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Neronian oral politics: The case of Musonius Rufus

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Chapter Summary

Two of the discourses, “That Kings Should Study Philosophy” (8) and “That Exile is not an Evil” (9), demonstrate the political challenge that Musonius’ philosophy and oral practice posed for any absolutist regime. While the historical sources do not specifically name any doctrines or acts that led to his two sentences of exile, these two discourses suggest how his oral politics challenged the authority of both the Neronian state and its successors. A universal community of oral praxis is both a philosophical and political ideal for Musonius Rufus. Yet his dream of a community of free speech, uninhibited by any fear of death or punishment, continued to inspire subsequent generations, as can be seen from the pseudo-Lucianic dialogue entitled Nero, which features the character and particularly the performative abilities of the emperor.

Keywords: Musonius Rufus; Musonius’ philosophy; Neronian; Neronian state; oral politics; pseudo-Lucianic dialogue



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