Age of Nero

HIST 3923H-001 / CLST 4003H-001 / HIST 7373

 Fall 2018

Nero as Apollo playing the lyre

Engraved Gemstone with Nero depicted as the god Apollo

Instructor: Dr. Charles E. Muntz
Time: MWF 11:50-12:40pm
Place: 412 Old Main
Dr. Muntz's Office: 407 Old Main
Office Hours: M 1:30-2:30, Th 10-11, and by appointment
Phone: (479) 575-5891


Short Paper: A 1600 word paper analyzing Tacitus's and Suetonius's accounts of the death of Britannicus and what they show about the historians and how they understand Nero, due September 17. Assignment here.

Long Paper: A 3500 word research paper (4000 word for graduate students) on a topic related to Nero, due December 10 by 12 pm. Students should meet with the professor in the second half of October to discuss topics and go over bibliography. At the end of the semester students will give a 10 minute oral presentation on their papers. See below for general books on Nero and the authors of the period, and this link for general resources for doing research on the classical world.

Class Reports: Each student will give two ten minute oral reports.  These will be on pieces of modern scholarship relevant to the Age of Nero and the texts we are reading. Following the class, the student should type up a brief summary of the report and any relevant issues that come up in the discussion afterwards and send it via email to the rest of class and the instructor. You can find suggestions for reading articles here.

Class Participation: Since this is a colloquium, most of the class will be devoted to discussion of the primary sources. Questions based on the primary sources to get things started can be found here, but feel free to raise other issues or questions on your own. Be prepared to support your answers with specific passages from the texts! Grading policies for discussions can be found here.

Attendance: Regular attendance is important. I will allow each student to miss two classes without penalty to cover things like illness and religious observances. Please email me in advance if you are going to miss class. For each absence after the first two, unless there is a serious problem, I will lower the final participation grade by 10 points. If you do have to miss a class, make sure you meet with another student to find out what you missed!

Grade Breakdown:
Short Paper: 15%
Class Report 1: 10%
Class Report 2: 10%
Long Paper: 40%
Class Discussion: 25%

Reading Materials

Required Texts:
Davie, John. Seneca: Dialogues and Essays. Oxford, ISBN 0199552401
Fantham, Elaine. Seneca: Selected Letters. Oxford, ISBN 0199533210
Fox, Matthew. Lucan: Civil War. Pengiun, ISBN 0143106236.
Healy, John F. Pliny the Elder: Natural History, a Selection. Penguin, ISBN 0140444130
Sullivan, J. P. The Satyricon and The Apocolocyntosis of the Divine Claudius. Penguin, ISBN 0140444890.
Wilson, Emily. Seneca: Six Tragedies. Oxford, ISBN 0192807064.
Woodman, A. J., trans. Tacitus: The Annals. Hackett, ISBN 0872205584

Other texts will be made available via links under the Daily Topics

Books on Reserve in Mullins (under HIST 3923H-001):
Barrett, Anthony. Agrippina: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Early Empire 
Buckley, Emma and Martin Dintner, ed. A Companion to the Neronian Age
Champlin, Edward. Nero.
Griffin, Miriam. Nero: End of a Dynasty
Griffin, Miriam. Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics.
Harrison, S. J., ed. Oxford Readings in the Roman Novel

Reference Books available online (you will need to be on campus or log in to access these):
Brill's Companion to Lucan
The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Nero
The Cambridge Companion to Seneca
The Cambridge Companion to Tacitus
The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics
Oxford Readings in Seneca
Griffin, Miriam. Nero: The End of a Dynasty
Champlin, Edward. Nero

More general research tools can be found here

List of online journals at the U of A

Super resource if you need to look up a person or topic (much better than Wikipedia or other web sources):

The Oxford Classical Dictionary


Academic Integrity: As a core part of its mission, the University of Arkansas provides students with the opportunity to further their educational goals through programs of study and research in an environment that promotes freedom of inquiry and academic responsibility. Accomplishing this mission is only possible when intellectual honesty and individual integrity prevail.

Each University of Arkansas student is required to be familiar with and abide by the University’s ‘Academic Integrity Policy’ which may be found at Students with questions about how these policies apply to a particular course or assignment should immediately contact their instructor.

Equal Access: University of Arkansas Academic Policy Series 1520.10 requires that students with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations to ensure their equal access to course content. If you have a documented disability and require accommodations, please contact me privately at the beginning of the semester to make arrangements for necessary classroom adjustments. Please note, you must first verify your eligibility for these through the Center for Educational Access (contact 479-575-3104 or visit for more information on registration procedures).

Inclement Weather: Classes will be held unless the University cancels them.

Miscellaneous: Please turn off and put away all cell phones and any other non-course related items and finish any food you might be eating before coming into class. Drinks are acceptable. Please remain seated during class - if you need to use the lavatory, do so before or after class.

