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The Ancient History Bulletin

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The Ancient History Bulletin

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The ship of Aeneas, the subject of a single literary attestation in Procopius, has received little serious attention from scholars. In a 1997 article, Pier Luigi Tucci made a plausible case for locating the shipshed for the vessel on the banks of the Tiber in the so-called navalia; he went further to propose that Augustus was the architect behind the ship’s placement there. Here I will expand upon Tucci’s argument by suggesting that Augustus dedicated the ship in 2 BC, simultaneous with the performance of his famous naumachia and the dedication of the Augustan Forum. As the culmination of a “naval narrative” surrounding his defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, the ship of Aeneas can be viewed as consistent with the first emperor’s ideological program; it carried allusions not just to the Trojan foundation of the city of Rome, but also to a subversive attempt to apply a revisionist narrative to Greek—and particularly Athenian—history. Augustus’ preoccupation with positioning his reign in the longue durée of global conflicts between East and West was so pervasive that it was still recognizable to Procopius in the sixth century CE.


Published version. The Ancient History Bulletin, Vol. 34 (2020). Publisher link. © 2020 Ancient History Bulletin. Used with permission.

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