounts of Nero's life as a way to understand the early imperial period and the later historians who chronicled it. We will read Suetonius's Life of Nero and then Tacitus Annals 14. In doing so, we will examine key questions of how Roman historians understood history-writing, political authority, power, liberty, gender roles, and morality. Select secondary readings will help shed light on whether portrayals of Nero's reign are fair based on current scholarly arguments. As context, we will discuss the roles of powerful women (Livia, Drusilla, Messalina, and Agrippina) as well as the post-Augustan Julio-Claudians (the other 'bad emperors'). If time permits, we will examine additional short readings from other sources such as Seneca's Apocoloc more »
Why was Nero remembered as a 'bad' emperor? Tacitus and Suetonius, who wrote the foremost histories of his life, described Nero's abuses and corruption in great detail. But what is the line between gossip and history? In this class, we will examine accounts of Nero's life as a way to understand the early imperial period and the later historians who chronicled it. We will read Suetonius's Life of Nero and then Tacitus Annals 14. In doing so, we will examine key questions of how Roman historians understood history-writing, political authority, power, liberty, gender roles, and morality. Select secondary readings will help shed light on whether portrayals of Nero's reign are fair based on current scholarly arguments. As context, we will discuss the roles of powerful women (Livia, Drusilla, Messalina, and Agrippina) as well as the post-Augustan Julio-Claudians (the other 'bad emperors'). If time permits, we will examine additional short readings from other sources such as Seneca's Apocolocyntosis. Readings will be in the original Latin. We will also examine the portrayal of emperors in popular media, particularly I, Claudius. As needed, we will review questions of grammar and syntax, rhetorical terms, and historical context. Classics majors and minors must take course for letter grade. May be repeated for credit with advance approval from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Terms: Spr | Units: 3-5 | UG Reqs: Language, WAY-A-II | Repeatable for credit
Instructors: Mallon, K. (PI)
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