Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies Research CRASIS

Ancient World Seminar: Jacqueline Klooster & Inger Kuin (Groningen) 'What is a crisis? The rhetoric of crisis and order'

When:Mo 23-05-2016 16:15 - 17:30
Where:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), room 130
Click to enlarge. Poster design by Caroline van Toor
Click to enlarge. Poster design by Caroline van Toor

Inger Kuin

Inger Kuin st udied Philosophy and Journalism at the University of Amsterdam, and she received a PhD in Classics from New York University for her dissertation Playful Piety: Lucian and the Comic in Ancient Religious Experience (2015). Her research focuses on the cultural history of the Greek-speaking world in the Roman period, while she has also published on Latin epigraphy and on papyrology. She is currently working on the After the Wars project, while she is also preparing a book manuscript on ancient religion, humor, and anthropomorphism based on her dissertation.

Jacqueline Klooster

Jacqueline Klooster was educated at Amsterdam University, where she completed her PhD (2009) on Hellenistic Poetry (Poetry as Window and Mirror, Positioning the Poet in Hellenistic Poetry, Brill 2011). She has worked as a research fellow (post doc) at the University of Amsterdam and Ghent University (Belgium). Among her research interests are (self-)representation of poets (Poetry as Window and Mirror, 2011), Space in Greek Literature (The Ideologies of Lived Space in Literature, Ancient and Modern, Ghent Academia Press 2013, with Jo Heirman), and the evaluation of the literary activities of ancient rulers (A Portrait of the Statesman as an Artist, Writing Rulers in Antiquity, in progress). She is currently working on the project After the Civil Wars .


In a well-known letter Cicero asks L. Lucceius to produce a flattering account of his consulship in the year 63. In this year, of course, he discovered and successfully repressed the Catilinarian conspiracy. Cicero states that the material will especially prove interesting for Lucceius because the latter will be able to make use of his knowledge of political changes (civilium commutationum scientia) in explaining the origins of the revolutionary movement (rerum novarum) and suggesting remedies (remediis incommodorum) (5.12.4). This suggests that Cicero regarded political crises like the Catilinarian conspiracy as particularly rewarding material for the moralistic historiographer. He seems to be invoking a specific template for the writing up of such political crises.

In this paper we suggest that Hayden White’s theories of meta-history (1973) can help us better understand Cicero’s rather particular manual for the historiography of political crises. By comparing Cicero’s proposed narrative to other reports of similar crises (e.g., the Catilinarian conspiracy in Sallust and the Gracchi in Livy and in Plutarch) we will investigate whether it is indeed possible to discern something like a ‘crisis template’ in ancient historiography. A larger question that we hope to explore is the power of crisis rhetoric in general. Cicero famously presents the Catilinarian conspiracy as an attempt at revolution, a special, high stakes event, while modern day historians have questioned the actual meaning and significance of the conspiracy.

In writing political history the stakes are high, for Lucceius and for us as ancient historians. With this paper we want to question the ‘crisis template’ of ancient historiographers, while at the same time also critically engaging our own paradigms for narrating and framing crises from the ancient past.