2005 Student Research Conference:
18th Annual Student Research Conference

Social Science

“Does Some Natural Defect Mar My Beauty?”: Disability in Early Imperial Rome
Lindee R. Weese*, Graham C. Engdahl, Rachel M. Muenks, and Lija K. Kaleps-Clark
Prof. Martha L. Rose, Faculty Mentor

Physical disability is part of daily life, but it has been largely excluded from the social history of Rome. Petronius, a well-known satirist, lived and wrote around AD 27 to 66. His writings are considered a credible source of information on daily life in Rome. Scholars generally conclude that Petronius’ writings indicate that physical disability limited one’s social and economic status in Ancient Rome. However, caution should be used because of the satirical nature of his writings. For example, a character named Agamemnon is ridiculed because of his battle-scarred legs. But the main character, Trimalchio, is ridiculed in the same way for using fraud to extract profit. Petronius is indeed a good source of information about life in Rome, but a deep inquiry into his views on physical disability reveals more concern with wealth than with appearance. Thus, a “natural defect” can indicate a physical or socio-economic handicap.

Keywords: Petronius, Rome, Satyricon, disability, social history, daily life, Nero, satire

Topic(s):History

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 13-1
Location: VH 1416
Time: 8:15

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