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Catullus features heavily in Chapter 21 of The Cambridge Companion to Sappho, but he is by no means the only Roman literary figure to have found in Sappho an important predecessor. Ovid, Horace, and others give powerful evidence of her influence in Latin literature.
This is an investigation of an aspect of Virgil's Aeneid—ultimately, of the ways in which the poet guides his reader's response to Aeneas’ stay in Carthage—and, while it touches on Roman religious practice, clothing codes, late antique Virgilian commentary and Augustan ideology, it hinges on a single word in Aeneid Book 4 and its implications for Virgil's depiction of his hero in this book. That word is laena, and it features in one of the most celebrated scenes of the poem, when Mercury descends to earth to find Aeneas busily engaged in founding Carthage (Aen. 4.259–64):
ut primum alatis tetigit magalia plantis,
Aenean fundantem arces ac tecta nouantem
conspicit. atque illi stellatus iaspide fulua
ensis erat Tyrioque ardebat murice laena
demissa ex umeris, diues quae munera Dido
fecerat, et tenui telas discreuerat auro.
As soon as Mercury with winged feet touched the Carthaginian huts, he caught sight of Aeneas founding the citadel and raising new buildings: his sword was studded with stars of yellow jasper, and a laena, hanging from/let down from his shoulders, blazed with Tyrian purple, a gift that Dido with her wealth had made, interweaving in the web a subtle cross-thread of gold.
Line 4.262 is the only place in the Aeneid where this word is used, and I shall be suggesting that laena represents an unusually evocative piece of clothing to put on Aeneas, even aside from the particular character, its decoration and origin, that Virgil attributes to the example Aeneas is wearing at lines 4.262–4. What I offer is a cumulative argument, as a whole (I believe) persuasive but also necessarily speculative given the limited state of our knowledge in various areas from religion to clothing. My essential claim is that Virgil is encouraging his reader at this point in the poem to associate Aeneas with, and judge his behaviour in comparison to, one of the most important members of the Roman priesthood.
‘The last stanza of Horace's poem’, writes Denis Feeney of Hor. Carm. 3.3, ‘declares virtually outright that he has just been “quoting” epic matter: “desine peruicax | referre sermones deorum et | magna modis tenuare paruis” (70–2)’. A poem that recounts the doings of gods automatically demands comparison with epic, but if the speeches of gods are presented, all the more so. Horace's poem in fact evokes an episode within a specific epic poem, the Council of the Gods that occurred during the first book of Ennius’ Annales. But such divine councils are a ‘stock epic scene’, and rather more than that: they are moments when epic is at its most quintessentially epic. In simple terms, an epic poet ‘may underline the significance and increase the dramatic effect’ of a critical point in the narrative ‘by showing us that it exercised the gods’, and that analysis applies to any divine presence in a poem: if a key impulse of epic is to amplify the significance of human activity, those occasions when higher forces overtly assert their control of human destiny satisfy a number of fundamental preoccupations of the genre. But in the Council of the Gods we have the most developed and impressive realization of this divine concern for mortal existence, as well as a topos that in Rome at least achieved special status within the broader field of divine machinery in epic. That status is perhaps reflected in a tendency discernible in the Roman section of the tradition for such councils to fall early in the epic narrative, as if initiating the epic plot. If so, however, Virgil's Council at Aen. 10.1–117 defies expectation by failing to be convened until the plot of the epic is very far advanced indeed, and even then, as this article will consider, achieving strikingly less than one might expect of a plenary gathering of supernatural powers at an advanced stage in an epic narrative.
In Fam. 13.1 Cicero, visiting Athens en route to Cilicia in the summer of 51 b.c., writes to C. Memmius L.f., praetor in 58 but by the time of Cicero's communication an exile in Athens after the shambolic consular elections for 53; Memmius was (temporarily, one assumes) absent from Athens in Mytilene, hence the need for Cicero to write to him. This letter, along with Att. 5.11.6 and 19.3, is our focus in the argument that follows, but, to summarize the situation in the very broadest terms, Cicero's concern in it is with Memmius’ intentions regarding a plot of land in Athens occupied by a house of Epicurus, and with the objections to Memmius’ plans that had been raised with Cicero by the scholarch of the Epicurean community in Athens, Patro.
