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“Securitas: Embodied Concept”

Michèle Lowrie, University of Chicago

February 23, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · East Pyne 010 and Zoom

Eberhard L. Faber 1915 Memorial Fund in the Humanities Council; Department of Classics

Our modern concept of national security has roots in ancient Rome. First attested in Cicero’s philosophical works, the Latin word securitas originally meant peace of mind in a strictly psychological sense. A century later, the phrase “the securitas of the Roman Empire” began to circulate, as if an empire could have peace of mind. By then, the emperor had come to embody national security and his spirit to stand for the spirit of the body politic. His body, however, is not the only one to represent collective wellbeing. The personified goddess Securitas appears on Roman coinage in various poses that illuminate the concept, its negations and contradictions, and the constraints it imposes on the emperor’s power. In this lecture, I will use parallels from Roman literature to spell out the connotations of these conceptual objects, whose embodiments shed light on how Roman political thought imagines the relation between individual and collective bodies and souls.

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