Ancient Rome and early Modern England

May 30, 2011

The second of two conferences on ‘Ancient Rome and Early Modern England’ was held at Jesus College on 21-22 May. The first conference, held at the Huntington Library, concentrated on politics and political thought: the focus here was on literature. Roman plays of course received a lot of attention: Paulina Kewes explored ‘Constitutional Instability in Titus Andronicus’, Richard Hillman made the case for neglected French influences on Shakespeare’s Rome, Warren Chernaik discussed representations of Caesar, and the topic of Blair Worden’s plenary lecture was ‘Clarendon, Ben Jonson, and the Conspiracy of Catiline’. Richard Rowland analyzed representations of domestic violence from Sophocles through to the early modern period. The reception of Roman poetry was surveyed across a wide range of writers through the period, with papers by Daniel Andersson on the reception of Juvenal, Edward Paleit on the reworking of Lucan in Jacobean drama, Gesine Manuwald on Thomas Campion’s debt to classical poetry, Sheldon Brammall on topical aspects of John Vicars’s Virgil translation, and David Norbrook’s plenary lecture surveyed different political receptions of Lucretius’ De rerum natura. Poets’ views of Rome were not always idealizing: Adam Swann found the ‘curse of Roman influence’ in Milton’s History of Britain. Papers on the translation and reception of prose writers ranged from Katie East on Cicero and Serena Connolly on the Distichs of Cato to Fred Schurink on military contexts of  classical translations. Freya Cox Jensen gave an overview of translations of Roman historians, showing how far the forthcoming Universal Short-Title Catalogue will change our understanding of authors’ relative popularity. Richard Serjeantson discussed political aspects of Francis Bacon’s writings and Tracey Sowerby explored ‘The Roman Influence on English Diplomatic Thought’. Tom Roebuck, discussing the reception of Athenaeus, and Nick Hardy, speaking on ‘Rome and Greek Identities in Early Modern British Erudition’, reminded us that Rome was less rigidly demarcated from other parts of the ancient world than later academic divisions have implied.

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