John W. Rettig Memorial Lecture 2020
Dr. Fred K. Drogula
Memory in Death: Cato the Younger in the Age of Caesar
Saturday October 17th, 4:00 via Zoom
We are happy to announce that this year's lecture will be held in conjunction with the Ohio Classical Conference annual Meeting.
Cato the Younger is one of the Roman Republic’s most famous and celebrated politicians. He was dedicated to preserving the traditional power and prerogatives of Rome’s aristocratic elite, and staunchly opposed those ambitious men who sought personal advancement through populist measures. A complex man, he used both conventional and unconventional tactics to wage his political battles. Most of all, Cato is famous as the arch-rival of Julius Caesar, whose ambitions he opposed throughout their political careers. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and started a civil war, Cato took up arms and joined those marching against him. When all hopes of victory were lost, Cato took his own life rather than accept Caesar’s famous clemency. No sooner had he died than those who admired him—including Brutus and Cicero—decided to preserve his memory in writing. Living under Caesar’s domination, however, they feared to praise Cato’s anti-Caesarian political views too warmly lest they incur the dictator’s wrath. To avoid politics, therefore, they determined to write about Cato in the language of philosophy, using abstract philosophical ideals—rather than concrete political actions—to discuss Cato and his career. Thus the first and most important sources on Cato’s life presented and discussed him as a philosopher, turning him into a Stoic guru rather than the practical statesman that he had been. Succeeding generations of philosophers and thinkers further refined and enhanced Cato’s legend, transforming him into a symbol for the lost Republic and for freedom itself. Even in modern times, Cato remains a symbol and even a caricature of Roman virtue, an identity that is no doubt based in reality, but that only reflects a part of the complicated man he really was.
Fred Drogula is the Charles J. Ping Professor of Humanities and Professor of Classics at Ohio University. He earned his Ph.D in History from the University of Virginia (2005). He accepted his current position at Ohio University in 2018, where he teaches in the Department of Classics and World Religions and runs the Charles J. Ping Institute for the Teaching of the Humanities, which develops initiatives to support the teaching of the Humanities by university faculty and Ohio high school teachers, and seeks to promote enthusiasm for the Humanities in the local community. He is the author of many articles and book chapters, and of two manuscripts: Commanders and Command in the Roman Republic and Early Empire (Chapel Hill, 2015), which examined the origins and development of fundamental Roman concepts of military authority and command, and Cato the Younger: Life and Death at the End of the Roman Republic, which studies the career of Cato the Younger and his pivotal role in the events that led to the collapse of the Roman Republic. His current project is examining the early origins and development of the Roman Senate, using archaeological evidence and recent scholarship to reconstruct how the Senate and Rome’s early government developed.