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Document Details :
Title: Nero Playing 'Nero'
Subtitle: Programme Notes on Tacitus, Ann. 15.36
Author(s): MADER, Gottfried
Volume: 77 Issue: 2 Date: 2018
A close rhetorical study of Ann. 15.36, reporting Nero’s official explanation for calling off his planned visit to Egypt and the east, connects this chapter with Tacitus’ overarching emphasis on the ‘theatrical paradigm’ and Neronian performance aesthetics. Instead of the planned Achaean tour that did not go ahead (15.33), Nero now gives a polished political performance for a domestic audience. Theatricalized interaction is indexed in the two-way gaze, in popular adulation, in Nero’s touching ‘schetliastic’ response to his adoring subjects, and in particular in his self-projection as benevolent pater patriae. The surrounding text deconstructs this sham, showing the plebs motivated by material desires, the self-proclaimed pater patriae as criminal matricide, his alleged attachment to Rome playing out as a perverse ‘Alexandrian’ orgy. Nero’s confection and enactment of ‘Nero’ are as counterfeit as his self-flattering take on the audience: popular adulation mirrors its own source, the catoptic effect captures the narcissist basking in his own reflected glory.