Writers and rioters: Perceptions and portrayals of urban crowds in Suetonius’ De vita Caesarum
Since the 19th century, much work has been done by historians to understand the role of (urban) crowds in the Roman Republic and in Late Antiquity. The Roman Empire has received significantly less attention. This thesis fills this gap by analysing relevant text passages from the work of Suetonius, with the main research question being: ‘How are urban and lower-class crowds and their actions in the early- to mid-Empire perceived and portrayed in Suetonius’ De vita Caesarum?’ A hybrid method is used: a database consisting of forty text passages gives a general overview of recurring patterns in Suetonius’ descriptions, while individual text analysis provides a deeper insight into his perceptions and portrayals. Labels such as chaotic, dangerous, unruly, impulsive and ignorant appear most prominently. It becomes clear that Suetonius largely viewed crowds in a negative light, with some exceptions for crowds associated positively with happiness, festivities and support for emperors.
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