In Dionysius and the City of Rome: Portraits of Founders in the ‘Roman Antiquities’, Beatrice Poletti examines Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ description of figures traditionally regarded as the founders of the political and religious institutions of Rome. She considers the function of each of them in the narrative development of the Roman Antiquities to show how Dionysius portrayed legendary Roman characters for an empire-wide, Greek-speaking audience, and how such portraits served his historiographical and pedagogical aims. The literary work of Dionysius represents a milestone in the contemporary discourse about Greek and Roman identities. Dionysius composed a history of Rome from the aftermath of the Trojan War to the outbreak of the First Punic War, aiming to reconcile Greek intellectual opposition to Rome with Roman domination by demonstrating that the Romans were originally Greek and lived by Greek moral principles. He also intended his history as ‘exemplary’ by offering his readers models of good leadership through his characters. The author contextualizes Dionysius’ effort within the cultural and political climate of Augustan Rome to illustrate the extent of contemporary influences on Dionysius’ project.
Beatrice Poletti is adjunct assistant professor of Classics at Queen’s University.
Chapter One: Aeneas
Chapter Two: Romulus and Numa
Chapter Three: L. Junius Brutus and M. Furius Camillus
About the Author
With Dionysius and the City of Rome: Portraits of Founders in the Roman Antiquities, Beatrice Poletti has produced a particularly stimulating book, which contributes to renewing the debate on Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ Roman Antiquities and shows once and for all that this work deserves the full attention of anyone interested in the origins of Rome. The comprehensive study of Dionysius’ characterization of history (applied to the specific case of the founders) is undoubtedly a seminal contribution of this book: it opens up new perspectives as much as it deepens our understanding of the mechanisms by which the historiographical narrative was elaborated.
Revealing a Greek perspective on Aeneas, Romulus, and early Roman history, this book once and for all establishes Dionysius of Halicarnassus as a major writer of Augustan Rome. From this study Dionysius emerges as both a captivating narrator and an open-minded historian, who deserves to share the stage with his contemporaries Livy and Virgil. Beatrice Poletti lucidly demonstrates how Dionysius portrays the founders of Rome as both Greek and Roman, even pan-Mediterranean, characters, who practice exemplary virtues and morality. This learned, innovative and refreshing book is indispensable reading for anyone who is interested in the history and the literature of ancient Rome.