ROMAN HISTORY READING GROUP

Transcript, Chat of July 21, 2004

bingleyausten:

Hello

bingleyausten:

It's been a while, I wasn't sure I could still do this.

RomaBooks:

Hello, hello! Welcome back

bingleyausten:

Oh, good, you can hear me

RomaBooks:

:-)

bingleyausten:

I've been warned that there's going to be a lot of work coming down the chute today, so I don't know how long I'll be able to stay.

RomaBooks:

Too bad! I can save you the transcript.

bingleyausten:

That'd be good. We'll see what happens.

RomaBooks:

Have you been reading Livy from a book, or online?

bingleyausten:

Got the Penguin, but with a different cover.

bingleyausten:

It has a painting by David, of the Sabine Women interposing themselves between the two armies.

RomaBooks:

English market, different jacket? ;-)

bingleyausten:

yep

bingleyausten:

Though I actually bought it here in Jakarta.

RomaBooks:

I have had the Livy books for a long time. Now I splurged and bought the entire Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

vlcroman has entered the room.

RomaBooks:

Hi, vlc!

vlcroman:

Hello.

RomaBooks:

Meet Bingley, who usually is a "regular" too.

cinc312 has entered the room.

vlcroman:

Good to have a new mix of people. New to me, anyway.

RomaBooks:

Hi cinc!

cinc312:

HI

RomaBooks:

Bingley is at work, so he may be distracted right now...;-)

cinc312:

Oh, I see

bingleyausten:

hi, at the moment it's just quick consultations, but soon I'll have documents to review, in which case I'll have to disappear.

cinc312:

Well, you are way ahead of the rest of us in time.

bingleyausten:

Yes, it's 9 Thursday am here.

RomaBooks:

Let's wait a couple of more minutes, because Reynolds and Paul from the forum said they would show too.

vlcroman:

This is the first time I will be in on a discussion of non-fiction. How does it work?

Ancthistnemy has entered the room.

Ancthistnemy:

Hello

RomaBooks:

We haven't done nonfiction in a long time. Hi, Nemy.

cinc312:

Well, I think the last time was our old friend Cicero.

RomaBooks:

That's right, I forgot. I thought we might start of with what we know/have read about Livy and his Histories.

RomaBooks:

Did you all have a chance to read what I summarized from Cornell's book?

cinc312:

No.

Ancthistnemy:

No. Maybe.

bingleyausten:

yes

vlcroman:

I think so, where was it?

RomaBooks:

I posted it both on the forum and mailed it to the Yahoo group. Last night. (A little late, I'm afraid)

Ancthistnemy:

Then yes

bingleyausten:

What's the yahoo group?

RomaBooks:

That's the e-mail list for the chats

vlcroman:

Just looked at my email and there it was. I don't read my home email every day. Maybe I should switch it back to work.

RomaBooks:

You've written about Roman figures, Bingley. Did Cornell's classification make sense to you?

bingleyausten:

Which classification? I must have missed that bit.

RomaBooks:

Dividing sources into oral/family traditions, annalists, antiquarians, etc.

bingleyausten:

oh right, yes Plutarch got family tradition, and other historians

NaramataLad has entered the room.

RomaBooks:

Hi, Lad!

NaramataLad:

Hello all!

RomaBooks:

We have just started, Lad, and I suggested we talk about what we know about Livy and his Histories.

bingleyausten:

His grandfather? great-grandfather? was drafted by Antony,

RomaBooks:

whose?

vlcroman:

The Penguin edition of Livy touches on some of the stuff you have, summarized by Cornell about sources. I got up through book 3 online, but there's just something comforting about a bound book. Plus the book has dates at the top of each page for books 2-5, which helps me get anchored in time.

RomaBooks:

(Yes, I have the print edition too)

RomaBooks:

Well, the whole early history is very controversial. What intrigued me was that Cornell said that there were 25 different foundation stories, not all about Anaeas or Romulus.

bingleyausten:

When I was doing my thing about Numa, there was a reference in Cicero with a different story about the founding but I can't find it now.

vlcroman:

I wish Cornell was in my public library, I don't want to spend $20 for a used copy - the cheapest I could find on Amazon. Maybe I should look elsewhere.

RomaBooks:

Did you try interlibrary loan? They might get it from a university.

vlcroman:

Haven't tried that. I do live in Berkeley so I could go to the Cal library, but somehow I just haven't done that.

RomaBooks:

Or try http://www.abebooks.com , they have many more books.

