ILS 340 Spring 2020

Download Classics 340 ILS 371 - Conspiracy Nelsestuen

Focusing primarily on the world of the ancient Romans, this course (in translation) interrogates the
phenomenon and notion of “conspiracy”—as well as the related concept of “conspiracy theory”—
within the political, social, familial, and religious spheres. Like most good things, this course is divided
into three parts. In the first, we investigate some famous political conspiracies, including the so-called
“Catilinarian Conspiracy” and the assassination of Julius Caesar. The second part turns to the Roman
household to consider the social, familial, and gendered dimensions of domestic conspiracies,
including the way that women, children, and enslaved peoples could threaten the notional “tyranny” of
the paterfamilias. In the final part, we consider prominent religions that came into conflict with
Roman authorities—especially the mystery cults surrounding Bacchus as well as sects of early
Christianity. We will bring to bear the insights gleaned from the ancient world on the modern one in
our consideration of more recent conspiracies and conspiracy theories like the Salem Witch Trials, the
Red Scare of the 1950s, and even contemporary political events, which may, or may not, admit analysis
as a “conspiracy.” As we shall see, “conspiracy” and “conspiracy theory” are useful, yet sometimes
tendentious, concepts, which often reveal more about the society and culture in which they occur (as
well as the authors who write about them) than the actual activities they would seem to denote.