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Declamatory Fictions & the Maiestas Trials: Seneca, Controversiae 9.2

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October 30, 2023

Speaker & Affiliation

Matthew Leigh, University of Oxford


4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
161 East Pyne


In 184 B.C. the censors M. Porcius Cato and L. Valerius Flaccus expelled from the senate seven of its members, of whom the most famous was L. Quinctius Flamininus. The accusation against Flamininus was that, while serving as consul for the year 192 B.C. and campaigning in the province of Gaul, he personally slew with a sword a Boian deserter who had reached his quarters while he was in his cups. This he did to compensate his prostitute lover Philippus who had quit Rome with him just before the gladiatorial games and complained to Flamininus that he had missed the entertainment. Livy 39.42-43 records this episode and cites the principal sources for subsequent versions of the story. In Controversiae 9.2, Flamininus stands trial under the statute 'maiestatis laesae sit actio'. This paper asks the following questions of the Senecan exercise: (i) Is there any historical basis for an actual trial of Flamininus under the lex maiestatis? (ii) What does it mean for declaimers operating at different points in the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius to try the case by application of the crimen maiestatis? (iii) What perspective on the different iterations of this exercise and on those credited with contributing to it is offered to Seneca as he gathers together his material at the very end of the reign of Tiberius and published it at the start of that of Gaius?