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Historiography and Panegyric: The Deconstruction of Imperial Representation in Cassius Dio’s Roman History

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Chapter Summary

Historiographical discourse reacts to panegyrical accounts of imperial representation. In the case of eccentric emperors who are praised during their lifetime but criticised post mortem, historiographers aim to deconstruct former positive descriptions in their works. This chapter explores the deconstruction of imperial representation in Cassius Dio through the example of Domitian. After (1) introductory remarks about the relation of panegyrical and historiographical discourse I examine (2) the rhetorical mechanisms that Dio employs to deconstruct panegyrical motifs in a close analysis of 67.6.4-9.6. The motifs in this representative text passage are first studied separately: Domitian as military leader, his triumphs, spectacles and feasts. Then they are examined in their rhetorical structure as part of Dio’s narrative as a whole. Finally (3) I argue for a political purpose to Dio’s literary strategies, which can be seen as contributing to an ongoing negotiation of the emperors’ representation.



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