An Emperor’s Tears: The Significance of the Mourning of the Julio-Claudian Emperors
At the death of Germanicus in 19 CE, the behaviour of the emperor Tiberius came under scrutiny. How would he react to his nephew’s death? According to Tacitus, the failure of Tiberius to make a public appearance was seen as telling, surely it indicated that Tiberius did not wish his lack of remorse and grief to be witnessed (Ann. 3.2-3). Tiberius’ behaviour as a mourner needed to match his behaviour as emperor – secretive, untrusting, inappropriate and quintessentially bad. This paper explores how the Roman emperors from Augustus to Nero were presented as mourning for those that they had lost, highlighting the importance of mourning in the evaluation of character. How an emperor acted as a mourner, whether, for example, he wept openly or shunned the public, could be a considered act of self-presentation, which was open both to contemporary popular scrutiny and posthumous evaluation. The emotion of grief, and the genuineness of its expression, especially through the shedding of tears, became part of a public performance as emperors negotiated the machinations of dynastic succession. How an emperor wept, who for and for how long, could be both a significant measure of his character and of the perceived character, and or importance, of the deceased. An emperor’s tears could come at a reputational price both for himself, and for others.
Agamben (2005). – Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2005; translated by Kevin Attell; first published in Italian in 2003).
Balmaceda (2017). - Catalina Balmaceda, Virtus Romana: Politics and Morality in the Roman Historians (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 2017).
Beck (2018). – Hans Beck, ‘Of Fragments and Feelings: Roman Funeral Oratory Revisited’, in Christa Gray, Andrea Balbo, Richard Marshal & Catherine Steel (eds.), Reading Republican Oratory: Reconstructions, Contexts, Receptions (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018) 263-280.
Cairns (2008). – Douglas Cairns ‘Look Both Ways: Studying Emotions in Ancient Greek’. Critical Quarterly 50.4 (2008) 43-62.
Cairns (2009). – Douglas Cairns, ‘Weeping and Veiling: Grief, Display and Concealment in Ancient Greek Culture’, in Thorsten Fögen (ed.), Tears in the Graeco-Roman World (Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter 2009) 37-57.
Cairns and Fulkerson (2015). – Douglas Cairns & Laurel Fulkerson, ‘Introduction’ in Douglas Cairns & Laurel Fulkerson (eds.), Emotions between Greece and Rome (London: Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Supplement 125) 1-40.
Champlin (2003) – Edward Champlin, Nero (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press).
Champlin (2008). – Edward Champlin, ‘Tiberius the Wise’. Historia 57.4 (2008) 408-425.
Champlin (2011). – Edward Champlin, ‘Tiberius and the Heavenly Twins’. Journal of Roman Studies 101 (2011) 73-99.
Coplan (2011). – Amy Coplan, ‘Understanding empathy: its features and effects’ in Amy Coplan & Peter Goldie (eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 3-18.
Corbeill (2004). – Anthony Corbeill, Nature Embodied: Gesture in Ancient Rome (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2004).
Eck, Caballos, and Fernández (1996) – Werner Eck, Antonio Caballos & Fernando Fernández, Das Senatus Consultum de Cn. Pisone patre (Munich: C. H. Beck 1996).
Erskine (1997). – Andrew Erskine, ‘Cicero and the Expression of Grief’ in Christopher Gill & Susanna Morton Braund (eds.), The Passions in Roman Thought and Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1997) 36–47.
Gloyn (2017) – Liz Gloyn, The Ethics of the Family in Seneca (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2017).
Goffman (1959) - Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York: Doubleday 1959).
Gunderson (2014). – Erik Gunderson, ‘E.g. Augustus: Exemplum in the Augustus and Tiberius’ in Tristan Power & Roy Gibson (eds.), Suetonius the Biographer: Studies in Roman Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2014) 130-145.
Harrison (2017). – Stephen Harrison, ‘The Lost Heir: C. Claudius Marcellus in Augustan Poetry’. Phaos, Revista de Estudos Classicos 17.1 (2017) 69-82.
Hatfield, Cacioppo and Rapson (1994) – Elaine Hatfield, John Cacioppo and Richard Rapson, Emotional Contagion (New York & Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Hope (2011). - Valerie Hope, ‘Livia’s Tears: The Presentation of Roman Mourning’ in Helène Whittaker (ed.), In Memoriam. Commemoration, Communal Memory and Gender Values in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press 2011) 91-125.
