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Good and evil. Literary images of morality in Caesar and Sallust

Research project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, 2010-2012.

Researcher: Maria Plaza

The aim of this project is to analyse how, from a literary point of view, morals are made in the historical writings of Roman 1st C BC authors Caesar and Sallust. A further aim is that by asking modern questions about two examples of moral positions in ancient literature, the study will participate in a discussion about the concept of morals in our time.

Starting from a close reading of the Latin texts, but also considering their philosophical and historical context, I hope to find answers to e.g.:

How Caesar shapes:

  • his moral ideal;
  • his overall fictional universe;
  • his variety of ”the other”; and how Gallic leader Ambiorix may be read as Caesar’s ”double”.


How Sallust:

  • creates an explicitly moralist narrator, and how that affects what he says;
  • imagines immoral men.


How both writers, in their different ways,

  • use images of everyday things to build up the moral aspect of their narratives.


Roman literature has usually been read for its morals from a historical or a philosophical perspective. Literary criticism, however, has shown that the form of literature decides its content. We need to read the moral content of ”serious” prose writings precisely through their literary form. By reading with attention to factors more developed for fictional genres (narrative technique, imagery), I hope to show, on a small scale, how we can refine our understanding – both of Caesar and Sallust, and of how to read morals.


Maria Plaza

Box 200, 405 30 Göteborg

Lundgrensgatan 7

031-786 4692

Sidansvarig: Fredrik Fällman|Sidan uppdaterades: 2010-06-14

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