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THE ROMAN KINGS IN OROSIUS’ HISTORIAE ADVERSVM PAGANOS *

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2017

Mattias Gassman
Affiliation:
Queens’ College, Cambridge
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Extract

We are ruled by judges whom we know, we enjoy the benefits | Of peace and war, as if the warrior Quirinus, | As if peaceful Numa were governing (Claud. IV Cons. Hon. 491–3).

With these words the poet Claudian lauds the Emperor Honorius on the occasion of his fourth consulship in 398 by comparing him to Rome's deified founder, Romulus-Quirinus, and to Numa Pompilius, its second king, who was proverbial for wisdom and piety. Claudian's panegyric stands in a long literary tradition in which the legendary Roman kings were depicted as models of statesmanship. This exemplary tradition left its mark on a broad array of late antique works, including historical compendia such as the pseudo-Aurelian De uiris illustribus, which narrates the kings’ deeds as soldiers and statesmen, and the writings of antiquarians such as Macrobius and Servius, who collected information on the kings’ invention of cults and calendars. Servius’ interest in the kings implies that they featured in the teaching provided by other late antique grammatici as well, and thus that most literate Latin-speakers would have had some knowledge of their deeds. Advanced education in rhetoric likewise drew on Virgil and other school texts for historical exempla including Romulus and Numa, who appear in panegyrics and in brief histories, such as Eutropius’ Breviary, that probably served as reference texts for the political elite. The kings thus loomed large in Roman perceptions of the founding of their empire, which began with the heroic Romulus, was strengthened by Numa's establishment of the Roman cultic system, and was secured by the later kings’ political and military successes.

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Research Article
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Copyright © The Classical Association 2017 

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Footnotes

*

My thanks to Neil McLynn, Christopher Kelly, Spencer Cole, Philip Booth, Oliver Nicholson and the anonymous CQ referee for their comments on drafts of this paper. Any remaining errors are my own.

References

1 The following works are cited by author's name and page number alone: Arnaud-Lindet, M.-P., Orose: Histoires (Contre les Païens), 3 vols. (Paris, 1990–1991)Google Scholar; Bessone, L., ‘Dalla polemica apologetica al falso storico’, ACD 36 (2000), 137–49Google Scholar; Goetz, H.-W., Die Geschichtstheologie des Orosius (Darmstadt, 1980)Google Scholar; Nuffelen, P. Van, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History (Oxford, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 iudicibus notis regimur, fruimurque quietis | militiaeque bonis, ceu bellatore Quirino, | ceu placido moderante Numa. For a recent study that analyses Claudian's sustained interaction with the Roman mythological tradition, see Ware, C., Claudian and the Roman Epic Tradition (Cambridge, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 Amm. Marc. 16.7.4 mentions Numa together with Socrates.

4 For late antique examples, see Eutr. 8.8.1 and SHA Ant. Pius 2.1–2, 13.4; see further Brandt, H., ‘König Numa in der Spätantike: zur Bedeutung eines frührömischen exemplum in der spätrömischen Literatur’, MH 45 (1988), 98110 Google Scholar, and Bruggisser, P., ‘City of the outcast and city of the elect: the Romulean asylum in Augustine's City of God and Servius's Commentaries on Virgil ’, AugStud 30 (1999), 75–104, at 76–80Google Scholar, who demonstrates the continued political relevance of Romulus in the late Empire.

5 [Aur. Vict.] De vir. ill. 1–8; cf. [Aur. Vict.] Origo gentis Romanae 19–23, Eutr. 1.1–8, Macrob. Sat. 1.12–16, Serv. In Aen. e.g. 6.808, 7.763, 8.664; cf. Auson. Eclogae 3.3–4.

