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Evil LordsTheories and Representations of Tyranny from Antiquity to the Renaissance$
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Nikos Panou and Hester Schadee

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199394852

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199394852.001.0001

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Imperial Madness in Ancient Rome

Imperial Madness in Ancient Rome

(p.61) 4 Imperial Madness in Ancient Rome
Evil Lords

Aloys Winterling

Oxford University Press

The inherited stigma of Roman kingship and the legacy of noble faction form the backdrop to this chapter, which reinterprets the archetypical ‘tyrannical emperors’ Caligula, Nero, and Domitian. The chapter demonstrates that the psychological approach of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholarship was misguided, and instead analyzes the emperors in the context of, on the one hand, the paradoxical sociopolitical conditions of early imperial Rome and, on the other, Rome’s traditional aristocratic ideals. In this chapter’s treatment, supposed insanity becomes a strategy for unmasking (Caligula), superseding (Nero), or breaking down (Domitian) the contradictions inherent in the imperial res publica. Provocatively, the reconstruction provided here suggests that it is the traditional ‘good emperors’ who are in need of explication.

Keywords:   Rome, Roman Empire, Caligula, Nero, Domitian, madness, Tacitus, Suetonius

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