Jacqueline Klooster

After the Crisis: Change and the Roman Civil Wars

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After the Crisis: Change and the Roman Civil Wars

After the Crisis is a research group at the University of Groningen which brings together project VII and XII of the Anchoring Innovation project. It is dedicated to investigating the responses of individuals and communities to war, violence, and disruption in the ancient Roman Empire. We focus on the (civil) wars of the first century BCE and their repercussions at Rome and in the Roman East.

After the Crisis

Jacqueline Klooster’s project focuses on the question how different Roman and Greek authors come to terms with the Civil Wars, both during and after the fact. Could they use established modes of thinking about war and peace to grapple with this new phenomenon and to represent its effects on society? Or had such traditional modes of conceptualization become obsolete when the social order itself changed as an effect of civil strife? Inger Kuin’s project (see under project WP4-III) focuses on memory and the conceptualization of change in the Roman East after the wars of the first century BCE, investigating such questions as: How were the traumatic and violent events of this time remembered by subsequent generations? And how did the cities of the Roman East respond to the political changes that arose out of these conflicts?

We are collaborating closely with one another in thinking about how the wars of the first century BCE were framed and remembered, and, on a more fundamental level, about how crises are defined generally, and what it means for communities to be in a state of post-crisis. At the moment we are working on a paper on the rhetoric of crisis and order in ancient history. This project is part of our preparation for the international conference we will be organizing in Groningen in December, titled “After the Crisis: Remembrance, Re-Anchoring, and Recovery in the Ancient World.”

Jacqueline Klooster's individual research consists of the following works in progress:

During the Wars

To answer this question, the project studies a number of commentarii and hypomnemata, political autobiographies or memoirs, from the late Roman Republic. (a.o. the fragments of the works of Sulla, and Cicero, and the Bellum Civile of Caesar). Previous autobiographical war-reports had usually described supra-national wars, where the enemy nation were not part of the authors’ intended audience. In reporting on a civil war, the situation was necessarily different, and a new degree or even mode of self-justification, propaganda or apology will have been inevitable.

For instance: in what ways does the fact that the authors themselves are party to a civil conflict influence the authors’ narrative stance, the self-representation of the author and of the other, and the deployment of topical concepts like Fortuna (fate, chance) and divine intervention? Traditionally, Fortuna was supposed to be on the Roman side. However, if in a civil conflict, there were two Roman parties opposing each other, could Fortuna still pick sides? The concept, as we see in the texts mentioned, is continually being questioned, reshaped and rethought, or even simply evaded.

After the Wars

Another part of the project focuses on texts that try to come to terms with the Civil Wars after the fact. In projecting a new future after civil war it was difficult to anchor this in the present or near past, as these had shown the collapse of all existing structures and values. So there was a need for innovation, but also for new anchors, which had to be sought in a more distant past, but needed to be adapted to the new situation. An example is the first century CE biographer Plutarch, and his application of Plato’s philosophical ideas on kingship and tyranny to the Roman Lives of the period of the Civil Wars (e.g. the Gracchi, Sulla, Cato Minor, Caesar, Antony, Pompey, Brutus). He does so with the double aim of a) philosophically explaining the dynamics of revolution, civil strife and the establishment of tyranny, and b) that of preventing a recurrence of such situations. The interesting question then becomes: how and why can Roman commanders, tribunes and consuls be called either king (basileus) or tyrant (tyrannos), and what does this entail? And in what way should the Greek social elite relate to the Roman ruling classes, in view of such issues?