This fine and well-produced book—a lightly reworked version of the author’s doctoral dissertation from 2018—is a most welcome addition to the literature on the social world of the cliens as seen through the eyes of Roman poets.
The Introduction (pp. 1-16) offers a clear assessment of key terms and their application, looking, obviously, at the terms patronus and cliens and in particular examining the differences between the cliens and the parasitus.
The second chapter takes a detailed look at Menaechmus’ speech on the relationship of the patronus and his pesky clientes in Plautus Menaechmi 571-600, a passage which will act as a starting point for the entire volume. Flores Militello makes excellent use of this passage to highlight that clientes were not the same as parasiti (whose appetite was pretty much exclusively for food, as their name suggests), and also to show that the speech is a fine example of a patronuscriticising himself rather than (just) his clientes. The common reading of ancient patronage sees it as being an asymmetric relationship in which the cliens was weak and the patronus held all the cards. What Menaechmus shows is that these clientes had more power than one might think and that the patronus could feel badgered and even bullied by them. Menaechmus suggests that patrons picked their clients for their wealth rather than their moral worth and then lived to pay the price when the clients got into trouble and needed bailing out. This chapter is excellent in opening up the topic both chronologically and thematically and it prepares the reader for what is to come—topics such as the parasitus and the ‘time-wasting’ of which Menaechmus complains will recur as the book progresses.
The third chapter deals with the dream team of Horace and Maecenas. Here the patron (unlike Menaechmus) did not choose to ‘number’ Horace ‘among his men’ (Horace Satires 2.6.41-2) because Horace had money. Horace presents himself as an amicus of Maecenas, but admits (Satires 1.6.47) that the mob sees him more as a client (conuictor), and Flores Militello has a good discussion (pp. 38-40) of exactly what convictor means. Maecenas, Horace tells us, selected him as an amicus because of his moral virtue and worth, and in the poetry we see a free exchange of views between the men which is friendly rather than feudal, suggesting that the relationship was one of mutual benefit and even verged on the Socratic. In discussing the Epistles Flores Militello sensibly argues (p. 105) that the freedom of speech employed here about Maecenas is itself eloquent testimony to the amicitia between the two men. The depiction of this poet and his patron stands out as a virtuous exception in a world of social climbing, and it is fascinating to watch how this amicus is then himself sought out (e.g. Satires 1.9) by less honourable men hoping to gain entry to the charmed circle of political advantage. Horace also seems to have won the patronage of the great man without having to do anything for it: his daily life involved no subservient salutationes, although the poet does acknowledge (2.6.18) that the country estate is most pleasing for the way it does not involve the urban ambitio—which suggests that city life was onerous even with this most enlightened of patrons. The theme of Stadthektik is engaged a good deal in Roman literature, and Flores Militello goes on to discuss Epode 2, in which the faenerator Alfius rhapsodises about idyllic country living free from the troublesome duties of clientela. Similarly, Odes 2.18 lists the abuse of clientes among the sins of the avaricious, and the passage suggests that the patronus-cliens relationship had a moral and ethical side as well as reciprocal self-interest.
The quest for libertas is something which occupied Horace greatly: Epistles 1.7 sees him plead that his health and independence matter more than the material benefits conferred by any patron—a theme picked up and developed in 1.17 and 1.18. Patronage in 1.7 is shown in the art of giving and receiving: the rich patron can (but ought not to) use his generosity to exert power over an unwilling recipient, who may end up living in a gilded cage. This negative image is contrasted with the more positive image of clientela in Epistles 1.17-18, where the poet discusses how the cliens can manage and benefit from the relationship without losing his self-respect. The Horatian ideal cliens is no scurra and is a mile away from the parasite: and the qualities called for include moral virtues such as discretion and modesty, which makes the discussion of clientela a suitable platform for the exploration of ethical, rather than merely social and pragmatic, issues.
The fourth chapter, and the longest section of the book, concerns Martial. Here Flores Militello concentrates on aspects such as the cena, the sportula, and the salutatio, seeing the poet’s use of these to allow an overview of the tension between amicitia and clientela. Martial for the most part writes from the viewpoint of the cliens and offers a wry look at some of the pains and excesses of patrons who (e.g.) either eat alone, while the hungry clientes watch, or else serve their clientes vastly inferior food. The poems can be savage and bitter (9.2 is a good example of Martial killing more than one bird with the same stone), and Martial (6.11) adduces the paradigmatic amicitia of Orestes and Pylades (as does Juvenal (16.26)) as something which cannot exist in the exploitative world of clientela, where the word amicitia is but a euphemism which fools nobody. That said, Martial also expresses a desire for amicitia which would make the cliens-patronus relationship one of mutual benefit rather than reciprocal exploitation, and the ethical theme familiar from Horace is seen (and its abuse bewailed) in masterly style in epigrams such as 2.43 (discussed pp. 216-7).
The fifth chapter discusses Juvenal. In his first satire Juvenal aligns himself with the poor clientes who are dependent on snooty patrons, but he is clearly critical of the institution itself which allows and even demands such socially acceptable exploitation—a situation complicated and worsened for Juvenal by the ‘internationalisation’ brought in by wealthy foreigners becoming the new patrons and creating a world where the ‘old’ clients did not stand a chance. Satire 5 is unequivocal in its condemnation both of the patron who is greedy and selfish and of the cliens who puts up with it, and it ends with the scathing image of the cliens as less a parasite than a whipping boy (p. 278). Satire 7 deals with poetic patronage, and Flores Militello argues that in Juvenal’s time the patronage came not from ‘real Maecenases’ (p. 280) but from the emperor himself. Patrons of the arts ‘are not to be found’, Flores Militello says, ‘because they are too arrogant or ignorant and/or because they do not think it worthwhile to support intellectuals’ (p. 281). The poet bemoans the standard of living endured by intellectuals but also leaves open the suggestion that perhaps they do not deserve more and that they prostitute their art for very low rewards. The philistine dives avarus is to blame for no longer supporting the arts (p.284). He can express admiration for the poetry, but he keeps his money in his pocket—a far cry from a Maecenas funding a Horace. avaritia ends up thus being blamed for the ruination of poetry itself, since poets need financial support, as 7.53-71 makes clear. Satire 9 goes further than anything else in this book in showing the lengths to which patronal exploitation can go, as Naevolus is used to provide sexual services which will give his patron social status through children as well as personal pleasure. The satire is double-edged, however, as this cliens is also abusing his patron, and the narrator of the poem in his ironic stance brings out the degree to which patron and client deserve each other. As often in Juvenal, the critical voice is masked by layers of irony which expose the reciprocal exploitation at work here.
The book ends with a short and helpful conclusion. In all three poets the world is shown both as it is and with hints at how it should be. The cena can be seen as an exercise in humiliation and a display of power—or else as a pleasant meal shared between friends. The salutatio is ‘exhausting, time-wasting and humiliating’ (p.246), and the whole sham of amicitia is seen as a good reason to leave Rome altogether. The paradigmatic relationship of Horace and Maecenas is seen as one based on self-knowledge and self-fulfilment, which brings a Socratic element into their amicitia. Later poets such as Martial and Juvenal, as Flores Militello says (p. 323) at the end of this fine and well-composed book, ‘observe a world in a state of change, in which not only the avaritia of the patrons but also the defective self-knowledge of the clientes brings the old established patronus-cliens system to the point of collapse’. The book is entitled tali dignus amico (a quotation from Juvenal 5.173) and Flores Militello’s conclusion is that the responsibility for the alteration and abuses of the system is shared between both parties.
The book is excellently proof-read and typos are very few indeed. There is an index locorum but no general index.