BMCR 2006.04.34

The World of Roman Song: From Ritualized Speech to Social Order

, The world of Roman song : from ritualized speech to social order. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. vi, 329 pages ; 24 cm. ISBN 0801881056. $52.00.

“Roman literature was not a natural growth; it was a transplant by professionals trained in, or drawing their inspiration and knowledge from, the Greek-speaking Hellenistic world.” — Quinn (1982) 116

“Roman poetry was not an indigenous growth, and when it peaked it was very dependent on Hellenistic models, where the divorce from living Greek was greater than in the classical period.” — Nisbet (1999) 153

The above statements are often repeated commonplaces of the twentieth-century understanding of Roman literature Thomas Habinek would refute. He does not by any means deny the importance of Hellenism to Rome; the contested term is “literature.” By shifting the focus from literature to song ( carmen), he locates Roman verbal aesthetic production within a larger cultural phenomenon that he argues was not only indigenous, but an active constituent of what his title identifies as social order. Gone are our images of Roman poet-scholars writing precious and arid trifles in the isolation of their studies. Carmen encompasses much more than literature, and literature itself partakes of its ritualized power. Habinek’s sociological approach integrates literature, from its New Critical isolation, into the world, but he also calls into question the very category of literature on the grounds that it is an anachronism (2). He participates in a scholarly movement that emphasizes the power of words for social formation, whether within or outside the sphere of literature.1 This work is exciting because all words end up mattering and verbal potency is an idea that satisfies a current academic yearning — if the academy in America and elsewhere is isolated from the networks of political power, at least we can grant it retrospectively to the makers of culture at Rome. I applaud the shift in discursive categories and am convinced of the thesis that song was integral to the formation of Roman culture, but have several reservations about Habinek’s approach. Since the Romans were active in producing what later became the notion of literature, I am leery about discarding so rapidly the term.2 Furthermore, it is not clear to me that the Romans themselves were as optimistic about the power of words in all spheres as is Habinek.

It is becoming common to define carmen as ritualized language, where ritual means, among other things, the separation of the activity in question from ordinary life. Habinek opens the book thus: “The Latin language differentiates between everyday speech and speech made special through meter, diction, accompanying bodily movement, or performance in ritual context.”3 He then identifies ritual with this differentiation and locates the power of song in the “practice of ritualization” (1). For many of the meanings of carmen, this makes complete sense: spells, prayers, the formalized language of contracts, treaties, and laws. I would add that all of these sorts of language are purported to carry some sort of pragmatic effectiveness. While it is easy to see what magic, prayers, and legal language are supposed to effect, it is much less clear for poetry.4 The problem with taking all forms of carmen together is precisely this difference. Even though poetry is distinct from ordinary language, I am not sure it is fully ritual in the same way as the other terms encompassed under carmen precisely because of its capacity for mimesis or fiction, and for other reasons outlined in more detail below.5 Habinek emphasizes the continuity between all forms of carmen, of which he makes poetry a subtype (repeated often, e.g., 2, 3, 4), but they are not all commensurate. He does not differentiate practically between the terms, nor cover them all equally. The great gap in his analysis is a discussion of the law as carmen, though he acknowledges it as a category.

Habinek lays out six theses about ritual language organized in as many chapters. The following puts the chapter titles together with the theses outlined on pages 4-6.

1) “Song and Foundation.” “Ritualization of language, that is, the transfiguration of speech into song, founds Roman culture and empowers agents within it.” The song he regards as foundational is the Salian hymn. This chapter will be controversial because the fragmentary and unintelligible nature of the hymn makes it, along with everything to do with archaic Rome, exceedingly speculative. His detailed analysis of the manifold aspects of the Salian rite convinces me that it “can be interpreted as a self-referential reflection on song’s role in the foundation and maintenance of social order and on song’s power to transform the everyday into the eternal” (9). When he goes on to claim on the same page that “the Salian performance exemplifies ritual as foundational social act,” I would like to see an account of how a reflection on foundational song actually founds anything.6 Habinek’s exploration of the exultation attributed to the performance of the hymn anticipates his interest in embodiment. The exuberant physicality of the dance clearly contributed to the rite’s overwhelming and continued power, particularly given the hymn’s linguistic incomprehensibility in historical times. The repetition of the hymn in a ritual context carried greater social weight than its denotative meaning. It is not, however, self-evident that “the combination of song, bodies, and objects” can in itself bring “transcendent authority” into being. What is the difference between entertainment and potent ritual? They both have important social effects, but of a different order. More convincing is his assessment that the foundational thematics of the rite led Roman writers to retroject its origin to the era of foundation (24).

