General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

Who was famous in the first century besides the emperors?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10724points) August 11th, 2011

Were there entertainers? Was fame strictly local?

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15 Answers

Dances_with_Werewolves's avatar

Pliny the Elder and Seneca the Younger, both philosophers. Don’t know about any musicians or other entertainers.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Famous where? With whom? How famous?

Saint Paul

Mamradpivo's avatar

There was some random Jewish carpenter who developed quite the following.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@Aethelflaed like if you walked up to your joe citizen of Greece, who do they know? Obviously Jesus. But, what about Jesus, who would He have known? Who would Saint Paul have grown up hearing about? Like hey there’s this one chariot rider… There’s a great warrior… Was there fame for anyone but emperors, forefathers, and gods outside of a small locale?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Ltryptophan I’m not sure we would know. The everyday citizens in history are usually out working, not writing. Jesus, we have no writings of him personally. And Jesus was in the Middle East, quite far away from Greece. Right now, Madonna’s a household name in America, but would they know who she was in Sudan? Maybe not so much, especially the lower classes.

thorninmud's avatar

In the first century Roman empire, some of the most famous figures would have been the gladiators who had attained superstar status. Spiculus and Columbus were among a handful who actually got portrayed on souvenir trinkets at the time.

jaytkay's avatar

I was going to question Christ’s early fame, too. But looking into it, I find that Tacitus in 115 AD wrote that Nero blamed Christians for the burning of Rome in AD 64.

So even if Tacitus is wrong, 115 AD is pretty close to the first century.

Wikipedia – Tacitus on Christ

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar


I found this interesting link while considering your question:

@jaytkay It was my understanding that many Jewish thinkers roamed as Jesus did in that time speaking out about Roman Occupation and gathering followers. My religious study professors referred to them as “Mystery Men”.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Would the everyman have known who Ovid was? The aristocracy, sure, but not necessarily the everyman. The larger gaps between classes really make it hard to know. I have a great amount of respect for social historians, because there’s so little material for them.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Aethelflaed I selected him as he was active prior to and just at the turn of the century.

I am not an expert on the man, I am just assuming based on my understandings of trends. In ancient times, a particular writer would collect oral traditions, write them down, and publish them, thereby becoming the de facto expert (think Homer). People in illiterate communities would claim, well, it says in “Ovid”, regardless of having read the book. It is why so many biblical texts were originally thought written by the same few authors, in ancient times, it was not a big deal to write your own book and present it as a story of “Homer” or a tale from “Ovid”.

In addition, the fact that he was known enough to receive a punishment of exile indicates to me that he was influential enough to get political notice.

And I feel relatively confidant because it says this in Wikipedia: “It is known that since his own lifetime, he was already famous and criticized. ” :)

I give up on whisper text

Hibernate's avatar

Not all things or persons that were famous were mentioned in the texts and even if they were most texts are still lost. Famous were those who performed things out of the ordinary for that time.

mazingerz88's avatar

Ssshh, this is all hush-hush but Cher was already famous way back then.

You said emperors, I say generals.

zenvelo's avatar

I’m not sure when Suetonius was published, but he wrote many books on famous Romans, including a lost text on Famous Whores. And although Apuleis was 2nd century, it is understood that many actors and playwrights were pretty well known through out large regions of the Empire. The Romans were pretty good at spreading entertainment to the frontiers In Egypt, Judea, Britain, Gaul, and Germany.

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Earthgirl's avatar

Josephus was a famous historian. He may not have been famous as a writer except in certain circles but he seems to have lived a very high profile life for the time. His writings have been used to discover the location of Herod’s tomb and he wrote a great deal about the history of Judaism as a religion and a philosophy.
Interesting account of his life in wikipedia.

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