Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.06.36

Ulrich Eigler, Ulrich Gotter, Nino Luraghi, Uwe Walter, Formen römischer Geschichtsschreibung von den Anfängen bis Livius. Gattungen - Autoren - Kontexte.   Darmstadt:  Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2003.  Pp. 352.  ISBN 3-534-16297-8.  EUR 39.90.  

Contributors: Harriet I. Flower, Wolfgang Blösel, Hans Beck, Ingo Gildenhard, Ulrich Gotter, Uwe Walter, Markus Sehlmeyer, Peter Scholz, Andrew Feldherr, Mary Jaeger, Thomas Baier, Ulrich Eigler, Nino Luraghi and Dieter Timpe

Reviewed by Christopher B. Krebs, University College Oxford and University of Kiel (
Word count: 2847 words

This book comprises 13 revised talks that were given at the conference "Mächtige Erinnerung. Die republikanische Annalistik als verschriftlichte soziale Ordnung", enlarged by the editors' introduction and Dieter Timpe's resumé. Its overall theme is Roman memoria, its forms and functions within the respective Roman present(s), and the role of historiography therein. All contributions are interesting, most of them well argued; some could have used a more careful revision. They add up to a coherent book that provides an erudite and stimulating survey of republican historiography, with the problem of the historian's authority and the present's colouring of the written past as recurrent themes. The omission of Caesar and Sallust seems odd, though, since both undoubtedly ploughed the field of memoria.1 Welcome formal features are the English abstracts at the end of each paper, the reference to reviews in the footnotes (though unfortunately only in the introduction) and D. Timpe's summing-up of the preceding papers; the editing, however, is surprisingly poor.2

The editors' (excepting U. Eigler) introduction positions historiography within the wider context of Roman memoria (pp. 9-15), gives an excellent overview of the development and focal points of research in the field of Roman historiography (pp. 15-31) and attempts to define the difficult term "Annalistik" so as to provide a concept into which all ensuing papers fit (pp. 31-38). There is much of interest in all three parts; unfortunately, it is too noticeable that sections I and III were written by G. and L., whereas W. answers for part II.3

The first two contributions, of Harriet I. Flower ("Memories of Marcellus. History and Memory in Roman Republic Culture", pp. 39-52) and Wolfgang Blösel ("Die memoria der gentes als Rückgrat der kollektiven Erinnerung im republikanischen Rom", pp. 53-72), are very much concerned with non-historigraphical memoria. F.'s paper makes for an interesting read: through the case-study of Marcellus, whose abounding and contradictory tradition exasperated Livy (27,27,12) and therefore ideally suits her interest, she illuminates the "dynamic interplay between history and memory" (p. 39). Moving swiftly over the field of memoria, she investigates the variety of Marcellus' images in non-historiographical and historiographical sources and convincingly links the particular representations of the past (in persona Marcelli) with the respective historical contexts of the administrators of his memoria. A case in point is Polybius: His "tactics of erasure [i.e. of Marcellus] are suggestive of trends in the politics of memory practiced by rival families in Rome during the second century BC" (p. 47). F. thus not only situates historiography within the field of memoria, but reveals the power politics in (re)writing 'the' past.

In B.'s rich and stimulating paper there are -- in addition to the thesis (i) which is formulated in his title -- three more: (ii) the pompa funebris is the memorial practice plain and simple, performing an all pervasive "differentiating integration" (p. 57); (iii) republican historiography did not play an important role within Romans' collective memory; (iv) the memoria gentium lost its constitutive significance mostly because of the poisoned climate between the populus and the nobiles. His subtle analysis of how the funeral procession served to integrate and place the newly deceased in his family according to his achievements and of how the gens positioned itself within the hierarchy of the nobiles becomes somewhat uneven when he tries to leap from the res gestae gentium to the res gestae populi Romani. (Gotter later tackles this problem when discussing Cato's rewriting of history by focussing on the populus at the costs of the nobiles, esp. pp. 124f.) This doubt is fundamental and could challenge the main thesis (i) of B.'s paper.4