6 Cameron, Alan, The Last Pagans of Rome (Oxford, 2011), 609–10Google Scholar argues against Bruggisser, P., Romulus Servianus: la légende de Romulus dans les Commentaires à Virgile de Servius: mythographie et idéologie à l’époque de la dynastie théodosienne (Bonn, 1987)Google Scholar, that Servius’ depiction of Romulus and Remus is typical of late antique Virgilian scholarship (cf. N. Horsfall's review of Bruggisser, CR 41 [1991], 242–3). On Virgil in Latin education, see Marrou, H.-I., Histoire de l’éducation dans l'antiquité (Paris, 1965 6), 404–6Google Scholar, and now Foster, F., ‘Reconstructing Virgil in the classroom in late antiquity’, History of Education 43 (2014), 285303 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, who explores the practicalities of late antique Virgilian instruction. Eigler, U., Lectiones vetustatis: römische Literatur und Geschichte in der lateinischen Literatur der Spätantike (Munich, 2003), 205 (cf. 94–5)Google Scholar calls Virgil ‘textueller Inbegriff der “römischen Geschichte”’ for late antique Latin readers.

7 Cf. nn. 4–5, above. On the readership of breviaries, see Sehlmeyer, M., Geschichtsbilder für Pagane und Christen: Res Romanae in den spätantiken Breviarien (Berlin, 2009), 121–8, 172–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Momigliano, A., ‘Pagan and Christian historiography in the fourth century a.d. ’, in id. (ed.), The Conflict between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century (Oxford, 1963), 79–99, at 85–6Google Scholar. Eigler (n. 6), 58 stresses Virgil's role as a source of exempla.

8 See further Sehlmeyer (n. 7), 37–41.

9 Tert. Ad nat. 2.9.19, 17.11–12, Apol. 21.29–30, De praesc. haeret. 40.6, De spect. 5.5–8, Min. Fel. Oct. 25.1–5, 25.8, [Cyprian], De idol. vanit. 5, Arn. Adv. nat. 5.1–4 (cf. 1.41), Lactant. Div. inst. 1.22.1–8, 1.22.13, 2.6.12–16.

10 Perist. 2.433–4, 2.443–4 Da, Christe, Romanis tuis | sit Christiana ut ciuitas | … fiat fidelis Romulus | et ipse iam credat Numa; the death of Lawrence immediately follows the end of this lengthy prayer (413–84) on behalf of the urbem Romulam (412). On the literary and cultural background of this passage, see Trout, D.E., ‘Damasus and the invention of early Christian Rome’, in Martin, D.B. and Miller, P. Cox (edd.), The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography (Durham, NC, 2005), 298–315, especially 302Google Scholar, and Buchheit, V., ‘Christliche Romideologie im Laurentius-Hymnus des Prudentius’, in Wirth, P. (ed.), Polychronion: Festschrift Franz Dölger zum 75. Geburtstag (Heidelberg, 1966), 121–44Google Scholar.

11 Vittatus olim pontifex | adscitur in signum crucis | aedemque, Laurenti, tuam | Vestalis intrat Claudia. As Markus, R.A., Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St Augustine (Cambridge, 1970), 28 Google Scholar puts it, ‘For Prudentius a new era had begun in the history of the Empire.’

12 For an evocative discussion of the political, social and economic disruption caused by the decline of the western empire (in which Alaric's sack marks only one early phase), see Brown, P., Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350–550 ad (Princeton, 2012), 385407 Google Scholar.

13 De civ. D. 3.1 sed neque talia mala, quae isti sola formidant, dii eorum, quando ab eis libere colebantur, ne illis acciderent obstiterunt. … quod ad Romam pertinet Romanumque imperium tantum loquar, id est ad ipsam proprie ciuitatem et quaecumque illi terrarum uel societate coniunctae uel condicione subiectae sunt, quae sint perpessae ante aduentum Christi. Augustine challenges anti-Christian construals of the sack of Rome already in De civ. D. 1.1; cf. the famous objection of the senator Rufius Antonius Agrypnius Volusianus, relayed to Augustine by the imperial official Flavius Marcellinus, ut per Christianos principes Christianam religionem maxima ex parte seruantes tanta … rei publicae mala euenisse manifestum sit (August. Ep. 136.2). For detailed analysis of Augustine's rhetorical handling of his (Christian or ambivalent) audience and vehemently ‘pagane Gegner’ in De civ. D., see Tornau, C., Zwischen Rhetorik und Philosophie: Augustins Argumentationstechnik in De civitate Dei und ihr bildungsgeschichtlicher Hintergrund (Berlin, 2006), especially 112–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 Markus (n. 11), 29–44.