NaramataLad:

I think I bought mine for $25 from a campus book shop, which doesn't seem too bad for such a useful book. In fact, I bought it at the Stanford bookstore, which isn't too far from you. But that was two years ago.

cinc312:

Well, I ordered it at the library.

vlcroman:

I could never bring myself to buy a book at Stanford, being a loyal Cal supporter. ;-)

RomaBooks:

Cornell also points out that the kings all had a very long span of reign in the stories and is of the opinion that there might have been more kings than Livy--and others--tell us about.

cinc312:

Gee, I don't care. I went to Cal-state Fullerton.

NaramataLad:

An interesting point, Roma. People do come down on Livy for not being critical enough with the sources he had at hand, don't they.

cinc312:

That's possible.

bingleyausten:

Doesn't the intro to the Penguin say that there was a conscious attempt to synchronize significant dates in Greek and Roman history? So perhaps reigns were stretched to fit. I can't remember now whether it was Cornell or Livius.org saying that archaeology isn't very helpful.

RomaBooks:

That could be, although I've read somewhere that the synchronization issue may not hold water.

Ancthistnemy:

Bingley - that was from what Irene posted.

bingleyausten:

ok

RomaBooks:

I did? :-\

cinc312:

Got wonder about Romulus and the she-wolf.

bingleyausten:

Plutarch makes much more of lupa also equaling prostitute.

cinc312:

I heard of that one from Plutarch too.

Ancthistnemy:

It was in the material.

RomaBooks:

From the Livy website?

Ancthistnemy:

secondary interpretation." He gives some examples and cites Jaques Poucet: "…One should be under no illusion: often the archaeological picture will be neutral, and will permit no conclusion one way or the other." http://forums.about.com/ab-ancienthist/messages?msg=3786.14

vlcroman:

I have some lectures on tape talking about the improbability of 7 kings stretching across such a long period of time. He says that 7 was a special number for the Romans.

bingleyausten:

But some say that the name of the children's nurse, by its ambiguity, deflected the story into the fabulous. For the Latins not only called she-wolves "lupae," but also women of loose character, and such a woman was the wife of Faustulus, the foster-father of the infants, Acca Larentia by name. Yet the Romans sacrifice also to her, and in the month of April the priest of Mars pours libations in her honour.

cinc312:

Well, Tarquin the proud is very believable.

RomaBooks:

http://www.livius.org/li-ln/livy/livy4.html# Sources ??

cinc312:

It reminds me of some things in the old testament that can't be proven thru archeology but doesn't mean that may be some true to it one way or the other.

RomaBooks:

That link I just cited: It opines that Livy more or less copied Polybius. Both Cornell and Miles discount that.

NaramataLad:

Re: lupa story, Livy does subvert myth regularly like this in a disturbing way. Another instance is Romulus, who may have died mysteriously, like a Greek hero would, or he may have been killed, as Livy points out, by the senate.

vlcroman:

Well, the story of a real she-wolf suckling the twins is much more delightful than a prostitute finding them.

cinc312:

I like the actual wolf story. I think there's been a limited number of feral children cases.

bingleyausten:

I suspect the wolf would have just had lunch.

RomaBooks:

heheh!

RomaBooks:

There is a lot of inconsistency indeed. But this "may or may not" could also show that he was struggling with the sources.

vlcroman:

Livy laments the decline in morals from ancient times to his day. Don't writers always say the good old days were better?

NaramataLad:

Roman writers in particular.

cinc312:

Well, that's the Augustan argument. That things could bad in the late Republic and he Augustus is trying to restore the old system. But Augustus called Livy a Pompeian.

vlcroman:

Of course, that was one of Augustus' themes also.

RomaBooks:

I read the whole Book I as a fairy tale. Spun as a good yarn. Or is that heresy?

vlcroman:

Book I is such a good story, I'm sure real life was much more messy and boring.

Ancthistnemy:

The story about Hercules, "At the first streak of dawn Hercules awoke, and on surveying his herd saw that some were missing. He proceeded towards the nearest cave, to see if any tracks pointed in that direction, but he found that every hoof-mark led from the cave and none towards it. Perplexed and bewildered he began to drive the herd away from so dangerous a neighbourhood. Some of the cattle, missing" …sounds like the story of Hermes and Apollo. Copy of Greek myth subbing here for Apollo.

NaramataLad:

Livy is myth and legend, top to bottom. It's lovely stuff.

RomaBooks:

But he struggled between the ugliness and his pride in Rome's superiority.

RomaBooks:

Just remember, Lad, that much of the foundation story and the kings had only oral traditions.

cinc312: So, Nemy what is your point to Hercules to Romulus.

vlcroman:

When he says "I have very little doubt, too, that for the majority of my readers the earliest times and those immediately succeeding, will possess little attraction" do you think that's true? That readers then wouldn't be interested in ancient history?

