Oxted & District History Society - Talk
Oxted & District History Society

Jane McCarthy, currently taking a doctorate on 1st Century Rome, gave on illustrated lecture on ‘What Not to Say in Imperial Rome’.

Censorship was taken very seriously in Imperial Rome.  Under the Republic, the Censor was a high ranking person, appointed to look after morals.  Under the Empire, the Emperor took over the office of Censor.  Without printing, few copies of literary works were available and could be readily suppressed.  Criticism of public figures, particularly of the Emperor or magistrates, became a criminal rather than a civil offense.

Gallus, in charge of Egypt, criticised Augustus and was tried for treason.  Augustus took over the office of Chief Priest in 12BC.  He ordered the burning of ‘dubious prophecies’, retaining those that were favorable.  Ovid was exiled by the Emperor, without any trial, because of his song ‘The Art of Love’ and offending Augustus after a power struggle in the Imperial family.  Cicero defined treason as ‘Anything that lowered the dignity, high estate or authority of a person holding public office’. 

By the end of the 1st Century AD, when Trajan became Emperor it was dangerous to speak ill of the Emperor.  Senators came to believe that they were free because the Emperor said so.


What Not to Say in Imperial Rome a talk by Jane McCarthy,

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