15 For a recent discussion of some key themes of De civ. D. 3, see Tornau (n. 13), 226–51.

16 Oros. Historiae adversum paganos 1 prol. 9–10 (cited henceforth solely by book, chapter and section number); Van Nuffelen 40–1 defends Orosius’ claim that he is writing at Augustine's behest. For a lucid translation and introduction to Orosius’ life, thought and Historiae, see Fear, A.T., Orosius: Seven Books of History against the Pagans (Liverpool, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 On the role of the geographical section (1.2.1–106) within the Historiae, see Merrills, A.H., History and Geography in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2005), 3599 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On Orosius’ theology, see now Van Nuffelen 186–206.

18 ab orbe condito usque ad Vrbem conditam, dehinc usque ad Caesaris principatum natuitatemque Christi ex quo sub potestate Vrbis orbis mansit imperium, uel etiam usque ad dies nostros.

19 On the Roman focus of the Historiae, cf. Fear (n. 16), 16–22, Van Nuffelen 170–6.

20 Christianis tamen temporibus propter praesentem magis Christi gratiam ab illa incredulitatis confusione discretis. On the expression Christiana tempora, see Madec, G., ‘“Tempora Christiana”: Expression du triomphalisme chrétien ou récrimination païenne?’, in Mayer, C.P. and Eckermann, W. (edd.), Scientia Augustiniana: Studien über Augustinus, den Augustinismus und den Augustinerorden. Festschrift: P. Dr. theol. Dr. phil. Adolar Zumkeller OSA zum 60. Geburtstag (Würzburg, 1975), 112–36Google Scholar.

21 The only extensive discussion is that of Bessone, much of whose analysis is devoted to the parallel Augustinian account; others, such as Inglebert, H., Les Romains chrétiens face à l'histoire de Rome: Histoire, christianisme et romanités en Occident dans l'Antiquité tardive (IIIe–Ve siècles) (Paris, 1996), 531 Google Scholar, have commented briefly.

22 Merrills (n. 17), 35 names Orosius with Sallust, Eusebius, Jerome and the Bible ‘as a cornerstone of medieval Christian historiography’. An overview of Orosian reception down to the Carolingian period can be found in Hillgarth, J.N., ‘The Historiae of Orosius in the early Middle Ages’, in Holtz, L. and Fredouille, J.-C. (edd.), De Tertullien aux Mozarabes: Mélanges offerts à Jacques Fontaine Membre de l'Institut à l'occasion de son 70e anniversaire, par ses élèves, amis et collègues (Paris, 1992), 2.157–70Google Scholar. On the manuscripts, see Bately, J.M. and Ross, D.J.A., ‘A check list of manuscripts of OrosiusHistoriarum aduersum paganos libri septem’, Scriptorium 15 (1961), 329–34Google Scholar, and Arnaud-Lindet 1.lxvii–lxix.

23 E.g. Paschoud, F., Roma Aeterna: études sur le patriotisme romain dans l'Occident latin a l’époque des grandes invasions (Rome, 1967), 276–8, 291–2Google Scholar, whose assessment of Orosius’ intellect and theological acumen is especially scathing. For further citations, see the succinct survey of Orosian scholarship in Van Nuffelen 1–18.

