Literary Interactions under Nerva, Trajan & Hadrian

Project: Standard

Project Details


This project brings together researchers with an interest in Nervan, Trajanic and Hadrianic literature to examine the texts and the literary culture of the period collectively. The last few decades have seen some exciting scholarship in this field, but the trend has been for author-specific studies, leaving the connections and interactions between texts under-explored. Yet the authors themselves worked in dialogue with each other; they attended recitals, commented on drafts, referenced each other in their writings, and defined their own styles and agenda alongside or against those of other writers. By examining their varied interactions, this project aims to develop our understanding not just of individual texts but also of the nature and impact of such cross-pollination (within and across genres, and between both Latin and Greek authors). It will also examine the literary culture that promoted it; and it will explore the interface between Roman literary, social and political life. In so doing, it will contribute to the wider study of the late first and early second centuries AD.

Layman's description

The reigns of Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian represent a fascinating and important period in Roman imperial history. The dynamics of imperial politics were transformed by Nerva’s unorthodox succession and the transition of power to his successor, Trajan; Hadrian’s attitude to the provinces had a lasting impact both on social dynamics and on cultural and political relations between Rome and the rest of the empire; and the period also witnessed the beginnings of the so-called Greek Second Sophistic and the reinvention of a number of Latin literary genres (notably, satire, epistolography and historiography). These various developments influenced each other; and yet the period still lacks the kind of study which brings political, social, cultural and literary strands together. This project aims to address that gap; and it will capitalize not just on a recent upsurge of interest in the Roman authors of the period (witness the raft of recent publications on Pliny the Younger and Martial in particular) but also on an increased awareness amongst scholars of the cross-fertilisation between them and their Greek contemporaries.

Participants with a range of expertise (Latin and Greek, literary, archaeological, philosophical and historical) will explore the overlaps and interactions between a broad spectrum of works – by historians and biographers (Tacitus, Suetonius, Plutarch), satirists and epigrammatists (Juvenal, Martial), orators and philosophers (Pliny the Younger, Dio Chrysostom, Polemon of Smyrna, Favorinus), and military and administrative writers (Frontinus, Arrian, Aelianus Tacticus), among others. These authors not only engaged with each other; they were influenced by – and helped to shape – many of the social, cultural and political developments of the age, both individually and through the creative dialogues they entered into. A collaborative reappraisal of their works will result in new readings of individual texts (analysis of Frontinus’ interactions with Martial, Pliny, Plutarch, Tacitus and Aelian, for example, will offer fresh insights into each of these authors), as well as a fuller understanding of their shared concerns and of the intertextual dynamics of literary production at the time. This will develop our understanding of literary culture in the Roman imperial period more generally (by exposing, inter alia, the variety of relationships between texts written in different traditions, and the collective power of their exchanges to shape Roman thought). It will also engage with broader issues – e.g., trends in the ways in which Romans and Greeks imagined the city of Rome, or explored the realities and rhetoric of Roman rule; and patterns and shifts in the ways in which men of different social and political status negotiated the past, presented political change and continuity, and addressed the changing role of the elite. In so doing, it will shed new light on the period as a whole.
AcronymLiterary Interactions Under Nerva
Effective start/end date1/09/1230/06/15


  • The British Academy: £4,400.46


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