Scholia Reviews ns 12 (2003) 19.

D. S. Levene and A. P. Nelis (edd.), Clio and the Poets: Augustan Poetry and the Traditions of Ancient Historiography. Mnemosyne Supplements 224. Leiden: Brill, 2002. Pp. xv + 396. ISBN 90 04 11782 2. US$117, EURO98.00

Alex Nice
University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa/Reed College, USA

The seventeen papers in this volume[[1]] are the product of a conference held at Durham in 1999 whose brief was to examine 'the ways in which Augustan poetry, in all its dense social and textual engagement, interacts with the traditions of ancient historiography' (p. 1). The papers represent a broad spectrum of views, ranging from those which argue for poetry's lack of engagement with historiography to those which see explicit links between the two genres. There is a not unsurprising concentration on Vergil and Ovid, rather less on Propertius and Tibullus.

Classen's opening paper argues that the poets (Tibullus, Propertius, Vergil and Horace, and Ovid especially) were not overly influenced by historiography although their attitude towards history proves a helpful instrument to reveal the individuality and particular character of each. His point of view is supported in the succeeding paper. Cairns discusses Propertius 3.3.1-16 to demonstrate that the poet's failure to observe historical sequence and his apparent confusion regarding the triumph of L. Aemilius Paullus can be seen as examples of the achronicity and conflation of historical material in lyric poetry. While Cairns' argument is convincing -- he adduces further examples of conflation in Augustan poetry -- ancient historians could also be guilty of similar techniques: Thucydides criticizes Hellanicus on exactly those grounds (Thuc. Hist. 1.97.2: 'he is brief and inaccurate in his dates').

Pagán and Feldherr are interested in audience reaction to the events in the text. Pagán compares ways in which Vergil and Tacitus use 'foreshadowing' and 'backshadowing' to transcend the temporal framework of their narratives, referring to the image of Actium in the ecphrasis of the shield in Aeneid 8 and Tacitus' digression on the Teutoburg and the destruction of Varus' legions (1.61.2-3). In both cases Pagán sees the authors referring to Augustan victory and defeat in which the audience is invited to 'exult' (Actium) or to 'scorn' (Teutoburg) the ineffectual characters (p. 57). It was unfortunate that Pagán did not see the Teutoburg episode through to its end. Caecina is offered a vision of the bloodied Varus and pushes away the hand offered to him (Hist. 1.65.2). The shade of Varus provides the link between past and present. In the ensuing battle Caecina's men are trapped in the marshes and seem about to suffer the same fate as the three lost legions. But their general has correctly interpreted the baleful dream. He extracts himself and his men from the morass, defeats Arminius, and ends the year with an honourable triumph. Caecina then did not allow the same defeat to happen again (p. 57) but overcame adversity to win a glorious Roman victory.

Feldherr reviews the boxing match between Dares and Entellus in Book 5 of the Aeneid. He examines the importance of the repetitive action of the boxing match and the end-scene (in which Entellus demands a bull for sacrifice in place of Dares) to ask whether the audience can perceive the positive dimension of sacrificial ritual, rather than being caught up in the violence of this episode (p. 71). There are problems with relating the types of sacrifice to the Augustan present, however. Entellus' slaying of the bull is not a sacrificial ritual in any Roman (or Etruscan) sense. Vergil graphically describes the violence with which Entellus slays the bull with his fist (5.477-81). There is no litatio, no inspection of the entrails. This is self-evidently the work of one who is superbus, the type whom Vergil calls on the Roman 'to completely disarm' (6.853). This would seem to add weight to Feldherr's claim that the sacrificial scenes of the Aeneid might be seen as a foil for the Roman audience to evaluate the importance and sophistication of sacrifice in their own day.

O'Gorman and Damon offer different interpretations of Horace's Odes. O'Gorman is interested in the relationship of poetry to historical time and the challenge that the literary aesthetic poses to its function as a form of history (historiography?). Her discussion of the ways in which Augustus is imaged in Ode 4.5 are pursued further by Cynthia Damon. She argues that 'historiography gives Horace the material for an authoritative encomium on military success' (p. 103). Using Ode 4.4 Damon interweaves poetry, history and monument to argue that the programmatic statements in this ode suggest that the vehicles of commemoration which Horace's lyric measures itself against are physical monumenta both public and private.

