Events Calendar

The Battle of Cannae in the Roman Poetic Imagination

Friday, October 25, 2019
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
University Community Centre (UCC)
Room: 41

On Friday, October 25th at 4:30pm in UCC 41, Professor Neil Bernstein will give a public lecture on “The Battle of Cannae in the Roman Poetic Imagination.” The lecture will be accessible for and of interest to a general audience, and all are welcome. The lecture will be followed by a reception in the Garden Room in Somerville House.

Abstract: Cannae was the greatest battle of the ancient Greco-Roman world. In The Allure of Battle, the military historian Cathal Nolan has written of the dangerous illusion cast by Cannae, from antiquity right up through the Schlieffen plan of World War One. This paper examines how the Roman poet Silius Italicus represents Cannae in his epic Punica, written at end of the first century AD. As part of my forthcoming Oxford commentary on Punica 9, I examine Cannae in the tradition of epic accounts of other decisive battles such as Virgil’s Actium and Lucan’s Pharsalus. Cannae provides the hinge point of a story of defeat and recovery. Yet the Punica is not providential, because the Romans eventually win the war, nor does Cannae fit neatly into a simplistic narrative of Roman morality. The paper focuses on three elements that align Silius’ Cannae with civil war themes: the familiar Roman metaphor of the state as a family; the role of the gods; and the anachronistic use of characters’ names. Silius addresses an audience of recent survivors of the Flavian civil war, and guides them to interpret the Cannae episode in this contemporary context.

Speaker Bio: Neil Bernstein is a Professor in the Department of Classics and World Religions at Ohio University and a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Western for the fall semester of 2019. He is a graduate of Amherst College with an undergraduate degree in Classics and English, and he holds a Ph.D. in Classical Studies from Duke University. He is the author of 4 books and 37 articles or book chapters, including In the Image of the Ancestors: Narratives of Kinship in Flavian Epic, published in 2008 by the University of Toronto Press, Ethics, Identity, and Community in Later Roman Declamation, published in 2013 by Oxford University Press, and Silius Italicus, Punica 2. Edited with an Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, published in 2017 by Oxford University Press. At Western he is working on several projects, including commentaries on Silius Italicus’ Punica 9 and Seneca’s Hercules Furens. Among other awards, he has held a Fulbright Lectureship at the National Taiwan University and an NEH Fellowship at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. He has been a Charles J. Ping Teaching Fellow and won a Distinguished Mentor Award at Ohio University.

Classical Studies
Erin Wollnough
Event Type:

Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software