Cosmopolitanism and the colonizing imagination in ancient Rome.
Konnte Caesar wirklich hoffen, seine Zeitgenossen, sogar seine Standesgenossen auf diese Weise zu beeindrucken? (Claassen 128) [Could Caesar really hope to influence his contemporaries in this way, even those of his own social class?]
I write these words as the United States' armed forces, assembled in and around Kuwait and the borders of Iraq, prepare to carry out an attack on one of the oldest and most admired cities in the world, Baghdad. This attack will almost surely have taken place by the time you read this. I am a U.S. citizen. My political leaders have, against the urging of almost half the citizen population (which was not offered a chance to vote on this question), made a decision to attack a country that has not attacked my country, killing (it is certain) thousands of persons. My leaders tell me that after this other country is attacked, it will be restructured. They tell me that this "other" civilization resents and is jealous of my power and resources. But in order to deserve a share in some of my resources, they say, it must be reorganized in my own civilization's image. For these alien citizens lack certain goods that I (they tell me) have, on account of my civilization's virtues: political and religious freedom, food and water, housing, education, health care, a vehicle, a job, a happy family life. Their people (not their leaders however) have all the simple virtues of my own forefathers, and will prosper so long as they follow the same historical path my society did. I may not, they tell me, directly reach them, give them resources directly, or even seek to reorganize my own society so as to make direct distribution of its resources to those "others" a systematic part of my lifestyle. We are separated, I am told, not only by distance, culture, and language but by time, in essence, for the "other" represents my own society's past existence in the rhetoric of my leaders. The present existence of Iraq's society is deemed of little or no interest by those leaders and the media that report their sayings, for Iraq is a tabula rasa scheduled to be merely the staging area for a replication of my own nation's history.
The reasoning is familiar, even cliche. This is not because it is human nature to reason this way, but because the use by an aggressive imperialist force of this formula for its public reasoning has been overdetermined historically: its political, philosophical and religious underpinnings and heritages combine to make the institutionalized alienation of groups of people within a statist model of the world a powerful rhetorical pose. (1) One cannot seek the roots or origins of this thinking in the ancient Mediterranean world of interlocking cultures and city-states: the social, political, and historical gap is too wide. But it is possible to trace the development within the western Mediterranean of a somewhat similar imperialist argument, projected broadly onto Hellenistic historiography and literature by the "western" Greeks who settled Sicily, south Italy, and some parts of North Africa in the seventh to fourth centuries B.C.E., and borrowed and improved upon by a literate Roman aristocracy in the first century B.C.E. The spread of this argument deserves attention, but not because the argument is profound: it is not. It is interesting because it is aristocratic propaganda aimed at an entire society. It is a way of building group solidarity, by offering one group of humans distance from another group on cultural grounds, while claiming to assimilate the group--that is, one gains the emotional distance necessary for military attack in proportion as one claims the group as one's own. The argument that "they are our past" works consistently in the service of those desiring to control and dominate another group. It obliterates actual group history, both on the side of the dominators and on the side of the dominated. In this paper I will trace the argument through some key passages in works by Cicero, Caesar, and Virgil, showing how its overtly cosmopolitan tones ("we are all one large community" is the corollary, in this argument, to "these people represent simply a version of us") shift with the change in the Roman regime from the expansionist military aristocracy of the late Republic to centralizing military dictatorship under Augustus. Cicero idealizes the Sicilian Greeks as similar to old-fashioned Roman farmers in his speech against a Roman governor in 70 B.C.E., and Caesar similarly attributes to the Gauls super-Roman levels of courage, physical ability, and natural temperament. Both Caesar and Cicero project Roman ideals onto their non-Roman subjects. Cicero goes so far as to envision in De republica a sort of primeval international contract among nations who have willingly consented to be governed by Rome. On the other hand, Virgil, writing under the newly established Augustan regime, imagines early Rome itself--and replaces the solipsistic formulation of Cicero, disturbingly, (2) with a Roman version of what one might call a manifest destiny credo.
