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The Golden Age and Roman Imperial Autocracy: The Power of Myth-Making in Creating Political Consensus

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posted on 2018-04-09, 00:00 authored by Elisabetta Drudi

This work examines the political relevance that the myth of the Golden Age came to entail during the rise and the consolidation of imperial autocracy at Rome in the first three centuries AD. The ideological association of the Golden Age with autocratic power did not emerge as a monolithic cultural program as soon as the first emperor Augustus established the Principate; it was the product of a progressive appropriation of the traditional constituents of the myth – peace, prosperity, justice, equity, social equality, harmony of men and nature, guaranteed by the rule of the god Saturn – in literary and material culture, which over time created a symbolism that immediately identified the imperial regime. The accession of each new emperor was accompanied by expectations of fulfillment of the Golden Age ideal, whose return depended upon the good political and moral comportment of the ruler. The mythical narrative was accordingly gradually historicized, as the figure of the emperor replaced Saturn as the guarantor of the aurea aetas across the empire. The chronological trajectory of the myth which this project examines reveals how the rhetoric of the Golden Age came to be a cultural discourse in Roman society, which eventually substantiated imperial ideology.

History

Date Created

2018-04-09

Date Modified

2019-05-09

Defense Date

2018-04-03

Research Director(s)

Keith Bradley

Degree

  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Language

  • English
  • Latin

Program Name

  • Literature

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