Scholia Reviews 3 (1994): 6

C. Deroux (ed.), Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History VI, Brussels: Collection Latomus 217, 1992. Pp. 513. ISBN 2-87031-157-5. BF 2,500.

Garrett G. Fagan
Davidson College, North Carolina

The articles collected in this latest supplement to the regular issues of Latomus cover a wide variety of topics. As with the previous volumes, no one theme unites them and there is no specific order in their presentation. The reader is confronted by a veritable smorgasbord of subjects, ranging from a catalogue of ancient veterinary terms to a reconsideration of the Emperor Titus’s soldiering. Some method can be glossed onto the madness, however, by a thematic survey which will hopefully offer a sense of the scope and content of the work. Since few would be qualified to pronounce with equal authority on such a broad spectrum of material, my occasional comments reflect less the quality of the individual submissions (that is for specialists in the divers fields to assess) and more my personal interests. Of the twenty-nine articles, fourteen can be classed as mainly literary, eight as mainly historical and seven fall somewhere in between.

The mainly literary articles can be dealt with briefly, as I am not qualified to comment on their contents in any detail. The most technical is undoubtedly that by G. B. A. Fletcher — a collection of corrigenda and addenda to Fr. Bömer’s edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. To those with a copy of Bömer, these pages will prove invaluable. P. Murgatroyd’s concise and lucid study of the variations of setting in six accounts of the Hylas myth throws light on the narrative techniques of their authors (namely, Antoninus Liberalis, Dracontius, Apollonius Rhodius, Valerius Flaccus, Theocritus and Propertius). M. J. Edwards shows how Catullus borrows from Sappho’s themes more than from her vocabulary, while M. Vinson proposes that Catullus uses the vocabulary and imagery of public life (e.g. fides, amicitia) to describe his relationship with Lesbia. However, V.’s firm adherence to the view of sexual relations as predominantly power relationships (which is essential to the argument) is, in my view, occasionally overstated (e.g., 170-71).

Three articles, by S. Farron, F. E. Brenk and R. Gaskin, focus on Vergil; a further three, by W. M. Owens, R. Ancona and C. Deroux, on Horace. Cicero and Tacitus are the subject of one article each, by J. J. Hughes and P. C. Class respectively. Finally, A.M. Keith studies Ovid’s use of Propertius in Amores 1.1, while S. A. Frangoulidis investigates Apuleius’s use of Vergil’s Dido and Homer’s Odysseus in his portrayal of Charite.

The historical articles are no less varied, covering in chronological scope the Middle Republic to the Later Empire. J. Briscoe presents an eloquent plea for the validity of prosopographical analysis of Middle Republican political groupings, which has recently come under assault from, among others, A. E. Astin, F. Millar and P. A. Brunt (cf. B.’s nn. 1-5, p. 70). The debate is far too complex to review here, but a few observations may be pertinent. B. presents an overly stark choice between long-term groupings formed around families and friends, or individual senators swaying in the breeze of the political moment. Surely matters need not have been so polarized. Might not alliances have been formed and dissolved over short periods of time, as interests diverged and new opportunities presented themselves? Following from this, what does amicus mean in the political context of the Republic? Does it imply a persistent political ally (as B. seems to assume, cf. 77) or a current adherent? Finally, B. omits discussion of one the only surviving descriptions of senatorial debate and decision-making, albeit not from the period under study. In Sallust’s Catiline (50.3 – 53.1) the members are swayed by force of argument rather than any pre-existing political groupings. The passage does not favour the “prosopographical view” (to employ a crude label).

