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Virgil's Pious Man and Menenius Agrippa: A Note on Aeneid1.148–53

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2009

Extract

Just as when disorder arises among the people of a great city and the common mob runs riot, wild passion finds weapons for men's hands and torches and rocks start flying; at such a time if people chance to see a man who has some weight among them for his goodness and his services to the state, they fall silent, standing and listening with all their attention while his words command their passions and soothe their hearts… (trans. David West)

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 1998

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References

1. See Russell, D. A., ‘Plutarch's Life of Coriolanus’, JRS 53 (1963), 21–2Google Scholar .

2. See n. at I.i. 134–9 in Shakespeare, Coriolanus, ed. Brockbank, P., the Arden Shakespeare (London, 1976)Google Scholar . I have taken quotations from Coriolanus from this edition. Ogilvie's, R. M. note on Livy's Menenius parable is valuable (A Commentary on Livy, Books 1–5 [Oxford, 1965])Google Scholar .

3. See Woodman, A. J., Rhetoric in Classical Historiography (London, 1988), 128–35Google Scholar .

4. For Livy's influence on Virgil, see Woodman, , ‘Virgil the Historian’ in Diggle, J., Hall, J. B., and Jocelyn, H. D. (edd.), Studies in Latin Literature and its Tradition (PCPhS Suppl. xv, 1989), 132–5Google Scholar :‘… Livy's first pentad… had established itself quickly as a classic; and many scholars have noted similarities of wording between the two authors [Livy and Virgil]… which indicate that one author was familiar with the other's work’ (134). Woodman suggests that ‘Virgil wrote lines 630–62 of Book 8 with Livy's first pentad in mind’(134).

5. For the suggestion of Cato, see Virgil Aeneid I, ed. Austin, R. G. (Oxford, 1971), n. at 148ffGoogle Scholar . Harrison, S. J. (‘Virgil on Kingship: the First Simile of the Aeneid, PCPhS 34 [1988], 55–9)Google Scholar finds the link with Cato ‘attractive’ but goes on to suggest (in my view more persuasively) that there is a reference in the Virgil simile to Hesiod on the gifts of the Muses to kings (Theogony, 81–93). Of course, as Harrison justly remarks, “we need not limit the poet to one model only for a simile’ (56).

6. It is of course true that riotous assemblies are a common feature both of Latin literature and of Roman history. See, e.g., Brunt, P. A., ‘The Roman mob’ in Finley, M. I. (ed.), Studies in Ancient Society (London, 1974), 74–5Google Scholar . What is unusual – and perhaps limited in Roman history to the episodes of Menenius and Cato – is the quelling of such assemblies by great personal qualities.

7. See Drummond's, A. entry on Menenius Lanatus, Agrippa on p. 959Google Scholar of the Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. Hornblower, S. and Spawforth, A. (Oxford, 1996)Google Scholar .

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