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Caesar’s Past and Posterity’s Caesar

Organised by Trine Arlund Hass, Jan Kindberg Jacobsen, Rubina Raja and Sine Grove Saxkjær

Date 29-30 April 2019
Time 9:00-16:00
Venue Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Copenhagen


In 2018 Danish archaeologists in collaboration with the Sovrintendenza Capitolina begin exploring the until now unexcavated parts of the Forum of Julius Caesar in central Rome. The excavations will uncover all layers of the site’s past from the remains of the Via dei Fori Imperiali laid out under Mussolini, over the 16th-century Alessandrino neighbourhood and back to the Recent Bronze Age. The excavations will uncover a timeline of Rome’s history, which potentially covers more than 3000 years. It will transect through the history and memory of Rome. However, undeniably this space in Rome has until now mostly been known for being the space where Julius Caesar decided to lay out his public space, his forum, in central Rome. In order to contextualize this unique opportunity to examine the story and the importance of a site in a diachronic perspective, this conference aims at exploring the eponymous person of this site and his role in Western culture in a broader perspective.

Julius Caesar was the first to design a forum in his family’s name and that in a time when putting focus on the powerful individual was a bold move. Making an expansion of the Roman Forum into a promotion of his own person shows how Caesar placed his own person at the centre of his political project – a dangerous undertaking – with a fatal end – but which created history. Featuring a temple to Venus Genetrix and an equestrian statue of himself as primary focal points, the forum demonstrated Caesar’s attention to identity construction. The narrative was one of a strong, rich and enterprising leader, whose rather controversial position as sole ruler was legitimised by his divine lineage that linked him directly to the mythical founder of the city and the gods. This awareness of his image is also found in Caesar’s own writings. Although his poetry and speeches are largely lost, his Commentarii show his desire to shape his own narratives. In a Latin style so concise and clear that it has become a staple in the Latin classroom since the 18th century, he accounts for his moves.

Caesar and his political visions divided people in his own time as well as in his afterlife. Pompey changed his mind, Cicero largely favoured Pompey and Brutus staggered before deciding to head the conspiracy that put an end to Caesar’s life. While Virgil mourned Caesar’s death and celebrated his apotheosis in Eclogue 5, Lucan portrays Caesar’s blood thirst and cruelty in the Pharsalia. Later, Dante places Brutus and Cassius in the innermost circle of Hell together with none other than Judas Iscariot, while Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Julius Caesar continues to raise discussion about whether Caesar is a hero or a villain and whether his murder is justifiable or not. Caesar has been a role model for generals and rulers, popes as well as kings, just as other political groups have hailed his opponents: Brutus was celebrated by the revolutionaries in France as well as by Lenin.

Although it is commonly said that Cicero is the person from Antiquity that we know best, the outreach and ability of Caesar to fascinate not only classicists but people in general is remarkable. Caesar has been and continues to be translated into popular media as movies, TV-series, cartoons and literary fiction. He is thus continuously actualized as a relevant mirror or spokesperson of Antiquity and generally applicable dilemmas and conflicts. Even Denmark that was never a part of the Roman Empire claims a special connection to Julius Caesar. He appears through all stages of our literature from Saxo, over Holberg to Hans Christian Andersen.

In this attempt to explore Julius Caesar’s use of the past and posterity’s use of Julius Caesar, we ask two central questions to be addressed in this conference:

  1. How did Caesar use the ancient/Roman past to construct himself and launch himself for a position as head of the Roman state and empire? What traces can we see in material and literary sources of how Caesar constructed this new role for himself? How did he select from the ’archives’ of the mythical and historical past when designing his way to power and his narrative about himself? How do we see the influence of this style within self-narration and self-representation as well as its impact on the use and creation of urban spaces among the later emperors?

  2. How has posterity seen Caesar and how has Caesar been used in posterity in Italy and beyond? Which discourses has he been embedded into – cultural, political, religious, educational, historical? With which ’colouring’ and purposes? Are the receptions affected by Caesar’s own self-staging? How do receptions treat Caesar’s relationship to Rome and the city’s mythical past? How do different receptions relate and affect each other? How is Caesar linked to regions beyond Italy? – How is his role as suppressor treated or if he has never been in the region, how is he then connected to it and its culture?

Confirmed speakers

  • Biskup, Thomas (University of Hull)
  • van der Blom,  Henriette (University of Birmingham)
  • Dimitrova, Miryana (Independent)
  • England, Bridget (University College London)
  • Galinsky, Karl (University of Texas at Austin) 
  • Hass, Trine Arlund (The Danish Institute in Rome / Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Jacobsen, Jan Kindberg (The Danish Institute in Rome) - organiser
  • Lange, Carsten Hjort (Aalborg University)
  • Liverani, Paolo (University of Florence)
  • Madsen, Jesper M. (University of Southern Denmark)
  • Pade, Marianne (The Danish Institute in Rome)
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Rüpke, Jörg (Universität Erfurt)
  • Saxkjær, Sine Grove (The Danish Institute in Rome / Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Wyke, Maria (University College London)
  • Zecchini, Giuseppe (Universitä Cattolica del Sacro Cuore)

Practical information for speakers


Please make your own travel arrangements to/from Copenhagen, and we will reimburse you after the conference.

To claim back conference-related travel expenses, please

  1. fill out this travel reimbursement form (disregard the bottom part).
  2. Forward the Excel file (no need to sign) and scanned copies of your receipts to Christina Levisen: levisen@cas.au.dk.

Please note that it can take a couple of weeks for Aarhus University’s Finance Dept. to process your claim, especially when international transfers are involved.   

NOTE: As soon as you have booked your flight, please forward your itinerary to Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk), so that the hotel booking can be finalised.


Hotel Astoria
Banegårdspladsen 4
1570 Copenhagen

Phone: +45 3342 9900

Dinner and diet

A speakers’ dinner will be held 29 April, and we will of course cater for you during the conference. 

If you have any dietary restrictions (incl. allergies), please let Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk) know no later than 8 April, so that she can notify the restaurant/caterers.