Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.03.02

Fezzi on Canali De Rossi on Fezzi.   Response to 2004.02.48



Response by Luca Fezzi, Università degli Studi di Pisa (lucafez@tin.it)

The review clearly underestimates the problems raised by the subject of my study (falsification of public documents in the late Roman republic). Even though I can appreciate the reviewer's interest in my book and his final "benignity", I must stress that his underestimation, probably from too rapid a reading, has created a lot of misunderstanding.

First, let me remind the reader that the problems raised by the subject and the structure of the book are clearly explained in the introduction (pp. 1-18), which can also be read online.

I will not discuss the reviewer's personal opinions about law and history. I will reply only to six main "methodological" observations which make the misunderstandings more than evident.

1) "The book is exclusively based on literary material, mainly from Cicero". In the absence of the original documents (tablets covered with wax), all we can do is look for accusations of forgery (in literary sources, and mainly in Cicero). Finding epigraphical evidence, as the reviewer suggests, seems very difficult, if not impossible, for two reasons. First, an inscription is a copy of an original. Without the original, how does one decide if the inscription is a forgery? Second, an inscription can be a perfect copy of an original false document. Without other evidence, how does one decide decide if the original is false? Further, I really have problems in understanding the reviewer's statement: "Modern technology allows, in this author's modest opinion, a heretofore unprecedented material falsification of ancient documents (especially inscriptions): each new text should be carefully scrutinized before it is accepted as genuine". I hope in the future the reviewer will explain widely this view, which could be very interesting.

2) "The juridical schematism of the book and the superimposed categories". Another problem to cope with is, as I clearly explain in the introduction, the ill-defined concept of 'public document' and 'false' in the Roman world (see pp. 2-14). Modern juridical grounds also help us to focus on the event, the author and the motivation of the forgery. What the reviewer considers "juridical schematism" is, in my opinion, the best way to obtain order. In this field, misunderstanding seems to begin from the title of the book. 'Public documents' are a particular category of documents (see pp. 2-3). In spite of the reviewer's statement, I can't convince myself that the will of Mark Antony can be considered a public document (see pp. 17-18).

3) "The promised period (133-31 BC) is not entirely covered". The choice of the dates 133 and 31 B.C. is clearly symbolic (see p. 1 and n. 1). It is mainly due to my deep agreement with Claudia Moatti about the importance of the Gracchan reforms in drawing to public documents and with Philippe Moreau about the importance of falsifications in the last age of the Roman republic (see p. 1 and n. 2). Obviously, the dates don't coincide with the first and the last case found.

4) "Some cases in the period 133-31 BC are omitted". The reviewer suggests including the desire of the Bithynian people to witness (74 BC) as a "falso per formazione" (where is the document?), the tablets covered with wax of different colours by Q. Hortensius as a "falso per formazione" (where is the forgery?) and the episode of the exterminated Alexandrian envoys (57 BC) as a "falso per soppressione" (this is really a suppression, but of people!)

5) "The unfair distribution of the cases in the entries". Obviously, another useful way to obtain order is to isolate the single cases and to proceed chronologically. This is why, for example, some cases from the Verrinae are separated (they cover the period 81-71 BC), while those tied to the Catilinarian affair are considered together.

6) "References to ancient sources abound, often in strange bold characters, often referred to in a cryptic manner, but the original text is reproduced only at the author's choice". My supposed reader is a scholar, able to find the ancient sources in his library and not frightened by the "abundance of references". Also the "strange bold characters" are explained (see p. 18). The "cryptic references" are not explained because they are those of the 'Thesaurus Linguae Latinae' and 'Liddell and Scott'.

[[For a response to this response by Filippo Canali De Rossi, please see BMCR 2004.03.22.]]

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