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Tacitus: Nero and Agrippina (Annals 12-14)

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About this Course

About the Course

In this course Dr Ed Bispham (University of Oxford) explores Books 12-14 of Tacitus’ Annals, focusing in particular on the figures of Nero and Agrippina the Younger. In the first lecture we think about the hexadic structure of Tacitus’ Annals as a whole and the significance of Agrippina as one of the few figures who features heavily in more than one hexad. In the second lecture, we think about Agrippina not simply as the wife or mother of the emperors, but as an exerciser of power in her own right, before turning in the third lecture to the ways in which Agrippina exploits the status and prestige of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to consolidate her own position. In the fourth lecture, we think about Agrippina’s alleged incestuous relationship with Nero, and what its portrayal in the Annals can tell us about how Tacitus works as historian, before turning in the fifth lecture to think about Nero’s relationship with the Senate – especially in the early part of his reign. Finally, in the sixth lecture, we think about the use of freedmen and -women in the reigns of Claudius and Nero, including the figures of Acte, Pallas, Polyclitus and Anicetus.

About the Lecturer

Ed is interested in all areas of antiquity, the classical world and its interlocutors. At Oxford, he teaches most ancient history papers. For the past decade and a bit more he has been thinking about how historians should and can use archaeological data, and vice versa. He has been very lucky to be able to go to the mountains in central Italy and think about this while other people shovel large amounts of soil around. Currently he is chairman of the Sub-Faculty of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology: his present project involves trying to find out what this means in practice.

His research interests fall broadly into three categories at the moment: the history, archaeology and epigraphy of Italy, especially the impact of the Roman conquest; the political and cultural history of the Roman Republic; early Roman historiography. He is Co-Director of the Sangro Valley Project (Phase II), with Prof. Susan Kane, of Oberlin College, Ohio.