Tag Archives: Rome

Seneca

Seneca

SenecaLucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca) (ca. 4 BC – 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. He was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate this last of the Julio-Claudian emperors; he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder and his older brother was Gallio.

Miriam Griffin says in her standard modern biography of Seneca that “the evidence for Seneca’s life before his exile in 41 is so slight, and the potential interest of these years, for social history as well as for biography, is so great that few writers on Seneca have resisted the temptation to eke out knowledge with imagination.” It is thus necessary to regard what one reads as alleged fact with extreme skepticism.

Griffin infers from ancient sources that Seneca was born in either 8, 4, or 1 BC. She thinks he was born between 4 and 1 BC and was resident in Rome by 5 AD. Seneca says that he was carried to Rome in the arms of his mother’s stepsister. Griffin says that, allowing for rhetorical exaggeration, means “it is fair to conclude that Seneca was in Rome as a very small boy.”

His family was from Cordoba in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula), and he may have been born there, although there is no documentary evidence for it. There is no way of knowing when the family came to Spain. According to Griffin, the family probably came from Etruria or the “area further east towards Illyria.” He was the second son of Helvia and Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the wealthy rhetorician known as Seneca the Elder. His older brother, Gallio, became proconsul in the Roman province of Achaea. His younger brother Annaeus Mela’s son wasMarcus Annaeus Lucanus.

At Rome he was trained in rhetoric and was introduced to Hellenized Stoic philosophy by Attalus and Sotion. Seneca’s own writings describe his poor health. At some stage he was nursed by his aunt; as she was in Egypt from 16 to 31 AD, he must have at least visited and perhaps lived for a period in Hellenistic Egypt.

Seneca and his aunt returned to Rome in 31, and she helped him in his campaign for his first magistracy.

Caligula began his first year as emperor in 38, and there was a severe conflict between him and Seneca; the emperor is said to have spared his life only because he expected Seneca’s natural life to be near its end.

In 41, Claudius succeeded Caligula, and then, at the behest of his third wife Valeria Messalina, banished Seneca to Corsica on a charge of adultery with Caligula’s sister Julia Livilla. Seneca spent his exile in philosophical and natural study (a life counseled by Roman Stoic thought) and wrote the Consolations, fulfilling a request for the text made by his sons for the sake of posterity. In 49, Claudius’ fourth wife Agrippina the Younger had Seneca recalled to Rome to tutor her sonNero, then 12 years old; on Claudius’ death in 54, she secured recognition of Nero, rather than Claudius’ son Britannicus, as emperor.

From 54 to 62, Seneca acted as Nero’s advisor, together with the praetorian prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus. Seneca’s influence was said to be especially strong in the first year. Many historians consider Nero’s early rule with Seneca and Burrus to be quite competent. However, over time, Seneca and Burrus lost their influence over Nero. In 59 they had reluctantly agreed to Agrippina’s murder, and afterward Seneca wrote a dishonest exculpation of Nero to the Senate. With the death of Burrus in 62 and accusations of embezzlement, Seneca retired and devoted his time again to study and writing.

There is also speculation in Peter Salway’s History of Roman Britain that Seneca had been involved in forcing large loans on the indigenous British aristocracy in the aftermath of Claudius’s Roman conquest of Britain, and then calling them in suddenly and aggressively. The suggestion is that this contributed to Boudica’s rebellion, and so possibly to his own fall.

In 65, Seneca was caught up in the aftermath of a plot to kill Nero. Although it is unlikely that he conspired, he was ordered by Nero to kill himself. He followed tradition by severing several veins in order to bleed to death, and his wife Pompeia Paulina attempted to share his fate. Tacitus (writing in Book XV, Chapters 60 through 64 of his Annals, a generation later, after the Julio-Claudian emperors) gives an account of the suicide, perhaps, in light of Tacitus’s Republican sympathies, somewhat romanticized. According to it, Nero ordered Seneca’s wife to be saved. Her wounds were bound up and she made no further attempt to kill herself. As for Seneca himself, his age and diet were blamed for slow loss of blood, and extended pain rather than a quick death; taking poison was also not fatal. After dictating his last words to a scribe, and with a circle of friends attending him in his home, he immersed himself in a warm bath, which was expected to speed blood flow and ease his pain. Tacitus, however, in his Annals of Imperial Rome says that Seneca suffocated by the water vapor rising from the bath. “He was then carried into a bath, with the steam of which he was suffocated, and he was burnt without any of the usual funeral rites. So he had directed in a codicil of his will, even when in the height of his wealth and power he was thinking of life’s close

Theatre of ancient Rome

Theatre of ancient Rome

Roman theatreThe theatre of ancient Rome was a thriving and diverse art form, ranging from festival performances of street theatre, nude dancing, and acrobatics, to the staging of Plautus’s broadly appealing situation comedies, to the high-style, verbally elaborate tragedies of Seneca. Although Rome had a native tradition of performance, the Hellenization of Roman culture in the 3rd century BCE had a profound and energizing effect on Roman theatre and encouraged the development of Latin literature of the highest quality for the stage.