They draw you down from the sky, Jupiter, and that is why more recent generations still worship you today, and call you Elicius. It is certain that the summit of the Aventine wood trembled, and the earth sank beneath the weight of Jupiter.
Dismayed by an unprecedented flurry of thunderbolts, the pious King Numa sets out to expiate the omen. His divine consort Egeria advises him to learn the ritus piandi (291) from Picus and Faunus, who will, however, only reveal the necessary information under compulsion. Numa makes plans to ambush the gods, taking up position in a cave within a grove ‘under the Aventine, black with the shade of the holm oak, at sight of which you would say, “A spirit is here”’ (lucus Auentino suberat niger ilicis umbra, | quo posses uiso dicere ‘numen inest’, 295–6). The description of this numinous location continues (297–9):
in medio gramen, muscoque adoperta uirenti
manabat saxo uena perennis aquae;
inde fere soli Faunus Picusque bibebant.
In the middle was a meadow, and an unceasing stream of water, covered with green moss, flowed from the rock. From it Faunus and Picus, unaccompanied, were in the habit of drinking.
Once captured by the king, Faunus and Picus tell Numa that only Jupiter himself can be consulted about Jupiter's own domain (if we read tecta at 316; Jupiter's weapons, if we read tela, and there's little to choose between those readings), but that with their help Numa may be able to draw Jupiter down from the sky to answer his enquiry.
Ennius' Scipio is represented for us by three fragments explicitly attributed to the poem by our ancient sources, frr. 31, 32 and 33 Courtney (= var. 9–12, 13 and 14 Vahlen), along with a detail from the Suda s.v. Ἔννιος (Ε 1348, p. 2.285 Adler = fr. 29 Courtney = var. I Vahlen) asserting Homer's pre-eminence as a panegyrist (and Scipio's as a recipient of panegyric), which is echoed (and perhaps amplified) by Valerius Maximus (8.14.1).
The historicity of the ‘Gallic Emperor' Domitianus has long been disputed, but two quite separate events in 2003 have now provided incontrovertible confirmation of his existence. The first was the rediscovery in the collections of the Musée Dobrée in Nantes of what had been for a century the only known coin carrying the obverse legend IMP(ERATOR) C DOMITIANUS P(IUS) F(ELIX) AUG(USTUS), discovered in a coin hoard at the villa of Cléons at Haute-Goulaine near Nantes in 1900, but mislaid at some point after its arrival in the museum in 1929. Its reappearance in turn allowed Sylviane Estiot to disprove conclusively the aspersions cast on its authenticity by various influential scholars during the twentieth century. In addition, however, and with a serendipity which for most scholars is the stuff of dreams, a coin hoard containing a second coin of Domitianus, minted from the same dies as the first, was discovered in farmland at Chalgrove near Oxford. This numismatic evidence, combined with the failure of Domitianus' regime to show up in the historical record—aside from Zosimus' brief notice (1.49.2) of three rebellions against Aurelian early in his reign, by ‘Septiminus, Urbanus and Domitianus', the latter presumably referring to the same man—suggests that this usurper occupied a position of power very briefly indeed, but did occupy a position of power. Not only was Domitianus capable of issuing official coinage, albeit in extremely small quantities (his absence from all but two of the numerous coin hoards from this turbulent period is telling), but also, as Estiot's research reveals, he would appear to have combined the two hitherto separate mints that produced the coinage of the Gallic Empire—the feat of a man who exerted real control over significant elements of the Gallo-Roman state machinery, however momentarily.
It is a familiar observation that Epic puts men first — from ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε to arma uirumque, and on to ‘Man's first disobedience’. Genres are gendered, and the epic genre is emphatically masculine, foregrounding males as protagonists and male preoccupations as its proper concerns, and in general validating and glorifying masculine spheres of activity and masculine values and priorities. Self-conscious commentary on this defining feature of epic is readily found within the genre — when Numanus Remulus advises the effeminate Trojans, ‘sinite arma uiris et cedite ferro’ (Aen. 9.620), the echo of arma uirumque has the effect of implicating the whole epic in his male chauvinism; only real men have a right to feature in the Aeneid, Remulus seems to suggest — but is most familiar from confrontation between epic and lower genres, love elegy in particular.