24 Markus (n. 11), 161.

25 Van Nuffelen, especially 63–144.

26 Van Nuffelen 186–206.

27 E.g. Merrills (n. 17), Inglebert (n. 21), 507–89, who sets Orosius’ depiction of Roman history in a broad historiographical and theological context, and the studies of Orosius’ conception of historical progress by Fear, A., ‘Orosius and escaping from the dance of doom’, in Liddel, P. and Fear, A. (edd.), Historiae Mundi: Studies in Universal History (London, 2010), 176–88Google Scholar, and Herzog, R., ‘Orosius oder die Formulierung eines Fortschrittskonzepts aus der Erfahrung des Niedergangs’, in id. (ed. Habermehl, P.), Spätantike: Studien zur römischen und lateinisch-christlichen Literatur: Mit einem Beitrag von Manfred Fuhrmann (Göttingen, 2002), 293320 CrossRefGoogle Scholar (previously published in Koselleck, R. and Widmer, P. [edd.], Niedergang: Studien zu einem geschichtlichen Thema [Stuttgart, 1980], 79102 Google Scholar).

28 See especially the discussion of Orosius’ usage of exempla and of enargeia in Van Nuffelen 66–76, 122–32. As Van Nuffelen 58 says regarding Orosius’ treatment of the ‘inevitable’ fall of Rome in Book 2, ‘Not only does [Orosius] question the pagan master narrative [sc. “Vergil's imperium sine fine”], he also provides a Christian alternative: only Christian faith and morality can lead God to postpone the inevitable. This twin argument underpins the narrative of the Historiae.’

29 I limit this survey largely to Latin writers, since Orosius did not use any Greek accounts of the kings. On the early development of the Romulus legend, see Cornell, T.J., ‘Aeneas and the twins: the development of the Roman foundation legend’, PCPhS 21 (1975), 132 Google Scholar, and Wiseman, T.P., Remus: A Roman Myth (Cambridge, 1995), especially 103–50Google Scholar.

30 Cic. Rep. 2.31–52. As Cornell, T.J., ‘Cicero on the origins of Rome’, in Powell, J.G.F. and North, J.A. (edd.), Cicero's Republic (London, 2001), 41–56, at 55–6Google Scholar stresses, Rep. Book 2 ‘is essentially a theoretical discussion’ of government set ‘within a historical framework’. See also Livy, Book 1, especially 22–30, 32–3, 35–8, 42–5; Livy's account of the reign of Tarquinius Superbus (1.49–60) focusses, of course, on the injustices and collapse of his regime, but includes some notable military victories.

31 Orosius quotes Verg. Aen. 8.635 and Flor. 1.1.1.11 at 2.4.2, 2.4.7; cf. Arnaud-Lindet 1.269–70, who tabulates a number of parallels with Livy and Florus.

32 Aen. 1.292–3, 6.756–823, 8.630–51, Cic. Rep. 2.4–11, Livy 1.4.1; cf. MacCormack, S., The Shadows of Poetry: Vergil in the Mind of Augustine (Berkeley, 1998), 610 Google Scholar. Flor. 1.1.1.15, 1.2.8.7.

33 Cf. nn. 2–5 above.

34 See nn. 2, 5 above, Macrob. In Somn. 2.17.4–8 and Them. Or. 3.43c.

35 Eutr. 1.2.1 centum ex senioribus legit, quorum consilio omnia ageret, quos senatores nominauit propter senectutem, 8.8 T. Antoninus Fuluius Boionius … uir insignis et qui merito Numae Pompilio conferatur, ita ut Romulo Traianus aequetur. Bird, H.W., ‘Eutropius on Numa Pompilius and the Senate’, CJ 81 (1986), 243–8Google Scholar.

36 See MacCormack (n. 32), 181 n. 20, who lists several relevant passages; cf. Serv. In Aen. 6.779, 11.603, with the commentary of Bruggisser (n. 6), 103–6.

37 Cf. especially Verg. Aen. e.g. 1.272–83, Flor. 1 praef. 2, 1.1.1.18, 1.1.7.9, [Aur. Vict.] De vir. ill. 2.13, 7.9–14, 8.4.

38 Cf. Classen, C.J., ‘Romulus in der römischen Republik’, Philologus 106 (1962), 174204 (at 183–91)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, on Romulus’ probable role as a negative exemplum in some late Republican contexts.

