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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Chapter 5 - Authorship in Classical Rome

from Part I - Historical Perspectives


Even though the modern term “author” is derived from the Latin auctor, histories of authorship usually assume a paradigm shift from premodernity to the modern age, with the invention of printing with movable type as a major historical caesura. Yet they also set out from certain author concepts that rely on central premises concerning copyright: notably, the premise that, within a so-called premodern society less concerned with individuality, notions of property were unknown or at least insignificant; and that the entire theoretical baggage that has accrued around authorship in modern times was “naturally” unknown in antiquity and, hence, irrelevant. Two complementary prejudices take effect here: that art and life were supposedly not thought of as distinct before modernity, and that unity and identity, instead of rupture and change, dominated an author’s self-image and his or her works. But ancient thinkers were surely able to distinguish between art and life, with the emphasis on a conscious blending of the two rather than their prior unity.