The following three contributors investigate individual authors (Fabius Pictor, Ennius, Cato), each of them a primus inventor in the field of memoria. Hans Beck's convincing argument in his "Den Ruhm nicht teilen wollen -- Fabius Pictor und die Anfänge des römischen Nobilitätsdiskurses" (pp. 73-92), unfolds as follows: (i) an acrimonious analysis of the four fragments of the κεφαλαιωδῶς written middle part of Fabius Pictor's work reveals that all of them are concerned with the political culture of the Roman nobility. This tells us something about the distinctive nature of historiography, (ii) for it can -- unlike the pre-historiographical memorial devices -- address the res gestae populi Romani rather than just those of individual gentes. (Gildenhard will make the same point, see p. 112; it is not particularly new, see e.g. Pelling in OCD, s.v. historiography, Roman.) It is the discursive medium in which the nobility reflects upon itself and -- again unlike other instantiations of memoria -- is comparatively less biased. (iii) This different and new form of reflection was (at least partly) motivated by the crisis caused by Hannibal. Thanks to B.'s analysis it cannot reasonably be doubted any more that Fabius Pictor's history, though written in Greek, aimed (at least also) at a Roman audience (B. doesn't address this implication, though; Luraghi will discuss Greek writing for a Roman audience at the end of the republic). Other conclusions of his will, however, remain highly controversial.5

Ingo Gildenhard's "The Annalist before the Annalists -- Ennius and his Annales" (pp. 93-114) rightly questions Skutsch's characterization of the Annales as 'annalistic': he reduces their annalistic debt to title and eponymous dating and argues that the closest conceptual counterpart is the aedes Herculis Musarum (pp. 96f.). In order to reject the thesis of an annalistic style and to uncover Ennius' poetic brilliance, he scrutinizes Ann. 304-8 (additur orator) and 240-1 (Iuno Vesta Minerva). G.'s interpretations (pp. 99-102) undoubtedly are sparkling; I am less sure about the fragments, and on Ann. 240-1 I am with Skutsch: "This grouping gave him greater metrical freedom."6 This however does not affect G.'s further argument that Ennius in various ways accentuates his literary authority which enables him to command (literary) immortality; Ennius thus has a memorial technique at his hands that is beyond the scope of traditional memoria devices (pp. 105-7). G. finally reflects upon the relationship between poet and patron, drawing, of course, on Ennius' apologia (Ann. 268-86).

Ulrich Gotter ("Die Vergangenheit als Kampfplatz der Gegenwart -- Catos (konter)revolutionäre Konstruktion des republikanischen Erinnerungsraumes", pp. 115-34) gives a brilliant interpretation of Cato's Origines: It is politics disguised as literature (p. 133), and Cato strives to pit the populus Romanus as the true protagonist of Roman history (p. 125) against the (pretentious) gentes, whom Fulvius Nobilior only recently had celebrated in the context of the aedes Herculis Musarum (p. 122), with the assistance of Ennius (as Gildenhard had argued, pp. 94-7). During the course of this convincing argument, he proposes to read Cato's famous dismissal of the tabulae (Cat. orig. F. 4,1) as a refutation of the annalistic principle (p. 119f.) with its implication of the dominance of individuals and their families. One might wonder whether on this issue the reader (G.) is cleverer than the writer (Cato).7

Uwe Walter, Markus Sehlmeyer, and Peter Scholz discuss generic developments within historiography (the later Annalists, antiquarian literature, autobiography) with a specific interest in socio-political contexts and their influence on literature. Walter's title "Opfer ihrer Ungleichzeitigkeit -- die Gesamtgeschichten im ersten Jahrhundert v.Chr. und die fortdauernde Attraktivität des annalistischen Schemas" (pp. 135-56) neatly indicates the two main questions with which he is concerned: (i) Why are there 'later annalists' and (ii) why did their work vanish? Although there were historiographical generic alternatives (pp. 135-7) and although Sempronius Asellio and Coelius Antipater had plainly criticized the annales and upped the stylistic ante (pp. 138-43), the later annalists 're'turned to annalistic history ab urbe condita for three reasons (pp. 144-7): it allowed for flexible use, generated an impression of continuity and thus security, and, finally, served as authorization of writers whose political activity was slight. W. then presents his analyses of the three annalists (pp. 148-53) and finally gives their social status and their inadequate qualification as reasons for their disappearance (pp. 154f.). My main problem with this erudite paper is its evolutionary, linear historiographical model (as indicated in "Ungleichzeitigkeit") and the author's yielding to the suggestive power of the tag "later annalists". The problematic nature of this assumption is particularly evident in W.'s characterization of Cn. Gellius as "Vorläufer der Jüngeren Annalistik": so we have annalists, forerunners of later annalists and then the later annalists -- all within fewer than 150 years? Rather than the untimely return to the out-dated annalistic scheme and the writing of history ab urbe condita, it seems to be a turn to one -- of many -- available historiographical options.

