2005 Student Research Conference:
18th Annual Student Research Conference

Social Science

A Political Disability: Pliny the Younger’s Letters and Roman Culture
Kevin R. Dyke*, Samantha Gilbert, and Brad Robertson
Prof. Martha L. Rose, Faculty Mentor

For centuries, Pliny the Younger’s published letters have been used by scholars as a source of information about Roman culture. Pliny (circa AD 62-113) entered politics under the reign of Domitian and would later become the governor of Bithynia under Trajan, with whom he exchanged letters frequently. These letters reveal a great deal about Roman life, including the construction of physical disability. Fellow Romans with disabilities are mentioned in the same context as public executions and suicides. Because his letters were often written to forge political alliances for his own advancement, discussing disabilities with important Roman officials or the emperor had political motives. Thus we, as historians, must consider that Pliny’s letters can not be taken as the final word about disability in Roman culture. Pliny’s letters are valuable not for specific information about disability, but because they help reconstruct the atmosphere of spectacle in which people with disabilities lived.

Keywords: Ancient History, Disability Studies, Roman Empire


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 13-3
Location: VH 1416
Time: 8:45

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