Ando's paper stands alone as a study of the notions of citizenship, national unity, and the relationship between Rome and Italy, problems that preoccupied Roman authors and statesmen from Cato to Macrobius. Specifically for Vergil Roman virtus is not a native characteristic but is ultimately derived from a greater set of Italian mores. Vergil is not simply arguing about nomenclature. In the Aeneid acculturation works in reverse as Aeneas becomes a Latin and Rome then is a product of the Italian nation. His worldview is symptomatic of the cultural and societal unity being stressed by the fledgling Augustan régime. Ando offers somewhat conflicting views regarding the place of Rome in the new Empire. On the one hand he suggests that 'its place fell away before the greater scale of a Roman empire' (p. 141) and, on the other, that '[t]he gods of Italy were now Roman gods, resident at Rome, serving beneath a Roman commander against their foreign foes' (p. 142). A word or two of clarification would have been beneficial.

Marincic's compelling paper stresses the importance of Hercules and the Hercules cult in Vergil's depiction of Aeneas and Augustus. He argues that in Eclogue 4 and the Aeneid Vergil responds to Theocritus, Sallust and Catullus by offering a proto-Augustan prophecy of a genuine golden age. Furthermore, he suggests that Livy uses Hercules myth as a vehicle of 'civil panegyrism' in same way as Vergil (p. 154) and that the likely model for both authors was Ennius who may have been the first to use Hercules as a model for the deification of Romulus and possibly Scipio. Marincic's argument also allows us a glimpse into the importance of the vatic associations between Evander's prophetess mother Carmenta, her anticipation of Hercules' arrival in Latium, Vergil and his boy hero in Eclogue 4, and Augustan ideology.

Wheeler, Hardie and Kyriakidis focus on the historiographical in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Ovid is shown to be a universal historian using the techniques of diachrony and synchrony. In this respect he seems to have much in common with Diodorus Siculus (Wheeler). Hardie regards Book 15 as a mini ab urbe condita with an emphasis on the unus homo which offer examples for Augustus, although he notes that there is dissimulation in the paradigms selected. The method adopted also seems to suggest that Ovid wished to outdo his predecessors: Ennius, Vergil and Livy. Hardie suggest there is some foreshadowing of the imperial preoccupation with succession that Tacitus unveils. This is a nice touch and contributes to one of the intentions of the volume -- to offer new directions for research. Kyriakidis demonstrates that the Alban King list at Met. 14.609-776 reflects Ovid's knowledge of similar lists in Diodorus, Dionysius, and Livy. He observes that the tale of Vertumnus and Pomona replaces the more traditional story of Numitor and Amulius, and the accession of Romulus and Remus. He suggests this might be a reaction against the traditional foundation myth of Rome. The tale incorporating elements of violence, revenge, and betrayal, not to mention fratricide, is thus emphasized by its omission. It is possible that Kyriakidis might have taken his argument further to observe that Livy too was capable of passing over stories relating to the origins of Rome (Aeneas and the oracle of the sow; the foundation of Lavinium and Alba Longa; the introduction of the Sibylline Books).

Rossi considers the fall of Troy in Vergil Aen. 2 and the well-established topos of the urbs capta in ancient tragedy, rhetoric, and historiography. Aeneas is like the messenger in a tragedy which allows him to exploit the tragic theme of the urbs capta in its most dramatic components as he had inherited them from other genres (p. 251). Furthermore, Troy and its downfall become a tragic warning -- another prophetic reminder, if you like -- of the processes of rise and fall. Ash regards battles as a fruitful point of interaction between epic and historiography since an interest in warfare is common to both genres. She uses Vergil to look back to Sallust's portrayal of the final stages of the war with Catiline (p. 256-67) and forward to Tacitus Hist. 2.22 (p. 268-72). Ash comes to a worthy conclusion regarding the imitation in certain scenes by authors who can borrow from elsewhere in their own texts and from texts by other authors in the same genre but are also capable of transgressing generic boundaries to add colour and nuance to their battle descriptions.

Vasaly's paper discusses the symmetrical structure of Livy's first pentad and the use of variation through the crucial placing of heroes and anti-heroes. She argues that its closest parallels may be found in poetry of the Augustan period which reveal similar concerns with variation and careful attention to symmetry. It might have been noted, however, that there is obvious ring composition in Homer's Iliad with a similar concentration on heroic and anti-heroic figures.

The shadow of Wiseman hangs over the final articles of this volume. Pasco-Pranger draws in part on a 1994 article.[[2]] She connects Ovid with Numa as a model in the vatic activity of the Augustan poets. After consideration of the stories concerning the Salii, the binding of Picus and Faunus, and Numa's evocation of Jupiter Elicius in Plutarch, Valerius Antias, and Varro, she argues that Varro first emphasises the poetic / artistic side of the word vates through his depiction of Numa. It is thus no accident that Ovid was attracted to Numa as a vatic model. She further reflects on the political power that could be wielded by the vates and argues that we can see in Ovid's stance strong 'connections between politics and poetics, history and poetry' (p. 312).