Markus Sehlmeyer writes on "Die Anfänge der antiquarischen Literatur in Rom -- Motivation und Bezug zur Historiographie bis in die Zeit von Tuditanus und Gracchanus", pp. 157-71. Before (genuine) antiquarian literature that began with Tuditanus and Gracchanus (pp. 163-5), there were antiquarian interests (e.g. lexicological, etymological: pp. 158-60) and antiquarian material in historical works (esp. with Cassius Hemina and L. Calpurnius Piso; pp. 161-3). Having illuminated these roots of antiquarian literature, S. addresses focal points in its content (e.g. constitutional law) and argues that -- once more -- the deep glance into the past was politically motivated; the aim of these antiquarians (p. 167) was: "Traditionspflege und Einschärfung des mos maiorum." While this explains an historic interest, it does not seem to account for the antiquarian interest (this in its turn refers to the problem of the generic definition of antiquarian literature; see pp. 157 n. 161).8

Peter Scholz ("Sullas commentarii -- eine literarische Rechtfertigung. Zu Wesen und Funktion der autobiographischen Schriften in der späten Römischen Republik", pp. 172-95) surveys the literary origins of the autobiographical genre (pp. 174f.), the arrival of which, he argues, coincides with the disintegration of the Roman nobility (p. 188). Having mentioned the earliest autobiographers (pp. 176f.), he quickly focuses on Sulla's commentarii rerum gestarum, in order to (i) uncover Sulla's self-portrait and (ii) answer more general questions concerning this genre's (social) function and its relevance for a Roman reader. The fragments show that Sulla presented himself as a favourite of the gods, whose fortuna helped him fulfil his duties as an imperator optimus (pp. 180-4) and now removes him from the envious critique of his fellow aristocrats. S. convincingly concludes that the defence of the writer's auctoritas and the justification of his political measures form the primary function of this genre; hence, it should not be understood as a simple aggregation of material for later historical usage. As to why any Roman reader should take an interest in these writings, he gives a (problematic) reading of Cic. Brut. 112, concluding (undoubtedly correctly) that the (politically aspiring) reader could learn from the published arcana imperii.9

Andrew Feldherr ("Cicero and the Invention of 'Literary' History", pp. 196-212) reads de republica (his exemplary passage is rep. 2,7) as a dialogic text, in which Cicero gives voice to two historiographical concepts (pp. 205-12). He takes Scipio's voice to represent core features of 2nd century historiography (his aristocratic origin, his intimate knowledge of historical sources; pp. 208f.) and interprets Cicero's voice as announcing an "improved and modernized version" (p. 209) of the historiographic discourse, imbued with Greek philosophy and historiography, which can be masterfully performed only by someone with a thorough rhetorical education. This F. takes to be Cicero's application of his new historiographic concept, set out in de oratore, wherein (de orat. 2,51-4) Cicero attempts to establish Roman historiography as a literary genre (p. 202) in which the rhetorical training of the historian goes before his public status (p. 199). Because of this aim to establish a literary genre, Cicero skews the evidence of early Roman historiography (pp. 200f.). This is an engaging paper, brimming with many stimulating ideas.10

The final four contributions concern two historians at the end of the republic -- Livy and Dionysius -- and pay special attention to how the historian's present shines through in his past. Of the three case-studies of Livy Thomas Baier's paper ("Ein Kommentar zum Rechtsdenken der ausgehenden Republik" (pp. 235-49)) makes for a delightful read. On the grounds of a close reading of Livy's presentation (Liv. 2,3,2-4) of what the participants of the conspiracy Bruto consule had to say against the aequatum ius omnium, he argues that Livy warns his contemporaries that they might lose their freedom, and that he unmasks the clementia Caesaris and draws attention to Octavian's jurisdiction as two instances of personalized justice (p. 247). The language which the conspirators use, as B. shows in a careful analysis, refers to the contemporary discussion of aequitas (pp. 241-44); but secunda facie the conspirators reveal themselves to be unwilling to accept any objective system of law whatsoever (p. 245). They want a person in charge who bends the rules, who knows the difference between friend and foe; the latter specification (inter amicum atque inimicum discrimen nosse) B. convincingly links with the growing importance of the personal connection to the princeps. This is a convincing example of how (the) past is rewritten according to the specifics of the writer's present.

