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Cassius Dio and the City of Rome

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Chapter Summary

The presence of the physical city of Rome in Livy and Tacitus in particular has been discussed in the scholarship (e.g., Jaeger 1997, Ash 2007, Rouveret 1991), but despite the fact that he references the monuments and buildings of Rome more frequently than his Latin predecessors, Dio’s interest in the city has not received similar attention. This paper argues that an appreciation of Dio’s perspective on Rome, and of how the city works itself into his narrative, deepens our understanding not only of Dio’s experience of Rome, but also of the ways in which this important historian draws on the Roman historiographical tradition in which he worked…and the ways in which he departed from it. The significance of Rome and its buildings for Dio is seen to lie chiefly in their function as both a symbol and theater of power; as a place where divine displeasure may be made manifest; and as a device for establishing Dio’s own authority, as he impresses on the reader that he is describing the city from personal experience of the place in which the action occurs, in narratives of both his own time and of the past (e.g., 55.8.4; 74[73].1.3–5; 74[73].4.3; 75[74].4.6–7; cf. 73[72].18.4). Because he lived in Rome under Septimius Severus and the greatest transformation of the city since the time of Augustus, whose building program Severus is believed to have consciously imitated (e.g., Cooley 2007, Barnes 2008), Dio’s experience of Rome must have had something in common with that of Livy (cf. 77[76].16.3) and yet the city does not imprint itself on his History in precisely the same way as Livy’s did on his.



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