Marie Antoinette Online
  • FORUM
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:54 pm



Reply to topic  [ 22 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
 The ancient world and the French Revolution 
Author Message
Prince/Princesse
Prince/Princesse
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:36 pm
Posts: 903
Location: italy
Post The ancient world and the French Revolution
Hi all :)
I'm in the need of some help, and hope some of you can give me advice.
As some of you know, I'm a classicist. Getting more and more interested in the French Revolution and its time, I'd like to know more about how the ancient world, and the Roman republic in particular, influenced the ideals and the thought of revolutionaries.

I know the Roman republic represented a sort of myth for many revolutionaries: a paradigm of virtue, virility and patriotism. It was also a common topic of revolutioanry oratory, and deeply influenced the art of the pariod (just think about J.L. David's Oath of the Horatii).

I'm searching through bibliographical archives in order to find some work on this topic, but, up to now, I've been able to find very little. Does any of you know about some modern bibliography? I would be reaaly thankful for it!!

Of course, I'd also like to discuss this topic with you! There's much else to be said!
Cheers :rainbow:

_________________
Vera incessu patuit dea


Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:50 pm
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:10 pm
Posts: 710
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
What a thought provoking post! It was my love of Classical Rome and Greece which sent me down history's road.

I just finished reading Tony Spawforth's "Versailles A Biography of a Palace" and Chapter 2 is called "Rome in one palace". He states "The Renaissance had opened Europe's eyes to the glories of the ancient world. In seventeenth century France, Roman antiquity was a huge source of cultural authority.
Imperial Rome remained a political reality in the Europe of the day in the venerable form of the Holy Roman Emperor...............Louis (XIV) saw antiquity as an irresistable source of inspiration for royal image-making." He goes on to talk alot about the images incorporated into the building of Versailles and how a "committee of paid intellectuals and artists hired by the crown for their expertise in "all the magnificence of Greece and Rome"."
The chapter goes on to point out specifics about the bombardment of the Kings glory in relation to antiquity.

You may find something you are looking for in his sources or notes. Roman antiquity being a big source of cultural authority as Spawforth states would undoubtedly leave its imprint on the people maybe much like popular images today imprint our cultures. It is interesting to think that in making his image so glorious, Louis XIV also inspired the revolutionaries with the some of the same propaganda that the monarchy had fed to them.
(A little like raising an unruly child, then being surprised when they turn on you.)


Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:31 pm
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:45 pm
Posts: 944
Location: Hungary
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Thanks, Lilly! A book title is useful, but this citation is better :)

The time of classicism begun with the Enlightenment. Everything referred ancient times: art, poltics, literture, science... and theathre. (Think of bacchantes, for example). Somebody told how interesting is the interlocking of parallel styles of ages. He was right, I think. Renessaince and Classicimsm, Baroque and Romanticism... they are so simular! I think Renessaince and Classicism are really sisters. I think, when you're watching for example a statue, you can realize some differences, but in general, the two artworks are very close to each other.
How interesting is this similarity and rebirth of antiquities!
As you analyse the history of the revolution, here and there appear some reference to ancient world, but effectively, it couldn't materialize.
What do you think?

_________________
"Ceux qui n'ont pas vécu avant 1789, ne connaissent pas la douceur de vivre" Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord


Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:34 am
Profile
Prince/Princesse
Prince/Princesse
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:36 pm
Posts: 903
Location: italy
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Hello, dears!
Thank you very much for your answers! :)
Lilly, it's so nice to know someone else with a passion for antiquity! I'm particularly interested in the Roman republic, which I also work on (I'm about to finish my PhD), but obviously I'm interested in all ancient literature and history.
Thanks for the book title. It looks really interesting, and it brings us to a very interesting topic: the vision of antiquity in the Neoclassicism. You're right, Anouk, about similarities between Renaissance and Classicism: I think, more generally, that Antiquity comes back at more or less regular intervals in Western civilization and art; maybe we've never really made rid of Antiquity, it's kind of a heritage very deep in our cultural tradition.
I'm particularly interested in the political uses of it. The definition of Rome as a "source of cultural authority" is inspiring! Applied to the splendours of Versailles, the classical tradition could underline the myth of imperial Rome, so I guess the King could be represented as a new Augustus or something like that. Under this point of view, antiquity is seen as synonim of greatness, beauty and splendour, and so a paradigm for the imperial glory of France (correct me if I'm wrong).
It's very interesting that also revolutionaries exploited the myth of Rome, even if in another sense. This is not surprising, because most revolutionaries belonged to the same cultural and intellectual environment as the most prominent men of the Ancient Regime: they had read the same Latin authors, they had had a similar education and they were all, more or less, influenced by Neoclassicism and Enlightenment. However, for Rveolutionaried not the Empire, but the Roman republic was the model, along with, in some cases, some forms of Greek governement, for example, Sparta.
This was due, I think, above all to some concepts, that appeared both in ancient and in modern political culture, though with different meanings. One was of course Liberty, libertas in Latin, eleutheria in Greek. In ancient times, it had been a keyword of political language. In Rome, for example, it meant above all the republican system as opposed to despotism. The Romans of the Republic were always quite scared of someone concentrating all the power on himself (as actually happened with Octavian-Augustus). It was very frequent that one accused a rival politician of wanting to destruct libertas, for example. Another key-concept was Equality: ancient republics like Rome or, even more, Sparta, were seen as republics of equals, and so ad models for a new governement in France, where privileges were to be abolished. Of course, there was a great deal of idealization in this. Ancient republics were mostly very far from "democratic" in the modern sense of the world. Sparta was, actually, a republic of peers, but such peers belonged to a very small group, the Spartiates, while other ethnic groups lived in a condition of slavery. For Rome the discrepancy is even more evident. In historical times, the Roman republic was ruled by an elite called "nobilitas" (literally: "those who are well-known", so "aristocracy"), which, from the end of the IV century BC on, was made up of both patricians (the original aristocracy of blood) and plebeians. This was a political and military elite, and thus quite different from the aristocracy of modern France for example; but it was quite closed in itself and very rarely could people whose ancestors had not been in the Senate become senators themselves (in that case, they were called homines novi, new men). There were popular assembly, but their powers were actually very limited: the actual power resided in the Senate and in annually elected magistrates.
However, the myth of the Roman republic was very strong for revolutionaries. A reason for this is maybe the commitment to the State and the Public good that was so prominent a part in Roman ideology. According to this view, the State, one's homeland came first, and private business and feelings had to be submitted to it. A great part of Roman historiography is filled with heroism of men who subdued their own needs and ambitions to the public good. Revolutionariues probably tried to bring this model to life, and in their rhetoric the enphasis on the formation of a conscious, patriotic citizenship is very strong. In the degeneration of the Rveolution into Terror, and in Robespierre's thought, such a conception is brought to extremes: the State comes before the individual citizen.

This post is already quite long, I'm waiting for your opinions before going on! :angel8:

_________________
Vera incessu patuit dea


Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:27 pm
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:45 pm
Posts: 944
Location: Hungary
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Rosalie wrote:
Ancient republics were mostly very far from "democratic" in the modern sense of the world.


Just like the First French Republic, I think! More, it was a tipically counter-human society. A step towards democracy, on a bloody way.
Yes. If you would like to see a super interlocking of ancient empires and the french revolution, read some speeches of Robespierre :lol: I must admit, I don't like this guy but I adore his speeches. Roma, Roma and Roma.

_________________
"Ceux qui n'ont pas vécu avant 1789, ne connaissent pas la douceur de vivre" Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord


Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:28 pm
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:10 pm
Posts: 710
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Congratulations on you PhD - quite an accomplishment! Be proud of yourself!! I think you are right that antiquity is ingrained deep in our cultural traditions. The Renaissance spurred a new interest in classical Greece and Rome and the glory of those times. In France in the 17th century, it was still believed the Greece and Rome were high points in history and the times were used generously by Louis XIV in creating his image. His portrayal of himself as the Sun King. Apollo was the Sun God and also the son of Zeus. All the references to Apollo at Versilles as well as Louis' comparison with great rulers of the past - lent to his establishing himself among the GREAT. Louis underlined all the classical references he could and probably invented a few of his own!

