Emory Professor Discusses Nero on Campus

November 18, 2011

Dr. Niall Slater, professor of Latin and Greek at Emory University, presented the Slater Lecture on Thursday, November 17 in Presser Recital Hall on the University of Mount Union’s campus.
Slater explained to the audience that the objective of his lecture, Nero’s Cultural Politics, was to expand others’ views of Nero and to show how Nero might have wanted to be perceived in the public’s eye. Nero was the first emperor born after Augustus and also was extremely young when his reign began.
According to Slater, many individuals thought Nero was self-centered because he had numerous statues built of himself that he used as decorations in his palace. When in fact, he actually took an extreme interest in the arts. For example, Nero had a more than 100-foot tall linen portrait created, which was later struck down by lightning.
Confidently, Slater said that Nero actually completed many projects during his reign. He showed pictures of gold, silver and bronze coins imprinted with Nero’s accomplishments such as the temples he rebuilt and a new canal and harbor.
“Nero was not the only emperor of his kind to use coins as propaganda of his achievements,” stated Slater.
Slater also discussed Nero’s discoveries as they pertain to geography, science and magic. Some of these discoveries included conducting a survey in Ethiopia to gain research, developing a method for boiling water and determining through research that magic was indeed a false art.
Throughout Slater’s presentation, he compared Nero to Emperor Augustus because of all his great achievements.
“The most important role he played was his attempt to play a new Augustus in the new Roman Age,” said Slater.
A member of the Emory faculty since 1990, Slater has served as the Samuel Dobbs Professor of Latin and Greek since 2004. While at Emory, he has served as director of the Center for Language, Literature and Culture and chairman of the Department of Classics. Slater also has taught courses at the University of Southern California and Concordia College.
His research interests include ancient theatre, archaeology of the theatre, ancient novel and gender studies. Slater is the author of three books – Plautus in Performance:  The Theatre of the Mind, Reading Petronius and Spectator Politics: Metatheatre and Performance in Aristophanes. His work also has been published in many academic journals including Classical and Modern Literature, New England Classical Journal, Liverpool Classical Monthly, American Journal of Philology and Classical World.
Slater earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster, a master’s degree from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and a doctorate degree from Princeton University. He is a member of the American Philological Association, Archaeological Institute of America, Cambridge Philological Society, Classical Association of the Atlantic States, Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Georgia Classical Association, New York Classical Club, Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association, Petronian Society and Women’s Classical Caucus.
The Thelma Tournay Slater Classics Lecture is made possible through a gift of Mrs. Thelma E. (Tournay '42) Slater. Mrs. Slater's lifelong passion for the classics began at Mount Union. The gift supports student enrichment through an increased appreciation of the civilization and cultural achievements of ancient Greek and Rome that stand at the core of a liberal arts education.
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