Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.04.28

Hans Beck , Uwe Walter, Die Frühen Römischen Historiker, Band I von Fabius Pictor bis Cn. Gellius (Texte zur Forschung Band 76).   Darmstadt:  Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001.  Pp. 384.  ISBN 3-534-14757-X.  

Reviewed by Gary Forsythe, Texas Tech University (
Word count: 1976 words

The decade of the 1990's witnessed a modest renaissance in the modern study of the lost historians of Republican Rome. New scholarly editions and translations of and commentaries on the fragments of M. Porcius Cato's Origines, Cassius Hemina, Calpurnius Piso, and Licinius Macer were produced respectively by Martine Chassignet, Carlo Santini, the present reviewer, and Siri Walt; and Chassignet has also turned out two additional volumes in the Budé series devoted to Rome's lost historians from Fabius Pictor to Sempronius Asellio.1 In view of this recent work, which has advanced our knowledge of many of the fragments and their contexts, the purpose of Beck and Walter has been to produce a much needed modernized rendition of Hermann Peter's Historicorum Romanorum Reliquiae I (Leipzig 1914). Peter's HRR I was in fact reissued in 1967 with the inclusion of a bibliographical appendix (pp.385-395), which attempted to bring the volume up to date by listing relevant scholarship published during the intervening 50 years; but the even more recent works set forth in the eight-page Literaturverzeichnis of Beck-Walter (pp.9-16), which the editors conscientiously and frequently cite throughout this new edition of Roman historical fragments, will be of great value to current students and scholars interested in the ancient historiographical tradition of the Roman republic. After a two-page Vorwort, the Literaturverzeichnis already mentioned, and an Einleitung of 37 pages that treats the standard modern scholarly questions surrounding the genesis, development, methodologies, and evidentiary basis of Roman republican historiography before the first century B.C., the main text of Band I of Beck-Walter begins. It is divided into ten chapters or parts, each of which is devoted to the following ten Roman historians dating from the Hannibalic War down to the end of the second century B.C.: Q. Fabius Pictor (FRH 1 [to follow the notation employed by Beck-Walter themselves] pp.55-136), L. Cincius Alimentus (FRH 2 pp.137-147), M. Porcius Cato (FRH 3 pp.148-224), A. Postumius Albinus (FRH 4 pp.225-231), C. Acilius (FRH 5 pp.232-241), L. Cassius Hemina (FRH 6 pp.242-281), L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi (FRH 7 pp.282-329), C. Sempronius Tuditanus (FRH 8 pp.330- 339), C. Fannius (FRH 9 pp.340-346), and Cn. Gellius (FRH 10 pp.347-367). The final sixteen pages of the book (pp.369-384) are occupied by a concordance (which coordinates the fragment numbers of Beck-Walter with those of Peter) and an index.

As indicated by the editors' cross references to the fragments of other lost Roman historians of the late republic, Beck-Walter are well advanced in producing Band II, which will apparently encompass Livy's lost predecessors of the first century B.C. Each of the ten chapters or parts of Band I begins with a summary introduction that discusses what we know about the ancient author and his work. Unlike F. Jacoby in his Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker and the present reviewer in his work on Calpurnius Piso, the editors follow Peter in not assembling systematically the ancient testimonia. Each fragment is set forth in its original Greek or Latin, followed immediately by a translation in German and a brief commentary. There is no accompanying apparatus criticus, but for the sake of convenience Beck-Walter have chosen to adopt the ancient texts and the fragment numbering system used by Chassignet in her Budé editions of these ten early Roman historians.

In addition to not having the fragments of Q. Fabius Maximus Servilianus, the one obvious omission from this collection concerns the testimonia / fragments of the Annales Maximi. To be sure, Beck-Walter discuss in the Einleitung (pp.32-36) the tabula apud pontificem maximum and the Annales Maximi; and with their characteristic brevity and judiciousness they summarize much of the very divergent modern scholarship on these subjects. They correctly argue in favor of the religious- calendrical nature of the chief pontiff's whitened notice board, as well as maintaining a clear distinction between the pre-literary tabulae pontificum and a literary compilation entitled Annales Maximi but they are reluctant to commit themselves to a terminus a quo for the beginning of the former and an actual date of composition for the latter. The reviewer continues to support the Mommsenian orthodoxy concerning a Scaevolan provenience of the Annales Maximi dating to c.130-120 B.C., which in his view is essential in understanding contemporaneous Roman scholarly interest in pontifical law and related matters as witnessed by the writings of N. Fabius Pictor, Q. Fabius Maximus Servilianus, Junius Gracchanus, and C. Sempronius Tuditanus.2 Thus, in chronological terms fragments assignable to the Annales Maximi might have been placed in this edition between Cassius Hemina and Calpurnius Piso.