‘Choice of metre is never arbitrary’ is a useful rule of thumb for critics of any poetry which conforms to a regular rhythmical pattern. The rhythm of a poem is plainly as much a product of the poet's creative choice as any other aspect of the composition, and consequently a fully integral element of the literary project. Out of all the components of a poem, in fact, metre has a claim to a certain priority, since the choice of metre determines to a significant degree the content of a poem as well as its form. That said, to speak in terms of ‘the straitjacket of traditional metrics’ is of course misconceived: the wealth of ancient metrical forms was an enabling rather than restrictive factor in literary composition–an idiom in itself, offering its own expressive possibilities. Like the classical orders of architecture, metres were not merely structural devices but ‘bearers of meaning’ in their own right, perceived, like Vitruvius' Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders (De arch. 1.2.5), to have their own individual characters, and thus particular uses to which each of them might appropriately be put. To what extent these perceived characters, either of metres or of orders, arose from any intrinsic property they possessed, or merely from associations more or less accidentally accruing with usage and theory over time, is perhaps debatable.
The historical record of the Roman civil wars gives an unusual prominence to C. Asinius Pollio (76 b.c.–a.d. 4). There is more than one reason for the anomaly, not the least being that Pollio was himself largely responsible for creating that record in the form of his celebrated Historiae of the civil wars. It was this work which provided the authors we read — Appian, Dio, Plutarch, and Suetonius — with their major source for the period, and a characteristic feature of the work, as these later texts attest, was the emphasis which Pollio placed on his presence on the scene and immediate, eyewitness knowledge of much of the historical material he narrated.
And yet Pollio had earned for himself at least a small place in history, independently of his historiographical activity. After the death of Caesar he played an important role in the manoeuvring which brought Mark Antony to power (three letters to Cicero survive from the period), and held the consulship in 40 B.C. (cf. Ecl. 4.1–17). Whilst consul he acted as co-sponsor of the pact of Brundisium between Antony and Octavian, and subsequently celebrated a triumph over the Parthini, a Balkan tribe.
This book is a version of a doctoral thesis written at Trinity College, Cambridge, with the help of generous funding from the British Academy. It has benefited from the comments and contributions of many scholars, chief amongst them my supervisor Philip Hardie, my debt to whom will be evident from every page. Neil Hopkinson and Richard Hunter were kind enough to read sections of the thesis, and its examiners, Michael Reeve and Don Fowler, have consistently given me firm advice and firm encouragement. The thesis was completed during the first year of an Assistant Lectureship at University College Dublin, and the book during the first year of a Teaching Fellowship at Brasenose College, Oxford, and I owe a particular debt of thanks for the warmth of their welcome to the Department of Classics at UCD, especially Theresa Urbainczyk and Andrew Erskine, to the members of the Classics Department at Trinity College, Dublin, especially Kathleen Coleman, and the Fellows and students of BNC, the latter perhaps the most welcoming of all. Bill Lavelle, Jon Hesk and Peter Stewart have been rich and enthusiastic sources of ideas and information. The book is dedicated to Andrea Swinton, without whom it would never have been written at all, and to my father.
At the time of this book's first publication in 1999, orthodoxy interpreted the Georgics as a statement of profound ambivalence towards Octavian and his claim to be Rome's saviour after the catastrophe of the civil wars. This book takes issue with the model of the subtly subversive poet. It argues that in the turbulent political circumstances which obtained at the time of the poem's composition, Virgil's preoccupation with violent conflict has a highly optimistic import. Octavian's brutal conduct in the civil wars is subjected to a searching analysis, but is ultimately vindicated, refigured as a paradoxically constructive violence analogous to blood sacrifice or Romulus' fratricide of Remus. The vindication of Octavian also has strictly literary implications for Virgil. The close of the poem sees Virgil asserting his mastery of the Homeric mode of poetry and the providential world-view it was thought to embody.