Revolution #3 – Reading Revolution: Lucan’s Civil War

‘aduenisse diem qui fatum rebus in aeuum conderet humanis, et quaeri, Roma quid esset,

illo Marte, palam est.’

‘It is clear, the day which will decide the matters of human life forever has come,

the battle shall decide what Rome shall be.’

-Lucan, Civil War, 7. 131-133.

LucanPharsaliaFrenchEd1657
Attribution: Engraved title page of a French edition of Lucan’s Pharsalia, 1657.

 

How did the young poet Lucan (39-65 AD), writing his epic poem, the Civil War, under the erratic Emperor Nero, manage to explore and engage with the notion of revolution, a term which would wait more than a thousand years to be coined in its current sense?  Continue reading

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Revolution #2: Olympe de Gouges’ Fight Against Slavery

Attribution: Alexander Kucharsky, Portrait of Olympe de Gouges, late 18th century

 

 

“I rebel; therefore I exist.”

–          Albert Camus

 

 

 

 

This quote is particularly true for Olympe de Gouges. Born in 1748 in the South of France, Gouges came to live in Paris in the early 1770s. She was well assimilated in the society of the Old Regime and was friend with many men of letters. She started to write in the early 1780s, first with the play Zamore et Mirza, ou L’heureux naufrage, (Zamore and Mirza, or The Fortunate Shipwreck) the story of a slave couple, Zamore and Mirza, who become outlaws and are saved and helped by a French couple. The play has a happy ending, with the slaves being forgiven and freed by their former master. Gouges consequently became a prolific writer: she wrote fifteen plays (that we know of), a novel, a few essays and, from 1788 to 1793, around fifty political Continue reading