Habinek’s analysis of the combined notional fixity of the hymn along with the revisions made to it in historical times, namely to include mention of Augustus and Germanicus, neatly points up the ritual nature of the song (25-6). Repetition is central to ritual, but recent scholarship has emphasized the opportunity afforded to recontextualization through repeated performance.7 The adaptability of ritual to the moment makes it a powerful organ of legitimation so long as the innovations do not appear to impede the rite’s continuity. The Augustan revisions work in tandem with a rite that allows for adaptability all the while presupposing a “seemingly inflexible song.” This section introduces delegation, whereby the ritual activities of a select group, here the collegium of the Salian priests, effect whatever work the society as a whole needs performed. This topic makes a bridge to the next chapter.

2) “Song, Ritualization, and Agency.” “The power of agents empowered by ritualization spills over from the immediate context of ritualization.” This chapter will also be controversial, as it deals with sodalicium, convivial song, and the Lapis Satricanus. Undeterred by the uncertain nature of the evidence, Habinek makes a brave attempt to promote a unified interpretation of Roman conviviality, which he retrojects to early Rome. It is a relief that he does not rely on Cato the Elder’s references to the carmina conuiualia to argue for an early convivial culture. Following Enrica Sciarrino (2004), he sees these as an “intervention in ongoing debates over appropriate convivial practice” rather than “corroboration of an earlier life-style” (43). Since Nevio Zorzetti’s articles on archaic song (1990, 1990-91), a consensus has emerged in certain quarters that some form of archaic convivial song culture obtained in ancient Rome, and more and more suggestions have been brought forward.8 The naysayers are dismissed as hypercritical. Although caution is required, I do not doubt that wealthy Romans, like other Mediterranean elites, had dinner parties with entertainment since time immemorial; the question is how, of what kind, who (if anyone) sang, what it meant, and how far we can press the evidence to back up our reconstructions. Beyond the limit of any attempt at reconstruction is the question of when and whether these practices changed, say, with the transition from kingship to the Republic. Historians and philologists on the American West coast have been arguing that a greater degree of Hellenization than that always at Rome from the beginning came in the wake of the Punic Wars as a result of greater international exposure, and that the concomitant aestheticization of the culture contributed to the development at this point of “literature” at Rome in a sense more like the modern category.9 The changes as envisioned by Habinek leave us even more in the dark about what came before. One of the results of this scholarly movement is that the early Romans turn out to be more primitive and more oral than the archaic Greeks, for whom several centuries of interaction between writing and song preceded the development of a more literate culture in the fifth century. It remains to be explained why the always already Hellenized Romans would engage in sympotic activities and produce the exceedingly rare sodalician inscription (see below) during the period when the Greeks were already using writing to record song, but not adopt writing for song until the late third century. Denis Feeney has recently poked holes in this thesis: the Roman imperial period goes back to the Samnite Wars, with the consequence that the parallel between the development of literature and of Roman imperialism is less smooth; the context for Hellenization is Italian; there is plenty of evidence for pre-literary non-elite Roman song (2005: 230 n. 18; 236-40; 231 and Horsfall 2003).

