Political and philosophical strategies of Roman Epicureans in the Late Republic
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date02/07/2020
Valachova, Cassandra Susan Bancroft
This thesis examines the political careers and strategies of the Roman adherents of Epicurean philosophy in the final three decades of the Republic. I offer a detailed exploration of the network of affiliates of the School, as well as their teachers and patrons, and examine how their self-‐presentation, social ties, and incorporation of philosophical doctrine into their career strategies enabled them to thrive in such an unstable and dangerous period. In Part One I examine as a series of case studies the role of Epicureanism in the ascent of three individuals who attained the rank of Consul or Consul Designate (L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, C. Vibius Pansa Caetronianus and C. Cassius Longinus), as well as one notable failure (C. Memmius). I argue that they deliberately avoided the traditional routes to power and electoral success: military glory and public oratory, and focused on factional and individual loyalty. I then assess the extent to which the patronage and leadership of C. Iulius Caesar was instrumental in the success of these politicians, and how this benefitted him. In Part Two I examine an alternative application of Epicurean philosophy to Roman politics, that of professed quietude and eschewal of office, as characterized by T. Pomponius Atticus. I argue that this choice was far from apolitical, but represented an alternative route to power and self-‐ preservation, incorporating many of the same strategies employed by the politically active adherents. I explore how Atticus deliberately cultivated the image of a philosophical conscientious objector, yet wielded a significant amount of power in Rome, thanks to his wealth, his contacts, his provincial holdings and his role as financial administrator to the political elite. This thesis posits, in conclusion, that the unique political climate of the late Republic, in particular the incipient shift from limited-‐term magistracies to single rule, facilitated a novel approach to the acquisition of power and personal security. Basing their actions on Epicurean teachings on society, friendship, religion and pleasure, the Roman adherents exploited their utility to those in power, Caesar in particular, to carve out a relatively stable niche in a tumultuous era.