The 2010 Brown Symposium at Southwestern University is titled “IMPERIVM: The Art of Empire in Rome and America.”   It’s not just about the artwork of these two empires, though. It’s also about the “art” of gaining and staying in power.  

“Acquiring power is an art in its own right, which does indeed sometimes use ‘art’ (like television and statues), and exercising it effectively is yet another,” says symposium organizer Thomas Noble Howe. “We have seen a lot of incompetent government lately, people artful only at acquiring power, sometimes using art as an illusion.”  

Howe is an art history professor at Southwestern who also serves as coordinator general of the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation, an international consortium that is excavating a group of large, well-preserved Roman villas located near Pompeii.  

He contends that there is an art to using power which was key to the effectiveness of Rome as a world-governing empire, and says that the great villas he studies, as well as the enticing frescoes and statues and monuments of Rome, are only one emanation of the political “arts” of a multi-talented, powerful elite.  

Howe has assembled a group of speakers for the symposium who study art and power in the past as well as the present.

Karl Galinsky, a professor of classics at The University of Texas at Austin, will open the symposium Thursday morning, Feb. 11, with a lecture titled “Are We Rome…Really?” Galinsky is one of the most prominent historians of ancient Rome today, as well as a modern historian. His lecture will focus on contrasts and convergences between Rome and America.

Thursday afternoon, Margaret Malamud, a professor of history from New Mexico State University, will give a lecture titled “Consummate Empires: Ancient Rome and Imperial America c. 1900.” Malamud recently published a book titled Ancient Rome and Modern America; Classical Receptions, in which she analyzes how the legacy of Rome has been utilized throughout American history from republican independence to the present-day dominance of capitalism.   Also on Thursday afternoon, art critic Edward Lucie-Smith will give a lecture titled “Did the Romans Do Post-Modernism?” Smith has published more than 200 books on numerous movements and artists, including the Art Now books of the 1970s which introduced much of the world to the new generation of artists reviving classical and Renaissance approaches.  

Alexander Stille, a professor of journalism at Columbia University who has written on both ancient and modern Italy, will give a lecture Friday morning, Feb. 12, titled “Imperial Power in 21st Century Rome.” In his 2007 book titled The Sack of Rome, Stille investigated one of the most controversial politicians of modern Europe, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi has artfully used the Italian news media to maintain his power.

The final speaker will be Edward Luttwak, a military historian who currently serves as senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Luttwak has written one of the most famous books ever written about Roman military strategy, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire (1976) and has recently published The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. In a lecture titled “Rome and Byzantium, Iraq and Afghanistan,” Luttwak will compare Roman and Byzantine military strategy to the differing strategies developed by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The symposium also will include an art exhibit titled “Who Owns Classicism” that is curated by Howe and Edward Lucie-Smith. The exhibit will feature photographs by Lucie-Smith, as well as artwork by Santa Fe artist Francisco Benitez and Bosnian artist Mersad Berber. Benitez has created a piece titled “Women of Baghdad” specifically for this exhibit.  

Smith will give a talk about the exhibit following his lecture Thursday afternoon.

In addition, the symposium will include a Thursday evening concert by Organographia, an ensemble from Oregon that specializes in reconstructions of Greek and Roman music. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. in the Alma Thomas Theater.

All events related to the symposium are free and open to the public, but advance reservations are suggested. To register, visit

This will be the 32nd Brown Symposium held at Southwestern. The symposium is funded through an endowment established by The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston. The first Brown Symposium was held in 1978.


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