Damnatio Memoriae in Modern Egypt

Nice bit of comparanda from the New York Times:

LAST month, a Cairo court ordered that images of the ousted Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, and his wife, Suzanne, as well as their names, be removed from all “public squares, streets, libraries and other public institutions around the country.” Posters and portraits of the Mubaraks are ubiquitous in Egypt. Squares, sports fields, libraries, streets and more than 500 schools bear their names.

… after some similar sentiments and notice of the practice in Ancient Egypt, the Times notes:

Romans saw it as a punishment worse than execution: the fate of being forgotten. It was suffered by numerous ignominious emperors of Rome in the early empire, and, even in the later empire, it was a mark of great disgrace. After the rebellious Maximian was subjected to damnatio memoriae around A.D. 311, his friend and co-ruler Diocletian was said to be so grief-stricken that he soon died as well.

Excisions like Maximian’s from frescoes and statues can be viewed in the most basic sense as announcements from rulers to the populace about the end of one reign and the beginning of another. But when the populace engages in the destruction itself, it can also serve a cathartic purpose.

According to the historian Suetonius, in the chaos that followed the assassination of the emperor Caligula in A.D. 41, “some wanted all memory of the Caesars obliterated, and their temples destroyed.” The new emperor, Claudius, ultimately blocked the Senate’s attempt to decree a formal damnation of his predecessor’s memory. (Now on the throne himself, he probably wanted to avoid condoning regicide.) Yet Suetonius’ statement indicates that common people wanted the chance to vent their frustrations over Caligula’s corrupt reign and senseless brutality. […]

… some folks will remember that last January we were blogging about (oft-made) claims that Caligula had undergone damnatio memoriae: Purported Tomb of Caligula ~ Followup

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