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Strategies of the Spectacle

Strategies of the Spectacle

(p.34) Chapter Two Strategies of the Spectacle
University of Chicago Press

Martial's book, The Liber spectaculorum, deals with a single theme, indeed a single event: the games given by Titus for the inauguration of the Flavian amphitheater in 80 BC. It celebrates the beginning of the new Flavian dynasty, with which Martial will be closely associated, and whose demise will be followed swiftly by the poet's departure from Rome for his native Spain. The spectacle as the epitome of presence, presided over by the divine presence of the emperor himself, provides Martial with the opportunity to explore one of the genre's proudest boasts, namely that it concerns the here and now. Simultaneously exalting and deflating, the epigram pits a wondrous and ephemeral present against a past drained of its substance, and Martial is able to make an implicit claim for the epigram as the appropriate form for this content. It could be said that in this book epigram and spectacle mutually interpret one another, with the result that Martial's Liber spectaculorum provides a unique perspective on the strategies of the imperial spectacle.

Keywords:   Liber spectaculorum, Martial, Flavian dynasty, Rome, epigram, imperial spectacle, presence, emperor

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