COLLOQUIUM: Roy Gibson, Manchester, "To Como then I came: on writing the modern biography of an ancient Roman."

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

402 Cohen Hall

There is a great gulf between what the modern biographer expects to discover and what Greek and Roman texts like to tell us about individuals. It can be easy to ignore this chasm, since the area in which lives of ancient figures now flourish is emperors and the great generals of classical antiquity. To write biographies of such people is also to write “history”: we can push to the margins the question of what application of the generic expectations of modern biography does to an ancient figure, since political and military affairs will orient any narrative towards conventional “history”. The effects of modern biographical treatment on Greco-Roman individuals may then go largely unexamined, despite the fact that there are well known differences between ancient and modern conceptions or valuations of the self, the individual and society and the “inner life”. This paper examines the effects of modern biographical categories on Pliny the Younger: a man neither emperor nor general.