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Title: Music, spectacle, and society in ancient Rome, 168 BC - AD 68
Author: Morgan, Harry
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 0975
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the cultural history of music in ancient Rome from the mid-second century BC to the death of the Emperor Nero in AD 68. The discussion centres on the role of music in public and private spectacle. Rather than examining the topic in isolation, the thesis seeks to pinpoint the intersections between musical performance and cultural debates about morality, luxury, education, and philhellenism, as a way of situating music within a broader historical context. The thesis is structured chronologically. Chapter I examines Polybius' narration of the theatrical games staged by the triumphator L. Anicius Gallus in 167 BC. Anicius' subversive treatment of Greek musical models is interpreted as a deliberately comical gesture, playing to the theme of military conquest. The second half of the chapter analyses the episode in the light of Greek and Roman debates about musical entertainment in this period. Chapter II focuses on the late Republic. I argue that late Republican writers used music as a way of framing the political conflict between optimates and populares, associating 'good' music with the aristocratic mos maiorum and 'bad' music with a disruptive kind of popular entertainment. Chapter III, on the Augustan period, discusses the assimilation of the princeps and Apollo Citharoedus. The Augustan monuments to the lyre-playing god are examined in relation to the Palatine programme, the 'propaganda' campaign against Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the ideology of the 'Golden Age'. The fourth and final chapter is devoted to Nero, the notorious musician-emperor. Challenging the perception of Nero as a narcissistic tyrant, I suggest that the charismatic princeps used his performances on the stage as a political platform, uniting audiences through a shared love of music.
Supervisor: Purcell, Nicholas Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History, Ancient