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Agrippa’s Refusal of a Triumph in 19 B.C.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2015

D. Wardle*
University of Cape Town


C.J. Simpson “has suggested recently that far from displaying Agrippa’s modesty and moderation, as Dio has it, his refusal of a triumph in 19 B.C. was motivated by pride and annoyance: firstly, because the offer of a triumph had not been made freely by the Senate, but on Augustus’ order, it was not a sincere recognition of his merits; and secondly, the most recent triumphator, Cornelius Balbus, had been a mere Spaniard; and Augustus’ refusal of a triumph in 19 provided a useful precedent. Agrippa’s refusal needs more of an explanation than personalities and hurt feelings. It may be that there were more substantial issues of imperial prerogatives and the image of the regime at stake, at a difficult stage in the constitutional evolution of the Augustan principate.

Research Article
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 1994

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1 Agrippa’s rejection of a triumph in 19 B.C.’, LCM 16.9 (1991) 137138Google Scholar. I thank Dr T.T. Rapke and Miss B.M. Levick for their comments on earlier drafts of this note. They should not be taken to share my views.

2 (54.11.6). Cf. 53.32.1 : a Dionean motif for Agrippa.

3 A close reading of Dio excludes the interpretation given by Simpson, that Agrippa ignored the Senate’s request for information about the Iberian campaign; Dio says that Agrippa did not send any despatch to the Senate about his achievements.

4 See Koenen, L., ZPE 5 (1970) 217283Google Scholar; Gray, E.W., ZPE 6 (1970) 227238Google Scholar; Haslam, M.W., CJ 75 (1979/80) 193203Google Scholar; Badian, E., CJ 76 (1980/81) 97109Google Scholar; and Roddaz, J.-M., M. Agrippa (Paris 1984), esp. 337381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 Koenen, (followed by Reinhold, M. in the addendum to his Marcus Agrippa: A Biography 2 [New York 1965]Google Scholar and Rich, J.W., Cassius Dio: The Augustan Settlement [Warminster 1990] 168)Google Scholar argues for imperium proconsulare maius from 23, Gray for imperium proconsulare aequum. Syme, R.finds proof of imperium in Agrippa’s use of legates (Dio 53.32.1;Google ScholarThe Augustan Aristocracy [Oxford 1986] 41Google Scholar n.52). However, the expression utilised by Velleius Paterculus ‘sub specie ministeriorum principalium’ (2.93.2) suggests no legal grant to Agrippa himself, rather a delegation of Augustusimperium (Roddaz [see previous note] 349350).Google Scholar

6 Dio 53.32.1; 54.12.4-5; 54.28.1. Gray (n.4 above) 236-238 interprets the second of these passages as recording a renewal of proconsular imperium for Agrippa. Dio explicitly records a five year renewal of Augustus’ προστασία, by which Gray understands imperium proconsulare maius. However, the more natural referent is Augustus’ general oversight of the state as seen in his provincial command, both of which were conferred on him in 27, before the invention of his later powers (on which see Liebeschuetz, J.H.W.G., ‘The Settlement of 27 B.C.’, in Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History 4 [Brussels 1986] 345365)Google Scholar. The use of προστασία at 53.12.1, 54.12.4 and in Strabo (840) helps confirm this (cf. Rich [n.5 above] 139-140).

7 For the story in its various forms, see Veil, . Pat. 2.93.2, Suetonius D.A. 66.3Google Scholar, Tib. 10.1, Pliny, N.H. 7.46Google Scholar, Tacitus Ann. 14.53.3, 55.23Google Scholar, and Dio 53.32.1.

8 Dio 53.12.4-5.

9 54.11.6.

10 See Dio’s comment (cf. Rich [n.5 above] 188: ‘to avoid appearing to seek a triumph’). There is nothing in Dio to justify Simpson’s statement He even went so far as to ignore that body when it requested information about the Iberian campaign(LC 16 [1991] 137138Google Scholar).

11 54.24.7-8. Dio’s άρχήν is a stronger expression than at 54.11.6.

12 Talbert, R.J.A., The Senate of Imperial Rome (Princeton 1984) 427428.Google Scholar

13 Suetonius (Tib. 32) records criticism by Tiberius of unnamed ‘consulares exercitibus praepositos’ for not writing their reports to the Senate and for not awarding military prizes directly. This has been taken to refer to the Senatorial proconsuls of Africa (Rietra, J.R., C. Suetoni Tranquilli Vita Tiberi—C. 24-C. 40 [Amsterdam 1928] 28Google Scholar) and to be a typical Suetonian generalisation from the case of Apronius (Vogt, W., Vita Tiberii—Kommentar [Diss. Wurzburg 1975] 154155)Google Scholar. While this is probable, there remains the possibility that consulares includes imperial legati consulari potestate.