Habinek’s thesis is that elite ritualized festivity — singing at parties — both defined the upper classes as such as over against those who could not afford such lavish entertainment and also, through delegation, stood for an abstraction, namely cohesion within the social order. Elite group loyalty effectively spread civic harmony throughout the state (36-44). The groups are the sodales, and Habinek does the field a service by emphasizing that sodalitas“describes first and foremost not an institution but a relationship” characterized by eating and drinking together (36-7). He sees the ritualization of these meetings as transpiring through the agency of convivial song. For early evidence, he uses the Lapis Satricanus, which, even if we exclude the disputed parts of the inscription, records some form of dedication by a group of sodales to a Publius Valerius (38). So far, so good, but I am uncomfortable with the slide from the group’s honoring Valerius in an inscription, through Cato’s mention of praise sung in the carmina conuiualia (now no longer restricted to a contemporary meaning), to speculation about what the song of the sodales might have meant “as a living practice” (40).10 Habinek’s discussion of comedy’s parody of convivial practices is much more convincing because he has textual evidence. The question is why he feels the need to trace convivial song back to Roman prehistory and thinks that comedic parody “preserves for the literary and cultural historian evidence of the ‘preliterary’ song types of archaic Rome” (53). A simple disclaimer to the effect that he is attempting a synchronic understanding of Roman convivial song from a given point in history would liberate him from much of the criticism this book will attract. The argument that comedy represents sodalitas as a model of civic harmony to be followed by the community at large and that its own performance redeploys aspects of convivial song is valuable on its own terms. His argument about delegation pertains to artistic as well as convivial practices (55).

3) “Song and Speech.” “Recognition of the contrast between ritualized and nonritualized language and of the power of the former vis-à-vis the latter permeates the textual remains of Roman culture, informs the lore of song, and accounts for struggles over definition and mastery.” The first section of this chapter, a discursive lexicon of the different words of utterance in Latin, is a useful expansion of Habinek (1998a). Words of potent and authorized utterance ( cano and dico) line up on the one hand against loquor, the unmarked act of speaking, and on the other against canto, which denotes performance without regard to authorship). Many incisive remarks on passages of Latin poetry fill these pages, and one of the most intriguing facts to emerge is that Ennius and Horace (at least in the Epistle to Augustus) both work against the dominant paradigm (79-82). It is hard to figure why, and Habinek does not pursue this question. Ennius’ embrace of Greek terms is perhaps the reason he resists Roman song, while for Horace, the question is his view of literary history. Habinek emphasizes Horace’s tendentious denial of song to early Roman preliterary production, though carmen still applies to many types of poetry of which Horace does not approve. A section on the lore of song (birds, metalworking) offers mythic background to the conclusion, which examines song’s rivals (oratory, philosophy). Another competing discourse that could be explored is the law. One of the most honest points in the book is the statement that we cannot claim that “all authoritative types of verbal performance were once conceived of as a part of a unified system of song at some point in history” (95). Rather, song is a term in the negotiation for predominance among different discourse types. Habinek humorously and insightfully dubs this jockeying “a narcissism of minor differences between closely related cultural practices.”

4) “Song and Play.” “The practice of ritualization and the spillover into new contexts entail misrecognition, especially of the relationship between body and voice.” This chapter should be read in tandem with Habinek (2005), which examines satire’s relation to play. Two important points are interwoven here in the differentiation of song from play. The first is the contrast between trivial play and serious song. The second is the contrast between song’s vocal production and bodily play. Much of Latin poetry (light lyric, satire) identifies itself as trivial in contrast to an idea of song which it presents as an impossible aim. The ‘inability topos’ of the recusatio is often analyzed in terms of genre — light genres cannot aspire to the epic they validate as serious (111) — but the real issue is pragmatic power. Habinek’s notion of play offers a space for ostensibly ineffective poetry within the realm of potent carmen. Poetry does not have to be grand and efficacious; it can rather enter into a “dynamic interrelationship with reality” (111). Play replicates and rehearses reality in training for mastery, as in education, and constructs reality through the contrast with the serious: gladiatorial contests display warfare’s bloodshed without political consequences.

