Update on the Portraiture of Livia

Historical Challenges:

As I’ve been studying the portraiture of Imperial Rome’s first empress, I’ve encountered several common difficulties presented to a scholar of the distant past.  Because the artifacts I’m studying are two-thousand years old, they have a long history of being damaged, altered, misattributed, or generally misunderstood.  This unreliability makes it difficult for me to make my argument that Livia was represented as divine, because I don’t want to base my assertions on partial truths.  For example, some statues of Livia in which she is wearing a diadem, which is often a symbol of divinity or at least a comparison to an established Roman god, show signs of having been modified after the statues’ original dedication so that the diadem was added later.  Livia was formally deified roughly twelve years after her death by the fourth Roman emperor, Claudius, in 41 CE, so establishing a pre-41 CE date of divine representation is crucial to my argument that she was seen as more than mortal during her own lifetime and just after her death.

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Bringing Spengler’s Legacy to a Close

     After weeks of research and writing, my adviser and I have been going over revisions to my paper.  It has been so rewarding to see all my work come to fruition.  I am not only proud of the effort I’ve put in to this process, but of the analysis I’ve made as well.  I was shocked to see the ideological consistency of cultural pessimists–such as Spengler and his followers–throughout the century.  As much as they adapted their views to appeal to different audiences (whether Western academia, Weimar Germany, American neo-Nazis, or Italian neo-Fascists), they repeated almost the same concerns about Western life.  I noted this point several times in my essay, and I think it speaks to the relevance of my research.  All the major philosophers in the paper decried the state of modern morality and democracy; and, most proposed violent ends to solve the “crisis” they observed in contemporary life.  In my opinion, their beliefs are not too dissimilar from similar movements today.  As much as we might like to imagine cultural pessimism as a thing of the past–especially in this age of amazing social and technological change–that idea couldn’t be further from the truth.  Views like those Spengler promulgated never left Europe or America.  They form a large part of modern intellectual history.  Unfortunately, we see these views entering the public vogue once again.

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