Classical Association conference report by Philip Howard

From The Times

All roads still lead to Rome, and from Rome. A paper given to the Classical Association conference in Liverpool by Professor Alessandro Barchiesi of Verona and Siena Universities discusses how Romans invented the notion of comprising the whole world in their single city.

Rome conquered Alexandria in 30BC. It was the only time that a single power dominated the entire Mediterranean basin. In one sense this was just another Roman conquest. But Alexandria is a special place: the cosmopolis for all races, countries, colours and creeds. Cultivated Romans saw their conquest as a seismic shift from Republic to Empire.

For Alexandria influenced (and still influences) our poetry and urban architecture. Because of “wicked” Cleopatra, Romans perceived Alexandria as fascinating, but also dangerous. The city defied safe old Roman categories such as “Barbarian” and “Greek”. It was too modern for the Archaio-Con Romans – an artificial colonial capital that was also the gateway to a much older and more alien culture.

Some poets (Virgil) express triumph, but also shock and revulsion at the annexation of Egypt. Others (Propertius and Horace) praise Augustus with Alexandrian panegyrics, but with a sense of difficulty and reluctance. But the one who seems to be enthusiastic about Rome as the new Alexandria (Ovid) advocates a politically incorrect Rome: Rome as a multicultural cosmopolis of sexual and other disreputable and un-Roman excitements.

Read the rest.

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