Habinek suggests that play, including poetic play, carries a “strong connotation of corporeality” (132). Erotic activities, including poetry, are play, but so is satire with its “alternative models of elite masculinity” (115). Horace again emerges as problematic for Habinek’s paradigm, since he does not rigorously distinguish ludus from carmen. In addition to the exceptions Habinek mentions, one could also include Odes 1.6, where Horace’s recusatio of epic and tragedy embraces the play of conuiuia and eroticism with the vocabulary of song ( cantamus, 1.6.19). The Carmen Saeculare offers the pièce de resistance as song performed during games ( ludi). Habinek argues vigorously for the poem’s integration into its ritual context and his thesis that it “concerns itself with the role of song in securing the reproduction of the state over time” puts it squarely within the notion of foundational song he outlines in his first chapter. Play emerges in the poem’s educational role: it is sung by boys and girls, the youth are teachable ( docilis, CS 45), and Habinek interprets it as a celebration of passage if not a rite thereof. Some split tends to emerge in the interpretation of this poem, usually along the lines of a division between religion and aesthetics.11 Habinek resists this split, but I do not see how he can have the poem be song and play as he defines them in the same breath without the negotiation of some sort of internal division. If I correctly understand his interpretation, the chorus engages in educative play, from which full song emerges as an aesthetic artefact (though Habinek would not use the latter term) (157). But then what does the carmen add to the Ludi Saeculares themselves? As embodied performance they are play, but the celebration of the state and its continuity must surely participate in his category of foundational song.

Bärbel Schnegg-Köhler (2002, published too late for Habinek to consult?) sees the performance of the carmen outside the Tarentum, where the Ludi took place, as one indication among others that song in the sense of poetry was not an original feature of the secular rites (chapters 7 and 8). This deals a heavy blow to the supposition of an archaic song culture (243). She nevertheless shows how Horace’s song, despite its differences from the rites, was integrated into them in an innovative, constructed way: it brought the aims of the rites, to ensure the health and perpetuation of the state, into the city by its performance on the Palatine and Capitoline (2002: 236). Her chapter 14, on the Augustan Ludi saeculares “between tradition and innovation,” argues that the essential feature of the rites, that no one witness them more than once in a lifetime, demands that they always be invented anew, though within certain parameters that became better defined in the Augustan age through the intervention of writing. The writing of a poem anew will consequently always both stand apart from the tradition by providing innovation, and reenact it, since the job of the festival is to move the state into the future by ensuring progeny.

5) “Song and the Body.” “A historically accurate account of song must find ways to bring to light its incorporated and incorporating aspects.” You need a body to sing, but what Roman song aspires to is “the disembodied voice of the elite male” (221). This paradox leads to anxieties about song when its link to the body becomes too conspicuous. Habinek traces the tension between the sodalis and his anti-type the cinaedus in Roman literature (comedy, Catullus, Seneca, Juvenal). The former represents convivial song which binds society together. The latter gives the lie to the ideology and exposes the embodied nature of song through the grotesque. He takes the cinaedus not as a historical gender deviant (195), but as a “figure of song: a performer of song and dance or a social type to be reckoned with in theatrical and convivial contexts” (193). Those who are eager to find traces of sexual practices will be disappointed to find another figure. The excesses of the cinaedus’ performative style are always available as dangers into which oratorical or recitational style must make sure not to fall, and Pliny is an example of someone who shows anxiety about his performance style along these lines.

6) “Magic, Song, and Sacrifice.” “Ritualization is about power, but there is no power without resistance.” The resistance in question here is Woman. Carmentis and Nenia dominate this chapter as figures of feminine and marginalized song. They are goddesses associated with “the materiality of the body,” the first a uates associated with birth and Rome’s foundation, and the second a personification of endings and the funeral dirge (228, 239). Interesting work on the etymologies of both figures helps uncover their link to sacrificial flesh and bodily end parts ( nenia is literally the end of the anus). From Carmentis follows a discussion of the uates as a figure whose expertise in song and sacrifice can be threatening if not subjected to the authority of the state. I would be interested in a discussion of the libri Sibyllini in this context, since the various Sibyls in their various representations in Roman literature are always on the cusp — their song can be foundational, as in Vergil’s Sibyl, but their possession by god is a form of embodiment that appears threatening. In the case of Carmentis, Habinek understands her association with writing as a “decorporalization of language” so that she participates in both embodied and disembodied song.

