Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.04.43

Theodora Hantos (ed.), Laurea internationalis. Festschrift für Jochen Bleicken zum 75. Geburtstag.   Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner, 2003.  Pp. 365.  ISBN 3-515-08095-3.  €80.00.  

Contributors: J. Andreau; E. Badian; A.A. Barrett; K. Christ; J.-M. David; J.-L. Ferrary; E. Gabba; W. Gawantka; A. Giovannini; E.S. Gruen; T. Hantos; F. Hinard; J. Scheid

Reviewed by Barbara Saylor Rodgers, The University of Vermont (
Word count: 2513 words

[The reviewer apologizes for the lateness of this review.]

The present volume is the second of two celebrating the seventy-fifth birthday of Jochen Bleicken; for the first see BMCR 2002.09.09. Here there are thirteen essays, most but not all by scholars outside of Germany. Arrangement is by alphabetical order of authors. There is something here for almost everyone, and several articles on related themes: law; financial life and status of participants; social, religious, and political history; and historiography. Each paper presents its own physical format; in some, modern bibliography is found throughout the notes, while in others it is at the end. There are a number of typographical errors and infelicities, but they do not impede comprehension.

Jean Andreau ("Vie financière dans les deux moitiés de l'Empire romain: remarques comparatives") studies the differences between eastern and western financial affairs of the empire during the first three centuries, especially in Greece and Asia Minor. The evidence is not as good, except for Egypt (which he does not address here), as it is for other times and places, but his aim is to establish what questions the surviving evidence does permit scholars to ask and answer. He examines different categories of loans and those who engaged in this business, including private individuals. Bankers in the east attained a higher social status than in the west, perhaps because of their wealth. The east was, during the imperial period, less different from the west than it had been in the centuries BCE. But differences remained. After the empire came into being, social hierarchies became both more complex and more static. Senators and equites became richer and bankers poorer. Thus the very rich would not entrust their finances to a banker but to their peers, specialists or not. Both halves of the empire saw this phenomenon. Yet the particular problems of the city of Rome had a definite economic impact on the way financial transactions were carried out in the west, especially at auction. Despite the paucity of evidence, it is possible to trace some differences and similarities from region to region and era to era.

Plutarch's programmatic statement that biography is not history should not obscure his historical thinking. Plutarch made good use of sources and accessed many. Ernst Badian ("Plutarch's Unconfessed Skill. The Biographer as a Critical Historian") asks what we are to make of anecdotes that probably not even Plutarch believed and answers that inclusion of such material was part of his method and literary skill, allowing him to tell a good story while disclaiming or discrediting it. A plethora of examples leads to an examination of the Philotas affair, which Badian explicates well, demonstrating how Plutarch has carefully constructed the narrative to indicate that Alexander plotted against Philotas, not vice versa. This is a welcome essay both for the understanding of Alexander (and the operations of his entourage) and because Badian treats Plutarch with the respect that the biographer deserves.

Anthony Barrett's thesis ("Damned with Faint Praise: Tacitus' Obituary of Livia") is that Tacitus' obituary of Livia is not any more favorable than the rest of his observations about her, although the historian was constrained by the demands of an obituary, which focuses on the individual, not on what 'people say' (a normal Tacitean device for creating negative impressions). (Yet Tacitus managed to do exactly that at the funeral of Augustus.) Given that Tacitus could not lie about matters of fact, e.g., Livia's nobility and sexual purity, he was able nevertheless to raise doubts for the reader. Barrett's analysis is an excellent example of close reading of a text, reinforced with examples from elsewhere in the Annales. The main question is why anyone has ever understood the obituary of Livia differently.

Karl Christ ("Geschichtsbild und Zeitgeschichte bei Velleius Paterculus") describes themes of Velleius' history and attempts to delineate this man's concept of history, that of a man who represented Italian municipal aristocracy, who had found advancement under the new system and was invested in its stability. Christ argues that the key to understanding the whole work lies in Velleius' experiences with and regard for Tiberius, and in Tiberius' own life, one of great fascination for his historian. Velleius, proud of his own service and position, logically identified with the person of his commander. Personalities in general were important to him, and in his narration of power struggles between pairs of antagonists he tried to be fair to both sides. Christ shows that Velleius' especial concerns -- citizens' rights, the foundation of colonies and the governance of provinces, but not economic or agrarian issues in general -- are very personal issues. Despite the sympathy apparent in the essay, Christ, like many others, finds little to praise in the conclusion, although much to understand.