V.M. Warrior’s somewhat technical study of M’. Acilius Glabrio’s intercalation of 190 BC adds another chapter to the Antiochene War and provides further insight into the difficulties of ancient chronology. G. Wylie reviews the Sertorian War, asking whether Sertorius was in fact a military genius. While interesting, W.’s article suffers perhaps from too narrow a focus: ancient battle accounts, which constitute the bulk of his evidence, are notoriously unreliable (as he himself has to admit at several junctures, esp. 157-8) and surely leave the answer as to whether Sertorius was a “good” or “bad” general beyond modern reach. Matters treated only tangentially here — e.g. Sertorius’s war aims, whether he was a Spanish “national” hero or a Roman opportunist — might have been more profitably investigated. A more successful assessment of military prowess is proffered by B.W. Jones who adds a further blemish to his already tarnished portrait of the emperor Titus (cf. id. The Emperor Titus [London & Sydney, 1984]). By examining instances of Titus’s behaviour in the Jewish War J. concludes, simply, that “Titus was reckless” (420). He successfully differentiates recklessness from the personal courage expected of ancient commanders and shows that Titus cared more for his own glory than for the future of the newly-founded dynasty (417-20). It is difficult to counter J.’s conclusion, especially when we read that on one occasion the prince waded into a horde of Jerusalem’s defenders with neither helmet nor breastplate (414)!

W. Suder revitalizes the sex lives of Roman senes in a readable and entirely convincing contribution. Old Romans had sex, but then, as now, it was considered inappropriate. In fact, argues S., our view of sedate and sexless old folk stems from Roman attitudes. In a penetrating epigraphic study, M.R. Salzman throws new light on the Christianization of the aristocracy in the Roman West. Drawing from 319 men and women listed in PLRE for the period AD 284-423, S. analyses statistically information concerning their social status and religious affiliation in terms both of chronology and geography. Her findings do not support previous theories — e.g., conversion was essentially a random, personal event; aristocratic women played a key role in that they were initially drawn to Christianity and then helped convert their husbands — but instead suggest a new pattern whereby a gradual shift of senatorial families away from the pagan cults is combined with an equally gradual convergence of pagan and Christian career paths. To be sure, appointment to higher office depended on an ideological compatibility with the ruling emperor, but S.’s study also includes lower officials. Despite some difficulties of interpretation due the survival pattern of inscriptions, S.’s analysis is, on the whole, convincing.

Two articles deserve longer consideration. S. Johnstone offers a fascinating survey on the uses of arson in the Late Republic and Early Empire. J. maintains that due to the close identification of the Romans with the physicality of theirurbs, arson, real or alleged, was primarily a political act, a virtual topos in the political invective of the Republic. Later, responsibility for fires, or at least insufficient effort in preventing them, was a serious charge directed against ‘bad’ emperors (notably Tiberius and Nero). This interpretation offers insight into accusations of arson leveled at the likes of Catiline, and renders Nero a hostis, ‘enemy of the state.’ However, J. seems to overstretch the argument in contending that the vigiles were largely undifferentiated in mandate from the Praetorian Guard and were more of a political force than a fire brigade; his attempts to divorce the former from firefighting is not entirely convincing (56-62) — Dio (55.26) is quite clear that the vigiles were recruited and maintained to guard against fires. It seems to me that a citation in Tacitus (Ann. 15.44), used imaginatively by J. at 65-6, weakens rather than strengthens the article’s overall thesis. The historian comments that the Christians were hated not so much for their incendiarism as their ‘anti-social tendencies’ (odium humani generis; J.’s translation). Following J.’s argument, however, there would be no greater ‘anti-social tendency’ than the burning of Rome. Why then the differentiation in the charge, unless arson was not necessarily seen as the ultimate political crime after all (at least in Tacitus’s view)? Despite these quibbles, J.’s is an illuminating (no pun intended) and informative study.

