Why the Roman Imperial Accession Speech?

Monday, November 15, 2021 at 1:00pm to 2:30pm

This is a past event.

Social Sciences Building (SOS), 250
3502 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

in-person: SOS 250  | on-line: please register HERE

Speaker: Brandon Bourgeois (USC, Classics)

The accession speeches of new Roman emperors constituted a species of oratory that was commonplace in imperial transition and the polity’s rhythms of renewal. Despite or perhaps because of their reliability as political phenomena, detailed literary depictions of these addresses are relatively rare in our extant sources. Thus, the very existence of Roman imperial accession speeches in our sources calls for commentary. This talk unpacks the question posed by its title—“Why the Roman imperial accession speech?”—in three primary ways. First, why do depictions of Roman imperial accession speeches survive at all; that is, what historiographical or textual functions do these speeches serve when they happen to appear in our sources? Second, why did new emperors feel compelled to deliver these speeches; more specifically, what political functions did these introductory addresses serve for fledgling emperors? Finally, why study the accession speeches of emperors? In other words, what can we gain from viewing Roman history through the lens of imperial accessions and the speeches by which emperors introduced themselves to various segments of the citizen body?

Event Type

Lecture / Talk / Workshop


Students, Alumni, Faculty/Staff


University Park Campus



Center for the Premodern World
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