Division of Languages and Literature, Dean of the College, and Classical Studies Program present

Bizarro Hercules: The Omphale Myth in Augustan Rome

Matthew P. Loar
Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Monday, February 19, 2018

Following decades of civil war in the first century BCE, two separate myths of Hercules attained sudden popularity in Augustan Rome (ca. 31 BCE–14 CE): his epic battle with the robber-monster Cacus, and his transvestite servitude to the Lydian queen Omphale. Traditionally, both myths have been seen as part of an elaborate propaganda campaign orchestrated by/for Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, where the monster-slaying Hercules stands in for Augustus while the cross-dressed Hercules stands in for Marc Antony, Augustus’ onetime rival. However, lost amidst this political jousting are some of the striking similarities between the two myths and the contexts in which they appear. This talk will focus on how one Augustan poet in particular, the Roman elegist Propertius (ca. 47–16 BCE), treats the two myths, arguing that Propertius casts the Omphale myth as a kind of multiform of the Cacus myth, using the former to dress up some of the more troubling aspects of Hercules’ violent interventions in Rome’s mythic pre-history.

Time: 5:00 pm

Location: Olin, Room 102