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St. John’s Lecture Explores Roles of Kings and Heroes in a Democracy
Professor Patricia Fagan of the University of Windsor in Canada will give a lecture at St. John’s College on “The Anxiety of Democratic Revolution: The Greek Heroic in Plutarch’s ‘Life of Coriolanus.’” The lecture is free and open to the public and will be held in the Francis Scott Key Auditorium on Friday, October 16, at 8:15 p.m.
In her lecture, Fagan will be addressing how kings and king-like men, while considered heroes in ancient Greece, are not easily assimilated into cooperative and group-oriented democratic communities such as the Roman Republic. “The myths of the early Roman Republic manifest a considerable anxiety about kings and king-like men,” says Fagan. “The king-like man shows too much initiative, too much concern with his own honor and desires, too much talent; he is too much a hero in the old Greek sense.”
Fagan will also explore how these myths reveal the necessity for king-like men to the democratic revolution. “Here we see the dilemma of revolution: we need a king, a hero, until we don’t need him any more. Gaius Marcius Coriolanus is one such king-like, heroic figure.” Fagan argues that the Greek philosopher and historian Plutarch’s account of Coriolanus emphasizes those aspects of Coriolanus that tie him, not just to the myths and concerns of the Roman material, but to models of Greek heroism. “Coriolanus, because his world is the world of the Republic, cannot return to his people and cannot be reassimilated. King-like men and heroes have no safe and permanent place in a democratic community.”
Fagan teaches in the department of languages, literatures, and cultures at the University of Windsor, Canada.