“The world is empty after the Romans” with this famous catchphrase, Saint-Just (Rapport à la Convention du 31 mars 1794) summarized the relationship between his own time and the Antiquity. The rhetoric of the French Revolution was highly influenced by the great figures (especially figures with strong political connotations, such as Cicero, Nero, Tiberius,Caius Gracchus and Catilina or legendary figures, as Cornelia, Mutius Scaevola …) of the Greek and Roman past, often confused together and read according to the sensibility of the time. Neo-classicism and Enlightenment established a formal parallel between the XVIII c. and the Greek and Roman past, taking it as a model and an aspiration; this process culminated during the French Revolution (1789-1794). The main political protagonists, especially during the republican phase (1792-1794) not only used the Antiquity as a model of style and as a repertoire of exempla and themes, but also as the ethical and political model to be followed in creating new institutions and in the end a new generation of man.

This view was particularly embraced by Antoine Saint-Just (1767-1794), deputy of the Convention Nationale and later member of the Comité de Salute Publique, who made Antiquity one of the strongest points of his rhetoric as well as of his political thought.

This talk aims to reconstruct the vision of Antiquity and its main actors in the last works of Saint-Just (the corpus of speeches to the Convention Nationale and the so-called Fragments of Republican Institutions) to understand what was the reading and the comprehension of Greek and Roman culture, which sources influenced its use and finally how this can contribute to a better understanding of one of the key-figures of the French Revolution. Furthermore the confrontation of this perspective with that adopted by other Montagnards, who also used Antiquity both as theme and model (for example Maximilien Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins) will cast a light on the general cultural and political contest, underlining the peculiarities of Saint-Just’s reader-response.

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