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Dire Fury

Shadi Bartsch: Roman Political Theatre, 26 February 2009

‘Octavia’, Attributed to Seneca 
edited by A.J. Boyle.
Oxford, 340 pp., £70, April 2008, 978 0 19 928784 0
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... About a year after the Persians captured, sacked and burned the city of Miletus in 494 BCE, the Athenian playwright Phrynicus produced The Capture of Miletus, a tragedy about the colony’s harrowing fate. It was still early in the history of Athenian drama, and it may have been the audience’s reaction to Phrynicus’ play that led later tragedians to prefer mythological topics to contemporary ones ...

Fratricide, Matricide and the Philosopher

Shadi Bartsch: Seneca, 18 June 2015

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero 
by James Romm.
Knopf, 290 pp., £18.45, March 2014, 978 0 307 59687 1
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Seneca: A Life 
by Emily Wilson.
Allen Lane, 253 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 84614 637 4
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... How much weight​ should we give to unpleasant revelations about the private lives of thinkers? It partly depends on what kind of thinker we’re talking about. When it was discovered a few years after his death in 1983 that Paul de Man had written for Nazi-controlled newspapers in Belgium, a debate began on whether this had any bearing on the deconstruction he propounded ...

Dying to Make a Point

Shadi Bartsch: Death and the Ancients, 15 November 2007

Death in Ancient Rome 
by Catharine Edwards.
Yale, 287 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 0 300 11208 5
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The Death of Socrates: Hero, Villain, Chatterbox, Saint 
by Emily Wilson.
Profile, 247 pp., £15.99, August 2007, 978 1 86197 762 5
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... Socrates in his cell, drinking hemlock. Cato at Utica, disembowelling himself not once but twice. And Seneca, with cuts in his arms and legs, waiting for the blood to trickle out of his shrivelled old veins. There is a reason these deaths have resonated with writers and thinkers throughout history: why, for example, Joseph Addison would write a drama in praise of Cato; why this drama would be admired by George Washington and imitated by Eustace Budgell; and why the latter’s 1737 suicide note would read: ‘What Cato did, and Addison approv’d,/Cannot be wrong ...

All Kinds of Unlucky

Rebecca Armstrong: A Polyphonic ‘Aeneid’, 4 March 2021

The Aeneid 
translated by Shadi Bartsch.
Profile, 400 pp., £16.99, November 2020, 978 1 78816 267 8
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... with ‘infertility’ also haunts Dido, a woman who never has children, and who declares (in Shadi Bartsch’s translation):                       If at least I’d madea child with you, if a small Aeneas playedinside my home, who looked like you despite it all,I wouldn’t feel so lonely and betrayed.The triple meaning captures both the ...

It was satire

Mary Beard: Caligula, 26 April 2012

Caligula: A Biography 
by Aloys Winterling, translated by Deborah Lucas Scheider, Glenn Most and Paul Psoinos.
California, 229 pp., £24.95, October 2011, 978 0 520 24895 3
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... way as to dissemble his possession of it.’ As others too have recently emphasised (in particular Shadi Bartsch in Actors in the Audience), the politics of the empire were founded on double-speak: no one said exactly what they meant, or meant exactly what they said. It is no surprise that, on his deathbed, Augustus is supposed to have quoted a line, in ...

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