The CCSA and McGill CSA are presenting a joint guest lecture this Friday, February 10 at 3pm (McGill Arts Building, Room 150). Professor Gwynaeth McIntyre is from the University of Manitoba and is presenting her talk titled “Republican Heroes, Imperial Propaganda Figures: Castor and Pollux During the Roman Imperial Period.” A detailed abstract follows. Hope to see you all there!
“The interaction between myth and history played an important role in the political landscape of Rome during the imperial period. The continued use of the two foundational myths of Rome during the imperial period promoted not only her own status and position within the Mediterranean but also justified the position held by the emperor and his family. Other republican mythological heroes (such as the figures of Castor and Pollux, borrowed from the Greek tradition) underwent a change in their representations and role in promoting the new system ushered in by Augustus. The use of these brothers by the imperial family came to highlight the familial relations of the emperors’ families (promoting fraternal concordia and the divine nature of members of the imperial family) and also served to mask some of the familial dysfunction. This paper examines the later uses of the figures of Castor and Pollux by the emperors. Beginning with a brief discussion of the republican uses of these brothers and the adaptation of the Castor and Pollux myth by Tiberius in order to promote the fraternal piety of the imperial family, I then turn to the resurgence of the use of Castor and Pollux on the coins of Maxentius. This examination of the historical uses of these brothers serves to illuminate how relationships between family members in the imperial house were presented. It also highlights the evolution of the propaganda used to promote the position of the emperor at a time when the system was undergoing another change with the introduction of the Tetrarchy and multiple emperors who had to rule the empire together. Maxentius’ use of these brothers does not serve to promote “fraternal piety” (with his fellow emperors, especially considering he was never an official member of the Tetrarchy) but instead serves as a reaction against the ideology of Domitian and the Tetrarchy (who were using Castor and Pollux in this way). Through his re-introduction of these “republican” heroes (along with other traditional symbols of Rome: the goddesss Roma and Romulus, Remus and the she-wolf) into his own ideology, Maxentius sought to legitimize his own claim to the throne and gain the support of the people of Rome.”