2005 Student Research Conference:
18th Annual Student Research Conference

Social Science

Crippled Gods: Suetonius and Imperial Disability
Elizabeth M. Ryan*, Steven D. Cox, Michael C. McCarty, and Jason Wheaton
Prof. Martha L. Rose, Faculty Mentor

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (A.D. 69-140) is considered the definitive biographer of the first twelve caesars of the Roman Empire. His work is distinguished by an emphasis on character and personality study beyond the simple chronological retelling of events. His focus on the individual caesars’ physical characteristics and distinct behaviors make him the leading source for increasing our understanding of the concept of disability in the Roman Empire. In comparison with other works on Roman life in which physical flaws in the average person were considered character flaws, Suetonius’ descriptions of the caesars’ physical imperfections were not viewed as anything more than distinct personality traits. Suetonius’ writing, inherently biased by his position within the imperial court, provides us with an understanding of how disability throughout history is a social construction and its meaning is interpreted through the surviving texts and often misinterpreted through the lens of modern assumptions.

Keywords: Ancient History, Disability Studies, Roman Empire


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 13-5
Location: VH 1416
Time: 9:15

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