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Ancient Rome

01/28/2013 - 3:30am
Cleopatra: A Biography by Duane W. Roller

The University of Mary Washington's 2013 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, January 29, with a lecture on Cleopatra by Duane W. Roller author of Cleopatra: A Biography:

Few personalities from classical antiquity are more famous-yet more poorly understood-than Cleopatra VII, queen of Egypt. In the centuries since her death in 30 BC, she has been endlessly portrayed in the arts and popular culture, from Shakespearean tragedy to paintings, opera, and movies. Despite the queen's enduring celebrity, however, many have dismissed her as a mere seductress. In this major new biography, Duane Roller reveals that Cleopatra was in fact a learned and visionary leader whose overarching goal was always the preservation of her dynasty and kingdom. Roller's authoritative account is the first to be based solely on primary materials from the Greco-Roman period: literary sources, Egyptian documents (Cleopatra's own writings), and representations in art and coinage produced while she was alive. His compelling portrait of the queen illuminates her prowess as a royal administrator who managed a large and diverse kingdom extending from Asia Minor to the interior of Egypt, as a naval commander who led her own fleet in battle, and as a scholar and supporter of the arts. Even her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius-the source of her reputation as a supreme seductress who drove men to their doom-were carefully crafted state policies: she chose these partners to insure the procreation of successors who would be worthy of her distinguished dynasty.

Find out more about this lecture on Mary Washington's web site.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are held at 7:30pm, in Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall, and are free and open to the public.

01/23/2013 - 7:57pm
Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman

The University of Mary Washington's 2013 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series begins Thursday, January 24, 7:30pm, with a lecture on Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman, author of Julius Caesar:

More than two thousand years after his death, Julius Caesar remains one of the great figures of history. He shaped Rome for generations, and his name became a synonym for "emperor" -- not only in Rome but as far away as Germany and Russia. He is best known as the general who defeated the Gauls and doubled the size of Rome's territories. But, as Philip Freeman describes in this fascinating new biography, Caesar was also a brilliant orator, an accomplished writer, a skilled politician, and much more. Julius Caesar was a complex man, both hero and villain. 

Find out more about this lecture on Mary Washington's web site.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are held in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall, and are free and open to the public.

07/21/2010 - 2:43pm

Lavinia of the blushing smiles and flaming hair merited only a few lines in the last books of Virgil’s Aeneid. That Lavinia was simply another lovely and dutiful princess to be married to the hero in accordance with the gods’ wishes. But Lavinia’s character is imagined and fully fleshed out by Hugo-winning writer Ursula K. Le Guin, transformed into a woman of strength and nobility in Lavinia.

The original heroic poem, written in the tradition of Homer’s famous works, traced the journey of Aeneas, a surviving prince from the fall of Troy, to his ultimate destiny as Rome’s progenitor as husband to Lavinia, princess of Latium. Son of Venus and therefore a target of her rival Juno’s spite, the gods themselves conspired in the affairs of these hapless mortals. It was by Venus’ intervention that the African queen Dido loved Aeneas and spared his life. Likewise, it was a messenger from Jupiter that convinced him to leave her for his greater destiny as a founder of Rome. The gods directed every important decision made by mortals. 
 
The battle death of Aeneas’ first wife and abandoned Dido’s suicide are just the sort of collateral damage that happens when the gods insert themselves directly into heroes’ lives—nothing to be taken personally because, after all, the gods’ purpose is to found the Roman Empire, and Aeneas is their agent. What’s a dead wife or royal lover when the divine legitimacy of the Empire is in the balance?
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