21st A.D. Trendall Lecture


  • Australian Academy of the Humanities

'At the Crossroads and in the Crosshairs: Class, Ideology and Personality-driven Politics at Rome in the Second Century BC'

Date: Mon 4th Feb 2019, 6:30pm–7:30pm

Location: Arts Lecture Theatre 1


Any analytical study of Rome’s past is likely to be a study of transformations. Polybius judged that the strength of Rome’spoliteia in his day lay in the fact that it was proof against change. He was mistaken. One of the most significant mutations in Roman history was the metamorphosis of thelibera res publica into its ideological antithesis. How was the change effected, and how should its study most appropriately be approached? Laying aside a sense of ineluctability, as favoured by some schools of thought, we are drawn to exploring the role of class struggle, the conflict of ideas and the question of human agency. With regard to the last, we argue that the potential contribution of prosopography should not be forgotten or carelessly dismissed. The lecture will illustrate the multiplicity of factors at play by focussing on 133 BC and another critical year often lost to narrative histories: 129.


Associate Professors Tom Hillard and Lea Beness

Tom Hillard is an Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University, a member of the Ancient Cultures Research Centre, and a scholar committed to teaching research and community outreach. His research interests are broad (and include the underwater and geophysical investigation of the site of classical Torone in Northern Greece), but focus principally on Roman social history and the politics of the Late Roman Republic. His main current project is the Macquarie Dictionary of Roman Biography of which he is co-investigator with Dr Lea Beness, his partner in life and academic enterprise.

Lea Beness is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Ancient History (of which she is the Convenor) and a member of the Ancient Cultures Research Centre. She is currently the editor of Macquarie’s journal Ancient History: Resources for Teachers, Vice-President of the ASCS and President of the AWAWS. Her research interests include Roman Republican History, gender in the Graeco-Roman world and landscape/harbour archaeology. She is also chief investigator of the Macquarie Dictionary of Roman Biography.

Recent joint publications

‘133 BC’, in V. Arena and J.W. Prag (eds), A Companion to the Political Culture of the Roman Republic (Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA, 2019 [forthcoming]).

‘Where to put the Twins? Torone’s Dioskoureion’, in Elizabeth Minchin and Heather Jackson (eds), Text and the Material World: Essays in Honour of Graeme Clarke, Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology PB 185 (Uppsala, Astrom Editions Ltd, 2017) 41–54.

‘Wronging Sempronia’, Antichthon 50 (2016) [2017], 80–106.

‘The Ancestry of Nerva’, Classical Quarterly 65.2 (2015), 756–765.

‘Choosing friends, foes and fiefdoms in the second century BC’, in D. Hoyos (ed.), A Companion to Roman Imperialism (Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2013) 127–140.

Rei militaris virtus ... orbem terrarum parere huic imperio coëgit: the transformation of Roman imperium, 146–50 BC’, in D. Hoyos (ed.), A Companion to Roman Imperialism (Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2013) 141–153.

‘Insulting Cornelia’, Antichthon. Special Issue: Culture, Identity and Politics in the Ancient Mediterranean World. Papers from a Conference in Honour of Erich Gruen 47 (2013), 61–79.

'Late antique memories of Republican political polemic: Pseudoacron ad Hor. serm. 2.1.67 and a dictum Macedonici', Classical Quarterly 62.2 (2012), 816–826.

'Another Voice against the 'Tyranny' of Scipio Aemilianus in 129 B.C.?', Historia: Zeitschrift für alte Geschichte 61.3 (2012), 270–281.

‘Torone, Trade and the Sea: Towards a History of the Harbour’, Mediterranean Archaeology 22/23 (2009/10 [2011]), 85–97.