39 Cf. Ver Eecke, M., La République et le roi: le mythe de Romulus à la fin de la République romaine (Paris, 2008), 315–16, 319–20Google Scholar.

40 See now Cole, S., Cicero and the Rise of Deification at Rome (Cambridge, 2013), 85110 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

41 Dyck, A.R., A Commentary on Cicero, De Officiis (Ann Arbor, 1996), 544–5Google Scholar; on Romulus in Caesar's political propaganda, see Ver Eecke (n. 39), 355–423.

42 On Orosius’ use of Justin, see Arnaud-Lindet 1.xxvi–vii.

43 Cf. n. 9 above.

44 3 praef. 1 scriptores autem etsi non easdem causas, easdem tamen res habuere propositas: quippe cum illi bella, nos bellorum miserias euoluamus; 1.1.12 mala autem huiusmodi … sine dubio aut manifesta peccata sunt aut occultae punitiones peccatorum. Cf. Goetz 49: ‘Im Geschichtsablauf fließen göttliches Heilswirken und menschliches Sündenwirken zusammen.’

45 On Orosius as apologetic historian, see Goetz 20–2; on Orosius’ conception of the action of divine providence in history, see e.g. Herzog (n. 27), 306–10.

46 Cf. 1.8, 1.10.1–18, on Joseph and Moses.

47 See Merrills (n. 17), 50–64, Alonso-Núñez, J.M., ‘Die Auslegung der Geschichte bei Paulus Orosius: die Abfolge der Weltreiche, die Idee der Roma Aeterna und die Goten’, WS 106 (1993), 197213 Google Scholar, and Arnaud-Lindet 1.xlv–lviii.

48 See the insightful discussion in Van Nuffelen 46–53.

49 ita Nini et Babylonis regnum eo anno in Medos deriuatum est, quo anno apud Latinos Procas, Amulii et Numitoris pater, auus autem Rheae Siluiae quae mater Romuli fuit, regnare coepit … omnes historiae antiquae a Nino incipiunt, omnes historiae Romanae a Proca exoriuntur.

50 [Aur. Vict.] De vir. ill. 1 begins with Procas, and, although [Aur. Vict.] Origo gentis Romanae 19 and Livy 1.3.9–11 begin their accounts with earlier figures, both of them put Procas’ bequest of Alba to Numitor (in the Origo and De vir. ill., a co-heir with Amulius) at the start of the internecine struggle that culminates in Rome's founding. Other Roman histories begin unambiguously with Romulus, e.g. Eutr. 1.1.1 and Flor. 1 praef. 1, 1.1.1.1. Cf. Van Nuffelen 48 n. 11, who asserts that Orosius’ ‘statement is obviously exaggerated’, then notes the parallel with De vir. ill.; contrast Arnaud-Lindet 1.li–ii n. 92, ‘L'affirmation d'Orose … est fausse mais nécessaire à l’établissement de son parallélisme’.

51 anno post euersionem Troiae ccccxiiii Olympiade autem sexta … urbs Roma in Italia a Romulo et Remo geminis auctoribus condita est.

52 Cf. Van Nuffelen 46–61, on Orosius’ swift abandonment of the four-kingdoms theory and allusions to the fall of Troy.

53 cuius regnum continuo Romulus parricidio imbuit, parique successu crudelitatis ‘sine more raptas Sabinas’, inprobis nuptiis confoederatas maritorum et parentum cruore dotauit; see Van Nuffelen 53–6, on Orosius’ (slightly paraphrased) quotation of Verg. Aen. 8.635.

54 itaque Romulus, interfecto primum auo Numitore dehinc Remo fratre, arripuit imperium Vrbemque constituit; regnum aui, muros fratris, templum soceri sanguine dedicauit.

55 Fear (n. 16), 78 n. 31 and Arnaud-Lindet 1.208 n. 5. On Amulius’ death, see Bessone 145 n. 26 and Fugmann, J., Königszeit und frühe Republik in der Schrift “De Viris Illustribus Vrbis Romae”: Quellenkritisch-historische Untersuchungen (Frankfurt, 1990–2004), 1.83–4 n. 37Google Scholar.