In attributing authorship to fragments associated with the name Fabius Pictor Beck-Walter assign all such ancient passages to Q. Fabius Pictor, Rome's first native historian, who wrote his account in Greek. Despite the fact that we possess evidence for an N. Fabius Pictor having written on antiquities and pontifical law around the time of the Gracchi,3 Beck-Walter assign three verbatim Latin fragments to Q. Fabius Pictor and maintain that this material derives from a Latin translation of Q. Fabius Pictor's Greek text. Yet, we should ask, within the highly Hellenized Roman aristocracy of the second century B.C. what need would there have been for a Latin translation of Pictor's Greek account? Macrobius (Saturnalia 3.2.11) and Nonius (s.v. Picumnus) both cite a work on pontifical law written by a Fabius Pictor, and Peter quite plausibly assigned seven other fragments to this work and attributed its authorship to the Fabius Pictor whom Cicero describes in his Brutus (s.81) as "et iuris et litterarum et antiquitatis bene peritus." Ockham's razor would seem to dictate that the Latin historical fragments be assigned to a Fabius Pictor actually known to have written in Latin rather than to an otherwise unattested Latin translation of Q. Fabius Pictor. Arguing over what material should be assigned to Q. Fabius Pictor is no trivial matter for upon this issue may depend modern scholarly conjectures as to the original nature and subsequent development of Roman republican historiography. For example, Aulus Gellius' Attic Nights 5.4 contains a verbatim Latin quotation from the fourth book of Fabius Pictor concerning the election of the first plebeian consul in 367 B.C. Beck-Walter assigns this fragment to Q. Fabius Pictor, whereas the reviewer considers it to be derived from N. Fabius Pictor.

Beck-Walter place the fragments of Cato's Origines before the fragments of A. Postumius Albinus, but ancient testimonia may indicate that Albinus completed and published his history before Cato (i.e. Cato's sneering criticism of the preface to Albinus' history, and the facts that Cato's Origines went down to the praetorship of Ser. Sulpicius Galba in 150 B.C. and included a speech of Cato delivered against Galba in 149, the year of Cato's death). In any case, Beck-Walter perceive that Ennius' poetic Annales were probably important in encouraging Cato to undertake the writing of the first history of Rome in Latin prose.

How Cato arranged his material has been the subject of considerable modern discussion. On this matter Beck-Walter conjecture that Cato's Gründungsgeschichte was contained in Book I and resembled that of Q. Fabius Pictor as reconstructed by Dieter Timpe in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt I.2 (1972) 937-940, namely, from earliest times down to the decemviral legislation of the mid-fifth century B.C. Timpe's reconstruction in reference to Q. Fabius Pictor is plausible but by no means certain, resting as it does upon source-critical conjectures concerning the fragmentary texts of Polybius Book VI and Book II of Cicero's De Re Publica and their possible derivation from Pictor. On the other hand, this same Gründungsgeschichte for Cato seems quite likely in view of Peter F 25 of the Origines (= Beck-Walter 1,26) and the well known description of the Origines' content by Cornelius Nepos (Cato 3.3-4). According to the latter, Cato's first book concerned the early kings; Books II-III described the peoples and communities of Italy; and the remaining four books treated the overseas wars of the middle republic. F 25 of Peter, however, cites Book I and concerns the granting of Roman citizenship to L. Mamilius, who according to the later annalistic tradition (Livy 3.15-18 with 3.29.6 and Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 10.14-16) as dictator of Tusculum in 460 B.C. assisted the Romans against the Sabine Ap. Herdonius and was rewarded with Roman citizenship two years later in 458 B.C. Thus, it would seem quite likely that Cato's first book not only covered the regal period but also treated at least some part of the early republic as well.

