History and Silence

[ Classics and Ancient World ]

History and Silence

Purge and Rehabilitation of Memory in Late Antiquity

By Charles W. Hedrick Jr.

How the ruling elite of ancient Rome sought -- and often failed -- to eradicate the memory of their deceased opponents.



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6 x 9 | 366 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-71873-9

"It is so rare and refreshing to read a Roman history book which recognizes and celebrates the sheer difficulty of writing history, and the vulnerability of each solution."

—Times Literary Supplement

"This is one of the most interesting and original books about the Later Roman Empire that I have ever read."

—T. D. Barnes, Professor of Classics, University of Toronto

The ruling elite in ancient Rome sought to eradicate even the memory of their deceased opponents through a process now known as damnatio memoriae. These formal and traditional practices included removing the person's name and image from public monuments and inscriptions, making it illegal to speak of him, and forbidding funeral observances and mourning. Paradoxically, however, while these practices dishonored the person's memory, they did not destroy it. Indeed, a later turn of events could restore the offender not only to public favor but also to re-inclusion in the public record.

This book examines the process of purge and rehabilitation of memory in the person of Virius Nicomachus Flavianus(?-394). Charles Hedrick describes how Flavian was condemned for participating in the rebellion against the Christian emperor Theodosius the Great—and then restored to the public record a generation later as members of the newly Christianized senatorial class sought to reconcile their pagan past and Christian present. By selectively remembering and forgetting the actions of Flavian, Hedrick asserts, the Roman elite honored their ancestors while participating in profound social, cultural, and religious change.

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1. A Palimpsest
Chapter 2. Cursus and Career
Chapter 3. Unspeakable Paganism?
Chapter 4. Remembering to Forget: the Damnatio Memoriae
Chapter 5. Silence, Truth, and Death: the Commemorative Function of History
Chapter 6. Rehabilitating the Text: Proofreading and the Past
Chapter 7. Silence and Authority: Politics and Rehabilitation
Appendix. Concerning the Text Of Cil 6.1783
List of Abbreviations
Secondary Works Cited
General Index
Index of Passages Cited

Charles W. Hedrick Jr. is Professor of Ancient History in Cowell College of the University of California at Santa Cruz.