Public financial transactions -- auctions -- required a praeco. Jean-Michel David ("Le prix de la voix: remarques sur la clause d'exclusion des praecones de la table d'Héraclée") asks why in municipal regulations, for example at Heraclea, praecones, along with actors, gladiators, lanistas, prostitutes and procurers, are barred from holding municipal office or serving in the senate. David argues that the status of infamia or indignitas was attached to the ordo of praecones because these were men who sold their voices, but only when members of the order sought to become local magistrates or senators. The normal financial and social status of the praeco had until the first century BCE been that of a person of slender means; David pays due but not undue attention, for example, to Cicero's statements about Naevius in the pro Quinctio. Some praecones had been able to use their positions and their roles in auctions (especially those due to civil upheavals) to attain a higher property classification. The evidence dating to the period from 90-40 (Cicero Verr. 2.2.122, the tablet of Heraclea, Caesar's municipal legislation) reinforces his conclusion. This legislation is good evidence for sociological processes during the first century BCE.

Jean-Louis Ferrary ("La législation romaine dans les livres 21 à 45 de Tite-Live") catalogues legislation of all sorts in Livy 21-45, with copious commentary. He lists also (1) laws mentioned by Livy retrospectively but not given in the right place in the narrative, (2) laws known from other sources but not in Livy, (3) laws whose existence may be assumed from Livy's text although he does not make them explicit, and he discusses what one may surmise from these lists, both from what is in them and what is not. Ferrary discusses in great detail a number of examples, including methods of creating a dictator, decree of a triumph or ovatio, grants of citizenship, foundations of colonies, locatio or dedicatio of temples, and special attention to prorogation of magistrates. He offers reasonable hypotheses covering the different cases of Philo and Aurunculeius in Livy 27.22.5-6 (208 BCE), the first prorogued by the senate while the command of the second was ratified by the people. Ferrary concludes with a sensible reminder that Rotondi's catalogue is not a complete official list, and that, since Livy is marked by legislative lacunae, an historian must attempt to make the best sense of each situation. Even the list-averse, and the reviewer is not one, will find this an enlightening romp through Roman legislation and constitutional procedures.

Prompted by Marcotte's new edition (Géographes grecs I, 2000) of the work in iambic trimeters attributed to Pseudo-Scymnus, Emilio Gabba's discursive essay ("Riflessione sui Giambi a Nicomede") opens up the world of the late first century BCE from a Greek point of view. He discusses date, possible authorship, and content, but, most importantly, the very Greekness of the periplous, a backward-looking history of the long process of the expansion of Greek civilization throughout the Mediterranean basin. Within this world, the author describes Romans and other barbarians with reference to Hellenism. Gabba analyzes verses 226-235 on the foundation of Rome and offers a simple solution, by a change of punctuation, to the putative lacuna in line 227. The author of the iambics, like Polybius and Demetrius of Scepsis, did not accept the Romans' Trojan origin. Gabba argues that given the recent emergence of this new power and its negative effects upon the great Hellenistic kingdoms, Carthage and Corinth, the poem reflects more than one stratum of Greek opinion. A single verse acknowledges Rome's power but the rest of the composition allows us to understand how a few decades later, when Mithridates VI called, so many answered.

Wilfried Gawantka's very long paper ("Eine Sammlung antiker Fundmünzen aus der Provinz Tarragona": much of it catalogue and indices) accounts for almost half the book's length, and the narrative portion is one of the most fun to read. He tells how he came to purchase a collection of more than 500 coins, all but eight from the Roman empire, and the many difficulties he encountered in bringing the collection to publication, not least his own learning curve. He discovered that some of the coins were restamped on one or both faces, sometimes more than once (with one example of a 'Stempelorgie'), and that others were ancient imitations rather than official emissions. Although the earliest Roman coins are of Augustus and Agrippa and the latest of Honorius, many reigns are omitted and there are long chronological gaps, the longest being eighty years between Marcus Aurelius and Gallienus. Gallienus and Claudius Gothicus (both alive and dead) are well represented, as are various usurpers, but not Constantine the Great. Finally, Gawantka addresses the origin of this collection and concludes that as it is not a group of coins that anyone would have purchased on purpose, it must be a coin hoard found near Tarragona. If one accepts the conclusion, the collection would well repay further study.

