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"The Chambers of the Dead and the Gates of Darkness": A Glimmer of Political Criticism in Strabo's Geography (Strabo 14.5.4, 670 C, ll. 22-3, ed. Radt)

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image of Mnemosyne

The prosecution of Caepio and Murena was a politically unpopular event from the early years of Augustus' reign. Strabo refers to the matter using a 'quoted quote' from Euripides. I look at possible conclusions to be drawn from Strabo's indirect way of handling his subject matter. I review the evidence for the date of the prosecution of Caepio and Murena. A bitter scholarly debate has led to the rejection of an early 23 BCE date. This legitimate rejection has resulted in a reaction against any date in 23 BCE. I suggest a date late in 23 BCE. A late 23 BCE date has implications for the trial of Primus, which immediately preceded Murena's own trial. I trace a possible connection between Murena's defence of Primus and his own subsequent prosecution for conspiracy. Whatever lay behind Murena's prosecution and death, his treatment shocked contemporaries so much that even the normally pro-Augustan Strabo feels compelled to register his criticism, albeit in an indirect way.

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