Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2014

Author's School

College of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



Exempla, vivid stories recounting laudable or shameful actions performed by named individuals, were a common rhetorical device in ancient Roman literature. Generally, they were meant to encourage emulation of good deeds and avoidance of bad. In this work, I investigate how Valerius Maximus, the philosopher Seneca, and the satirist Juvenal employ and deviate from the exemplary tradition, specifically focusing on negative exempla. While Valerius’ encyclopedia of exempla categorized by representative virtue or vice remains within the usual rhetorical sphere (though remarkable for its size - 967 stories), Seneca and Juvenal deliberately endeavor to innovate within the framework of exemplary discourse. Seneca tends to consider more private, personal events, whereas Juvenal emphasizes the publicity, shock-value, and humor possible with detailed accounts of everyday vice parading through Rome. Both provide theories about how vice spreads and how exempla might function, illustrating that they are not merely content to use exempla as in past authors, like Valerius, but want to use them for their own purposes. In alignment with his Stoic beliefs, Seneca uses exempla in part to establish a moral code that does not deal with legal courts or public office, but rather daily life. For Juvenal, in contrast, the theorizing helps to justify his never-ending list of negative exempla and provides comic moments, albeit sometimes ones with disturbing overtones. Finally, although it seems that exempla are traditional by definition, new exempla must also be created at certain points. The tendency in Seneca and Juvenal to use new, rather than old exempla, which are prominent in the work of Valerius Maximus, shows that they are consciously working to expand and continue the tradition of exempla in unique ways. Thus, from Valerius’ relatively simple compendium of exempla to Seneca’s works and Juvenal’s Satires, the exemplary tradition remained vibrant, expanding to accommodate the purposes of different authors.


English (en)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Professor Catherine Keane

Advisor/Committee Chair's Department


Second Advisor

Professor Caroline Bishop

Second Advisor's Department


Third Advisor

Professor Timothy Moore

Third Advisor's Department