Translatio Imperii

Margaret Malamud

in Classics and Imperialism in the British Empire

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199584727
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595301 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Translatio Imperii

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This chapter argues that when America completed its continental conquest and embarked on overseas conquests analogies between the ancient Roman and modern American empires—often themselves mediated by British imperial discourses about antiquity—were utilized to articulate and celebrate American empire. Fully aware of Great Britain's claims to being the new Rome, Americans asserted that the United States, not Great Britain, was the modern successor of the ancient Roman Empire. The American ex‐colonies themselves began to stake a claim to the inheritance of classical antiquity, both by employing the same compelling strategies and techniques of cultural ownership that had been so extensively employed by the British, and by forging new independent analogies and connections with Roman civilization and empire. Across the nation, negative references to the decadence, immorality, and imperial overreach of ancient Rome, previously common in America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and a defining feature of late Victorian discourses, were now overshadowed by a celebratory linking of the ancient Roman and modern American empires. Visual representations and recreations of Roman imperial prosperity and luxury stimulated consumerism and consumption in the cornucopia of the new American empire.

Keywords: American empire; Roman Empire; 1893 Columbian Exposition; Dewey Arch; New York City

Chapter.  10351 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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