Adalberto Giovannini ("Un document amphicitionique méconnu: La convention financière de Drymaia [IG IX,1,22-230]") studies the debt of Drymaia in Phocis, whose creditors are listed in this incomplete inscription as "the god and the Oitaioi". The identity of the god has occasioned considerable discussion; Giovannini argues convincingly that it is Apollo at Delphi. In establishing that the "summer gates" are the same as the so-called autumn meeting of the Amphictyons, he redefines ὀπώρα as high summer, not autumn. As the inscription gives no clue to the origin of the debt, one can only hypothesize. Giovannini believes it is likely that the debt was contracted at the time of the reorganization of the Amphictyony after the defeat of the Aetolians in 189, and that at the moment of reintegration of the Phocians the Drymaians did not have the funds to pay their financial obligation and this is how the Amphictyony became involved in their debt. The different parts of the essay, especially the enjoyable excursus on the calendar, work well together.

Erich Gruen ("The Emperor Tiberius and the Jews") reinterprets Tiberius' expulsion of Jews in 19 CE, linking this action with the death of Germanicus and the need to assert a proper religious and cultural posture, with one precedent, viz., Libo Drusus in 16. He examines the history of Jews in Rome and expulsions of foreigners and concludes that the evidence suggests successful integration of Jews, many of whom were citizens, into the Roman community. Philo's praise of Augustus is not for anything positive but for leaving them alone. Examining accounts of the events of 19 in Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Dio Cassius, and Seneca, Gruen reconciles disparate elements. Since the Jews were not the only ones banished in 19 CE, but also Egyptians and perhaps other adherents of foreign sects, the death of Germanicus, with rumors of magic spells attached to it, was probably the impetus. Sejanus' later slanders were probably not based upon anti-semitism but rather a calculated political gamble that didn't work out. Except for times when Roman central authority needed to demonstrate Romanitas, mos maiorum, and old-time religion, Gruen shows that the Jews in Rome were mostly left alone, which was all they wanted.

Theodora Hantos ("Über die Entstehung von Herrschaft [am Beispiel der praefecti socium im römisch-republikanischen Heer]") studies the growth of Roman authority without the use of force through examination of military prefects in command of the allied contingents in the middle Republic. Although after 338 the command of the allied army was held by a Roman, until the Second Punic War allied forces were assembled and gathered by their own commanders. Hantos argues that the crisis of Hannibal's invasion caused changes. The principle of one-year commands was abandoned in the face of military necessity. Hantos argues that leaders among the allies who remained loyal identified with the Romans, and it was the combination of this identification, the danger, and Roman expertise that made Roman commanders acceptable. After the war the precedent was not abandoned, so by the beginning of the second century BCE the relationship had passed from one of equality to one of dominance by one side. This is a fruitful approach to understanding Roman domination of Italy; historians must especially bear in mind Hantos' warnings about extending this second-century reality backwards in time (as Livy and others may do), with subsequent misunderstanding of the role and influence of non-Roman Italians.

François Hinard ("Entre République et Principat. Pouvoir et urbanité") prefaces his essay with two observations on the manner in which Augustus was able to refashion memory, and the kinds of expectations that the Romans' brief life expectancy effected in political life. Leaving one's mark on the landscape was one way to remain in memory. He offers a table, which he does not pretend is exhaustive, showing individuals and buildings or construction programs in public spaces associated with their triumphs. Citing Suetonius Aug. 29.7-8, Hinard describes the aedes built by a variety of prominent Romans, which were surely not done merely in accordance with orders but as monuments of their authors. Some may have been demolished in Augustus' later building. Hinard cites Statilius Taurus as emblematic of the problematic relationship between Augustus and the new aristocracy. Octavian had to feel his way by various means in the face of the ambition or popularity of others, both supporters and possible rivals. Hinard discusses not only buildings and the fulfilment of vows but even services performed on behalf of the people. Octavian's desire to leave his mark, which became more pronounced as he felt more secure, went hand in hand with what Hinard sees as the lack of an overall vision to redesign the city.

Within the space of a few pages, John Scheid ("Les voeux pour le salut d'Octavien de 32 av. J.-Chr. [RGDA 9,1]") discusses several aspects of the vows taken on behalf of Octavian in 32, beginning with restoration of a lacuna in line 15 of the Latin Res Gestae, where he supports Heinen's thesis, with new arguments, that salus better translates Greek σωτηρία than valetudo. He next addresses the occasion of the games mentioned in RG 2.9.1. He argues that these quadrennial games first celebrated in 28 came as the fulfillment of a vow taken in 32, before Actium (despite Cassius Dio). His final demonstration is that the games were celebrated alternately by the consuls and by the four major priestly colleges.

Read Latest
Index for 2005
Change Greek Display
Books Available for Review

HTML generated at 13:29:59, Friday, 03 April 2009