Colleen McCullough and the evidence: some case studies in the Late Roman Republic
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 19:17 authored by Blake Cook
The historical fictions series Masters of Rome (1990 - 2007) by Dr Colleen McCullough-Robinson is based upon almost two decades of research into the ancient world, depicting the political and military struggles of the first century B.C.E which ultimately transformed the Roman Republic into the military autocracy of the Principate. This thesis is concerned with how the author has recreated some key historical events surrounding the year 60 B.C.E, that year in which Asinius Pollio saw the beginning of the end for the Republic and which Sir Ronald Syme saw as the beginning of the 'Roman Revolution', from the extant ancient evidence and in the context of modern academic scholarship. This study is thus something of a combination between what ancient historians would recognise as traditional source criticism, in examining how McCullough interpreted the ancient sources, and of a reception study, in that the thesis examines a modern literary representation of antiquity. Although this thesis will examine how the ancient evidence and modern scholarship has influenced the representation of the late Roman Republic in the novel Caesar's Women (1996), it is not my intent to merely criticise McCullough's interpretations. Issues of narrative elements such as plot development and characterization will also be addressed for understanding why sources have been interpreted in a particular way. As a conclusion to the thesis, the historiographical significance of McCullough's presentation of history, evoking a Rankean idea of 'the past as it really was', will be examined.