PSCO Presentation: 23 February, 2012

“Remembering and Forgetting in Lactantius's De Mortibus Persecutorum

Elizabeth Castelli (Barnard College)


In De Mortibus Persecutorum, his polemical reflection on the unhappy deaths of a long list of Roman emperors who reigned during times of persecution, Lactantius embeds the past within a larger narrative of cosmic justice. The seminar will seek to read Lactantius‚s elaborate revenge fantasy in light of the broader frame of Christian memory-practices. In addition, I want to consider how (non-Christian) Roman practices of memory-making and memory-erasing (especially damnatio memoriae) might have influenced Lactantius's ideas about commemoration and historical forgetfulness.

Meeting and Dining

All are welcome! All meetings will be held from 7:00–9:00 pm in the Second Floor Lounge in Cohen Hall at the University of Pennsylvania.

Those wishing to dine together before the seminar will meet at 6:00 pm in the Cohen Hall Second-Floor Lounge to go next door to the food court in Houston Hall.

Suggested Reading

Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum, ed. and trans. J. L. Creed (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984)

Harriet I. Flower, The Art of Forgetting: Disgrace and Oblivion in Roman Political Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 1-13, 276-283.

Charles W. Hedrick, Jr.,"Remembering to Forget: The Damnatio Memoriae," In History and Silence: Purge and Rehabilitation of Memory in Late Antiquity (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 89-130.

NB: Hedrick's book is about a particular instance of historical erasure: the destruction of the monuments and inscriptions commemorating Virius Nicomachus Flavianus, but it uses this particular example to reflect more broadly on the meanings of memory and political forgetting.


Elizabeth A. Castelli, “Collective Memory and the Meanings of the Past,” in Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 10-32.

NB: This chapter is an overview of the literature on collective memory/social memory and its relationship to notions of history.

PDF copies of these articles are available on request from Phil Webster (

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