Hope (2017a). – Valerie Hope, ‘Living Without the Dead: Finding Solace in Ancient Rome’ in Frederick Tappenden & Carly Daniel-Hughes (eds.), Coming Back to Life: The Permeability of Past and Present, Mortality and Immortality, Death and Life in the Ancient Mediterranean (Montreal, Quebec: McGill Scholarly Publishing) 39–70.
Hope (2017b). – Valerie Hope, ‘A Sense of Grief: The Role of the Senses in the Performance of Roman Mourning’, in Eleanor Betts (ed.), Senses of the Empire: Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture (London and New York: Routledge) 86-103.
Hope (2019). – Valerie Hope, ‘Vocal Expression in Roman Mourning’, in Shane Butler and Sarah Nooter (eds.), Sound and the Ancient Senses (London and New York: Routledge 2019) 61-76.
Hope (forthcoming) – Valerie Hope, ‘Octavia: A Roman Mother in Mourning’, in Alison Keith and Alison Sharrock (eds.), Motherhood in Antiquity (University of Texas Press forthcoming).
Jenkins (2009). – Thomas Jenkins, ‘Livia the Princeps: Gender and Ideology in the Consolatio ad Liviam’. Helios 36.1 (2009) 1-25.
Jones (2004). - Christopher, P. Jones, ‘A Speech of the Emperor Hadrian’. Classical Quarterly 54.1 (2004) 266-273.
Kemezis (2007). - Adam M. Kemezis, ‘Augustus the Ironic Paradigm: Cassius Dio’s Portrayal of the Lex Iulia and Lex Papia Poppaea’. Phoenix 61. 3-4 (2007) 270-285.
Ker (2015). - James Ker, ‘Seneca and Augustan Culture’, in Shadi Bartsch (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Seneca (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015) 109-121.
Kerkeslager (2006). - Allen Kerkeslager, ‘Agrippa and the Mourning Rites for Drusilla in Alexandria’. Journal for the Study of Judaism 37.3 (2006) 367-400.
Konstan (2016). - David Konstan, ‘Understanding Grief in Greece and Rome’ Classical World 110.1 (2016) 3-30.
Krasser (2009). - Helmut Krasser, ‘Statius and the Weeping Emperor (Silv. 2.5): Tears as a Means of Communication in the Amphitheatre’, in Thorsten Fögen (ed.), Tears in the Graeco-Roman World (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter) 253-275.
Langlands (2014). - Rebecca Langlands, ‘Exemplary Influences and Augustus’ Pernicious Moral Legacy’, in Tristan Power and Roy K. Gibson (eds.), Suetonius the Biographer: Studies in Roman Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2014) 111-129.
Levick (2014). – Barbara Levick, Augustus: Image and Substance (London and New York: Routledge 2014).
de Libero (2009). - Loretana de Libero, ‘Precibus ac lacrimis: Tears in Roman Historiographers’, in Thorsten Fögen (ed.), Tears in the Graeco-Roman World (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter 2009) 209-233.
Lott (2012). – J. Bert Lott, Death and Dynasty in Early Imperial Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012).
Lowrie (2009). - Michele Lowrie, Writing, Performance and Authority in Augustan Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009).
Luke (2013). - Trevor Luke, ‘From Crisis to Consensus: Salutary Ideology and the Murder of Agrippina’. Illinois Classical Studies 38 (2013) 207-228.
Marrone and Nicolini (2010). - Giovanella Cresci Marrone & Sara Nicolini, ‘Il principe e la strategie del lutto – il caso delle donne della domus di Augusto’, in Anne Kolb (ed.) Augustae: Machtbewusse Frauen am römische Kaiserhof? (Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2010) 163-78.
Mustakallio (2005). – Katariina Mustakallio, ‘Roman Funerals: Identity, Gender and Participation’, in Katriina Mustakallio, Jussi Hanska, Hanna-Leena Sainio, Ville Vuolanto (eds.), Hoping for Continuity: Childhood, Education and Death in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Rome: Acti Instituti Romani Findlandiae 33 2005) 179-190.
Mustakallio 2014 – Katariina Mustakallio, ‘Grief and mourning in the Roman context’ in Angelos Chaniotis and P. Ducrey (eds.), Unveiling Emotions II: Emotions in Greece and Rome: Texts, Images, Material Culture (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag) 237-250.
