CLASSICS 2K03 Lecture Notes - Lecture 23: Epic Cycle, Latin Literature, Roman Art

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2 Feb 2016
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Lecture 23: Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit (Greek influence on the Roman world)
“Conquered Greece conquered its savage captor” (Horace)
Rome actually conquers Greece
But then, Greece “captures” Rome, that is, Greece captures the imaginations of Romans
(Greece has a lot of influence on Roman culture)
Greece’s influence on Rome
Roman authors were influenced by Greek authors
Greek art was popular in Rome
Greek philosophy was popular with the upper class
Greek became a 2nd language for the upper class
Greek influence on Latin literature
Greek works influenced genres, style and subject matter
Virgil’s Aeneid
Written under the direction of Augustus and designed to praise the greatness of Rome
Tapping into the Greek tradition of epic poetry, connecting Virgil to Homer
Connects Roman history to Greek mythology, inserting a Roman connection the the
great Trojan War between the Greeks and the Trojans
Connects the Aeneid to the Trojan Cycle (which was a very popular subject matter for
Greek epic poets)
Clearly, Virgil felt that his audience would respond well to these connections to Greek
mythology and Greek literary tradition
Virgil depicts the Greeks as highly deceitful (the treachery of the Trojan horse is
especially highlighted)
The Greek regularly act impiously, continuously killing people on altars or in temples
(Cassandra and Priam)
Strong contrast with Aeneas, who is representative of Trojan pietas (and by extension,
Roman pietas)
Aeneas, who is a Roman hero, who focuses on his duty, not a Greek hero who wants
glory for himself
Greek influence on Roman art
Looted Greek art was so popular that wealthy Romans sent friends or agents to Greece in order
to loot more of it
Copies were often made when looted originals were unavailable
Many Roman authors suggest that the Romans had little to no interest in art before statues
were brought back from Greece
Greek influence on philosophy
Stoicism: developed in Greece and was later very popular among upper-class Romans
Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher, wrote The Meditations, which was a series of notes and
quotations encouraging himself to focus on his duty and the exclusion of all else (not meant for
publication)
Greek literacy
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