56 Bessone 145, who believes this to be an intentional falsification (a problematic characterization—cf. n. 72 below), states that it ‘serve manifestamente per tracciare un quadro a fosche tinte del regno di Romolo, grondante sangue dell'intero parentado’.

57 De civ. D. 3.13; cf. [Cyprian], De idol. vanit. 5.

58 Cf. Bessone 146–7.

59 De civ. D. 3.13 adapts Flor. 1.1.1.13; cf. Bessone 145–6.

60 2.4.6 ducem eorum Titum Tatium, senem honestis pietatis causis insistentem, diu armis propulsatum, mox ut in societatem regni adsumpsit, occidit; cf. August. De civ. D. 3.13 deinde Tatium regem Sabinorum socium regni Romulus ferre compulsus est … sed quando et istum diu toleraret, qui fratrem geminumque non pertulit? unde et ipso interfecto, ut maior deus esset, regnum solus obtinuit. See Sehlmeyer (n. 7), 43 n. 41 and S. Angus, ‘The sources of the first ten books of Augustine's De Civitate Dei’ (Diss., Princeton, 1906), 117–18.

61 iam hinc [i.e. from Romulus’ reign onwards] incessabilia certamina et iuxta quantitatem uirium semper grauia quam breuissime strinxerim. Orosius similarly eliminates important Roman exempla from his account of the Punic Wars (Van Nuffelen 73–4).

62 Cf. n. 13 above.

63 For the peacefulness of Numa, cf. the comments of Amm. Marc. 14.6.6 on the present security of the city of Rome: et olim licet otiosae sint tribus pacataeque centuriae et nulla suffragiorum certamina, sed Pompiliani redierit securitas temporis.

64 Tarquinii Superbi regnum occisi soceri scelere adsumptum, habita in ciues crudelitate detentum, flagitio adulteratae Lucretiae amissum, et inter domestica uitia uirtutesque forinsecus emicantes, id est oppida ualida in Latio per eum capta.

65 McDonnell, M., Roman Manliness: Virtus and the Roman Republic (Cambridge, 2006), 3940 Google Scholar calls ‘“deeds of valor”’ the ‘regular meaning [of uirtutes] in pre-Classical Latin’; see, however, the criticisms of R. Kaster in BMCR 2007.02.08.

66 Inglebert (n. 21), 535–40 surveys Orosius’ attitude toward Roman uirtutes.

67 anno post Vrbem conditam ccxliiii Brutus primus apud Romanos consul primum conditorem regemque Romae non solum exaequare parricidio sed et uincere studuit; cf. August. De civ. D. 3.16.

68 Contrast Flor. 1.2.8.7–1.3.9.8 (cf. Bessone 148–9). As Van Nuffelen 118 n. 13 observes, ‘parricide … is a recurring theme in the Historiae’ (for later Roman examples, see 2.13.6, 3.9.1–4, 4.13.17–18, 5.16.8, 5.16.23, 5.19.13–16, 7.7.9).

69 As noted above, Amulius is normally Romulus’ great-uncle; this seems to be a modification of Romulus’ ancestry to make his family appear yet more parricidal.

70 Quotation from 6.22.8 pateat quia Dominus noster Iesus Christus hanc urbem nutu suo auctam defensamque in hunc rerum apicem prouexerit.

71 Quotation from 6.22.10 germinantia temporum Christiana.

72 Thus Bessone 144–5: ‘Pur di infangare Romolo, non esita a ricorrere al falso, imputandogli pure l'uccisione di Numitore e del suocero … Se ne dovrà inferire che Orosio abbia mentito consapevolmente.’ Goetz 28 veers toward the opposite extreme: ‘Orosius dramatisiert sicherlich, er wählt aus, aber er ändert nicht die Fakten.’ Cf. Van Nuffelen 140–4, who discusses some aspects of Orosius’ rhetorical embellishments (including apparent ‘fiction’) in light of modern scholarship on the rhetoric of ancient historiography.

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