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Natures Monster: Caligula As Exemplum In Senecas Dialogues

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Chapter Summary

When Gaius Caesar, popularly known as Caligula, succeeded his uncle Tiberius in 37 CE, the initial reaction of the Roman senate and people seems to have been relief. To understand how Seneca employs Gaius as an exemplar of vice, it will be helpful to review in brief his opposite number, the Stoic sage, who exemplifies Stoic virtue and the happy life. In a fundamental article on ?the socioethical dynamics of [ancient Roman] exemplarity?, Matthew Roller has shown that imitation is an essential element of exemplary discourse. In a study of literary irony, D.C. Muecke makes a basic distinction between simple corrective ironies and general irony. After declaring Chaerea a hero, Seneca adds a supplementary, illustrative exemplum. Gaius? appearances in the Dialogues?scolding thunderbolts, humiliating soldiers, and arbitrarily executing noble Romans? show that he is properly to be included in the human, ethical sphere.

Keywords: Caligula; Dialogues; exemplum; Gaius Caesar; irony; Matthew Roller; Roman; Seneca; Stoic sage



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