Join our email listserv and receive monthly updates on the latest titles.

Hopkins Fulfillment Services

The Empire of the Self

, 312 pages
September 2012



Availability Text

Usually ships 2-3 business days after receipt of order.

The Empire of the Self

Self-Command and Political Speech in Seneca and Petronius

In The Empire of the Self, Christopher Star studies the question of how political reality affects the concepts of body, soul, and self. Star argues that during the early Roman Empire the establishment of autocracy and the development of a universal ideal of individual autonomy were mutually enhancing phenomena. The Stoic ideal of individual empire or complete self-command is a major theme of Seneca’s philosophical works. The problematic consequences of this ideal are explored in Seneca’s dramatic and satirical works, as well as in the novel of his contemporary Petronius.

Star examines the rhetorical links between these diverse texts. He also demonstrates a significant point of contact between two writers generally thought to be antagonists—the idea that imperial speech structures reveal the self.

Christopher Star is an assistant professor of classics at Middlebury College.

"Star's highly original comparison of Seneca and Petronius offers us new vistas on the dynamic relationship between these two authors, not to mention the culture in which they lived and died, promoting and perverting the technologies of self-fashioning available to imperial Romans."

"This [review] can hardly do justice to the scope and richness of Star's argument in each chapter, to the thoroughness with which he discusses his chosen texts, and to the creativity with which he exploits his simultaneous treatments of Seneca and Petronius. This book makes a major contribution to the modern bibliography of selfhood and self-formation in the early empire, and it will doubtless generate further debate in so vibrant an area of study."

"With this book, Star contributes to a growing body of scholarship on the construction of the self in classical antiquity."

"If this book only managed to demonstrate -- as it unquestionably does -- the complementary intertexuality of the Satyricon with Senecan philosophy, that alone would be a noteworthy achievement. But in fact The Empire of the Self is rife with compelling readings of its target texts that have ramifications beyond a narrow understanding of either author of their relationship to one another. Star's study offers its readers valuable insights into the governing metaphors and preoccupations of the Roman intelligentsia in the mid-first century CE."

"Star has performed a valuable service in presenting a fresh approach to familiar authors which helps the discussion to move beyond some of the established academic truisms of the last few decades, and identifying the common conceptual ground that they share. He offers us a fresh perspective on both Seneca’s and Petronius’ views of self-fashioning, making a major contribution to several recent areas of interest within classics. Both graduate students and scholars working on Neronian literature or Roman concepts of identity will benefit from reading Star’s argument."

Related Books