Yet, given Cato's odd way of treating and arranging his material (e.g. the content of Books II-III, his refusal to record the names of politicians and generals of the middle republic vs. his inclusion of his own speeches and glorification of his own deeds) should perhaps make us more cautious in reaching common-sensical conclusions about Cato's Origines. It is noteworthy that despite the nearly 50 fragments attributable to Books II-III, we possess not a single one concerning Cato's native Tusculum. The only fragment that treats Tusculum is F 25 of Peter from Book I. Consequently, we should entertain the possibility that like Livy, who mentions the foundation of his native Patavium at the very beginning of his history in connection with Aeneas and Antenor leaving Troy, Cato might have included his treatment of Tusculum within his narration of Rome's mythical origins or regal period (e.g. the marriage alliance between Tarquinius Superbus and Octavus Mamilius). After all, L. Mamilius, the subject of F 25, was descended from Octavus Mamilius, as well as from Telegonus, the son of Odysseus and Circe, and the founder of Tusculum (Livy 1.49.9 and Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 4.45.1, Festus 116L s.v. Mamiliorum, and Ps-Acro ad Hor. Carmen 3.29.8). If Cato was capable of glorifying himself in the Origines, why should he not be suspected of having similarly highlighted his native Tusculum? Tusculum's association with the Roman state was in fact somewhat unique. It was the earliest Latin community of significance fully incorporated into the Roman state (381 B.C., 40 years before the Latin War of 340-338); and before Cato's day it had greatly distinguished itself by being the home-town of at least three families (Mamilii, Fulvii, and Coruncanii) whose members had attained the consulship in Rome.

Beck-Walter make the interesting suggestion that the 500 iugera granted to Aeneas in Latium in F 8 of Cassius Hemina is to be connected with the legal limit on how much public land an individual could possess. Be it noted, however, that this datum may not belong to the actual fragment of Cassius Hemina. In F 24 of the same historian concerning Marcius' emergency arming of the proletarii in 280 B.C. Beck-Walter prefer to emend the obviously corrupt "praeco" to "procos" rather than to "praetor." Moreover, they suggest that the Libri Magistratuum (at least in thirteen books) of C. Sempronius Tuditanus (cos. 129 B.C.) were intended to counter the De Potestatibus of Junius Gracchanus. There are a few minor errors. In the translation of F 37 of Calpurnius Piso the praenomen of Cn. Manlius Vulso is incorrectly rendered as "Gaius." Another error involving nomenclature occurs in the Kommentar on F 18 of Cn. Gellius, where Tarquinius Priscus is misnamed Tarquinius Superbus.

Despite minor slips such as these and honest scholarly differences of opinion on various matters that inevitably arise in connection with such work, let there be no doubt that this volume represents a splendid compendious updating of Hermann Peter's edition of these ten lost historians of the Roman republic. Like the reviewer, many current scholars in this area of study will be gratified to see their work so diligently cited and judiciously integrated into Beck-Walter's general discussions and brief commentaries, especially because this volume will certainly achieve its goal of making this relatively arcane area of scholarship accessible to a larger German academic readership and will also be of great value internationally to all scholars interested in Roman republican historiography.


1.   Martine Chassignet, Caton: Les Origines (Fragments), Paris: Budé, 1986; Carlo Santini, I Frammenti di L. Cassio Emina: Introduzione, Testo, Traduzione e Commento (Testi e Studi di Cultura Classica, 13), Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 1995; Gary Forsythe, The Historian L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi and the Roman Annalistic Tradition, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994; Siri Walt, Der Historiker C. Licinius Macer: Einleitung, Fragmente, Kommentar, Stuttgart and Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1997; Martine Chassignet, l'Annalistique romaine, tome 1: Les annales des Pontifes et l'Annalistique ancienne, Paris: Budé, 1996; and eadem, l'Annalistique romaine, tome 2: l'annalistique moyenne (Fragments), Paris: Budé, 1999.
2.   G. Forsythe, above n.1, 53ff; and idem, "The Roman Historians of the Second Century B.C.," The Roman Middle Republic: Politics, Religion, and Historiography c.400-133 B.C., Acta Instituti Romani Finlandiae, vol. 23, ed. Christer Bruun, Rome 2000 5ff.
3.   For the proposed emendation of the text of Cicero's Brutus 81 to read "Numerius" rather than "Servius" as the younger Fabius Pictor's praenomen see E. Badian in JRS 57 (1967) 228, followed by G. V. Sumner, The Orators in Cicero's Brutus: Prosopography and Chronology, Phoenix Supplementary Volume 11, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973 43; cf. A. E. Douglas, M. Tulli Ciceronis Brutus, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966 70. This N. Fabius Pictor should probably be identified with a moneyer whom Crawford dates to c.130 B.C. See M. H. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, Cambridge 1974 I. 291-292 no. 268.

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