In ancient Rome political change was regularly tied to sexual violence (the Rape of the Sabines, the Rape of Lucretia, the murder of Virginia). How do we make sense of this? The lecture argues that the Romans themselves discussed these (mythical) incidents much more subtly than we often give them credit for, and that the Rape of Lucretia in particular has for 2000 years raised important questions about power, responsibility and consent.
This lecture moves from the colour of ancient statues to the skin colour of the Greeks and Romans themselves. Why have these issues proved so inflammatory in the study of antiquity? Who is committed to a white vision of the ancient world, and why? It argues not that antiquity was a world before racism, but that its very different ideas about colour (skin and otherwise) can destabilise our own.
This lecture introduces some of those moral and ethical dilemmas in studying the classical world, asking how we understand remote ancient cultures that have come to stand both for the pinnacle of "civilisation" and for the nadir of corruption and cruelty. Choosing the gladiatorial games as one case study, it takes aim at the sense of moral superiority that we so often display in the face of some of antiquity's worst "crimes".