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A History of European LiteratureThe West and the World from Antiquity to the Present$
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Walter Cohen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732679

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732679.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 April 2021

Empire and Its Discontents in Classical Latin

Empire and Its Discontents in Classical Latin

(p.43) 3 Empire and Its Discontents in Classical Latin
A History of European Literature

Walter Cohen

Oxford University Press

The history of classical Latin literature is closely connected to the fortunes of Roman imperialism, its crucial slave economy, and increasing inequality, under both the Republic and the Empire. The writers’ natives lands—rarely Rome itself—often anticipate larger political trends from the third century BCE to the fifth century CE. Their texts, deeply indebted not only to Greek literature but also to the cultural heritage of the Near East and beyond, reveal the ongoing presence of an imperial counter-narrative, a distancing from celebrations of Rome. This multilayered tradition is an important legacy to European literature. Classical Latin may also be considered in relation to other ancient literatures, especially imperial literatures, and above all Chinese literature of the Han Dynasty. This comparison suggests that literature thrives, as in the Augustan Age (Horace, Virgil), when it is neither too close to nor too far from power.

Keywords:   classical Latin literature, imperialism, slave economy, Greek literature, Augustan Age, Chinese literature

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