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Julian and Themistius: Panegyric, Communication, and Power in the Fourth Century Roman Empire

  • Author(s): Marcos, Moyses
  • Advisor(s): Salzman, Michele
  • et al.
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Abstract

This project focuses primarily on the Greek imperial panegyrics of the Roman Emperor Julian (r. 355-363 CE) and the philosopher-statesman Themistius (c. 317-389) to the Emperor Constantius II (r. 324-361), Julian and Themistius’ correspondence, and the panegyrics of the rhetoricians Claudius Mamertinus, Himerius, and Libanius to Julian as emperor, in Latin and Greek, which cover the period from about 350 to 363. As is apparent from their extant writings, both Julian and Themistius, like many of their predecessors, contemporaries, and successors as orators and panegyrists, saw the ruling of the Roman Empire, indeed the very existence of the Empire, as something meant to benefit its subjects; this view led both men to conceive of their imperial speeches of praise in practical and political terms. My thesis centers on how Julian and Themistius used panegyric to assert the image of the emperor against classical models and contemporary forces while promoting themselves as panegyrists and political actors. I demonstrate, for example, the varying degrees of independence that panegyrists exercised in the delivery of their speeches. Such analysis sheds light on the much debated issue of imperial communications, and offers an avenue into the successful administration of emperors who, I argue, demonstrated their “responsiveness” to their subjects through panegyrics. Moreover, I show how the genre of panegyric was inherently flexible and was employed variously to shape, to finesse, to promote, to reinforce, and to punish, and sometimes all at the same time.

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This item is under embargo until September 16, 2022.