An important contribution is Habinek’s insistence that writing can effect ritualization and turn speech into “song,” and that song in Roman culture “is not coextensive with performance and orality.” He argues that the difference between the “everyday and the special” is more important than that between “oral and written” at Rome (1-2). This approach has the advantage of freeing him from Greek models of thinking about song, which have been shackling for Roman studies, but it sometimes leads him to overlook or simplify passages where something productive happens in the relation between orality and writing. His discussion of the programmatically central opening to Vergil’s sixth Eclogue, for instance, emphasizes the interplay between cano and dico as verbs of authoritative utterance. He takes leget (6.10) as “reperforms” without comment on the strong representation of the poem in the next few lines as a written artifact, a page with a title written above it ( nec Phoebo gratior ulla est / quam sibi quae Vari praescripsit pagina nomen, 6.11-12). Surely writing needs to be folded into the discussion and seen not only in its capacity as a vehicle for performance. I would argue that the Romans understood writing to provide certain advantages over against song (i.e., longevity) and to have its own standing, while agreeing with Habinek that it does not diminish song’s importance and can lead to further song (248).

What writing provides is similar to what the category literature offers, and it is not by chance that the latter contains “letters” within it. Writing is a mechanism for the creation of an aesthetic artefact that exceeds the moment of its utterance. Ritual song always carries a potency linked to the performative moment. This is an advantage for what Habinek is interested in, namely social formation, but poetry sometimes has other stakes. Both song and writing enable iteration, but the latter, along with the category of literature, allows for decontextualization, while song is always recontextualized. Roman literature is fascinated by the interaction of presence with absence, by the exercise of poetic power and the location of its limits. Philip Hardie, Ovid’s Poetics of Illusion, explores the former topic, and Kirk Freudenburg, Satires of Rome: Threatening Poses from Lucilius to Juvenal, shows the knots the satirists after Lucilius tie themselves into because they feel hampered in the exercise of libertas. Much of Roman literature also prefers to identify itself as writing, rather than as song. This is not simply a generic identification, such as the tendency of poetic epistles to refer to themselves as writing. The Catullan polymetrics are rife with the language of writing and avoid that of song.12 These poems are the ones most committed to social positioning,13 but Daniel Selden (1992) has also shown how Catullus calls into question their full performativity. It misses something crucial to subsume this self-presentation into song. Habinek’s point that song and writing function together is extremely important for this discussion because the Romans do not in their literature make a simple alignment between writing, absence, and social inability on the one hand, and song, presence, and discursive power on the other. Rather there is a dynamic interaction. What I find Habinek leaves out is the Roman preoccupation with the aesthetic as a sphere of decontextualization. This is the purview of literature, and the reason why I would put literature both inside and outside ritual language, in a category distinct from prayer, magic, and other forms of song.14

Habinek approaches the interplay between context and decontextualization in literature with his notion of play. He consistently recuperates play’s role as non-serious, pleasurable activity within socially useful notions of play, such as educative preparation for the real thing and activity that through contrast constitutes reality. Play thereby loses its ability to challenge the status quo through jouissance, a loss I regret. It is precisely play’s ability to let us forget the useful, in the words of Emile Benveniste (1947: 166), that is beneficial. His analysis of the relation of play to the sacred is relevant to Habinek’s discussion of song as ritual language. He argues that in the sacred resides supreme “efficience,” efficacity or performativity, but that play intervenes in the sacred by splitting up the myth which tells the story and the rite which reproduces and performs it: as ludus (play in action) it preserves the rite and loses the myth; as iocus (word play) it cancels the rite and retains the myth. With play, one is consequently outside the “sphere, divine and human, of the efficient” (165). Giorgio Agamben (a theorist Anglophone to whom classicists would do well to pay more attention ) picks up this argument in his analysis of the profane: “That means that play liberates and removes humanity from the sphere of the sacred, but without simply abolishing it” (2005: 86). If we understand literature as play, it is intimately related to the sacred sphere by splitting itself off from it through a failure of performativity; it remains related to the sacred by its exclusion from it. Agamben quotes Trebatius Testa, the Augustan jurist and friend of Cicero and Horace alike: “Profane is properly said of what is restored to the use and property of men from the sacred or religious sphere to which it formerly belonged” (83; Macrobius, Sat., 3.3.4). If song, as ritual language, participates in the sacred, literature retains the traces of the sacred by removing itself to the domain of the profane.15 The question then, according to Trebatius’ definition, remains how to define literature’s “use value.”