Mueller focuses on the importance of the Hercules cult in myth and its 'historical' reorganization at the hands of Appius Claudius in 312 and how these stories are appropriated by Augustus. In so doing he cannot escape the extent to which inventio informed the annalistic histories of Republican Rome.[[3]] Augustus appropriated Hercules and also the myth of the extinction of the Potitii who had sold their birthright. Within the context of this volume Mueller's article looks backwards to Marincic and foreshadows the arguments of Wiseman. Myth and history are not always easily separable.

Wiseman's final contribution is a fitting end to this volume. His central argument, that the proper pursuits of poets and historians was far from clear cut, takes us a long way from Classen's argument for the lack of historiographical influence on poetry. Wiseman's approach is an extension of his previous work which sees poetry and drama as legitimate source material for Roman history. Here he investigates historical claims to the inclusion or exclusion of miracle stories and divine intervention. Livy thought this kind of material was not appropriate to 'uncorrupted' history. Cicero had expressed a similar view in his De Divinatione. Other writers, for example Dionysius of Halicarnassus, were content to include such material. Valerius Maximus too, despite excerpting material from Cicero and Livy, does not doubt the intervention of gods in human affairs. For Wiseman, Livy's argument is not one of genre but 'a partisan statement of philosophical scepticism' (p. 353). He draws our attention to a multiplicity of viewpoints available in the late Republic and early Empire on the subject of religion, divination, and the gods. The overlap between genres is less surprising if, like Mueller's recent contribution to the study of Valerius Maximus,[[4]] we accept that there was an element of genuine belief in Roman religion.

The papers reflect the complexity of establishing views regarding the convoluted interactions of myth, poetry, and historiography. Differing approaches and different discussions often reveal unexpected associations from one paper to the next. There is no unequivocal answer to the extent to which poets used historiographical sources, nor, as the breadth of papers in this book reveals, should we accept as a necessity that any one poet adopted a consistent stance in their use of history / historiography. The articles in the volume make it evident that we are never far from seeing Augustus and Augustan ideology exulted and critiqued in a variety of different ways, at times through oblique historical references, at others through more obvious and definitive reference to historiographical sources. The editors of this volume are to be commended for presenting a series of papers that offers valuable insights on the interactions between literary genres and authors as well as the imagining of Roman past, present, and future in Augustan literature. This volume will undoubtedly provide stimuli for further discussion and debate.


[[1]] 1. C. J. Classen, 'Clio Exclusa' (pp. 1- 24); 2. F. Cairns, 'Propertius the Historian (3.3.1- 12)?' (pp. 25-44); 3. V. E. Pagán, 'Actium and Teutoburg: Augustan Victory and Defeat in Vergil and Tacitus' (pp. 45-59); 4. A. Feldherr, 'Stepping Out of the Ring: Repetition and Sacrifice in the Boxing Match in Aeneid 5' (pp. 61-79); 5. Ellen O'Gorman, 'Archaism and Historicism in Horace's Odes' (pp. 81-101); 6. Cynthia Damon, 'Ab inferis: Historiography in Horace's Odes' (pp. 103-22); 7. Clifford Ando, 'Vergil's Italy: Ethnography and Politics in First-century Rome' (pp. 123-42); 8. Marko Marincic, 'Roman Archaeology in Vergil's Arcadia (Vergil Eclogue 4; Aeneid 8; Livy, 1.7)' (pp. 143-61); 9. Stephen M. Wheeler, 'Ovid's Metamorphoses and Universal History' (pp. 163-89); 10. Philip Hardie, 'The Historian in Ovid. The Roman History of Metamorphoses 14-15' (pp. 191-209); 11. Stratis Kyriakidis, 'The Alban Kings in the Metamorphoses: and Ovidian Catalogue and its Historiographical Models' (pp. 211-29); 12. Andreola Rossi, 'The Fall of Troy: Between Tradition and Genre' (pp. 231-51); 13. Rhiannon Ash, 'Epic Encounters? Ancient Historical Battle Narratives and the Epic Tradition' (pp. 253-73); 14. Ann Vasaly, 'The Structure of Livy's First Pentad and the Augustan Poetry Book' (pp. 275-90); 15. Molly Pasco- Pranger, 'A Varronian Vatic Numa?: Ovid's Fasti and Plutarch's Life of Numa' (pp. 291-312); 16. Hans-Friedrich Mueller, 'The Extinction of the Potitii and the Sacred History of Augustan Rome' (pp. 313-29); 17. T. P. Wiseman, 'History, Poetry, and Annales' (pp. 331-62).

[[2]] 'Lucretius, Catiline, and the survival of prophecy', Ostraka 1.2 (1992) 7-18 = Historiography and Imagination (Exeter 1994) 49-67.

[[3]] T. P. Wiseman, Clio's Cosmetics (Leicester 1979).

[[4]] Religion in Valerius Maximus (London 2002).