Thursday, May 14, 2009

Paul Roche on Pliny the Younger and Roman Monuments

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Paul Roche speak on Pliny the Younger's Panegyricus and its relation to the monuments of Rome. Paul highlighted the historical context of the speech, in the reign of Trajan, overshadowed by the building projects of Domitian, whose subsequent damnatio memoriae left Roman public space with a conundrum. One simply couldn't embark on similar building projects, nor could one get away with destroying Domitian's. The solution, as Pliny's speech evidences, is to co-opt Domitian monuments and re-signify them. In the case of Roche's paper, he focused on the Domus Flavia, and the Circus Maximus, in both cases the way Pliny speaks to Trajan's resignification of them through changes. The note of change that Pliny strikes is greater openness, public-access so to speak.

Of course, Pliny's work is a two-fold testimony. On the one hand it gives some insight into Trajanic imperial propaganda, but coming very early in Trajan's reign, it also gives us an insight into Senatorial aspirations for Trajan. Pliny's speech, while in the mode of flattery, definitely contains advice on what the Senate is hoping from him.

All in all some fine work.

No comments: