Catiline -- redivivus
It is the beginning of the Cambridge term (officially starting today) -- but there is a funny lull between the students returning, doing their first piece of work, and things really getting going for ME. I'm having the Newnham first and second years around on Sunday night (and we are going to have a drink or two and watch a Roman tv programme -- not mine -- and talk about the point etc). I am looking forward on Thursday to re-meeting one of my excellent Berkeley graduates (from back when I was doing the Sathers), who is passing through Cambridge. And on Friday Lin Foxhall is coming from Leicester to give the Jane Harrison lecture at college (on the public face of archaeology). Plus dinner (no free port!).
Meanwhile I am getting the first chapter of the new book in my head.
I am starting with Catiline in 63 BC (before going back to Romulus). That's partly because we know such a lot about his so-called "conspiracy", from contemporary accounts and later (it doesnt make it simple to unpick, but there is a richness there which I think will grip people to the cutting edge of Roman history).
But I am also interested in the long literary history of Catline's up-rising, and the different ways it has been appropriated in modern political history. That goes from Ibsen's radical democratic freedom-fighter to Ben Jonson's ambivalent Guy Fawkes look-alike -- or Dante's villain.
It's striking that the phrase -- "Quousque tandem.." -- that Cicero used at the very beginning of his first attack on Catiline (as it is "published" in the First Catilinarian) has had such a long life. It gets quoted and requoted in the ancient world (Sallust in his essay on the conspiracy neatly puts it into the mouth of Catiline himself, and Livy conscripts it to add colour to an early Republican conspiracy). But it survives as a political (and cutural) slogan right up to the present day. If anyone knows anything more recent than Hungarian protests a few years ago, I'd love to know.
So it seems a good incident and text to dwell on, when launching thoughts about the continuing resonance of Roman history. Hope it works.
Sorry by the way: Typepad has been a bit iffy these last few days; hope you have got on the blog.