Dead Eyes and Blank Faces

John Henderson

  • Dissidence and Literature under Nero: The Price of Rhetoricisation by Vasily Rudich
    Routledge, 408 pp, £50.00, March 1997, ISBN 0 415 09501 8

‘Power’ is the buzz word for the late Nineties, and when it comes to power-mania imperial Rome has always been hard to beat. On the one hand, there is the rogues’ gallery: doddery Claudius dribbling still down Derek Jacobi’s chin; blubbery Nero fiddling while the slums burn; and those women – impossibly sinister Livia, unimaginably (but let’s try) sexcrazed Messalina. On the other, reams of text from the Roman Empire, in Latin or Greek, written over three or four centuries by pagan members of the senatorial élite, by their Christian successors, and by representatives of all sorts of other points of view.

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