This article examines the tradition of punitive house demolition during the Roman Republic, but from a sociocultural rather than institutional-legal perspective. Exploiting recent scholarship on the Roman house, on exemplarity, and on memory sanctions, I argue that narratives of house demolition constitute a form of ethically inflected political discourse, whose purpose is to stigmatize certain social actors as malefactors of a particular sort (“aspiration to kingship” being the central instance). The demolition itself is symbolically resonant, and the resultant stigma is propagated by subsequent monuments—various structures, toponyms, narratives, etc.—that attach to the housesite. These monuments are thought to bear the trace of what went before, hence transmit an account of the alleged malefactor's deed and disgrace. Far from obliterating the doer of misdeeds, then, the discourse of punitive house demolition fixes him in cultural memory as a negative exemplum .
Lucan's "Bellum Civile" is a poem filled with ethical contradictions. This paper contends that at least some of these contradictions can be traced to competing views regarding the composition of the community in civil war: the view that one's opponent is a civis (fellow-citizen, hence member of one's own community) and the view that he is a hostis (a foreign enemy) are available simultaneously. Therefore the position that it is morally wrong to attack a member of one's own community competes with the position that it is morally right to use violence against an enemy. The Pompeians tentatively and rather sporadically embrace the former view, while the latter view is more strongly characteristic of the Caesarians; the outcome of the battle of Pharsalus accords with this distribution of ethical stances. Yet these conflicting discourses and opposing views of the community are present not only in the voices of the various characters, but also in the narrative voice itself; such contradictions even within a single voice are inevitable artifacts of civil war as Lucan represents it. By portraying this competition in ethical discourses as he does, Lucan makes his civil war a context in which he can recreate and participate in the ideological struggles of Neronian Rome.