Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Classical Studies

Reader 1

Ellen Finkelpearl

Reader 2

Michelle Berenfeld

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Following the Battle of Actium, Roman depictions of Cleopatra VII portrayed the queen of Egypt in an extremely negative light. Prior to the reign of Augustus, however, Cleopatra appeared as a noble ruler and exemplified Roman female virtues. This drastic shift in depictions of Cleopatra is a result of immense racialization and is a major feature in Augustan propaganda. To understand how poets engaged with the racialization of Cleopatra, and how that in turn impacted the validity of their critiques, this paper analyzes two examples of subversive Roman poetry: Ode 37 by Horace and Poem 11 in Book III of Propertius’ Elegies. This analysis is performed using a transhistorical racial framework that is adapted for studies of the Ancient Mediterranean and also the critical theory of “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” by scholar and activist Audre Lorde. After applying this theory, it becomes clear that while Propertius uses the imperial tool of racialization to critique Augustus, Horace’s criticism relies on the rejection of Cleopatra’s racialized depiction. Thus, Horace ultimately provides a more radical critique which challenges Augustus’ moral and political authority.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.