Habinek’s conclusion brings “literariness” (his scare quotes) back as “one aspect of Roman cultural practice” (257) for the purpose of chastising the last century’s overemphasis of it. As often in necessary rectifications of this kind, Habinek goes too far the other way. I would suggest that the use value of literature is to point to song; literature provides a cultural space in which to think about what song does, its powers, its limits, without always needing actually to engage in it. This is, of course, a form of participation, but one of the exclusive inclusion type.16 Habinek himself warns about overemphasizing song in a different way. The privileging of the “disembodied vocal performance of the elite male” was an ideology that served a small but powerful segment of the population. He warns against blindness to the interests that obscured the “bodiliness of vocal performance” and the bodies that often performed song.

As a close reader, Habinek is uneven. The fit between the ancient passages or other evidence and the larger theoretical point sometimes seems forced to me (some quibbles are listed below). The musicological distinction between European and African or bourgeois and folk types may be relevant to the Salian hymn as ethnography, but the citations he quotes have to do with different sorts of rhythms, and about the music of the Salian hymn we know nothing. To claim “it seems clear that Salian music falls simultaneously into both categories” (27) simply goes too far. His writing style tends to overstatement, as, e.g., when he claims that Carmentis, with her identification of the site of Rome and naming of its god, “sings the city into being” (224). Since the book’s pressing question is what exactly song can effect, his claim that she brings foundation about through song threatens to obscure his important observations about the foundational role Roman literary and historical texts both attribute to her and always nearly efface in favor of male founders. What would be welcome is some statement that what Habinek is analyzing is Roman attitudes toward or representations of song. When he speaks of “the power of song to make and remake the world” (57), he appears to believe the ideology he analyses. Yes, surely song in all its manifestations, including literature, has enormous social power, but I would be happier if in the case of the Salian song, for instance, he spoke of the rite as perennially refounding Rome through commemoration rather than as founding it from the beginning. One could argue that we should always speak of foundation rather than refoundation. Foundation retrojects an origin, but there are only foundation narratives and rites. Their telling and enactment always make the foundation in the present, but we can never pin down any isolable past moments of beginning. Foundation would then mean the continued reaffirmation of a community’s cohesion through mystifying narratives of origin. Habinek comes close to making this argument in his conclusion, when he admits that Rome retrojected song to its foundation, or even foundations, and sees song as enabling “continuing refounding” (258). If this argument were presented consistently from the beginning, I would be much happier with his account.

This book will be highly influential for two reasons. The emphasis on song and potent discourse is timely given current debates, and Habinek furthermore uses a different set of critical bibliography from most classicists. The anthropological and sociological point of view opens up refreshing and welcome ways of thinking. More care in handling the evidence and attempting to avoid overstatement would smoothe out the inevitable bumps that attend innovative approachs.

The following are some random quibbles, mostly from Chapter 4, the density of which is representative.

114: The point of Propertius’ 2.15.21 is that the girl’s “not yet sagging, i.e. old, breasts” do not prohibit her from play, rather than that it is “inappropriate for a girl whose breasts do not yet hang down, i.e. young, to be engaging in play” ( necdum inclinatae prohibent te ludere mammae).

123: Why does incessus of Venus’ gait entail staginess?

