Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.07.25

C.F. Konrad (ed.), Augusto Augurio. Rerum Humanarum et Divinarum Commentationes in Honorem Jerzy Linderski.   Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner Verlag, 2004.  Pp. 203.  ISBN 3-515-08578-5.  €36.00.  

Reviewed by Alex Nice, Reed College/University of the Witwatersrand (
Word count: 1618 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

One can think of few individuals more worthy of a Festschrift than Jerzy Linderski, Paddison Professor of Latin at the University of North Carolina from 1979 to his retirement in 2003. During the course of a fifty-year distinguished career Professor Linderski has published some 188 articles, reviews, and edited editions.1 In this volume 10 former students honor Professor Linderski's 70th birthday and his substantial contribution to classical scholarship.

Hans-Friedrich Mueller's introduction is a delightful overture. Readers of BMCR will be amused to discover that Linderski once conceived an idea to transcribe Broughton's Magistrates of the Roman Republic by hand or a 'mad plan' to read the entirety of Pauly-Wissowa. Less surprising is Linderski's presence in the classroom: engaged and engaging, enthusiastic and encouraging. There his philological erudition and deep understanding of the ancient texts stimulated a spirit of free and independent enquiry. His former students have much reason to offer their heartfelt gratitude.

In the appropriately titled opening paper 'The Politics of Thanksgiving' Francis Hickson-Hahn argues that there was no period when the expression of public thanks to the gods was a wholly religious act, untainted by politics. Praise was also due to the general who was responsible (with the gods' help of course) for the defeat of the enemy, the safety of his troops, their return home, and the capture of booty. There was always, therefore, a very individual and personal quality attached to the public celebration of thanksgiving. This further insight into the inextricable interrelationship of religion and politics suggests further why the first century generalissimos, Sulla and Augustus especially, found it an easy matter to conflate matters of religion and politics to promote their own personal ambitions.

Readers interested in the extent to which the Latin playwrights adapted or altered their Greek models to satirise Roman institutions will find Timothy Moore's detailed look at the parody of a Roman prayer in Plautus Cistellaria 512-527 of interest. He argues (p. 66) that the absurdities apparent in the passage are a carefully constructed mixture of elements meant to be critical of Alcesimarchus, who tries to recreate a prayer, rather than of the prayer language itself. The specific gods mentioned and their roles reflect the psychology of both Alcesimarchus and Melaenis and raise questions about the distinctions in the Cistellaria between matronae and meretrices.

Christopher McDonough's paper shifts the focus from the mid-Republic to imperial Rome. He begins with Paul's defence with regard to the consumption εἰδωλόθυτα ('idol meat'). Via a discussion of the observations of Servius and Servius Auctus (Ad Aen. 8.183) on the cuts of meat sacrificed at the Ara Maxima, he concludes that a distinction was to be made between the different types of meat offered for sale in the macellum at Corinth, that εἰδωλόθυτα would have cost more. The indirect argument is somewhat confusing. I would like to know more about the relationship of temples to the buying and selling of sacrificial meat. Was it a private business practice? The evidence of Pliny (Ep. 10.96) seems to suggest so. Or did the temples themselves sell meat at inflated prices? One might also ask what constituted εἰδωλόθυτα? Pliny's text suggests live animals designated as sacrificial victims (hostiae); Paul's text that the Christian consumer was buying cuts of meat.

From thanksgiving and sacrifice, Mueller and Panciera focus on aspects of the 'Conflict of the Orders' as depicted by Livy. For the one, the nocturni coetus of the plebeians in 494 B.C. are a Livian sideswipe at the irreligious and illegal nature of such gatherings. Mueller's account is somewhat shrouded in a shadowy discussion of Rome's legal code and ideas of 'night' and 'day'. Concluding references to Rienzi's assembly on the Aventine in AD 1347 and the nocturnal arrest of Jesus Christ at Gethsamene seem superfluous. For the other, Canuleius' speech in favour of the prohibition on intermarriage and the opening up of the consulship to the plebeians should be read in terms of Livy's sympathies for the plebeian position. Panciera argues that Livy's combination of proposals (in contrast to Dionysius of Halicarnassus) emphasises that plebeian political success depended, as a further reason, on their marriage alliances with the patricians. Is this really Livian sympathy? The emphasis seems to me to be on the necessity for societal harmony. For Livy, as instances during the Second Punic War demonstrate, Rome is at its strongest when patricians and plebeians, men and women, boys and girls offer a unified appearance that heeds the advice of the Senate and preserves the pax deorum through outward displays of piety to the Roman gods.2

Johnson and Perry take the reader in different directions. The briefest article in the volume suggests that the aside by the Emperor Caracalla on the death of the jurist Papinian -- that he ought to have been executed with a sword rather than an axe3 -- is a morbid witticism on the 'legal distinction between the magisterial (axe and lictors) and the military (sword and soldiers)' (p. 103). Perry's article reflects on the relationship between Theodor Mommsen and Giovanni Battista de Rossi and the influence of the former on the development of the latter's influential views on the funerary collegia and early Christian burial practices.

