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Celebrity in the Ancient World

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Robert Garland considers the meaning of fame and celebrity to the Greeks and Romans.

The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1787)One of the leading characters in The Clouds, the comic masterpiece by the Greek playwright Aristophanes, is the philosopher Socrates – depicted as a money-grasping teacher of rhetoric. On the play’s first performance in c.420 BC, some foreigners in the audience were heard to be whispering, ‘Who is this Socrates?’ At this the real Socrates rose to his feet in the theatre and stood in silence. In so doing he marked an important moment in the history of the cult of celebrity, by fostering, if not actively courting, public recognition. 


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