Mary Jaeger's "Livy and the fall of Syracuse" (pp. 213-34) is an idiosyncratic interpretation of Livy's narrative and a stimulating read, if the reader likes suggestive rather than deductive arguments; unfortunately it bears clear signs of haste.11 J. points out that there are topical parallels between the accounts of the events at Syracuse and of the end of the reign of the Tarquins (esp. p. 213) and argues: (i) it is the historian's annalistic scheme that helps sustain the Roman cultural identity from past to present (pp. 214, 219, 234); (ii) "Syracuse is a failed Rome" (p. 233) because -- unlike Rome -- it proved incapable of continuing a state of libertas; in Livy's account this is a consequence of the Syracusans' inadequate concern for the past and their lack of a political leader à la Brutus (pp. 219-29). (iii) Marcellus fills this void with his Roman parental authority in exchange for Greek culture (pp. 232f.). Thus Livy -- a Roman historian who draws on Greek historiography -- would not only stress the historian's important contribution to Roman identity, but also claim to have brought the conquest of Greece to a definitive end: the Greek historians' intellectual glory accrues to the Romans, as does the martial glory of the Syracusans to Marcellus.

Ulrich Eigler ("Aemilius Paulus: ein Feldherr auf Bildungsreise" (pp. 250-67)) shows Livy's account of Aemilius Paulus' tour through Greece (45,27-8) bears clear signs of the historian's awareness of the (unabating) debate about Romanitas and the influence of Hellenism (pp. 262f.); this could help explain the specific ambivalence of the tour, oscillating between a "Bildungsreise" and a military exploration, which distinguishes Livy's account from the descriptions of Polybius and Plutarch. Livy enacts Aemilius' tour as a cultural appropriation, siding with the military annexation: what was Greek is now Roman, militarily as well as culturally (esp. p. 259). E.'s last twist of argument suggests that the annalistic concept -- with Rome as its sole focus -- helps to "textually romanize" Greek memorials (p. 266); this is perhaps more questionable than his other theses.12

Nino Luraghi ("Dionysios von Halikarnassos zwischen Griechen und Römern", pp. 268-86) carefully analyzes how Dionysius' Greek account of the Roman past is situated in and tainted by his Roman present (e.g. p. 276); more generally, he points to D's hortatory verve and his evocation of exempla, which try to stir up his contemporary Romans to follow in their forebears' footsteps (pp. 272f.). These observations lead L. to raise once more the question of D.' intended readership, whom, so L.'s argument runs, D. only pretends to be Greek. L. makes the interesting suggestion that this might just be a facet of the author's persona since he, being Greek, did not possess the auctoritas to advise Romans on their mores (pp. 282f.). His pretence of a Greek readership, his adaptation of the Herodotean ethnographical legitimation (i.e. that as Herodotus derives his own authority from the authority of the logioi so does D. from Roman nobiles), and finally his reference to Roman annales (and their authority) reveal D. as deeply involved in "den Autoritätsdiskurs der Annalistik" (p. 285); these features are thus concessions to the conservative limitation of Roman historiographers.

This volume is capped by Dieter Timpe and his "Erinnerung als Lebensmacht und Geschichte als Literatur: Bilanz und Ausblick" (pp. 287-316). Having positioned historiography in the broader field of memoria, he outlines four general interests linked with Roman historiography: (i) the circumstances under which Roman historiography came to light (pp. 289-92); (ii) the concept of "Annalistik" (pp. 293-97); (iii) the Greek influence on Roman historiography (pp. 297-300); and finally (iv) the relationship between historiography and rhetoric (pp. 300-03). T. then elaborates four phases within Roman historiography (pp. 304-06), before he summarizes the preceding papers (pp. 306-16), the themes of which can now easily be located on T.'s map of Roman historiogaphy.

The bibliography is up to date; however, the omission of Otto Gerhard Oexle's work (e.g. Memoria als Kultur, Göttingen 1995) strikes me as surprising. The index is almost impeccable. All in all, this book successfully conveys the fascination of early Roman historiography, and because of this the poor editing does not weigh too heavily.


