Welcome back everyone! The GIS Consuls for Michaelmas are Rob Sing and Valeria Pace – at your service. This term sees the Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar move to a new room (G.21) and gain a very welcome supply of tea, coffee, biscuits and the occasional cake. As always, the graduate students of the faculty have not disappointed, offering up an impressive range of papers ranging across time, space and specialty.
We started 2015/16 with Talitha Kearey, “Faunus, Poetic Memory and Pastoral Politics in Calpurnius’ Siculus’ First Eclogue”. Walking through a bucolic paradise, you’re not expecting to bump into a long prophetic inscription freshly cut into a tree by the god of the woodlands. That is, unless, you have wandered into the world of Calpurnius Siculus’ First Eclogue. Talitha Kearey, a second-year literature PhD, was herself an agent of revelation by demonstrating the way in which Siculus’ use of the prophecy of an imminent ‘golden age’ shows him engaging with literary predecessors like Virgil and Ovid through the ‘speaker’ of the prophecy, Faunus. Talitha also argued that Siculus’ use of Faunus as an authoritative speaker about the destiny of Rome shows him reconciling the Vergilian tension between cultivated humanity and wild nature by the subordination of the latter.
Keeping things Roman, Graham Andrews brought politics center-stage with “Cassius Dio: Senate Incarnate”. Thanks to Graham, another second-year PhD, we now know that happily quoting Dio on political matters is problematic. Dio’s account is fundamental for our knowledge of later Roman history, but like every source Dio’s self-presentation and his presentation of government reflects his deep attachment to traditional senatorial values and the notion that the senate should be accorded respect and honour by emperors as a source of virtue and wisdom. We are rarely able to set what Dio says against another source, but this is no excuse for uncritical acceptance of his view.