Before the Romans came the western Greeks. (3) These explorers, settlers and writers, from among whose ranks rose entire schools of Sicilian historiographers of the western Mediterranean beginning with Ephorus and the formidable Timaeus of Tauromenium, (4) predated and influenced Roman accounts of Mediterranean history profoundly. Now, the Greek Sicilians themselves were colonizers; their historiography reflects that fact. It is not an "opposition" historiography, but one developed during and after Greek/Macedonian expansion into the western Mediterranean. It was designed in part to justify and celebrate that expansion. It is in this context that the "they are our past" argument surfaces and takes on meaning for Roman writers as well as for Greeks. (5) As Walbank remarks, the Greek historiographers of the west imagined Greek heroes such as Heracles and Orestes into the prehistory of their western colonies in order to claim a place as true heirs to the lands of the West: genealogizing, that well-respected Hellenistic strategy, sprang largely from an imperialist motive, and grew in proportion to the need of the literate Greek aristocracy for legitimacy in rulership. How much of Roman imperialist ideology, as it began to be articulated in the late republic, was actually reworked Greek colonialist ideology? (6)
At the same time as Greek philosophy and geography were thriving, (7) in the third century B.C.E., Greek "universal" historians--a new class of history-writers that aimed to encompass no less than the stories of all known human civilizations in their works--also began. We know this in large part because these new "universal" historians were admired, attacked, and imitated: Polybius (a Greek writing about Rome a century afterward) quotes them and cites both Ephorus and Timaeus by name--he admired the former and detested the latter. These histories, like the histories of Alexander that proliferated during the same period, spring from a strong colonizing tradition. Timaeus and his compatriots were concerned to sketch the religious life of the West in Greek terms: in one fragment, FGH 566 F 59, Timaeus discusses the origins of the form of the Roman penates (household gods). (8) Before later Greek historians such as Polybius, Posidonius of Apamea, Strabo, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus busied themselves, in a Rome-suffused Mediterranean, with answering questions such as "Why is Rome great?," these earlier Greek writers spent their time somewhat more subtly inserting Greek history into their surroundings.
When the Romans read these early histories of the Greek world, and especially the world of the western Greeks of Sicily and South Italy, which was their world as well, they were in effect taking literary lessons in colonization and expansion. (9) Some of the first fruits of these lessons can be seen in the works of Cicero and Caesar, both highly educated and fully bilingual members of the late Republican aristocracy who placed great value on the reading and writing of history.
In 70 B.C.E., Cicero prosecuted a corrupt and negligent Roman governor of Sicily, Gaius Verres, and published not only the speeches he delivered in court but also the others he had prepared but did not get a chance to deliver. (Verres fled into exile after the first part of the trial, which was cut short as a consequence.) The young Cicero (he was 36) was steeped in Timaeus and other western Greek historians and philosophers. (10) The speeches against Verres are, perhaps partly as a result, an attempt to assimilate the Greek inhabitants of Sicily, the former colonizers now colonized by Rome, to antique Romans. We can see the effects most clearly in the realm of religion: Cicero portrays the Sicilians as intensely religious in his prosecution of a negligent governor. By the end of the fourth speech of the second actio, the religion of Sicily has been imaginatively transformed into the protoreligion of Rome. At 2.4.97 Cicero describes Verres' theft of the contents of the sanctuary of Magna Mater near Engyion; Scipio and Sicilian religion are closely linked, and Verres has violated both. The implication is that Sicilian religion is analogous to (and perhaps patterned on) the pietas of past generations of Romans who, like Scipio and Marcellus, left additions to the cult life of Sicily rather than stealing away its gods (as some would interpret the evidence to mean!). The mention of Magna Mater (with whom the Cretan "Mothers" or Rhea, perhaps, are completely and unproblematically identified by Cicero), (11) and the following climactic account of Verres' defiling of the sanctuary of Ceres and Proserpina at Enna, culminates in the argument that the Sicilian rites for Ceres are "our" rites as well, and should be protected by "us" as such. Cicero claims in [section]107 that "we [Romans] learn the story of Ceres as children," and gives a first-hand account of his own quasi-pilgrimage to Enna. He pleads with the Romans to heal what he calls the "religion of our allies," religio sociorum, and in so doing to preserve their own religion.
Cicero treats political history on Sicily in a similar way. In the third speech of the second actio, Cicero argues that the famous Law of Hiero is a piece of pre-Roman legislation that was approved and kept by the Romans in their governing code for Sicily. He aims to describe Roman rule as a continuation of pre-Roman rule in this instance. The Law of Hiero, the lex Hieronis or Hieronica, on tithe payments, was used only by Sicily among the Roman provinces. (12) The tyrant Hiero II, according to Cicero, is responsible for the care with which the law was framed, and its utter fairness. Hiero's need for frugality as a ruler, his Sicilian acuity, and his tyrant's severity are all offered as qualities to be praised in his law. Hiero himself is portrayed as a sort of Roman exemplum of severity and frugality: Sicilian "acuity" in this context is akin not to philosophical cleverness but to Cato the Elder's practical business acumen.
The Law of Hiero was neither universal in Sicily before the advent of Roman rule (it had only applied to Syracuse and its subject cities), nor unchanged after the Romans took over. In fact, very little was left of the original legislation, either in wording or intent, by the time Cicero spoke against Verres. Even when Cicero is invoking actual pre-Roman legislation, he portrays it as a mirror of Roman history rather than recognizing a non-Roman method of rule. It is repeatedly made clear that the "continuation" of this law really means its essential Roman-ness. Cicero lays stress primarily on the goodwill of the Romans that made the native law of Hiero the norm in Sicily alone of the provinces (2.3.12); the preservation of this law sprang ultimately from the careful plan of the Roman ancestors (maiores, 2.3.14). The Roman ancestors, then, not Greek Sicilian history or legal precedent, are the primary legal sanction for this law. Keeping the law and in particular keeping its name, Cicero claims, was simply a way of placating the Sicilians. Missing here is any sense that Hiero's law either had originally applied to the Syracusans and their subjects only, or had been changed by the Romans.
Preserve their own religion, provide for their own survival, save their own political and religious traditions, and confirm the legal traditions of their own ancestors: the plea for self-preservation is intrinsic to the "they are our past" argument. Cicero portrays the Greeks of Sicily as superstitious, "primitive" and "naive"--he points to the ideal of a pastoral simplicity and religious reverence that was considered a quintessential quality of past generations of Romans, and was also often claimed to have disappeared among Cicero's Roman contemporaries. (13) Those before us were "greater" (maiores). It is in this sense that the colonial imagination, projecting its own past onto its subjects, can be said to critique itself. The critique does not go deep, but again it is emotionally persuasive: the rebuke to one's (Roman) readers to live up to their past, and consequently to the virtue of their own subjects, is at base a kind of flattery. One uses this sort of argument on aristocrats who must be exhorted to live up to their own heritage--not to attack one's enemies, but to exhort one's friends. Again, the "they are our past" argument leads not to the conclusion that two groups are close in spirit, or to a generous appreciation of the virtues of another group, but rather to a solipsistic focus on one's own reality to the exclusion of others' historical, political and religious realities.
This is Cicero's earliest attempt to use his extensive reading in Greek history to understand the role and function of Roman rule over allied states. In it he chose to describe Greek religious and political institutions as the sacred ancestors of Roman religious and political institutions: the rule of Rome, therefore, was simply the fulfillment of a prophecy that began with the Greek colonizers. It brought the inevitable future into contact with a (Roman) past, and resulted in the effacing of both Greek and indigenous history, in favor of a construction of the colonized as embodying the Roman past.
Although Cicero continued to read philosophy and Greek history throughout his life, he did not have the leisure (or energy) to pound out another detailed study until his enforced retirement from politics in the 50s, during which he worked on his critique of and homage to Plato's Republic, the Roman De re publica. In De re publica, a more mature Cicero explicates the customs and laws of Rome, taking as his thesis that the Roman constitution in its purest form (he presents a detailed picture of its ideal form) is the embodiment of justice. Instead of Plato's unhistorical theoretical model of a city-state that is a symbolic representation of an individual's soul, De re publica speaks of Rome as a historically perfected city-state in the world. Roman colonization in this self-presentation is the result of a conscious choice by the colonized to be ruled by the superior power of Rome.
Cicero portrays the Roman government as the embodiment of excellent statehood among inferior nations and groups who give their loyalty to Rome of their own will. This role is an echo of his vision of a state's leading citizen, an ideal statesman who is not a lone dictator, and may not even hold public office, but to whom others in the society voluntarily look for guidance in political affairs. In a brief discussion of aristocratic rule, Scipio remarks: "But if a free people chooses those to whose guidance it will submit itself, and if it chooses for this purpose all its best citizens--provided, of course, that the people wish to be secure--surely, then, the safety of the state has been founded upon the wisdom of its ablest members." (De re publica 1.34). (14) In Book 2, within a discussion of tyranny and alternatives within Rome's own history, Scipio notes again: "Now let us imagine the antithesis of this tyrant, a ruler who is good and wise and versed in all that contributes to the advantage and prestige of the state; who is, as it were, the guardian and steward of the commonwealth, for so we should call anyone who directs and pilots the state ..." (2.29). Similarly to an Indian or Carthaginian elephant tamer, the ideal statesman described would, says Scipio, be able to control the impetuousness of other citizens (2.40). This ideal statesman was described in more detail by Cicero in the fifth book of the work (5.6, 7).
The point at which interaction with non-Romans is first seriously considered is in the "attack" and "defense" of justice in Book 3 of De re publica. Here, Cicero has Furius Philus present as an impediment to the idea of a single human justice the apparently Carneadean notion that cultural variations among humans make agreement on a single justice impossible (3.9). This argument from relative values issued for Cicero in the unacceptable conclusion that "[a]ll peoples who built up empires--including the Romans themselves, who became masters of the world--would be obliged to return to huts and live in wretched poverty if they wished to be just, that is, if they should restore all that is not their own" (Lactantius 5.16.4, paraphrasing Cicero's account of Carneades' arguments). The "problem" with this conclusion, as Lactantius also remarks (Inst. 5.16.13), is that even Cicero could not refute it, and instead confined his next interlocutor, Laelius, to the defense of political prudence rather than justice. In other words, Laelius does not address the utopian possibility that no empire should exist by rights, but rather assumes that empire is an unmitigated good from the Roman perspective, and relies on the notion that some wielding of imperial power can be (at least relatively) just. Laelius' argument significantly turns on the idea that all Rome's wars have been defensive wars: "For no war can be justly waged except for the purpose of redressing an injury or of driving out an invader" (3.23). Cicero has his defender of justice among nations defend Rome by claiming that every war undertaken by Rome has been a war to help allies--even when the (unintended) consequences of those wars were to expand the empire's territory. It follows in the argument presented that, although subjection of a free human to slavery might sometimes be admitted to be unjust, there also exist just modes of rulership over others; examples given by Laelius are the soul's rule over the body, the father's rule over his children, the king's rule over his subjects, and "the authority which kings, generals, magistrates, senates, and peoples exert over citizens and allies" (3.25). The subtextual implication emerges in particular when Laelius criticizes another Roman politician, Tiberius Gracchus, for his "habitual disregard of the treaty-rights of our allies and of the Latin League" (3.29).
If this habitual disregard of our engagements should begin to spread too widely, and should transform our empire from a government based on law to one based on force, the result would be that peoples "which have hitherto obeyed us of their own free will would be ruled by fear. In such an eventuality ... I fear for our children and for the continuance of the commonwealth, which might last forever if its life were in accordance with the institutions and customs of our fathers." (3.29; my emphasis).
That is, the justice of Roman rule is based firmly on the willing obedience of its allies. This willing obedience has as its model the obedience of citizens to a respected (ideal) statesman.
The idea had already surfaced as a rhetorical ploy in Cicero's early works: in a highly visible speech in 66, for instance, Cicero had hailed Pompey as someone whose virtues were recognized so clearly by Rome's opponents that they were happy to yield to him. (15) Incorporating the motif into a vision of Rome's actual constitution made it possible for Cicero to develop a more sophisticated version of the "they are our past" argument. For now he could stake Rome's claim to more than simply one relationship at a time with foreign entities. In the speeches for the Sicilian Greeks in 70, Cicero had imagined the (contemporary) Greeks of that province as possessing an ancient Roman character, ancient Roman religious and political institutions, and ancient Roman agrarian virtues. In De re publica, he goes on to imagine an entire world full of dutifully subordinate replicas of Rome, citizens of a world in which Rome was the preeminent citizen. In short, De re publica conceives of the entire world as a projected image of the Roman republic itself, with its head the foremost citizen, the ideal statesman.
The power of this model lies in the strength of the reader's (and writer's) belief in the justice of Rome's constitution and position among the nations; it springs in part from the trained lawyer Cicero's metaphorical world; and its most striking implication is that contract law exists between nations. The model elicits from the present an ancient "memory" of respect and honor bestowed upon Rome by foreign nations. The stake of Rome in its allies is here not simply that of a protective older relative (or patron) looking upon the customs of foreign peoples (or clients) as though looking into a mirror image from the past, as it was in Cicero's speeches for the Greeks in Sicily; now Rome's role in the world's military affairs is that of Wise Elder Statesman (Cicero's version of Plato's kubernetes). The implied theory of action on the world stage is easy to overlook, but of great significance for Rome's political ideology: the Rome of De re publica has a responsibility toward its allies not only because foreigners embody the simple, agrarian, virtuous Roman past, but also because a contract between nations has been entered into in the distant (imaginary) past. The preeminent citizen of the world, Rome, has been given authority and power by the free will of the surrounding states. Its responsibility is defined by this imaginary past covenant--as is the subordinate character of its allies.
Cicero's contemporary, Julius Caesar, shared many of Cicero's intellectual interests; prominent among these were Greek historiography and geography. (17) Caesar also seems to have spent time poring over Hellenistic ethnographies, first-hand (sometimes second- or third-hand) descriptions of far-away and exotic peoples with cultural and political situations different from those familiar to Romans and Greeks. Paradigmatic for Caesar's treatment of the theme of foreign societies in comparison to Roman and Greek norms is his well-known treatment of the Gauls and Germans in Book Six of De bello Gallico. Caesar shares the perspective of Cicero here in that his Gauls and Germans vie with one another for the honor of representing the rustic Roman past. He offers careful descriptions of Gallic and German social customs and religious traditions. The Gauls have the elaborate oral traditions of the Druids to impress their religiosity upon readers, while the Germans are religiously remarkable for their austerity in worshipping only gods that can be perceived (e.g., Sun, Moon, Fire). The culmination of the descriptions is, significantly, a brief passage in which Caesar mentions that the Gauls had once been superior in military prowess and courage to the Germans--and that they had lost this advantage because they had come into more contact with luxury items gained through maritime trading.
Now, since the Germans continue to live in the same poverty, need, and physically demanding circumstances as before, they keep the same way of life and treatment of their body as they did before; the Gauls, however, obtain many additions to their resources and for their use from nearby provinces and their familiarity with items of maritime trade, and as a result have become gradually accustomed to being conquered, and, defeated in many battles, do not even compare themselves anymore with the Germans in courage. (De Bello Gallico 6.24; my translation)
The image produced here suits the theory behind the portrait of the Greeks of Sicily in Cicero's Verrine Orations, namely that foreign peoples living under hardship in a nonurban setting may be said to embody the traditional virtues of early Romans, and in particular courage and religious reverence. This remains true despite Caesar's obvious focus on military prowess rather than legislative customs. Caesar's sense of multilateral agreements and international contract law is of course limited to his description of his own and his army's negotiations with leaders and representatives of the various groups he fought in Gaul, but as with Cicero the reader gains the distinct impression that Caesar's dealings with non-Roman elites are founded on the basis of mutual respect between Roman and non-Roman city-states. The role of battle strategy is consistently to offer a competitive field on which the Romans can prove their own worthiness to have dealings with these formidable societies living on the outskirts of civilization, that is to say, in the ideal situation for the development of physical strength, endurance, and pure religious practice.
Caesar's Hellenistic ethnography and Cicero's political theories, with the exception of the Ciceronian emphasis on the leadership of a Wise Elder Statesman (who becomes the Stoic-flavored prototype for Augustus the Emperor), were short-lived. While some of Caesar's enchantment with primitive, hard-living, and consequently courageous and tough barbarian peoples won through into Virgil's portrayals of the ancient Italians, (17) within a generation the concept of a mythically ancient contract entered into by all peoples under Rome's dominion, never even fully developed in Cicero's own mind perhaps, was replaced by a different formulation promoted publicly: Rome's military might, not any implied mythical contract between allied nations and Rome, makes it just for Rome to rule other nations. Perhaps the most well-known expression of the idea is in the sixth book of Virgil's Aeneid, where the hero Aeneas is being shown, by his recently dead father's spirit in the underworld, a panoramic vision of the "future" of Rome, the city that Aeneas' offspring will found. After bewailing the civil war that may take place between Caesar and Pompey, Anchises' ghost races through a sort of honor roll of prominent Roman military leaders, adding:
And there are others, assuredly I believe, Shall work in bronze more sensitively molding Breathing images, or carving from the marble More lifelike features; some shall plead more eloquently, Or gauging with instruments the sky's motion Forecast the rising of the constellations: But yours, my Roman, is the gift of government, That is your bent--to impose upon the nations The code of peace; to be clement to the conquered, But utterly to crush the intransigent! (lines 846-54)
The lines seem to be addressed to Aeneas himself ("my Roman"), but the destiny described must be that of the Roman nation generally, following on the heels of such a glorious roll-call of Roman heroes. Augustus, in Anchises' prophecy, "shall refound / A golden age for Latium," and "extend the frontier of our rule / Beyond the Garamantians and the Indians.... Indeed, / Not even Hercules covered so much of the world.... No, nor Bacchus ..." (lines 789-803).
This is an overturning of the Caesarian and Ciceronian vision of non-Romans as virtuous, agrarian, ideal ancestral Romans; and there is here no hint of a primeval contract through which Rome gained her preeminence among nations, or even (as in Caesar) of the battlefield as a fair testing ground for Roman and barbarian virtue alike. Instead, Virgil has Anchises speak of the extension of Rome's rule across the world as glorious in the sense that the wanderings of Hercules and Bacchus, civilization- and culture-bearing figures, were glorious. Rome's own history in Virgil subsumes or discards that of other nations: far from mirroring Rome's past in the present, other nations are merely savage barbarians to be overcome, "utterly crushed" if necessary. It is Rome's role single-handedly "to impose upon the nations the code of peace." (18)
Projection of one's own self-image, that is, one's social ideals or their perceived opposites, onto a population within one's political and economic control is a usual concomitant of many types of provincial rule, as has been repeatedly shown for early modern and modern societies by historians and sociologists interested in colonial and postcolonial societies. (19) It has begun to be examined in the case of the Romans vis-a-vis their subjects in the eastern Mediterranean, the coast of Africa, and particularly the Celts and Gauls to their north. But the place of south Italy and Sicily in Rome's saga of self-portraiture is an especially intriguing one, involving as it does not only a history of contacts with sources that extend beyond the very beginnings of Rome, but also the adoption and exchange of ideologies of colonization.
The Sicilian Greeks were not only inhabitants of Rome's first and most important province; they were also the inheritors in their own right of a complicated legacy of colonialist thinking. (20) Greek-writing historians of Sicily retrojected Greece into the prehistory of their colonies, and proceeded to rule. By the mid-fourth century B.C.E., certain ideas about colonization, city-foundings and Mediterranean military etiquette were firmly situated in Greek accounts of the western Mediterranean. Greek Sicilians projected in their literature not just their Greekness, but also their piety, their role as Hellenistic rulers, their literary taste, and any aspects of themselves that they could link genealogically to their mythical precolonizing figures. The Greek Sicilians were in a position radically different from that of the Gauls or other groups, including the Romans themselves by the time of Augustus, who were willing to portray their own past as "barbarian." (21)
Why the shift in ideology? Ideology reflects governing structure. On the one hand, the politics of Roman self-portraiture in the late republic militated against recognizing a single land of origin for all its citizens--in this respect Rome was almost the opposite of Athens and Greek cities generally. (22) The genealogical urge was a Hellenistic colonizing technique; the Roman pattern was instead, as Cicero did, to claim ethical, political, and religious friendship or kinship, while denying any literal blood connections with Greece. As we have seen, this can culminate in an idealization of the non-Roman religious agrarian and rough-living group; non-Romans may represent the Roman past handily, and so become subject to complete alienation from the historical mainstream. In such a literary milieu, actual Greek Sicilian history, for instance, is effaced and lost. On the other hand, the Roman republican-era appropriation of Greek literary culture must have pressed strongly in the direction of Sicily as a nearby source of prestigious literary tradition (e.g., Stesichorus, Theocritus, Timaeus, even Pindar in a sense; Diodorus places Daphnis in Sicily, 4.84), and the importance of Sicily in Roman history because of its role in the first Punic War was impressive in its own right. (23) We might imagine that part of the failure of the Ciceronian (and Caesarian) model of international relations lay precisely in its failure to recognize non-Roman history as history rather than as a looking-glass into the Roman past.
The outlook of Cicero's Verrine Orations and De re publica, and Caesar's De Bello Gallico, has more in common with Hellenistic historiographers' ideas about Greek civilization and shared religious traditions and sensibilities across the Mediterranean than with Augustan and early principate images of Rome's rulership over the Greeks and other inhabitants of the Mediterranean. Although the appeal to a common government is in fact used by Augustus, the appeal to a common culture is left behind by him, as is appeal to a common religion. Cicero makes the Sicilians into Romans as he speaks and writes because he is coopting the traditions available to him, and constructing a legal framework for international relations that is, at its root, simply a projection of Roman structures onto a more complicated world. A younger Greek contemporary of Cicero's, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, argued that the Romans were actually (genealogically speaking) Greeks--thus saving them from the fate of having barbarian lineage. And while Dionysius' gesture did not win out in the end (neither, as we saw, did Cicero's and Caesar's), it illustrates the logic of Rome's use of the Hellenistic tradition well: if Cicero had lived longer, would he perhaps have argued the same? "They are our past" means also "we are their future."
Augustus eventually expressed his regime's power through the creation of a different, non-Greek mythical past for Rome--one that incorporated references to ancestry in the form of respect for the supposedly unchanging way of the ancestors (mos maiorum), and could even accommodate individuals' lineage claims to Greek heroes. But his propaganda efforts rested on the development of a national history that traced Rome's bloodline not to Greeks but to a barbarian nation with a substantial Greek literary pedigree, the Trojans, situated in Asia Minor, and with a traditional enmity toward Greeks as well as a series of traditional alliances with them of various sorts. The myth shift made possible a new understanding of Rome's role in the world: no longer was Cicero's imagined international contract necessary. Rome ruled with its military prowess and its genius for "governing" as its sole qualification.
The expansion of Rome and its maintenance of empire was not just a matter of increasing the resources and comfort level of Roman citizens in Italy, or increasing the discomfort and poverty of its enemies. As William Harris has shown graphically, it entailed throwing Rome's and eventually most of Italy's populace into a continual state of military emergency for a period of several centuries. This could hardly help having an impact on the way that Romans viewed the world around them. The mediation of their vision in the second and first centuries B.C.E. through the available and attractive genre of Greek universal history had serious limitations; Hellenistic historiography based itself in part on mythical genealogies, and did not assuage the guilt that accompanied savage repression by a city-state that had not succeeded in imposing its own substratum of myth upon its region. The cultural unity between Greeks and Romans offered by Cicero's and Caesar's reworking of Hellenistic historiographers' vision of the world was not strong enough on its own to displace the political need for actual myths of justification and legal inheritance of empire. This is the precarious political and cultural context from which Rome entered the Augustan era, one of the major achievements of which was to build for Roman ruling class a more soothing and satisfactory set of origin myths. It is disturbing, and a profound warning, that the ideological transition from Republic to Empire involved a shift from the argument "they are our past" to a simple glossing of "might makes right."
(1) For an amusing if reductionist parody of the position, recall the ant society portrayed in T. H. White's The Book of Merlyn.
(2) As a predominantly "pessimistic" reader of the Aeneid, I would argue that the shift was consciously disturbing to Virgil himself, but I will not press that point here.
(3) And before the western Greeks came the Sicels and others. Some groundbreaking essays on the interaction in the West from the standpoint of imperialist ideology can be found in Webster and Cooper.
(4) See especially Momigliano, "Atene e lo scoperto di Roma" and "Fabius Pictor"; Walbank; Pearson; Brown. Jacoby's and Momigliano's studies, especially the latter's work on Fabius Pictor and Timaeus, are the basis for all later studies. (The school of the Sicilian 'universal historiographers' had in fact become a sort of cottage industry by the 1980s in academic circles of Sicily and Italy; although sometimes overreaching the evidence, many of the articles and books of this period are valuable for their attention to detail.)
(5) See Richardson.
(6) For the question in reverse (how did Roman imperialism affect Greek historiographers of the "cosmopolitan" stamp?), see the interesting book by Clarke. For a convincing reconstruction of the process of Rome's adoption of Greek "cultural capital" during the late Republic, see Habinek, esp. chs. 1 and 3.
(7) Eratosthenes, for instance, was born in the 270s B.C.E. (cited by Caesar, De bello Gallico 6.24).
