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Grant number: FEL-257729-18

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Michele Lowrie
University of Chicago (Chicago, IL 60637-5418)

The Concept of Security in Ancient Roman Literature and Politics

A book-length study of the concept of national security in Roman literature and its political trajectory from the late republican period to the early imperial era.

The politics of national security in the 21st century turn on a fear of dangers perceived as originating mostly from outside. These may come from other people—such as refugees, immigrants, foreign foes, and terrorists—or arise from impersonal forces, like changes in climate or the spread of disease. Such assumptions, however, lie in stark opposition to the term’s conceptual origins in ancient Roman political thought. The Latin word securitas, first attested in Cicero’s philosophical writings from the 1st century BCE, means peace of mind in a strictly psychological sense. The enemy to pacify is not the other but the self. My book traces national security’s emergence as a concept in Roman literature and the politics of its trajectory. Recuperating this story through the analysis of sources outside the political theoretical canon reveals an untold history, and sheds light on ideological blind spots that continue to inform political discourse to this day.

Project fields:
Classical Literature; Classics


Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2018 – 9/30/2019