Visualising War and Peace

The Poetics of Rome’s Punic Wars

November 17, 2021 The University of St Andrews Season 1 Episode 36
Visualising War and Peace
The Poetics of Rome’s Punic Wars
Show Notes

In this week’s podcast, Alice and Nicolas talk with Dr Thomas Biggs, a lecturer in Latin at the School of Classics at St Andrews, about Roman representations of war, from the beginnings of Latin literature in the third century BCE to the imperial period and beyond. They particularly discuss the impact of Rome's Punic Wars on Roman storytelling habits. Tom is the leading expert on the reception of the First Punic War in antiquity and how it influenced the ways in which the Romans thought about and visualised war more generally.  His book Poetics of the First Punic War was published in 2020.

The First Punic War was the first large-scale, overseas war of the Romans and in many ways laid the foundations for Rome’s vast empire. From the beginning, this major conflict prompted authors - many of whom were war veterans themselves, and many displaced to Rome due to conflict - to innovate with their writing. Drawing on present experiences as well as traditional Greek models of writing about war (Homer), they used poetry and drama to conceptualise the nature and impact of this biggest military conflict yet and, in the process, created Latin literature! 

Among other topics, we discuss:

  • How engagement with the First Punic War impacted Roman culture and society for centuries to come and led to the beginnings of Latin literature 
  • What early Latin literature and literary engagement with war was like 
  • How writing about war, and drawing on established Greek literary models to do so, impacted Roman identity and self-definition 
  • The interplay between different forms of writing and material culture such as coins and sculptures 
  • How generation after generation of Romans engaged with the First Punic War in very different ways and what significance the war had to Romans at different points of their history 
  • How engaging with modern narratives of war can enhance our understanding of the ancient world 
  • What the ancient world might still have to offer us in our attempts to conceptualise and come to terms with war and conflict in the present

We hope you enjoy the episode! 
Tom has put together a blog containing some excerpts of the texts he talks about. You can find out more about his work on his website at the University of St Andrews.

For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link

For more information about the Visualising War project, individuals and their projects, access to resources and more, please have a look on the University of St Andrews Visualising War website.  

Music composed by Jonathan Young 
Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin