The theatre of the Roman mime: texts and material culture

British School at Rome
via Antonio Gramsci 61
00197 Roma

Data evento
13 April 2022

This presentation focusses on the overwhelmingly unfavourable reputation that the theatre of the Roman mime had in the literary sources of the Republic and the Empire. My argument is that neither the extant fragments from the Latin mime-scripts nor the testimonia associated with mime-drama, when studied on their own, give us an accurate picture about mime as popular entertainment or about the elusive position of mime in the artificial literary and fluid social hierarchy of the Roman world. I consider select examples of the ancient reception of the Latin mime from Cicero to the late antique grammarians, and I demonstrate how epigraphical evidence and cemetery visual culture may challenge the misleading stereotypes of mime-theatre in the literary sources. This tension makes the picture of mime-drama more blurred and for this reason more convincing. I finish with examples of how new discoveries in art and archaeology open new perspectives in our study of ancient mime as text and spectacle.

Costas Panayotakis (BSR; Glasgow)