The Roman historian Livy wrote that the Romans first experienced theatre in the 4th century BCE, with a performance by Etruscan actors. Beacham argues that they had been familiar with “pre-theatrical practices” for some time before that recorded contact. Roman drama began in 240 BCE with the plays of Livius Andronicus.

 

Roman drama

Following the expansion of the Roman Republic (509–27 BCE) into several Greek territories between 270–240 BCE, Rome encountered Greek drama. From the later years of the republic and by means of the Roman Empire (27 BCE-476 CE), theatre spread west across Europe, around the Mediterranean and reached England; Roman theatre was more varied, extensive and sophisticated than that of any culture before it. While Greek drama continued to be performed throughout the Roman period, the year 240 BCE marks the beginning of regular Roman drama. From the beginning of the empire, however, interest in full-length drama declined in favour of a broader variety of theatrical entertainments. Read the rest of this entry

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (30 March 1746 – 16 April 1828) was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and as the first of the moderns. Goya was a court painter to the Spanish Crown, and through his works was both a commentator on and chronicler of his era. The subversive and imaginative element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of later generations of artists, notably Manet and Picasso.

Goya was born in Fuendetodos, Aragón, Spain, in 1746 to José Benito de Goya y Franque and Gracia de Lucientes y Salvador. He spent his childhood in Fuendetodos, where his family lived in a house bearing the family crest of his mother. His father earned his living as a gilder. About 1749, the family bought a house in the city of Zaragoza and some years later moved into it. Goya may have attended school at Escuelas Pias, where he formed a close friendship with Martin Zapater. Their correspondence from the 1770s to the 1790s is a valuable source for understanding Goya’s early career at the court of Madrid.

At age 14, he entered apprenticeship with the painter José Luzán. He later moved to Madrid where he studied with Anton Raphael Mengs, a painter who was popular with Spanish royalty. He clashed with his master, and his examinations were unsatisfactory. Goya submitted entries for the Royal Academy of Fine Art in 1763 and 1766, but was denied entrance.

He then journeyed to Rome, where in 1771 he won second prize in a painting competition organized by the City of Parma. Later that year, he returned to Zaragoza and painted parts of the cupolas of the Basilica of the Pillar (including Adoration of the Name of God), a cycle of frescoes in the monastic church of the Charterhouse of Aula Dei, and the frescoes of the Sobradiel Palace. He studied with Francisco Bayeu y Subías and his painting began to show signs of the delicate tonalities for which he became famous.

Disease and deafness

At some time between late 1792 and early 1793, a serious illness, whose exact nature is not known, left Goya deaf, and he became withdrawn and introspective. During his recuperation, he undertook a series of experimental paintings. His experimental art—that would encompass paintings, drawings as well as a bitter series of aquatinted etchings, published in 1799 under the titleCaprichos — was done in parallel to his more official commissions of portraits and religious paintings. In 1798, he painted luminous and airy scenes for the pendentives and cupula of the Real Ermita (Chapel) of San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid. Many place miracles of Saint Anthony of Padua in the midst of contemporary Madrid.

Darker realms

In a period of convalescence during 1793–1794, Goya completed a set of eleven small pictures Read the rest of this entry

History of theatre

History of theatre

The history of theatre concerns the historical development of theatre since it’s invention in classical Athens. While performative elements are present in every society, it is customary to acknowledge a distinction between theatre as an art form and entertainment and theatrical or performative elements in other activities. The history of theatre is primarily concerned with the origin and subsequent development of the theatre as an autonomous activity.

Greek theatre

The above-mentioned playwrights are regarded as the most influential by critics of subsequent eras including Aristotle. The tragic and satyr plays were always performed at the festival (City Dionysia) where they were part of a series of four performances (a “tetralogy“): the first, second and third plays were a dramatic trilogy based on related or unrelated mythological events, and the culminating fourth performance was a satyr play, a play on a lighter note, with enhanced celebratory and dance elements. Performances lasted several hours and were held during daytime. Aristophanes wins first prize in Athens for his comedy The Acharnians in 425BC. The dramas rarely had more than three actors (all male), who played the different roles using masks. There was a chorus on the stage most of the time which sang songs and sometimes spoke in unison. As far as we know, most dramas were staged just a single time, at the traditional drama contest. Such contests were always held in the context of major religious festivals, most notably those in honor of the god Dionysos, and competed for an honorific prize (such as a tripod and a sum of money) awarded by a panel of judges – usually these were the sacerdotal and civil officers presiding over the particular religious festival. The prize was awarded jointly to the producer, who had financed the staging, and the poet, who was at the same time the author, composer, choreographer and director of the plays.

The actors wore large masks, which were very colourful. Actors also wore thick, padded clothing, and shoes with thick soles. This made them seem larger, so the audience could see them better when seated in the uppermost rows of the amphitheatre. Read the rest of this entry