Learn about our fellows’ research projects: Theodore Antoniadis on mobility and immigration in Roman literature

October 1, 2021
Learn about our fellows’ research projects: Theodore Antoniadis on mobility and immigration in Roman literature

Guest post by Theodore Antoniadis, Fellow in Comparative Cultural Studies 2020-21

Research topic during fellowship: Contextualizing Mobility and Immigration in Roman Myth and Latin Epic

New contextualizations of Greek mythological figures in Roman literature have always triggered many stimulating readings both in terms of ideology and metapoetics. Such discussions acquire further interest when when the subject comes around the various foundation myths and stories found in the core of such contextualizations with regard to the political, social, ethnic representation of Rome as a community (and later as an empire) largely built by refugees. In particular, the legitimation of the Roman state lies in the fact that Aeneas, following his destiny after the fall of Troy and a series of adventures across the Mediterranean, settled down in Latium where he was supposed to have founded Lavinium (Laurentum) as a political and religious center. On a historical level, as Latium was originally under Etruscan supremacy, the Romans seem to have adopted the Trojan myth for themselves as soon as they established their domination of the Latin league in the 5th century BCE. Furthermore, they gradually endorsed this myth with special political significance making it part of their ‘ethnic’ narrative, the so-called ‘Augustan ideology’, which framed their imperial expansion from the early Principate onwards. As a result, in all literary versions of the Aeneas myth from Gnaeus Naevius’ Bellum Poenicum (218–201 BCE) and Quintus Ennius’ Annales to Vergil’s Aeneid the leading figure of the proto-Roman history is systematically presented more or less as a migrant founder who sought a better life for himself and his people.

Nevertheless, Aeneas’s success story of immigration and integration was not unique in Graeco-Roman myth. Already in the Aeneid, actually, the Trojan hero is acquainted with other refugees who had crossed the Adriatic Sea in search of their own “promised land”. In his encounter with Evander, an Arcadian settler at the site of Rome, Aeneas finds out that the latter was also driven from his homeland in the Peloponnese to Italy (Aen. 8.333: pulsum patria).  Later in the epic, the Greek Diomedes is said to have settled in Apulia in Southern Italy after the end of the Trojan War where he founded several cities, among which the best known is Arpi.

By virtue of the CHS fellowship in Comparative Cultural Studies (September 1, 2020 – August 31, 2021), for which I am very grateful, I gained privileged access to various secondary bibliographical resources in support of my project which is to explore the prevalence of the ‘refugee theme’ and its side-effects in the Augustan literature. Taking as a case study the mythological figure of Teucer in Greaco-Roman literary tradition my aim is to reconceptualize this kind of mobility as an integral part especially of Rome’s imperial mission and its impact on the western world. The conclusions to be drawn might further help us reconsider and/or re-evaluate some aspects of the contemporary “mobility” issues all over Europe with the hordes of immigrants and refugees from the East reaching the borders of many countries with every possible means in search for a better future.

About Theodore Antoniadis

Theodore Antoniadis is an Assistant Professor of Latin at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He has studied Classics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (BA: 1994-1999, PhD: 2001-2007) and at the University of Toronto in Canada (MA: 1999-2000). A revised version of his doctoral dissertation, The Rhetoric of Belatedness: A Running Commentary on Ovid’s Amores as well as a translation of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura have been published in modern Greek. He has also written various articles in leading international peer-reviewed journals and peer-reviewed conference proceedings on Augustan Poetry, Senecan Tragedy, and Flavian Epic, while his current research focuses primarily on the Punica of Silius Italicus.

Fellowships in Comparative Cultural Studies

The Fellowships in Comparative Cultural Studies program was established in 2008 and has welcomed dozens of educators from Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences from Greek Universities. Find out more about this research opportunity οn the Fellowships in Comparative Cultural Studies webpage.