UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The politics of anger in Roman society : a study of orators and emperors, 70 BCE-68 CE Knight, Jayne Elizabeth


This dissertation examines the sociopolitical dynamics of anger in Roman public life during the late Republic and early Principate, specifically within the professional contexts of the orator and the emperor. I am interested in Roman thought on the pragmatic functions of anger during this time period. Evidence for how anger was employed by orators and emperors is drawn from a broad range of Roman prose sources. My analysis is both philological and historical in nature. I examine how the Latin lexicon of anger is deployed by authors and consider how diction functions in the representation of political anger. My analysis acquires a chronological shape as I trace the ways in which Roman discourse about the roles of anger in public life changes during the transition from Republic to Principate. Chapter 1 provides methodological background and contextualizes this project within the subfield of ancient emotion studies. Concepts taken from emotions history are defined and adapted for usage in Roman contexts. Chapter 2 discusses the Latin lexicon of anger and its relationship with ancient philosophical understandings of anger. Chapter 3 is the first of two chapters on anger in Ciceronian oratory. It features discussions of In Verrem 1, In Catilinam 1-2, Pro Murena, and Pro Milone. These case studies reveal how Cicero approached anger as an advocate and a consul. Chapter 4 examines Cicero’s treatment of anger late in his career in the Caesarianae and the Philippics. Chapter 5 presents sources on the anger of Augustus and explores how the first emperor developed an imperial emotional persona. I demonstrate that a balance between expressions of anger and displays of mercy was important to this persona. Chapter 6 considers how the remaining Julio-Claudian emperors employed anger in their regimes, with an eye toward their adaptation and/or perversion of the standard set by Augustus. This dissertation expands our understanding of Roman thought on anger, which has traditionally been accessed through the lens of philosophical writings on emotion. It demonstrates that anger is represented in many sources as an essential tool of both public speaking and imperial leadership at Rome.

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