Humanities West Roman Republic release 10_24_14
Humanities West Roman Republic release 10_24_14

The Roman Republic: 509-27 BCE

Marines’ Memorial Theatre, San Francisco

From its legendary origins as a tiny cluster of villages in the Italian countryside, ancient Rome grew into a vast metropolis and the dominant power of the Mediterranean. Leaders of the Roman Republic established a constitutional framework that embodied principles of separation of powers, checks and balances, and the rights and duties of citizenship (for some), a model that endured for centuries. Ultimately civil strife exacerbated by wide disparities in social and economic well-being and the strains of governing a far-flung empire doomed Cicero’s Republican Rome in the first century BCE. From its modeling of democratic values to its golden age of drama and its Greek- and Etruscan-inspired art, the Roman Republic was a major turning point in western civilization that inspires us to this day.

Presented in collaboration with the Consul General of Italy in San Francisco and the Italian Cultural Institute.

Friday, October 24, 2014, 7:30-9:30 pm

City-State, Republic, Empire: What was the Roman Republic Really Like? / Walter Scheidel (Stanford). The Roman Republic was a bundle of contradictions: the liberty of citizens who were entitled to elect their leaders and enjoyed protections against abuse by state officials sat uneasily alongside the brutal exploitation of provincial subjects and slaves; while popular assemblies chose magistrates, passed laws and voted on war and peace, a handful of aristocratic families maintained a tight grip on politics for centuries; an empire that came to span the entire Mediterranean was governed by a set of institutions designed for a small city-state on the Tiber; massive armies were raised without the help of a bureaucracy or indeed much of a government at all; Roman society was open to foreign religions and philosophies but jealously guarded the privileges of a small elite from the Italian peninsula. How did it all work, and work so well for such a long time – until it no longer did?

Plautus’ Casina in Performance / Stanford Classics in Theatre (SCIT). SCIT takes a theatrical approach to the Roman Republic with an original translation and adaptation of Titus Maccius Plautus’ Casina. First performed in the 2nd century BCE, Casina is Plautus at his lewd and lyrical best–a classic farce of thwarted lust and scheming wives, with a healthy dose of transvestitism thrown in for good measure. Updated for a modern audience, the production is set in San Francisco during the Gilded Age, and offers a new take on Roman comedy’s classic plots, stock characters, and surprisingly racy jokes. Through the performance, SCIT hopes to promote enthusiasm for the drama of the Roman Republic by bringing text back to life with music, costumes, and dance.
Saturday, October 25, 2014, 10:00 am – noon and 1:30-4:00 pm

Art of the Roman Republic / Lisa Pieraccini (UC Berkeley). The art of the Roman Republic characterizes best the growth of Rome from a city to a world capital. Early Roman art was infused with Etruscan and Italic traditions, while increased contact with Greece and Greek art played a significant role in the development of Republican and Imperial art. By looking at a handful of iconic works of Roman art from 500 BCE to the end of the 1st century BCE, it is possible to recognize the borrowed artistic motifs, subjects and styles used to express Roman culture, ideology and identity. The Roman use of art, particularly for political and social gain, took shape in this early period. There is little doubt that Roman art, with its diversity and wide ranging appeal, makes it one of the most conspicuous and numerous bodies of art from the ancient world.

The Religious Republic: How Did Romans Worship Their Gods? / Dan-el Padilla Peralta(Stanford and Columbia). Among the most fundamental of ideas that Romans of the Republic held about the divine was the conviction that events in the real world—viz. the Roman state’s military accomplishments—ought to be interpreted as signs of the gods’ support for the Roman cause, and that this support could be maintained (or lost) by the Roman state’s scrupulousness (or negligence) in attending to divine worship. Mr. Padilla Peralta traces the historical development of the Roman divine pantheon and discusses the modes of ritual observance and mechanisms of divination that Romans employed to honor their gods and to ascertain the gods’ will, especially in times of crisis. He concludes with some thoughts on Republican religion in comparative perspective. Elsewhere on the Eurasian land mass, transcendentalist religious and philosophical movements of various kinds emerged at this time; are the Romans, with their famously pragmatic approach to religious cult, the exception to the trend, or is there more to Roman religion than meets the eye?

