The common assertion that two people are “just friends” (as opposed to something else, something more) would probably have made little sense to ancient Romans, whose literature suggests that friendship was commonly idealized as the single most valued of chosen human relationships. I offer a brief overview of what friendship looks like in Latin literature and in the hundreds of Latin epitaphs commissioned by men and women in honor of their friends. Among other things, I consider what these fascinating texts suggest about the role played by gender and class in Roman friendship. Then, inspired by this rich body of material from nearly two thousand years ago, I ponder some larger and even more difficult questions. What does it mean to say “You are my friend”? What does it mean to ask what friendship “means”? How can the relationship between friendship and love be represented in language?
This event is free and open to the public.
A reception will follow the event.
About the speaker:
Craig Williams received his Ph.D. in Classical Languages and Literatures from Yale University in 1992, and after many years on the faculty of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, became Professor of Classics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. He has also taught at Columbia University and the Free University of Berlin.
At Brooklyn College, Prof. Williams received a Research Fellowship from the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities in 2000, and was awarded the Leonard and Claire Tow Endowed Professorship in 2006. Since 1999 he has won numerous fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Bonn, Germany, which have supported research stays in Berlin at both the Free University and the Humboldt University.
Williams is author of numerous articles and reviews on ancient Roman literature and culture, as well as four books: Roman Homosexuality (Oxford University Press 1999, revised edition 2010), two commentaries on the Latin epigrammatist Martial (Oxford University Press in 2004; Bolchazy-Carducci 2011), and most recently Reading Roman Friendship (Cambridge University Press 2012). In addition to gender and sexuality, Latin epigram, and Roman friendship, his research interests include the relationship between animals and humans in ancient Greek and Latin literature, and the role of the Greek and Latin languages in the European colonization of North America, part of a larger project bringing together Classics and Native American Studies.