14 The further nuance of Simpson’s ‘it was an award offered only grudgingly and at Augustus’ insistence’ can thus be jettisoned.

15 54.11.1-5. 5,000 enemy had to be slain (cf. Val. Max. 2.8.1, Cie. Pis. 62). The qualifications for a triumph are discussed at length by Versnel, H.S., Triumphus (Leiden 1970)164195.Google Scholar

16 2.8.4.

17 Mommsen, T., Römisches Staatsrecht 3 (Berlin 1887) 130.Google Scholar Ammianus Marcellinus 16.10.2. Develin, R., ‘Tradition and the development of triumphal regulations in Rome’, Klio 60 (1978) 432CrossRefGoogle Scholar, accepts Valerius Maximus’ explanation. Nap, J.M., Die römische Republik (Leiden 1935) 209Google Scholar, suggests an origin for the stipulation around 225 B.C., but his general approach is problematic. If the stipulation is historic, it may well have been formulated in the 3rd century and formed one of the elements of Senatorial control over the award of triumphs (cf. Richardson, J.S., JRS 65 [1975] esp. 6063)Google Scholar. The importance of expansion fits well with the sentiment of the middle Republic and Rome’s explicit ideology as found in the state prayers; see Harris, W.V., War and Imperialism in Republican Rome 327-70 B.C. (Oxford 1979) 117123.Google Scholar

18 43.42.1-2.

19 48.41.5,49.21.2-3.

20 See Reinhold, M., From Republic to Empire: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio’s Roman History Books 49-52 (Atlanta 1988) 51.Google Scholar

21 Dio 48.49.4. Dio’s explanation, that Agrippa did not wish to be celebrated when Octavian had fared badly, is accepted by Syme, (The Roman Revolution [Oxford 1939] 231).Google Scholar

22 Dr. T.T. Rapke has suggested to me that it is inconceivable that the nobiles would have seriously attempted to deny Agrippa a triumph once they had given one to the likes of L. Cornelius Balbus. However, despite Balbus’ undistinguished ancestry, his achievements in Africa were uncontroversial and the mechanism of the award to a proconsul straightforward.

23 Historia 34 (1985), esp. 194197Google Scholar. For Schumacher, the example of Ventidius is crucial—he surrendered neither his triumph nor his salutation as imperator to M. Antonius; similarly L. Munatius Plancus could be advertised on coins as imp. iter.

24 See for example Syme (n.21 above) 326-330; Rich (n.5 above) 140.

25 Dio 54.10.1-2.

26 For the clearest exposition, see Halfmann, H., Itinera Principum (Stuttgart 1986) 157161.Google Scholar

27 54.10.4.

28 D.A. 53.2. See Rich ad Dio 54.10.4. Hickson, F.V., ‘Augustus Triumphator: Manipulation of the triumphal theme in the political program of Augustus’, Latomus 50 (1991), esp. 125127Google Scholar, argues that after his triple triumph of 29 Augustus wanted to avoid any kind of public return to Rome which evoked memories of triumphal processions. She suggests (137) that by restricting himself to three triumphs (cf. R.G. 4.1) Augustus was fixing himself within the Republican tradition and avoiding the excesses of Julius Caesar; indeed his triple triumph was for the preservation of the Republic. Rather, Augustus celebrated no further triumphs because he personally had no achievements which merited a triumph, or could be represented as deserving one. Nonetheless by the widespread use of every other form of triumphal imagery except the procession itself he was able to consolidate his image as successful general and triumphator.

29 Dio 54.10.4.

30 54.10.5. See Rich (n.5 above) 187.

31 Halfmann (n.26 above) 163-164.

32 As Dio’s narrative in 54.10-11 is not arranged chronologically, but by the one protagonist, his recording of Augustus’ return before Agrippa’s feats in Spain is not relevant.

33 See note 28. For her it is more than a coincidence that the Fasti Triumphales end with the record of the triumph of L. Cornelius Balbus in March, 19 B.C. Cf. Reinhold (n.5 above) 93: “The refusal of Agrippa … to accept a triumph set an important precedent. The policy of Agrippa in consistently declining the honour of a triumph was a conscious effort on his part to establish the principle of the reservation of the triumph for the princeps alone.’ Cf. Eck, W., ‘Senatorial self-representation: developments in the Augustan period’, in Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects, edd. Millar, F.G.B. and Segal, E. (Oxford 1984), esp. 138139.Google Scholar Most recently Roddaz, J.-M., ‘Agrippa et la péninsule Ibérique’, in Il bimillenario di Agrippa (Genoa 1989), esp. 79.Google Scholar

34 Suggested by Antichthon’s anonymous reader.

35 ‘“Crisis theories” and the beginning of the principate’, Romanitas-Christianitas. Untersuchungen zur Geschichte and Literatur der römischen Kaiserzeit (Berlin 1986) 1841.Google Scholar

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