Cicero: Eloquence Personified Then and Now / Christopher Krebs (Stanford). It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America. In his first campaign for president, Barack Obama promised change; yet in formulating that promise he relied on rhetorical rules (like the climactic tricolon), which for more than 2,000 years have remained unchanged. Across the ages another politician and orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero, can help us analyze and appreciate Obama’s and other contemporary politicians’ rhetorical accomplishment. We will look at excerpts from speeches by Presidents Obama and Clinton, and by Pericles, Cicero, and Tacitus, with an eye to their enactments of specific rhetorical rules–formulated in ancient times and followed to this day.

Virgil Through the Looking Glass / Susanna Braund (University of British Columbia). Virgil’s poems–his pastoral laments and celebrations (Eclogues), his meditation on humans’ relationship to the land (Georgics), and his foundation epic for the Roman people (Aeneid)–were instantly acclaimed as great poetic achievements when published during the last years of the Roman Republic and the first years of the Principate. And for more than two thousand years, these magical poems have retained their appeal. In our age of ephemerality, this abiding attraction must strike us as amazing. Virgil’s texts have offered a mirror for every reader to find whatever message she or he wishes, for example, royalist or republican, proto-fascist or anti-Nazi, Catholic or Protestant, populist or elitist, belligerent or pacifist, engaged or escapist. And since so many people now encounter Virgil not in Latin but in translations, Professor Braund focuses on the role of Virgil’s translators in refracting the Roman poet. The crucial question becomes, do we ever truly see Virgil through the looking glass? Or do the imperfections of the mirror mean that we are only ever looking at ourselves?

Virgil’s First Eclogue in Performance, featuring acclaimed Bay Area Actors James Carpenterand Julian Lopez-Morillas. Introduced by Susanna BraundVirgil’s First Eclogue is a 100-line dialogue between two herdsmen whose lives have been affected in opposite ways by the civil wars that ravaged Italy at the end of the Republic. Seamus Heaney reimagined Virgil in his pastoral “Glanmore Eclogue,” presented here.

Panel Discussion/Q&A with All Presenters, moderated by George Hammond (Humanities West)


Susanna Braund moved to the University of British Columbia in 2007 to take up a Canada Research Chair in Latin Poetry and its Reception after teaching previously at Stanford University, Yale University, and the Universities of London, Bristol and Exeter in the UK.  She has published extensively on Roman satire and Latin epic poetry among other aspects of Latin literature. She has translated Lucan for the Oxford World’s Classics series and Persius and Juvenal for the Loeb Classical Library. Her current research interests center on the reception of Virgil, Lucan and Seneca’s tragedies in later eras, in various European languages and cultures. Her major project is a book entitled ‘Virgil Translated’ which will explore the different ways in which later cultures reacted to and appropriated Virgil’s poems in the process of translating them. Virgil’s Aeneid, described by T.S. Eliot as “the classic of all Europe,” continues to speak to different readerships even today.

A longtime Bay Area resident, James Carpenter has just finished his 11th season as an Associate Artist at Cal Shakes, having last appeared as Duncan, the Porter, and others in Macbeth (2010). Other Bay Area credits include ACT. San Jose Rep, Aurora Theatre Co., TheatreWorks, Marin Theatre Company, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz. He performed at Berkeley Rep in over 30 productions in his 12 years there as an Associate Artist, is the Honoree of the B. A. T. C. C. 2007 Barbara Bladen Porter Award for consistent excellence in Theater, and was awarded a 2010 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship from the Ten Chimneys Foundation. Out-of-town credits include: The Old Globe Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Intiman Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, Arizona Theatre Company, and The Huntington. Television: Nash Bridges. Film: The Rainmaker and Metro. Independents: Singing, Presque Isle, The Sunflower Boy.

Christopher B Krebs is Associate Professor of Classics at Stanford. He has also held appointments at Harvard, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the École Normale Supérieure (Paris), and the University of Oxford. His research interests are in ancient historiography, Latin lexicography, and the classical tradition. His most recent monograph is A Most Dangerous Book. Tacitus’ Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich, which won the 2012 Christian Gauss Award. He is currently engaged in studies of Caesar and the intellectual life of the first century BCE. He also enjoys writing for wider audiences to communicate his fascination with the ancient world and its long and lasting reach.

