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Date of Award
Restricted Thesis: Campus only access
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. Elizabeth Baughan
Dr. Walt Stevenson
Dr. Sydney Watts
This thesis sheds new light on the formation of the Lost Cause of the American South. While a hugely complex phenomenon, many scholars only link the formation of the Lost Cause to Southern Christianity. While a valid connection, no scholar has taken into account how the Southern reception of the Classical world influenced the development of the Lost Cause.
This thesis argues that Southerners were inspired to craft their Lost Cause by how Romans constructed their own “Lost Cause” of the Republic. The imperial poet Lucan created a “Lost Cause” of the Republic by personifying the cause in a Roman senator named Cato Uticensis. Lucan created a legend around Cato and fabricated stories of Cato’s Stoicism. Lucan thereby associated his cause with the morality of its representative, which gave his cause lasting historical power and a positive appearance. Influential Southerners, educated in Latin and the Classical tradition, received the legend of Cato and were inspired by his fight against Julius Caesar, which they believed closely mirrored their fight against President Abraham Lincoln.
Recognizing the enduring power of the Cato legend and the cause it represented, some Southerners, especially the historian Edward Pollard and sculptor Moses Ezekiel, began to create their own Lost Cause for the South. They were directly inspired by the blueprint of the Cato legend. They personified the Confederate Cause into Robert E. Lee and crafted a legendary morality around him. Through intimate association with a hyper-moral figure, their Lost Cause, much like Lucan’s, has endured for centuries and worked to transform defeat into victory.
Wasta-Werner, William, "Victory in Defeat: The Power of Loss and the Construction of the Myths of Cato Uticensis and Robert E. Lee" (2020). Honors Theses. 1530.