With the coming of the French Revolution, society was disrupted and transformed. As the social structure changed, so did values and tastes. Jacque-Louis David was an artist and a revolutionary. He believed that the arts should serve a political purpose - rejecting the aristocratic rococo style as frivolous. His neoclassical (new classical) refers to the emulation of classical Greece and Rome, although most neoclassic subject matter was Roman - because Rome represented a republican or NON-MONARCHICAL- government. David gave revolutionary leaders an inspiring image of themselves rooted in history, in the "OATH of the HORATII" the subject of the painting being a story of virtue and the readiness to die for liberty, in which three brothers pledge to take the sword offered by their father to defend Rome. The painting's message was "Take courage, your cause is a noble one and has been fought before." (Artforms 5th ed.) I'm not done - just have to go for now...... I'll be back....................................................


Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:57 pm
Profile
Prince/Princesse
Prince/Princesse
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:36 pm
Posts: 903
Location: italy
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Anouk wrote:
Rosalie wrote:
Ancient republics were mostly very far from "democratic" in the modern sense of the world.


Just like the First French Republic, I think! More, it was a tipically counter-human society. A step towards democracy, on a bloody way.
Yes. If you would like to see a super interlocking of ancient empires and the french revolution, read some speeches of Robespierre :lol: I must admit, I don't like this guy but I adore his speeches. Roma, Roma and Roma.


Yes, the First Republic was very far from democratic as well, but in a very different way. We could say that the Roman and Greek experience was brought to its extremes, both before the Revolution and at its beginnings, when there was no open talk of a governement like that of the Terror (and, as I said, the ancient republic were seen as an example of equality, which they were not), and by Robespierre, who arrived at a point where the Romans had never come. I mean, ancient societies were of course violent according to today's point of view, but during the Roman republic summary trials and mass executions like during the terro never took place. in this sense, the ancient were quite ore human.
I've never read any of Robespierre speeches, but I think I'll do soon (even if I don't like him ether)!

Lilly wrote:
In France in the 17th century, it was still believed the Greece and Rome were high points in history and the times were used generously by Louis XIV in creating his image. His portrayal of himself as the Sun King. Apollo was the Sun God and also the son of Zeus. All the references to Apollo at Versilles as well as Louis' comparison with great rulers of the past - lent to his establishing himself among the GREAT. Louis underlined all the classical references he could and probably invented a few of his own!


Yes, this is a very interesting topic...how Antiquity helped shape an image of royalty. I don't know much about it, I'd be glad to learn something more!

Lilly wrote:
David gave revolutionary leaders an inspiring image of themselves rooted in history, in the "OATH of the HORATII" the subject of the painting being a story of virtue and the readiness to die for liberty, in which three brothers pledge to take the sword offered by their father to defend Rome. The painting's message was "Take courage, your cause is a noble one and has been fought before." (Artforms 5th ed.)


Exactly! I think this is really the core of revolutionaries' myth of Rome: a society where Liberty and the Fatherland come first. Heroism is to renounce one's own needs and affections-even those usually considered the most sacred. In fact, in the end of the story only one Horatius remained alive and came back home after killing the three Curiatii. One of the latter was the fiancée of the Horatii's sister, so the girl burst out in tears when learning about his fate; and the survivng Horatius killed her, as she was not "patriotic" enough. It reminds me very much of some later development of the Revolution... :roll:

Lilly wrote:
Congratulations on you PhD - quite an accomplishment! Be proud of yourself!!


Thank you so much, Lilly :rainbow:
I'm waiting for your interesting observations!

_________________
Vera incessu patuit dea


Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:34 pm
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:10 pm
Posts: 710
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
A little more on the use of Roman imagery and King Louis XIV. As I said before, the Renaissance revived a feeling for everything from Classical Greece and Rome. And we agreed with the fact that antiquity is still heavily ingrained in our culture. I read that in the 17th century there were some ancient discoveries made (?) - this could possibly help to explain some of the interest in the era. Much in the same way that the discovery of Tut's tomb about a hundred years ago set off an interest of everything Egyptian - which still exists today. In the references I've looked at, it appears that the Roman gods and heroes are ones that Louis XIV incorporated into Versailles. There are the Salons of Apollo - the Sun god - this was Louis XIV's throne room, the Salon of Diana, Apollo's twin sister - Roman goddess of the hunt, the Salon of Hercules - Roman hero, the Salon of Mars - Roman god of War, the Salon of Mercury and the Salon of Venus. There are too many things such as paintings everywhere comparing the King to some former ancient glorious ruler. The gardens are full of Roman styled statues and alot of the fountains are Roman based in subject matter such as the Latona fountain (Latona was Apollo's mother) -- and the breathtaking basin of Apollo. (The ornate decoration of Versailles and layout of the gardens were basically Baroque in style.) Louis XIV made himself the focus of his subject's loyalty as the living embodiment of the majesty of the State.

I could go on but not now, sorry I am short of time.........................


Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:24 am
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:45 pm
Posts: 944
Location: Hungary
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Walking in the gardens of Versailles, you've got the feeling you arrived at an ancient myth. This is an interesting narrative, thank you, Lilly.
I have a book at home"The Garden of Versailles" that I bought in the Palace. It detalis everything, from great fountains to every little mythology statue. They're all refers to antiquities! There was a map of the Gardens attached to the book what I'm often watching. It is really interesting to see the works of the king's architects, sculptors and other artists!

As I know, Pompei was discovered in the XVIIIth century. It consummated the love of the antiquities.

_________________
"Ceux qui n'ont pas vécu avant 1789, ne connaissent pas la douceur de vivre" Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord


Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:11 pm
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:10 pm
Posts: 710
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
The Revolutionaries based their model of governmental reform on the city-states of Greece (in particular Sparta) and the free Republic of Rome. The Greeks invented democracy and in Rome the name of "King" was detested and all citizens were free. The name Republic is the latin for res publica, or the Commonwealth. Greek and Roman history gave the revolution its strong moral impulse. Most revolutionaries had received training in classical literature - Robespierre and Demoulins studied the classics in college - as many others did. Most classical authors quoted in revolutionary newspapers relate to those whose works were the standard college curriculum of the day. Debaters in the assemblies constantly quoted and refered to Greek and Roman history because they found the problems they were facing had already been faced and solved in Greece and Rome.


Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:55 pm
Profile
Prince/Princesse
Prince/Princesse
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:36 pm
Posts: 903
Location: italy
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
I think another point should be stressed: the importance of morality in the myth of ancient Rome.
Roman historiographers were quite obsessed with morals. A lot of their production is full of an attitude like "alas, the good old times were gone, when men were good, strong and pure and still had healthy principles!". The beginning of decadence was seen in the beginning of the afflux of wealth to Rome, due to the conquests. This allegedly brought effeminacy and greedyness, and decadence of costumes. Obviously it's smething of a rethorical commonplace, but it had a great impact on 18th century society. revolutionaries tried to imitate the good old Romans, who didn't flinch from their principles, and were honest and self-restrained in private life and ready to give up their lives for the State. On the contrary, aristocrats could be depicted as "decadent", unpatriotic also because devoid of morals in their private lives. Public and private sphere were deeply intertwined and a new ideal emerged: the good citizen, honest both at home and in public.

I would also have a lot to say, but I haven't got much time...Au revoir for now :angel1: !

_________________
Vera incessu patuit dea


Sun Mar 15, 2009 3:37 pm
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:45 pm
Posts: 944
Location: Hungary
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Well, these thoughts are fine to hear, but they never worked. Neither in the Roman Empire, nor later. They sounds well, because they based in morality. Implementation is an other thing. Good citizen... you pointed at the matter, Rosalie! Reading this phrase, I have a feeling it could also appear in a totalitarian regime's declaring...

Roman consuls, emperors did the same like leaders in modern history. Ancient ideologies can be compared to XXth century history's as well. It was the century of genocides... the word "dictator" came from ancient times! What did Caesar do? Marched into Rome, took all the power (like emperors from 31 BC). What did Bonaparte do on 18 Brumaire? And Napoleon III's attempts for a coup d'état? How Hitler bacame chancellor? How did Mao create such an idiocy like his "cultural revolution"? These actions all refer to the past... morality can explain everything :evil:

(Sorry, it is not exactly about how classical art reborn, but I think, it can be a sister-topic of your great narratives on art). :oops:

_________________
"Ceux qui n'ont pas vécu avant 1789, ne connaissent pas la douceur de vivre" Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord


Thu Mar 19, 2009 12:09 pm
Profile
Prince/Princesse
Prince/Princesse
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:36 pm
Posts: 903
Location: italy
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Anouk wrote:
Well, these thoughts are fine to hear, but they never worked. Neither in the Roman Empire, nor later. They sounds well, because they based in morality. Implementation is an other thing. Good citizen... you pointed at the matter, Rosalie! Reading this phrase, I have a feeling it could also appear in a totalitarian regime's declaring...