In light of recent studies of Roman medicine (e.g., R. Jackson, Doctors and Diseases in the Roman Empire, London 1988; ANRW 37.1 [1993]), of especial interest is G.W. Houston’s well-argued and entertaining article ‘Two Conjectures Concerning Nero’s Doctor, Andromachos the Elder.’ Andromachos is known from Galen, who styles him Nero’s archiatros and quotes from and comments on his poem about antidotes for poison. But the good doctor goes unmentioned by Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio, and so has been ignored by most modern treatments of Nero, a situation H. attempts to redress. On analogy with such men as Charicles under Tiberius or C. Stertinius Xenophon under Claudius, H. argues that Andromachos may well have been a personal friend of Nero and thus a prominent figure at court (356-9). H. further postulates that Andromachos was a source for Lucan’s passage on snakes (BC 9.700-33), since both courtiers would have known each other and shared an interest in poisons and poetry. This is an entirely plausible picture. There is, however, an overriding problem that goes unaddressed, namely why Tacitus, Suetonius and Dio should have ignored Andromachos’ existence. Their silence is all the more curious when it is precisely from these sources that we hear of other court physicians like Charicles (Tac. Ann. 6.50) and Xenophon (Tac. Ann. 12.61) and when it is recalled what a prominent part poisons played at Nero’s court, either in reality or in rumour (cf. H.’s own n. 13, p. 358). Either there was a conspiracy among these writers to blot Andromachos from the historical record or — perhaps more likely — he was not as prominent as H. suggests. Assuming that Galen is not mistaken or exaggerating when he calls Andromachos Nero’s archiatros, the latter may have enjoyed only a very brief period of favour, too brief for mention in the main accounts of Nero’s reign. We know very little about the man’s life and (more pointedly?) nothing at all of his death. Life at Nero’s side could be perilous — perhaps Andromachos discovered this all too quickly.

Finally the seven articles that fall between the strict ‘literary’ and ‘historical’ categories. L. R. Lind completes his survey of Roman ideals begun in the previous volume of this series by examining religio, pietas, fortitudo and virtus. The text is thorough but often difficult to follow, cluttered as it is with parenthetical references and direct quotations (cf. esp. 12). Much of this could have gone into the footnotes. L.’s analyses of these important concepts are enlightening in themselves but might have been clarified by a conclusion or summary at the end of each section; indeed, the article as a whole would have benefited from a synopsis drawing everything together. A.M. Lewis puts another book into the ancient schoolboy’s satchel by arguing that the sustained popularity over some 1500 years of Aratus’s 3rd-century BC astronomical poem Phaenomena was because it had become a school text. Another education-oriented study is that of J. Moorhead, who surveys Cassiodorus’s contribution to the canon of ancient liberal arts.

Two articles focus on questions of terminology. C. J. Simpson attempts to use Catullus 100 and various sections of Ovid to reconstruct the ‘patois of the racetrack’ and generally does so convincingly. Words such as favere, felix and potens likely had special meanings at the circus. However, S.’s reconstruction of betting terms (211-14) is less felicitous since it is forced to be exceedingly speculative. Another terminological essay is J.N. Adams’ reconstruction of ancient veterinary jargon. Given the absence of a specialist medical vocabulary in ancient human medicine (cf. V. Nutton in R.S. Porter [ed.], Patients and Practitioners: Lay Perceptions of Medicine in Pre-Industrial Society, Cambridge [1986] 23-53, esp. 31-2), one wonders to what extent there was a genuinely separate veterinary terminology rather than a simple recycling of otherwise regular words to suit the context (e.g., pulmo or pantex can mean, respectively, ‘lung’ and ‘paunch’).

D.B. George reconsiders Lucan’s portrayal of Pompey and concludes that he is depicted as a Stoic proficiens, i.e. a man standing between wisdom and foolishness or, more precisely, between Cato and Caesar, the respective incarnations of these qualities. V. Hunink searches for Lucan’s last words among the poet’s writings, since Tac. Ann. 15.70 claims that Lucan died citing himself. H. makes an astute observation: Tacitus’s account need not be historically accurate. Tacitus is fond of putting ‘famous last words’ into the mouths of dying luminaries (cf. n. 7, p. 393), which can be taken as no more historically accurate than other ‘direct quotations’ found in ancient historiography. Undaunted, H. argues that Tacitus must have had some specific verses in mind and, after due consideration of the suitable candidates, comes to the disappointing conclusion that you can take your pick.

The book is not without the occasional typographical error or misspelling but, given its length, these are few and far between. An editorial policy on the citation of lengthy passages — that they be presented either untranslated in the original, or in translation, or both; as it is, all three possibilities are employed, sometimes within a single contribution — might have been helpful, but since few will read the volume cover-to-cover, this is not a major consideration. Altogether, Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History VI represents an extremely useful resource to those working in these fields and can take its place alongside its predecessors.