126: Habinek does not convince me that Europa’s ploro at Horace, Odes 3.27.38 is being uttered during her rape, though the idea is ingenious.

132: A citation of the “one surviving use of the term ludus” in epic would be welcome.

134: It is surprising that poema should be the word to announce “the discipline of the voice” when Catullus moves on from play in poem 50.

137: Thalea’s dancing seems to be inferred from ludere without defense.

141: A stronger case needs to be made that “the emergence of the hero from the imaginary world of Elysium” when Aeneas exits through the ivory gate is “analogous to the emergence of song from play.”

147: It would be nice to know who the “ancient observer” is who says that “soldiers do in battle what they have rehearsed in play.”

182: The reference to Pliny NH 5.32 should be to Pliny, Epist. 5.3.2.


Agamben, G. (1995) Homo sacer: Sovereign power and bare life, trans. D. Heller-Roazen. Stanford.

——— (2005) “Elogio della profanazione,” in Profanazioni. Rome: 83-106.

Barchiesi, A., Rüpke, J., and Stephens, S. (2004) Rituals in Ink. Munich.

Bell, C. (1992) Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford.

——— (1997) Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Oxford.

Benveniste, E. (1947) “Le jeu comme structure,” Deucalion 2: 161-7.

Coarelli, F. (1995) “Vino e Ideologia nella Roma Arcaica,” in Murray and Tecusan (1995): 196-213.

Edmunds, L. (2001) Intertextuality and the Reading of Roman Poetry. Baltimore.

Feeney, D. C. (1998) Literature and Religion at Rome. Cambridge.

——— (2005) “The Beginnings of a Literature in Latin,” JRS 95: 226-40.

Farrell, J. (2005) “Eduard Fraenkel on Horace and Servius, or, Texts, Contexts, and the Field of ‘Latin Studies’,” TAPA 135: 91-103.

Fraenkel, E. (1957) Horace. Oxford.

Freudenburg, K. (2001) Satires of Rome: Threatening Poses from Lucilius to Juvenal. Cambridge.

Gold, B. K. (ed.) (1982) Literary and Artistic Patronage in Ancient Rome. Austin.

Gruen, E. (1992) Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome. Ithaca.

Gunderson, E. (2000) Staging Masulinity: The Rhetoric of Performance in the Roman World. Ann Arbor.

Habinek, T. N. (1998a) “Singing, Speaking, Making, Writing: Classical Alternatives to Literature and Literary Studies,” Stanford Humanities Review 6.1: 65-75.

——— (1998b) The Politics of Latin Literature. Princeton.

——— (2005) “Satire as Aristocratic Play,” in K. Freudenburg, The Cambridge Companion to Satire. Cambridge (2005): 177-191.

Hardie, P. (2002) Ovid’s Poetics of Illusion. Cambridge.

Horsfall, N. (2003) The Culture of the Roman Plebs. London.

Jakobson, R. (1987) Language in Literature, ed. by K. Pomorska and S. Rudy. Cambridge, Mass.

Krostenko, B. A. (2001) Cicero, Catullus, and the Language of Social Performance. Chicago.

Martindale, C. (2005) Latin Poetry and the Judgement of Taste: An Essay in Aesthetics. Oxford.

Meyer, E. A. (2004) Legitimacy and Law in the Roman World: Tabulae in Roman Belief and Practice. Cambridge .

Murray, O. (ed.) (1990) Sympotica: A Symposium on the Symposion. Oxford.

Murray, O., and Tecusan, M. (edd.) (1995) In Vino Veritas. The British School at Rome. Oxford.

Nisbet, R. G. M. (1999) “The Word Order of the Odes,” in J. N. Adams and R. G. Mayer (eds.) Aspects of the Language of Latin Poetry. Oxford: 135-54.

Quinn, K. (1982) The Poet and his Audience in the Augustan Age,” ANRW 30.1: 75-180.

Rüpke, J. (2001) “Kulturtransfer als Rekodierung: Zum literaturgeschichtlichen und sozial Ort der frhen römischen Epik,” in J. Rüpke, Von Göttern und Menschen erzählen. Stuttgart.

