At His Toga Birthday Party FDR Dressed “Imperiously” in Wreath and Robe as Caesar

(p. C6) Again and again, artists and artisans have reworked ancient images, turning emperors and imperial women into role models or cautionary tales. Whether central to the debate or only hovering at the edges in a ghostly manner, the ancients have always been there. Such is the argument of Mary Beard’s “Twelve Caesars: Images of Power From the Ancient World to the Modern.”

. . .

Among the book’s many striking illustrations and images is a photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt celebrating his 52nd birthday in January 1934 with a toga party in the White House. Wreathed and wearing what might be a triumphator’s robe, arms folded imperiously, FDR is surrounded by more than a dozen family members and friends dressed variously as senators, matrons and legionaries. What does this Busby Berkeley-esque scene mean? It might have been a sardonic joke from FDR’s staff and friends to respond to critics who charged that the president was becoming a dictator.

For the full essay, see:

Barry Strauss. “Power in Profile.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021): C6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date October 1, 2021, and has the title “‘Twelve Caesars’ Review: Power in Profile.”)

The book under review is:

Beard, Mary. Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2021.

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