Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Fiddling with Nero

Attending a lecture on Nero on the anniversary of the fire is something akin to seeing 1776 (the musical) on July 3rd. I say July 3rd here, because the letter John Adams wrote that inspired the final song was written on July 3rd (even though it was talking about July 2nd).

Except, of course, Dr. Rutledge did not provide us with song and dance. He is, however, a most energetic and enthusiastic lecturer, and even though I already knew the basics, I wasn't bored for a moment. He made good arguments for seeing Nero in light of the other emperors--he wasn't a good person by any shot, but then, he wasn't so much worse than many of the other emperors. At any rate, he certainly had some positive qualities. I think most of the people reading this are probably already familiar with that argument, but Dr. Rutledge, of course, had a wider audience to inform.

I'm glad I went, because I tend to need repetition to reinforce details into my swiss-cheese memory. Dr. Rutledge is also a very entertaining lecturer, which helps my memory, at least. Of course, I always remember stories better than I do names and dates, which is really why I started as an English major...

He also had good visuals. Although, I was a little surprised that he only used them for one portion of the lecture. He also says he'll be doing another lecture in the fall, so I'm going to try to attend that one. I presume the Smithsonian Resident Association website will have details on that.

Oh, and he really knows his restaurants in Rome. Would that I had known of this before I went to Italy!

And now--it's just about time to rot my brain out with The Empire! Joy of joys...


Anonymous Mark said...

I loved the lecture and I am really glad that I went.I also thought that Dr. Rutledge was a dynamic and interesting speaker.

I enjoyed his use of visuals and particularly the recreations of some of the paintings, which I believe were from the villa of Poppaea. One thing I took away from the lecture was that I very much want to see both the villa of Poppaea and The Domus Aurea. I missed both when I was last in the area.One more (not that I needed any more) reason to return.

The point about Nero being nowhere near as bad as generally portrayed seems to make a lot of sense. It was interesting to hear about some of Nero's better qualities.Dr. Rutledge's point about ,in this case, history being written by losers( i.e. Tacitus,Suetonius representing the Senatorial class)was fascinating.

I had thought that part of the case against Nero was that he was inattentive to the job of managing the Empire and that the provinces were poorly governed. I asked Dr Rutledge about this after the lecture and he agreed that there was some truth to this and that the opposition to Nero by the Roman Aristocracy was probably a combination of things. I wondered how much the opposition was due to Nero's style and how much was a patriotic response to poor inept governance.My own guess is was that Nero was better than often portrayed, but still below average. In terms of the Julio-Claudian's maybe being only superior to Caligula.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Re: Mark

Yes. Glad someone else enjoyed it too!

As with most things, there isn't really one reason for Nero's negative portrayal. I like that Dr. Rutledge focused on the personality differences, though. It's more entertaining in general, and that tends to be where my interests lie as well.

7:28 PM  

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