1.   This cannot be justified by the argument that neither writes annals; for then other contributions should have been excluded as well. The omission of Caesar is the more surprising, as P. Scholz's paper is about the commentarius.
2.   More frequently than one would expect, the writing is not in accordance with the rules of the new orthography (e.g. p. 14 (Grösse), p. 74 (läßt), p. 265 (schliesst), p. 303 (Anstoss)). Some of the numerous pieces of negligence and the fragmentary sentences will be listed in footnotes at the end of my discussion of each contribution; there are too many typos, many footnotes are rugged (e.g. p. 275, n. 19), and cross-references to other papers within the volume are usually either unqualified or omitted. This book does not live up to the standards of the publishing-house.
3.   There are contradictory opinions on the following questions: W. (p. 23f.) seems to favour Rüpke's thesis of Fabius Pictor reacting to Naevius and Cato responding to Ennius, whereas G. and L. distance themselves from it (p. 36 (n. 87)); their interpretations of Cato's view of the tabula apud pontificem maximum contradict each other (see p. 27 (with n. 62) and pp. 36f.). A further consequence of this split introduction is repetetiveness and fragmentation of parts of the discussion, which make for a difficult read: e.g. "Annalistik" is touched upon on pp. 11 and 14, its problematic quality convincingly specified on (esp.) p. 27 and then discussed (pp. 27-31), and again elaborated on pp. 32-34. In fairness it must be added that the editors were fully aware of this problem (see note on p. 10).
4.   Another highly controversial thesis: Cicero (Brut. 62) and Livy (4,16,4) complain about forgeries which the gentes undertook to boost their glory; but B. thinks that the jealous families controlled themselves and thus prevented the worst (for the opposite view see Gotter, p. 123, fn. 27). Some trifles: on p. 63 (fn. 42) the Latin should read pro dictatore, p. 70 (fn. 69) peregrinantis. The term "symbolisches Kapital", which B. slips in twice (pp. 55, 57), is, due to its varied spectrum of meanings, not particularly helpful unless further specified.
5.   So his assertion (which is based on one fragment) that Pictor tried "ein gewisses Maß an Ausgewogenheit bzw. Überparteilichkeit zu wahren" (p. 88). Minor details: p. 74, fn. 6 read COSS.; p. 76, fn. 14 read similitudinem; p. 76, fn. 15: It is rather surprising that when addressing the problem of the tabula apud pontificem maximum he makes no reference to the discussion in the introduction.
6.   Skutsch, O.: The Annals of Q. Ennius, Oxford 1985, p. 425.
7.   Minor details: G. when discussing the pompa funebris (pp. 122-3) could have referred to Blösel's contribution (see note 3). -- The first lines of G.'s translation of Dion. Hal. ant. 1,11 (p. 128) are rugged, unlike the original. -- The fragment, quoted on p. 130, fn. 52 is 1, 6 (not 1, 3); the Latin therein should read appellabantur. -- The sentence "Das Subjekt..." on p. 125 is fragmentary.
8.   I could not make sense of the reference to FRH 1 F 13 (p. 160, fn. 18); on p. 158, fn. 6 read sedem (instead of sedum); on p. 171: sparkled should be sparked.
9.   His reading of Cic. Brut. 112 seems, when situated in its context, truncated: Cic. discusses the relevance of style and content (Brut. 110) and describes M. Scaurus as someone, cui oratorium ingenium defuit; this deficiency turns readers away despite the usefulness of its content, which thus is only of second rank in this discussion. -- Trifles: on p. 173, fn. 5 read nulla; p. 187, fn. 57 read oportere.
10.   On p. 202 read aptus ad dicendum.
11.   p. 214, n. 2 (from p. 213) read quidam; p. 229, fn. 58 the quote is from Livy 25,29,5-6, the last line of which should read vestrae; on p. 231 read priusquam (and fn. 67: 'Romilly 1977' is not in the bibliography); the last part of her conclusion (p. 234) is fragmentary.
12.   p. 263, n. 38, is a fragment; the transl. on p. 265 (Tu regere ...) is rugged; overall, there are too many mistakes that could have been avoided easily (e.g. n. 50 (p. 266), Werttschätzung (p. 257), Aemilus (p. 260), 'wären' instead of 'seien' (p. 264), Bereicht (p. 266)).

Read Latest
Index for 2003
Change Greek Display
Books Available for Review

HTML generated at 13:28:40, Friday, 03 April 2009