Roman consuls, emperors did the same like leaders in modern history. Ancient ideologies can be compared to XXth century history's as well. It was the century of genocides... the word "dictator" came from ancient times! What did Caesar do? Marched into Rome, took all the power (like emperors from 31 BC). What did Bonaparte do on 18 Brumaire? And Napoleon III's attempts for a coup d'état? How Hitler bacame chancellor? How did Mao create such an idiocy like his "cultural revolution"? These actions all refer to the past... morality can explain everything :evil:

(Sorry, it is not exactly about how classical art reborn, but I think, it can be a sister-topic of your great narratives on art). :oops:


Your observations are very much to the point: classical antiquity is used and exploited, and turned into something very different from what it was actually. In the XX century Rome was used by totalitarian regimes, Fascism first of all.
However, I must defend Caesar, whom I quite like :) He wasn't a dictator like the modern ones. The word "Dictator" itself originally indicated a particular temporary office, who concentrated the power on himself in critical times. Of course Caesar, by being named lifelong dictator, changed things very much; but change was already in the air, and before him. The expansion of Roman power, and the changes in the State posed new problems that the old Republic couldn't face. Caesar had in mind a project of reorganization of the State, and he was supported by the lower classes, who were very often marginalized in the Republican system. So he had a real social vision, and even after attaining power he didn't play the tyrant. He had a politics of clemency towards his enemies, and of course it was politics, but...no XX century dictator did this!
If Revolutionaries had realy learnt from him, things would have been better,

Anyway, back to the point, I think the moral vision of the ancient world deeply influenced the myth and imagery of the French Revolution...and the Terror as well! And, as I think, also helped creating the wicked image of Marie Antoinette and other persons who were depicted as morally decadent by the Revolution :(

_________________
Vera incessu patuit dea


Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:32 pm
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:45 pm
Posts: 944
Location: Hungary
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Indeed, the French Revolution drew more from ancient ideas then later ages in general. My comparison was a bit far from the original topic. :oops: It was not really about the ancient myths' survivorship, rather history's irrevocable and constant entity.
I remember dictators elected themselves for a half year term and as you said, Caesar extended it. In the XXth century, dictators' mandat was the same like Caesar's. But their (Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot etc.) acts are different from Caesar's (and Napoléon's! ) of course. Although the model is so simular... :?
The Terror referred to two ideas. One of them is the ancient cultures, political ideologies, one of them is Rousseau's philosophy. (Let me notice that instead of it, they would have chosen the idea of share of power, from Montesquieu. It would have been more helpful for the revolutionary government... :blob7: )

_________________
"Ceux qui n'ont pas vécu avant 1789, ne connaissent pas la douceur de vivre" Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord


Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:24 am
Profile
Royalty
Royalty
User avatar

Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:10 pm
Posts: 710
Post Re: The ancient world and the French Revolution
Found this on a website:

Characteristics of the Enlightenment:

The Enlightenment was the first era to elevate the ancient problem of the relationship between "nature" and "culture" to the level of historical, dialectical ontology.
God was sublimated into "nature" as an impersonal power, while human beings, on the one hand seen as children of "nature," was on the other viewed as progressively liberating themselves through their own rational powers.
Progress was supposed to take place between the poles of "nature" and "culture" (or "reason"), correlating with "individual" versus "social" and "freedom" versus "being determined" )by the aggregate of choices).
Comfort was found in the faith in progress itself , with "nature" as superhuman initiator, yet the progress was realized through a human centered teleology. (Enlightenment "nature" is an ambiguous concept.)
"Evil" itself was conceived as an instrument for progress — and, being also a counter-example of progress, stamps the belief in progress as a basic faith.
The metaphorising of Newton's gravitation theory into a counter-weight theory of choices, introduced equilibrating as a process, and thus included temporal duration and process dynamics in the conception of social reality.


Sat Mar 21, 2009 1:14 pm
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Reply to topic   [ 22 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by STSoftware for PTF.