Dryden G. Liddle (PhD, History, Open University, UK and MA, Economics, Cambridge University) has had a long career in diplomacy with the UK Foreign Office and banking. His doctorate included research on Charles V’s financial secretary, 1520-1547, covering issues on the finance of the Habsburg wars and the emergence of the fiscal state, largely by taxing the Castilian towns and not through the silver inflow from the Americas as is often thought. With the resulting imperial over-stretch there is a clear parable with today, including the role of complex financial instruments, liquidity and subsequent solvency issues. Dr. Liddle leads the commemoration of August’s bi-millennial with the Humanities Member-Led Forum at the Commonwealth Club on October 13.

Julian Lopez-Morillas is a professional theatre actor, director and teacher who has lived in the SF Bay Area since 1973. He has performed for all the major Bay Area theatres including ACT, Berkeley Rep, Cal Shakes, San Jose Rep, the Magic Theatre, the Aurora, San Jose Stage and many others, as well as the Denver Center, La Jolla Playhouse, Long Wharf, McCarter and Chicago’s Court Theatre. He directed for many years with the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival (now California Shakespeare Theatre), and also for the Marin Theatre Company, Berkeley Jewish Theatre, San Jose Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the American Players’ Theatre in Wisconsin. He has taught acting, directing, theatre history and Shakespeare for the University of California/Berkeley, San Jose State, Mills, Foothill and Solano Colleges. In 2008, Julian fulfilled one of his life goals by performing the role of Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, thus becoming one of the few individuals to have performed professionally in all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays. He is recognized throughout Northern California as a leading authority on Shakespeare plays and their performance. Julian has also been a two-day winner on JEOPARDY!

Dan-el Padilla Peralta (ABD, Stanford and 2014-15 Fellow, Columbia University) received a BA in Classics from Princeton and an MPhil in Classics (Greek and Roman History) from Oxford. Now a doctoral candidate in Classics at Stanford, he is completing his dissertation under the auspices of the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow program. The dissertation,Gods of institutional transformation: a religious history of the middle Roman Republic, culls evidence from Republican poetry and prose, coinage, inscriptions, and archaeology to argue that (evolving) religious practices in Republican Rome and Roman Italy drove far-reaching social and institutional changes from the 4th to 2nd centuries BCE. Dan-el has contributed to Stanford’s ORBIS project (launched 2012) and maintains strong research interests in ancient travel and mobility. His memoir An American Odyssey(forthcoming Penguin, 2015) narrates his discovery of the Classics as an undocumented immigrant.

Lisa C. Pieraccini (PhD, UC Santa Barbara) has taught at Stanford and now teaches at UC Berkeley in History of Art. She is a classical archaeologist who has spent many years teaching and conducting research in Italy. Her research interests include Etruscan and Roman material culture; Pompeii’s early development and cultural relations with neighboring peoples; the rediscovery of Pompeii in the 18th century, as well as Etruscan and Roman wall painting. Active at the Etruscan site of Cerveteri north of Rome, her publications include Etruscan burial customs, ceramic workshops and international trade. Her book, Around the Hearth: Caeretan Cylinder-Stamped Braziers (2003) is the first comprehensive study of a unique class of over 350 Etruscan braziers. Her analysis examines different aspects of origin, production, iconography, style, chronology and distribution.

Walter Scheidel is Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, and Catherine R. Kennedy and Daniel L. Grossman Fellow in Human Biology at Stanford, where is he currently Chair of the Classics Department. He has held appointments in Vienna, Cambridge, Paris, Innsbruck, Chicago, New York and Abu Dhabi. He is the author of three monographs and editor or co-editor of twelve other books, and has published close to 200 papers. His research focuses on ancient social and economic history, historical demography, state formation, and comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the past. He also created the interactive website Orbis, a geospatial network model of the Roman world.

Stanford Classics in Theatre (SCIT) was founded by the graduate students of the department of Classics at Stanford. During the past six years, the general purpose of SCIT has been to bring together students from various academic backgrounds, both graduate and undergraduate, in order to promote an engagement with classical theater through original translation, rehearsal and production. This production of Plautus’ Casina was translated and produced in full by the students of Stanford. (