Noreña (2001). - Carlos F. Noreña, ‘The Communication of the Emperor’s Virtues’. Journal of Roman Studies 91 (2001) 146-168.
O’Gorman (2000). – Ellen O’Gorman, Irony and Misreading in the Annals of Tacitus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2000).
Peirano (2012). – Irene Peirano, The Rhetoric of the Roman Fake: Latin Pseudepigrapha in Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012).
Potter (2016). – David Potter, ‘The Social Life of the Senses: Feasts and Funerals’, in Jerry Toner (ed.), A Cultural History of the Senses in Antiquity (London & New York: Bloomsbury 2016) 23-44.
Prescendi (1995). - Francesca Prescendi, ‘Il lutto dei padri nella cultura Romana’, in François Hinard (ed.), La Mort au Quotidien dans le Monde Romain (Paris: De Boccard 1995) 147-54.
Price (1987). – Simon Price, ‘From Noble Funerals to Divine Cult: The Consecration of Roman Emperors’, in David Cannandine and Simon Price (eds.), Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1987), 56-105.
Racette-Campbell (2016). – Melanie Racette-Campbell, ‘Death Becomes Her: Women’s Speech Haunting Propertian Elegy’. Helios 43.2 (2016) 109-131.
Reed (2001). – Jay Reed, ‘Anchises reading Aeneas reading Marcellus’. Syllecta Classica 12 (2001) 146-168.
Rey (2015). – Sarah Rey, ‘Les larmes romanies et leur portée: une question de genre?. Clio 41(2015) 243-64.
Richlin (2001). – Amy Richlin, ‘Emotional Work: Lamenting the Roman Dead’, in Elizabeth Tywalsky & Charles Weiss (eds.), Essays in Honor of Gordon Williams: Twenty-five Years at Yale (New Haven: Schwab 2001) 229-48.
Rizzini (1998). – Ilaria Rizzini, L'occhio parlante: per una semiotica dello sguardo nel mundo antico (Venice: Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed art 1998).
Roller (2009). – Matthew Roller, ‘The Exemplary Past in Roman Historiography and Culture’, in Andrew Feldherr (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2009) 214-30.
Roller (2018). – Matthew Roller, Models from the Past in Roman Culture: A World of Exempla (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2018).
Schoonhoven (1992). – Henk Schoonhoven, The Pesudo-Ovidian Ad Liviam de Morte Drusi. (Groningen: Egbert Forsten 1992).
Schrijvers (1988). – Petrus H. Schrijvers, ‘A propos de la datation de la Consolatio ad Liviam’. Mnemosyne 41 (1988) 381-385.
Shuttleworth Kraus (2005). – Christina Shuttleworth Kraus, ‘From exampla to Exemplar? Writing History around the Emperor in Imperial Rome’, in Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason and James Rives (eds.), Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2005) 181-200.
Šterbenc Erker (2009). - Darja Šterbenc Erker, ‘Women’s Tears in Ancient Roman Rituals’, in Thorsten Fögen (ed.), Tears in the Graeco-Roman World (Berlin and NewYork: Walter de Gruyter 2009) 135-160.
Sumi (2011). Geoffrey S. Sumi, ‘Topography and Ideology: Caesar’s Monument and the Aedes Divi Iulii in Augustan Rome’. Classical Quarterly 61.1 (2011) 215-229.
Swain (2007). – Simon Swain, ‘Polemon’s Physiognomy’, in Simon Swain (ed.), Seeing the Face, Seeing the Soul: Polemon’s Physiognomy from Classical Antiquity to Medieval Islam. (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007) 125-202.
Ursini (2014). – Francesco Ursini, ‘Sul problema dell’autenticità e della datazione della Consolatio ad Liviam’. Vichiana 17 (2014) 93-120.
Wallace-Hadrill (1981). Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, ‘The Emperor and his Virtues’. Historia 30.3 (1981) 298-323.
Waskul and Vannini (2013). – Dennis Waskul & Phillip Vannini, ‘The Performative Body: Dramaturgy, the Body and Embodiment’, in Charles Edgley (ed.) The Drama of Social Life: A Dramaturgical Handbook (London and New York: Routledge 2013) 197-210.
Copyright (c) 2019 Valerie Margaret Hope
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with thersites agree to the following terms:
- Publishing in thersites is free of any charges.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication.
- Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, so long as the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes. The journal is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. More information about this license is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).