The Roman Republic rested on a paradox, in which men of the elite were expected to distinguish themselves and win glory, but not overstep certain bounds of self-sacrifice to the common good. Rome was a “contest culture,” in which the tension between the ideal of service to the Republic conflicted with ambitious individuals who subverted that ideal by vying for control of the state. I examine Julius Caesar’s own account of his march on Rome in 49 BC; the history written by Sallust of the Catilinarian conspiracy, a plot hatched by a disillusioned and disenfranchised failed politician in 63 BC; and the story of Coriolanus, an Roman general of the 5th-century BC who marched on Rome because of a perceived personal insult. Each of these three accounts features a Roman aristocrat reacting to a public conflict and perversely making that public, political issue into a private conflict.


Margaret Clark

Christopher Star
Sponsor &  Assistant Professor of Classics

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