Daily Topics and Readings

August 20: Introduction

August 22: Out with the old, in with the new
    Seneca: Apocolocyntosis (in the same book as Petronius, pg. 221ff)

August 24: Lecture: The Ancient Historians on Nero
    Tacitus: Annals, Book 12

August 27: Tacitus, Agrippina, and Young Nero
    Tacitus: Annals, Books 13-14.19
    James Mabry - Oral Report - The Rhetoric of Suppressed Speech

August 29: Lecture: Nero's Foreign Policy and Hellenism
    Tacitus: Annals, Books 14.20-15.32

August 31: The Conspiracy of Piso and the Death of Thrasea
    Tacitus: Annals, Book 15.33-16.35
    Jack Meckfessel - Oral Report - The Myth of the Neronian Persecution

September 3: Labor Day

September 5: Suetonius's Nero
    Suetonius: Life of Nero
    Cole Wood - Oral Report - The Inventio of Nero in Suetonius

September 7: Introduction to the Satyricon
    Petronius: Satyricon, Puteoli

September 10: The Millionaire's Dinner Party
    Petronius: Satyricon, Dinner with Trilmachio
    Jeffrey Rogers - Oral Report - Grasping the Panglion: Sensuous Ambiguity in Roman Dining

September 12: Sex and Scandal
    Petronius: Satyricon, Eumolpus
    Kaitlyn Fitzgerald - Oral Report - Seductions of Art: Encolpius and Eumolpus in a Neronian Picture Gallery

September 14: Poets, Frauds, and Legacy Hunters
    Petronius: Satyricon, The Road to Croton and Croton
    Nina Andersen - Oral Report - The Sexual Episodes in the Satyricon

September 17: Lecture: Introduction to Seneca and Stoicism / Paper 1 Due

September 19: Seneca's Essays & Dialogues
    Seneca: On Providence, On Anger, Book 3

September 21: The Stoic Way of Life
    Seneca: On the Happy Life, On the Shortness of Life
Dakota DeMaris - Roman Historical Exempla in Seneca

September 24: Seneca and Nero
    Seneca: On Mercy
Michael Cannon - Seneca on Monarchy

September 26: Introduction to Lucan and the Civil War
    Lucan: Civil War, Books 1 & 2

September 28: Caesar v. Pompey
    Lucan: Civil War, Books 3 & 4
    Kate Rideout - Laying it on with a Trowel

October 1: Lecture: Art in the Age of Nero
    Lucan: Civil War, Books 5 & 6
    Aaron Morris - Lucan and the History of the Civil War

October 3: Pharsalus
    Lucan: Civil War, Books 7 & 8
    Erin Bartels - The Angry Gods: Lucan's Theodicy

October 5: Lucan's Cato
    Lucan: Civil War, Books 9 & 10
    Adam Leonard - Lucan's Poetic Geographies

October 8: Mid-semester summing up
    Finish up Lucan
    William Mabry - Pompey's Head and the Body Politic

October 10: Introduction to Seneca's Letters
   Seneca: Letters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 14, 16, 18, 19, 21

October 12:Seneca's Letters
    Seneca: Letters 24, 26, 27, 28, 31, 33, 36, 41, 44, 47, 51, 53, 54, 55, 57-63

October 15: Fall Break

October 17: Lecture: Neronian Architecture
    Seneca: Letters 65, 68, 70, 73, 77, 78, 79, 82, 86
    Cole Wood - Dinner at Seneca's Table: The Philosophy of Food

October 19: Seneca's Letters
    Seneca: Letters 87, 88, 90, 91, 97, 110, 118, 124
    Jack Meckfessel - The Best a Man Can Get: Grooming Scipio in Seneca Epistle 86

October 22: Lecture: Neronian Science and all the other stray authors we're reading
    Seneca: Natural Questions, Book 6: On Earthquakes (in the Dialogues and Essays volume); Pliny the Elder: Natural History: Preface; Book II - Astronomy

October 24: Neronian Science
    Pliny the Elder: Natural History: Book VII - Man; Book X - Birds; Book XV - Olive Trees; Book XXVI - Diseases and their Remedies 
    Kaitlyn - Poison: Nature's Argument for the Roman Empire

October 26: Neronian Science
    Pliny the Elder: Natural History: Book XXX - Magic; Book XXXV - Painting, Sculpture, Architecture; Book XXXVII - Precious Stones
    Nina - Pliny's Brassiere

October 29: Neronian Satire
    Persius: Satires
    Adam - Faking it in Nero's Orgasmatron: Persius I and the Death of Criticism

October 31: Neronian Pastoral
    Calpurnius Siculus: Eclogue 1, Eclogue 2, Eclogue 3, Eclogue 4, Eclogue 5, Eclogue 6, Eclogue 7
    Einsiedeln Eclogue 1, Eclogue 2
    Michael - Calpurnius Siculus: The Ultimate Imperial Toady?

November 2: Neronian Didactic
    Columella: De Re Rustica Prologue - Book 1

November 5: Lecture: Introduction to Neronian Tragedy
    Seneca: Phaedra

November 7: Neronian Tragedy
    Seneca: Oedipus

November 9: Neronian Tragedy
    Seneca: Medea

November 12: Neronian Tragedy
    Seneca: Trojan Women

November 14: Neronian Tragedy
    Seneca: Hercules Furens

November 16: Neronian Tragedy
    Seneca: Thyestes

November 19: Class Canceled - Dr. Muntz has to fly to Houston for a meeting

November 21: Thanksgiving

November 23: Thanksgiving

November 26: Reception: Shakespeare and Seneca
    Shakespeare: Macbeth

November 28: Reception: Quo Vadis? Nero on Film

November 30: Final Paper Presentations

December 3: Final Paper Presentations

December 5: Final Paper Presentations

December 10: Final Paper due by 12 pm