Private and Public Lies

The Discourse of Despotism and Deceit in the Graeco-Roman World


Graeco-Roman literary works, historiography, and even the reporting of rumours were couched as if they came in response to an insatiable desire by ordinary citizens to know everything about the lives of their leaders, and to hold them to account, at some level, for their abuse of constitutional powers for personal ends. Ancient writers were equally fascinated with how these same individuals used deceit as a powerful tool to disguise private and public reality. The chapters in this collection examine the themes of despotism and deceit from both historical and literary perspectives, over a range of historical periods including classical Athens, the Hellenistic kingdoms, late republican and early imperial Rome, late antiquity, and Byzantium.
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Biographical Note

Andrew J. Turner, Ph.D. (2000) in Classics, University of Melbourne, was an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow from 2005-2008. He is co-author of Eadmer of Canterbury (Oxford, 2006), and co-editor of a digital edition of a manuscript of Terence (Oxford, 2010).

James H. Kim On Chong-Gossard, Ph.D. (1999) in Classical Philology, University of Michigan, is a Senior Lecturer in classics at The University of Melbourne. He is author of Gender and Communication in Euripides’ Plays: Between Song and Silence (Brill, 2008).

Frederik Juliaan Vervaet, Ph.D. (2002) in History, Ghent University, is a Lecturer in ancient history at The University of Melbourne. He has published extensively on Roman republican history in such journals as Klio, Latomus, and Athenaeum.

Contributors: Bruno Bleckmann, Brian Bosworth, Amelia R. Brown, Cristina G. Calhoon, James H. Kim On Chong-Gossard, Christopher J. Dart, Jonathan M. Hall, Frédéric Hurlet, Martijn Icks, Parshia Lee-Stecum, Peter Londey, John Penwill, Francisco Pina Polo, Jonathan Prag, John W. Rich, Ron Ridley, Enrica Sciarrino, Andrew J. Turner, and Frederik Juliaan Vervaet.

Table of contents

List of Contributors

I. The Graeco-Hellenistic World

1. Jonathan Hall, Autochthonous Autocrats: The tyranny of the Athenian democracy
2. Peter Londey, Phokian Desperation: Private and public in the outbreak of the 3rd Sacred War
3. Brian Bosworth, Truth and falsehood in early Hellenistic propaganda
4. Jonathan Prag, Tyrannizing Sicily: The despots who cried ‘Carthage’

II. Republican Rome

5. Francisco Pina Polo, Frigidus rumor: The creation of a (negative) public image in Rome
6. Christopher Dart, Deceit and the struggle for Roman franchise in Italy
7. Frédéric Hurlet, Pouvoirs extraordinaires et tromperie. La tentation de la monarchie à la fin de la République romaine (82-44 av. J.-C.)

III. Augustan dissimulation

8. Frederik Vervaet, Arrogating despotic power through deceit: the Pompeian model for Augustan dissimulatio
9. John Rich, Deception, lies, and economy with the truth: Augustus and the establishment of the principate

IV. Early imperial literature

10. Andrew Turner, Lucan’s Cleopatra
11. John Penwill, Damn with great praise? The imperial encomia of Lucan and Silius
12. Enrica Sciarrino, What ‘lies’ behind Phaedrus’ fables?
13. Parshia Lee-Stecum, Mendacia maiorum: tales of deceit in pre-Republican Rome
14. Cristina Calhoon, Is there an antidote to Caesar? The despot as uenenum and ueneficus
15. K.O. Chong-Gossard, Who slept with whom in the Roman empire? Women, sex, and scandal in Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars

V. The later empire

16. Martijn Icks, From priest to emperor to priest-emperor: The failed legitimation of Elagabalus
17. Bruno Bleckmann, Constantinus tyrannus: Das negative Konstantinsbild in der paganen Historiographie und seine Nuancen
18. Amelia Brown, Justinian, Procopius, and deception: Literary lies, imperial politics, and the archaeology of sixth-century Greece

VI. The broader context

19. Ron Ridley, Despotism and Deceit: Yes, but what happened before and after?



Specialists, students, and academic libraries interested in Graeco-Roman history, in particular the late Roman republican and Augustan periods; Roman epic; Roman biography; late antiquity; Athenian democracy; Hellenistic monarchies


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