Gargola has no difficulty in demonstrating the associations between Etruscan ritual, Roman surveying, and augural practice. He argues, sometimes laboriously, that ritualization of centuriation could serve to emphasise and legitimise the acts of Roman magistrates in colony foundation. The link between antiquarianism and administration is evident in later technical writers (Frontinus and Hyginus Gromaticus) who used the rite as a basis for their discussions. Clearer delineation of the term limes, a term used to denote the limits of Roman provinces, and its relationship to centuriation and colony foundation would have been helpful. Careful readers will be surprised to note that there is not a fuller discussion of the well-documented ritual associated with the extension of Rome's pomerium, where the same interweaving of Etruscan origins and augural ritual are evident.4 Unfortunately just as ritual might be employed to legitimise a land-division project, the limites of this article precluded discussion of how religious observance could also be used to undermine it, as C. Gracchus discovered at Junonia in 122-121 B.C.5

The decemviri sacris faciundis have received too little attention of late. Mazurek's article takes as its starting point a suggestion made by North that the Roman annalists have 'ironed out' traces of a richer and more varied divinatory tradition. From inconsistencies in the data for decemviral supplications before, during, and after the Second Punic War, Mazurek argues for a period of relative dormancy in which the haruspices and pontiffs took over the functions of the Sibylline Books in prescribing expiations and supplications. He observes, however, a role for the libri fatales in issuing predictions. The discussion leads to the unsurprising conclusion6 that the Sibylline Books, the libri fatales, contained predictions and prophecies (it seems to me that the distinction between the two is false, p.156). More interesting is the observation that only the expiation ceremonies would be a matter of public record and that the oracles themselves were likely to have been 'leaked' by certain senators who were also priests. The lack of evidence means that the extent to which either Livy and his sources, or social, cultural and religious restrictions are responsible for inconsistencies in the data remains an open question.

Four times in Roman history Roman standards refused to be uprooted (217 B.C., 105 B.C., 53 B.C., A.D. 42). Konrad's overworked contribution (the historical detail threatens to overwhelm the basic point) demonstrates that this was an oblative auspical sign, properly belonging to the category of dirae. On each occasion (Flaminius, Crassus, Caepio, Scribonianus) it confirmed that the commander's auspices were flawed. One feels certain that this was never the case for Professor Linderski.

In some respects this is a typical Festschrift: papers vary greatly in length, scope, and their contribution to modern scholarship. There seems to be no governing principle for the idiosyncratic organisation of the papers, although readers will probably not want to read cover to cover but to select papers of most relevance to their own interests. In other respects the volume could have been more tightly copy-edited. Although typographical errors are kept to a minimum, frustratingly, some articles lack a bibliography and there is no consistency in the translation of Latin, Greek, or modern foreign languages.

Nonetheless the close philological readings of the texts in this volume will have a particular appeal for scholars of the Roman Republic and Empire, especially those working on religion. This gives the volume an overarching sense of coherence. The usual res gestae, Mueller's warm introduction, a vote of thanks from the Davis library at the University of North Carolina, and the intimate relationship of the contributors (and their contributions) to the honorand give us at once a sense of the scholar and his legacy. More should not be expected of a Festschrift that honors a life evidently begun and lived augusto augurio.


Frances Hickson-Hahn, 'The Politics of Thanksgiving' (pp. 31-52).

Timothy J. Moore, 'Confusing the Gods: Plautus, Cistellaria 512-527' (pp. 53-67).

Christopher Michael McDonough, 'The Pricing of Sacrificial Meat: Eidolothuton, the Ara Maxima, and Useful Misinformation from Servius' (pp. 69-76).

Hans-Friedrich Mueller, 'Nocturni coetus in 494 BC' (pp. 77-88).

M. Panciera, 'Livy, conubium, and Plebeians' Access to the Consulship' (pp. 89-99).

Michael Johnson, 'A Witticism of Antoninus Caracalla?' (pp. 101-104).

Jonathan S. Perry, 'In honorem Theodori Mommseni: G. B. de Rossi and the collegia funeraticia' (pp. 105-122).

Daniel J. Gargola, 'The Ritual of Centuriation' (pp. 123-149).

Tadeusz Mazurek, 'The decemviri sacris faciundis: Supplication and Prediction' (pp. 151-168).

C. F. Konrad, 'Vellere signa' (pp.169-203).


1.   The list of publications spans the years 1954-2003 (pp. 10-29).
2.   See, for example, D.S. Levene (1993) Religion in Livy Leiden: Brill, 38-77.
3.   HA Carac. 4.1; HA Geta 6.3; Dio 77(78)4.2 = Xiph. 328.23-24R.St.
4.   Varro, LL 5.143; See M. Andreuss 'Pomerium' in E. M. Steinby (ed.) Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae iv. Rome: Quasar, 95-105.
5.   Opposition to Junonia: Plut. C. Gracch. 11; App. BC 1.24; Obs. 23.
6.   The point has already been made: A. Nice, 'Divination and Roman Historiography' (2000) Unpubl. Ph.D. Exeter; University of Exeter, 207-208.

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