Schnegg-Köhler, B. (2002) Die augusteischen Säkularspiele. Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 4. Munich.

Sciarrino, E. (2004a) “Putting Cato the Censor’s Origines in Its Place,” CA 23: 323-57.

——— (2004b) ‘A Temple for the Professional Muse: The Aedes Herculis Musarum and Cultural Shifts in Second-Century B.C. Rome’, in Barchiesi et al. (2004): 45-56.

Selden, D. (1992) “Ceveat lector: Catullus and the Rhetoric of Performance,” in R. Hexter and D. Selden (edd.), Innovations of Antiquity. New York, 461-512.

Wiseman, T. P. (1982) ‘Pete nobiles amicos: Poets and Patrons in Late Republican Rome’, in Gold (1982) 28-49.

Wray, D. (2001) Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood. Cambridge.

Zorzetti, N. (1990) “The Carmina Convivalia,” in Murray (1990) 289-307.

——— (1990-91) “Poetry and the Ancient City: The Case of Rome,” CJ 86: 311-29.


1. Recently, Wray (2001) for Catullus, Meyer (2004) for the law. Gunderson (2000) considers how rhetorical theory produces authorized speakers, yet retains a scepticism about the feasibility of this task: “the trajectory of the performative ultimately extends beyond the material possibilities of any given performance. One reaches for something that is never quite there” (19).

2. For a defense of “literature” against the anti-anachronists, see Martindale (2005) 32-3, who extricates literature’s theoretical independence from the political, while affirming the practical involvement of literature and politics (122-4). For literature’s continued “heuristic value for students of Rome,” see Feeney (2005) 228-9, who argues that the social institutions of what we call literature were already in place at Rome.

3. Meyer (2004), who uses carmen to describe what was written on tablets (44), identifies the production of tablets as a ritual act (9-11). Habinek (1998a) 67 already defines song in terms of ritual.

4. Habinek would do well to take into account Edmunds’ (2001) critique of those who would use speech act theory to analyze poetry.

5. These are the terms Barchiesi et al. (2004) vii-viii use to distinguish rituals represented in texts from their actual counterparts.

6. The work of Mary Beard could be better represented in attempting to address this question.

7. Habinek (3) and Barchiesi et al. (2004) vii alike call attention to Bell (1992) and (1997).

8. E.g., Rüpke (2001) proposes that poems by Ennius and his ilk were performed at conuiuia. This idea is accepted by Sciarrino (2004b) 47 n. 15, even though she admits there is no textual evidence for it (50 n. 26). For a critique of the “new orthodoxy,” see Feeney (2005) 233.

9. Gruen (1992) passim, but especially 223, Krostenko (2001) 22-31, Sciarrino (2004) 326-7. The latter two develop Habinek (1998b) chapter 2. Note that these scholars all have connections with Berkeley.

10. Coarelli (1995) similarly slides from the evidence of the inscription to convivial song, without taking into account that metrical inscription and performed sympotic song belong to different genres and, though they may be related, are in fact different kinds of social practices. For other differences between Greek and Roman sympotic practices, see Feeney (2005) 234-5.

11. Fraenkel (1957) chapter 7, Feeney (1998) 32-8, Farrell (2005).

12. Wiseman (1982) 38.

13. Krostenko (2001) 12.

14. Jakobson (1987) 69-70 shows that language’s “poetic function” — namely meter and other linguistic markers which promote the “palpability of signs” — is neither exclusive to poetry, nor totally constitutive of it.

15. Agamben (2005) 83. The Trebatius reference is not from the Digest, but Macrobius, Sat., 3.3.4. This understanding of literature’s relation to song would explain why, e.g., Meyer (2004) 44 omits poetry from her discussion of carmen and what was written on tablets.

16. Agamben (1998) 21 differentiates between the exception, which defines the category of what it does not belong to as an “inclusive exclusion,” and the example, which stands out from the category to which it belongs as an “exclusive inclusion.” Literature belongs to song as an example.