23 May 2023 Start
23 May 2023 End
19.00 (Athens), 18.00 (Rome) Time
Greece Swedish Institute at Athens, Mitseon 9, and online via Zoom


Dulce et Decorum – to Die for the Fatherland in Ancient Greece and Rome

May 23, 2023

The Swedish In­sti­tutes at Athens and Rome wel­come you to the next lec­ture in the series “Bridges”.

Ida Östen­berg, Uni­ver­sity of Gothen­burg, will give a lec­ture en­ti­tled “Dulce et Deco­rum – to Die for the Fa­ther­land in An­cient Greece and Rome”.

The lec­ture will be given in a hy­brid for­mat on Tues­day, May 23, 2023, at 18h Rome, 19h Athens time, with live pres­ence at the Swedish In­sti­tute at Athens, Mit­seon 9, and on­line via Zoom.


The Roman poet Horace famously wrote Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, ‘it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s fatherland’, an expression that Wilfred Owen, poet and soldier during the First World War, called ‘the old lie’. However, my research suggests that Horace’s verse did not, contrary to the common opinion, represent a traditional Roman view. In Rome, victory was the only acceptable outcome. Thus, Rome as a society did not celebrate their fallen, nor did they bury them with honours. Instead, in my view, Horace gives voice to a Greek view that lauded the fallen youth and treated them as heroes. I believe further that Cicero was instrumental in introducing the concept in late Republican Rome, and that the idea was exploited by the novel imperial dynastic family, to make sense of the premature deaths of several young male members. In my lecture, I will analyse and discuss the difference in the Greek and Roman view, while also providing a few examples of how the ancient ideas have been used and misused in other wars, historical and present. The seminar will take place in a hybrid format, with live presence at the Swedish Institute at Athens, Mitseon 9, and online via Zoom.

To participate (in-person or via Zoom), please register at: