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This chapter examines the cultural status of ritual song and dance in the Roman Late Republican and Augustan periods. By applying the modern theoretical work of Paul Connerton on the social reproduction of memory, the chapter explores several strategies through which two of the most iconic religious associations in Rome – the Salian priesthood and the Arval Brethren – stored and transmitted their cultural traditions. The hymns of these collegia, as well as their performances, constitute unique artifacts for understanding the interconnected processes of writing and embodiment – what Connerton defines as “inscription” and “incorporation”– in the production of ancient musical memories.
This chapter analyzes Livy’s narrative of the events of 207 BCE, when Roman officials addressed a pressing religious and military crisis by commissioning an innovative musical event – a Greek-style maiden procession with a hymn composed by Rome’s first known poet, Livius Andronicus. Livy’s account asks us to confront the question of how Roman musical and ritual traditions were created and remembered, by inviting the reader to witness a tradition in the very process of being invented. On the one hand, great emphasis is placed on how the hymn’s ritual actors created a collective memory of its success and incorporated it into the religious traditions of Rome. On the other, Livy refuses to record the hymn himself on the basis of its primitive aesthetics, with the paradoxical result that a significant document in the history of Roman music is simultaneously remembered and forgotten. Self-consciously aware of ritual song and narrative history as differently constituted repositories of collective memory, I propose, Livy draws attention to the processes by which his account of Rome’s early song culture shapes his reader’s musical memory.
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