(8) Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian writing two centuries later, also feels the need to explain this detail of Italian religion as originating in Samothrace (in his Antiquitates Romanae 1.68). The Romans themselves gave the penates non-Italian origins. Note the interesting study of Vanotti.
(9) The indigenous populations, of course, also responded to the imposition of Greek and later Roman culture. In addition to Fuchs, see Webster and Cooper and Pippidi.
(10) He quotes Timaeus, the Greek philosopher Theophrastus (Gelzer 44 n. 72), and (much less surprising) the Demosthenic corpus.
(11) The role of Cybele at Rome was longstanding and prominent, and included the presence of Cybele's shrine within the precinct of the temple of Victory on the Palatine. For the enormous implications of this and related topographical considerations for Virgil's use of the cult of the Phrygian (and Cretan) goddess in the Aeneid, see Wiseman. Cybele's identification as especially important to Greek Sicilians might however be questioned. The dependence of Cicero here and elsewhere in the Verrine Orations on Hellenistic historians such as Timaeus is underestimated greatly by, e.g., Schilling in a generally interesting article, when he deals with the supposed influence of the cult of Demeter of Enna on Roman religion; on Demeter and Kore see especially 272-75.
(12) Contrary to what Cicero would have us believe, the Roman "adoption" of the law of Hiero was by no means a mere continuation of the usage of previous centuries. "For one thing," remarks Finley, "only a small part of Sicily was subject to Hiero and paid tithes (and other taxes) to him ..." (123). For the Roman system vs. the Sicilian, Finley 123-25; Pritchard, "Cicero," and "Gaius Verres," especially 226-27.
(13) Feeney 133-36 speaks of a "nexus" of religious sensibility and rusticity.
(14) Translations from Cicero, Cicero: On the Commonwealth, trans. Sabine and Smith.
(15) On the Command of Gnaeus Pompeius [De imperio Cn. Pompei].
(16) Caesar was familiar with Eratosthenes' work (see note 7), and may have also used Posidonius of Apamea as a source for his account of Gaul's Druids in Book Six of De bello Gallico.
(17) Remember the portrait of Evander and the tour of Rome he offers Aeneas in Book 8 of the Aeneid, which includes such remarks as, "He leads them hence / To the Tarpeian rock and Capitol, / Now overlaid with gold, in days of yore / Rough-grown with wooded brakes, but even then / The place with its dread sanctity was wont / To awe the frightened rustics; even then / They trembled at its wood and at its rock...." (lines 339-45; all Aeneid translations by Patric Dickinson), a passage followed by a description of Arcadian and Laurentine religious awe at a grove sacred to an unknown god. The entire scene is an embodiment of the religious agrarian ideal.
(18) To take Anchises' prophecy as indicative of Virgil's own opinion of Augustus' regime would be far too simplistic a reading of this ideologically complex piece of literature. Here I argue only that the publicly propagated Augustan version of Roman expansion is accurately reflected in the words Virgil puts into the mouth of Anchises' ghost--not that the Aeneid necessarily serves or validates this version of history.
(19) The use of the ideology of exile for the purpose of nation-building has been exceptionally well documented in recent secondary literature in Latin and Greek studies. See the broad-ranging theoretical discussion of Goldhill, esp. 1-5, explicating some strands of Nietzsche's nostalgia for Greece, and 7, on Virgil's Aeneid (Goldhill's two major ancient passages for analysis are however taken from fifth-century Athens.) Note also Claassen and the substantial critical effort focused on Ovid's voice in exile (e.g., Williams's two books; Ramus (1997) vols. 1 and 2; Videau-Delibes, and many others. For further bibliography, see Goldhill 16 n31).
(20) Smith and Serrati, in which note especially Wilson's "Ciceronian Sicily: an archaeological perspective," an excellent survey of recent work done on the sites of late republican Sicilian cities; Pugliese Carratelli; Lomas.
(21) See especially the discussion of the adoption of this "civilized" vs. "barbarian" model at various levels of Gallic society in Woolf 48-76, "The civilizing ethos."
(22) See Flaig, especially 84-91, although his case is a bit overstated.
(23) Galinsky in Aeneas, Sicily and Rome (190) and in "Aeneid V and the Aeneid" argues that it inspired Virgil's treatment of Sicily in the Aeneid.
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