The Scopic Regime of Ancient Rome :
Politics, Sexuality, and the Gaze in the First Century CE.
Outline and Summary

Shadi Bartsch
University of Chicago

I.  Political Power and Visual Display in Republican Rome
Some familiar images from the ancient city, and the practices of Roman political self-display to which they refer.

II.  Ethical Ramifications of the Gaze
A brief discussion of shame cultures and their stress upon visual control of individual behavior.  The connection between being watched and ethical action.

III.  Dangerous Forms of the Gaze:  The Evil Eye and Optical Theory.
Two ancient theories of optics, extramission and intramission, which relied on a tactile understanding of how vision works.  Their relationship to belief in the evil eye.

IV. The Penetrating Gaze and its Erotic Implications
The penetrating power of the gaze, which was often figured negatively, could also be implicated erotically in relations between the sexes.

V. A Tension between Two Cultural Paradigms of Viewing?
How do Roman notions about freedom, libertas, explain the clash  between these two different emphases on being seen?  What circumstances endanger the object under view?

VI.  The Freeborn Body on Display
The freeborn Roman citizen and cultural constructs about the sanctity of his bodily boundaries.  The  taboo on self-display for the pleasure of others.

VII.  The Decline of Senatorial Self-Display in the Early Empire
One man seizes control of representations and self-display; the traditional forms of self-display fall out of use.

VIII.  A New Philosophy of Vision
A philosophical change in the role played by the gaze, which now becomes a private, not a public, phenomenon. 

This lecture discusses the cultural dynamics of vision in ancient Rome .  Visual self-display, whether for political purposes or on the stage, was closely linked to attitudes about ethics, power, sexuality, and the body.  The political tradition of Roman elite investment in the production of spectacles of power existed alongside cultural anxieties about the effect of such self-display on the person at its center, who was vulnerable to the evil eye and the emasculation associated with stage performers.  But the elite experience of both the positive and the negative potential of the gaze was transformed by the transition from republic to empire, when one man, the emperor, seized control of the public space of political display.