Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Greek criticism and Latin literature. Classicism and cultural interaction in the late republican and early imperial Rome

This project examines the intriguing relationship between Greek literary criticism and Latin literature in Rome (first centuries BC and AD).

Duration
2014  -   2019
Contact
Casper de Jonge
Funding
NWO VIDI NWO VIDI

Greek Scholars were prominent in ancient Rome. They were in close contact with Roman authors like Cicero, Horace and Virgil. This project studies the intercultural dialogue between Greeks and Romans, that was defining for the literature in Rome.

This research project focuses on the connections between the Greek treatises of Dionysius of Halicarnassus on the one hand and Roman works of rhetoric (Cicero, Quintilian) and Latin poetry (Virgil, Horace) on the other. In his critical works, Dionysius studies the classical literature of the Greek past. His activities, however, are firmly based in the literary and rhetorical culture of the Roman present. Dionysius knows Latin, teaches Roman students and participates in a network of Greek and Roman intellectuals. The works of Dionysius and his Greek colleagues (Caecilius, Longinus) have traditionally been studied as part of the Greek tradition of literary criticism, whereas the interaction between Greek critics and contemporary authors of Latin texts has received little attention.

This project will argue that Greek scholars and Roman writers participate in a continuous dialogue, contributing to a discourse of poetics, rhetoric and literary criticism. Common interests between Dionysius and Roman authors include classicism, stylistic composition, and creative imitation. Classical Greek literature plays a central role in the cultural interaction between Greeks and Romans. Greeks under Roman rule locate their identity in the classical past of Greece. Romans are interested in the same Greek tradition, which inspires them to compose new literary works in competition with the Greeks: Sappho and Pindar are important models for both Dionysius and Horace, as Demosthenes is for Dionysius and Cicero. The literary past forms a powerful means of negotiating identity for Greeks as well as Romans, since it helps both groups to define their role in the present.

By drawing attention to the unexplored dialogue between Greek criticism and Latin literature, this research project aims to present a new vision of rhetorical and literary culture in Late Republican and Early Imperial Rome.

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