Title

The Worst First Citizen

Author ORCID Identifier

http://orcid.org/0000-00

Degree Year

2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Classics

Advisor(s)

Andrew Wilburn

Committee Member(s)

Benjamin Todd Lee
Rebecca A. Frank

Keywords

Nero, Rome, Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, Imperial Rome, Gender, Anal penetration, Oral penetration, Galba, Otho, Domitian, Vitellius, Historiography, Biography, Masculinity, Tropes, Bibliography, Sporus, Pythagoras, Sexuality

Abstract

In his telling of the Life of Nero, Suetonius crafted an image of an archetypical tyrant that he then used throughout his other Lives. The princeps was Rome's premier citizen--as such, they needed to perform all aspects of citizenship as well as possible, especially in regards to successfully performing masculinity. Therefore, to be a good emperor was to embody male virtue; to be a bad emperor was to be effeminate and lack virtue. Suetonius crafted a rhetorical trope of the unmanly tyrant using his portrayal of Nero. This is seen most clearly in Nero 29, where Nero was sexually passive to a freedman, had public intercourse, and performed oral sex, among other improprieties. This trope was then used in the Lives of Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Domitian to cast them as unqualified and tyrannical.

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