An aristocratic culture is emerging already in the second century B.C. at Rome in which at least a nodding acquaintance with literature becomes a mark of the gentleman. Ownership of a library is the outward and visible sign of that acquaintance.
The evidence for Roman libraries is particularly good for the first century B.C., due in large part to the existence of Cicero's letters and Plutarch's lives. The abundant evidence allows us to consider a number of issues concerning private libraries in more detail than for any other period.
My dissertation examines three private collections of the first century, those of Sulla, Lucullus and Cicero. I consider the problem of acquisition, in particular how someone like Cicero without access to great military spoils put together a collection. Second, I examine how the owners used their collections, how private collections became accessible to a larger circle through lending and copying, and how they were used as instruments of patronage. Third, I consider the rooms devoted to the storage and reading of books, the placement of those rooms within the Roman residence and their decoration, and their role as an element in the Roman villa. Fourth, I look at the staff responsible for the care of private collections.
The first century B.C. also sees the first public libraries in the city of Rome, projected by Julius Caesar and carried out by Asinius Pollio and Augustus. I consider several questions raised by the establishment of this new institution. First, I consider in what sense these libraries were "public" and whether their existence really means greater access to literature for the general public. Second, I discuss the public libraries as instruments of patronage: the availability of literary resources in public as well as in private collections and the use of public libraries for authors' recitations raise the possibility that the state or the emperor will join private individuals as patrons of literature. Third, I examine the importance of public libraries for official recognition of literary merit and for the preservation of authors' works and memories.
|School:||University of Michigan|
|School Location:||United States -- Michigan|
|Source:||DAI-A 47/06, Dissertation Abstracts International|
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