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Ancient World Seminar: Nicolas Wiater (St. Andrews), “Between Near-Eastern Culture, Roman History and Greek Historiography: Hannibal's Inscription in the Temple of Hera Lacinia (Plb. 3.33.18) in Context”

Wanneer:di 16-04-2019 16:15 - 17:30
Waar:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), Court Room
Lecture Nicolas Wiater
Lecture Nicolas Wiater


At the end of his campaign in Italy, Hannibal erected a large-scale, bi-lingual inscription of his achievements in the Temple of Juno Lacinia in Sicily. What looks like a triumphant gesture is, in fact, that last deed of a spectacular, but ultimately unsuccessful military undertaking: Hannibal left Italy shortly after to return to Libya, leaving Rome battered and shocked but basically intact. His inscription – the end point of Hannibal’s military campaign in Italy – features prominently in Polybius’ narrative of the beginning of his invasion of Italy. This paper explores the cultural significance of this inscription and its narrative function in Polybius’ account. What did Hannibal seek to achieve when he put up the inscription at a time when he had essentially failed? Why did he choose not only a temple of Juno but that particular temple of Juno? Are there precedents in the Graeco-Roman and ancient oriental cultures for such a practice that can they help us understand better Hannibal’s inscription as a cultural act? And what is the function of the inscription in Polybius? Why does he cite it at the beginning of his narrative of Hannibal’s Italian campaign? (Livy, by contrast, mentions it briefly when he reaches the end of Hannibal’s military activities, that is, in its proper place.) How does the inscription help us conceptualise interplay between literary historical narrative and inscriptions? How unique is Polybius in engaging in such interplay and what effect does that have on the image of Hannibal’s march that he creates in his account? What happens to an inscription once it becomes a physical object in a literary narrative? In this lecture, we will explore these and related questions in order to achieve an as comprehensive as possible idea of what Hannibal’s inscription was, as both a cultural artefact in the ancient world and a literary artefact in Polybius’ text.

About the speaker

Dr Nicolas Wiater is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor, U.S.) at the School of Classics of the University of St Andrews. He studied Greek, Latin and Byzantine Studies in Bonn, Frankfurt, Pisa and Cambridge (M.A. 2004, Dr. phil. 2008). After a post-Doc as a Feodor-Lynen scholar of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the US, he joined the University of St Andrews in 2011 and has been there ever since. His interests include Hellenistic prose and Greek historiography, especially Greek historians writing under and about Rome, in particular Polybius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Greek cultural identity in the late Hellenistic and early Imperial periods and early Roman history. He is currently preparing the third volume of his commented (German) translation of the Early Roman History of Dionysius of Halicarnassus and is working on a research project on book 3 of the Histories of Polybius.