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Vasily Rudich examines the phenomenon of dissidence from both historical and psychological perspectives. He investigates the interaction of the universal components of human motive, thought and act, with those that are culturally conditioned. He portrays the predicament of the dissident in Nero's Rome as seen and felt by the dissidents themselves, and recreates their thought and conduct through their own conceptual and verbal means. Those who endured the tribulations of Nero's rule were broadly divergent in their motives and backgrounds: they ranged from cynical opportunists to intrasigent oppositioners. This book shows their various efforts at adjustment to a hostile reality through dissimulation and places their careers in a chronological, increasingly dramatic narrative. Even though Rudich's insights may owe something to his own dissident experience under totalitarian rule in Russia, the author carefully avoids any direct parallel or retrojection. His detailed and innovative analysis of senatorial politics under the early Empire is firmly rooted in the rich evidence found in classical sources.
This is a study of a society suffering from a crisis of values and of people who were at the same time the victims and perpetrators of that crisis. By turns admirable, pitiable and comtemptible, they offer us remarkable examples of both political failure and moral victory.