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Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition$
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Meredith Safran

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440844

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 06 July 2022

Pericles, Cincinnatus, and Zombies: Classicizing Nostalgia in The Walking Dead (2010–)

Pericles, Cincinnatus, and Zombies: Classicizing Nostalgia in The Walking Dead (2010–)

(p.137) 7 Pericles, Cincinnatus, and Zombies: Classicizing Nostalgia in The Walking Dead (2010–)
Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition

Laura Gawlinski

Edinburgh University Press

In the third of three chapters examining Athens’ golden-age legacy, Gawlinski discusses how the “flu episodes” of The Walking Dead’s fourth season re-animate a highly influential classical plague narrative: when the civic ideals of “golden age” Athens, lauded by Pericles in the famous Funeral Oration featured in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, fall to the lawlessness (anomia) spurred by an outbreak of plague as the walled city is besieged by the Spartans. The series’ dramatization of the community’s failure to live up to its ideals interlaces with the struggle of its protagonist, former sheriff Rick Grimes, to follow an example from the Roman Republican strand of the classical tradition. Cincinnatus, the Roman leader who temporarily left his farm to save the state by taking up emergency powers in wartime, then returned to pastoral life voluntarily, has been invoked as a model for American leaders since George Washington. Grimes tries but fails to follow this Roman model, further undermining the community’s attempt at Athenian-style civic life and abandoning the communal farm. Thus two classical models promoting a turn away from strife are shown as unsustainable, like the golden age itself.

Keywords:   The Walking Dead, golden age of Athens, Pericles’ Funeral Oration, civic institutions, Cincinnatus, Roman Republic, plague narrative, pastoral life, authoritarian rule, lawlessness(anomia)

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