Skip to content Skip to navigation

Dissertation defense: Brittney Szempruch

May 10, 2018 - 9:30am to 10:30am

This even is free and open to the public.

Songs of Empire: Embedded Hymns and the Latin Hymnic Tradition

Our understanding of the Latin hymnic tradition has long been impeded by a number of challenges ranging from basic evidential scarcity to formal analytical bias. In this dissertation, I argue for a common set of themes and contexts that unites the Latin hymnic genre. Though our earliest Latin hymns (the carmina of the Salii and Fratres Arvales) are only fragmentary, I show in the first portion of the dissertation that we can nevertheless identify in them themes of war, agriculture, and liminality, the former two in particular idealized cornerstones of early Roman society. As a result, later Latin authors had a vested interest in portraying the Latin hymnic tradition as an indigenous Roman genre, despite its obvious Greek influences. In the latter half of my work, I take case studies of embedded hymns from early imperial authors and show how in both the Augustan and Flavian periods, hymns staged concerns around political continuity with this idealized Roman past. Through its diachronic study of Latin hymns from roughly the 3rd century BCE to its Common Era counterpart, this dissertation ultimately argues that the thematic unity and formal flexibility inherent to the Latin hymn allowed Roman authors to turn work in any poetic genre into a song of empire—in the late Republic and early Empire, poets used embedded hymns to accommodate the changing Roman political landscape, styling their hymnic praise as carmina condita and the refined refoundation of Rome’s mythic past.

Event Sponsor: 
Department of Classics
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: