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Metaquotation: Homer and the Emperor


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For the emperor, quoting Homer was both a danger and an opportunity. Suetonius’ Lives shows that anecdotes of quotation circulated widely to characterise the emperor for good or for ill. Subsequently, these moments could themselves become the subject of allusion. If you quote a line of Homer that was famously quoted by the emperor, are you quoting the poet or Caesar? This phenomenon, whereby a poetic cliché could be reborn as charged reference to a prior use of that tag by a well-known figure, might be termed metaquotation. This ambiguity of reference was exploited throughout Seneca's Apocolocyntosis, and in turn by readers of that text in antiquity.


HESLIN, P. (2023). Metaquotation: Homer and the Emperor. The Journal of Roman Studies,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 4, 2023
Online Publication Date May 24, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Aug 15, 2023
Publicly Available Date Aug 15, 2023
Journal Journal of Roman Studies
Print ISSN 0075-4358
Electronic ISSN 1753-528X
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Literature and Literary Theory; Archeology; Visual Arts and Performing Arts; History; Archeology; Classics
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Published Journal Article (Advanced Online Version) (343 Kb)


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Copyright Statement
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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