RomaBooks:

That sounds very modern, vlc! RomaBooks: "who cares about ancient history..." Short attention span doesn't seem to be a new invention ;-)

cinc312:

Well, what about the fact that Livy mentions Alba Longa from where the Julians came from. That's an interesting fact to me. the Tarquin the proud story is interesting and I think it explains the rise of the Republic and Rome cutting off of the Etruscans. Well, all the elements may not be true but there is a changed in the structure of government.

NaramataLad:

Well, vlc, I think he knows people were hoping for something that would help them understand what they had just gone through, rather than something more remote. I do think the project must have seemed strange, given the age. It does seem to me to be escapist history, in a way.

RomaBooks:

Whereas Livy wanted to turn away from his age "shall be able to turn my eyes from the troubles which for so long have tormented the modern world, and to write without any of that over-anxious consideration which may well plague a writer of contemporary life, even if it does not lead him to conceal the truth." No wonder Augustus tried to suppress him...

cinc312:

Well, like I said he gave Pompey the Great approval in the civil wars-Livy. There were still some pro-Republican feelings out there.

vlcroman:

When did Augustus try to suppress him?

RomaBooks:

As far as I know, the books, or part of the books, were not published until after Augustus' death.

cinc312:

Well, Irene you have a better memory than me when they were published.

RomaBooks:

Also, Livy was probably the first professional writer as opposed to aristos who were doing it as a hobby. As far as Augustus was concerned, he was probably a peon.

vlcroman:

Which book has the part about Pompey? Must be one of the later ones.

Ancthistnemy:

Livy died in 17, Are you saying, Irene, that they weren't published while he was alive?

cinc312:

Well, I read it that Augustus called him a Pompeian. And the last books deal with the lat Republic but they are very brief.

RomaBooks:

Those may have been the books Augustus did not allow to be published.

Ancthistnemy:

Wrong date for Augustus. Never mind. Livy seems to have shared in this mood, and published the first five books of his History of Rome from its foundation between 27 and 25.

NaramataLad:

Livy was called a Pompeian in Tacitus, Annals 4.34 (Augustus speaking, somewhat jokingly). We don't, sadly, have his sections on the recent civil wars. The tone must have been interesting.

RomaBooks:

Indeed, Lad

RomaBooks:

Let's talk about Book I.

cinc312:

Let's go back to the early stuff.

RomaBooks:

I think the book reads very well. Livy took the information he selected from his sources, IMO, and made them into a well constructed easy to read story. With quite a bit of suspense. Especially the sequence on the Tarquins, IMO.

cinc312:

Well, they were archives of the early republic and oral tradition. Plutarch did a few lives in this period later on.

vlcroman:

He takes the structure of government and religion and divvies up the creation of many the institutions among the original kings, very neatly. Of course Livy didn't invent the tradition of this process.

RomaBooks:

And recent archaeology has vindicated quite a bit of it, according to Cornell, BTW.

vlcroman:

The speeches Livy creates for his historical figures are very good.

cinc312:

Tarquin periods. Well, we are well aware of how the Etruscans influence the Romans.

RomaBooks:

Well, yes and no. It seems both the Romans and Etruscans were more influenced by the Greeks.

cinc312:

The Greeks were in the south. So that explains some of it. But Roman religion has some Greek influences not some are Etruscans like Augury.

NaramataLad:

The speeches really do bring out the color, and add to the pathos and majesty of any story. His great men come alive like no others.

vlcroman:

Too bad Polybius didn't write about this period, that we know of anyway. He's a very good writer also.

RomaBooks:

From what I understand, Polybius did not write about eras that were not close to his own experience.

cinc312:

Goodbye, I'm leaving early.

Ancthistnemy:

Goodnight. Me too.

RomaBooks:

It's interesting that Livy considered the rape of the Sabine women a necessity. I guess rape per se, unless individual, was not important to him? Rome was the overriding issue? All for the greater good of Rome. Which was very important to him.

NaramataLad:

Rome...and individual figures, I think. He gives us explorations of great individual characters, not much on groups.

NaramataLad:

Strange paradox. He is full of national pride at every turn, and yet he is at odds with his own times.

cinc312:

Well that happens.

RomaBooks:

But is that a paradox? Especially if he had Republican sentiments.

NaramataLad:

No, maybe not. You're right. It's just a strange mix of optimistic panegyric for Rome and a lament about the decaying morals of the day.

vlcroman:

Livy the Male Chauvinist Pig >:o - "(the men) excused their conduct by pleading the irresistible force of their passion - a plea effective beyond all others in appealing to a woman's nature."

cinc312:

Well, I agree.

RomaBooks:

It's a long time since I have read the entire Livy--and getting old and forgetful J --and I'm anxious to see how he progresses from the kings to the republic, which should be more to his liking.

NaramataLad:

Yes, me too. The early bit does feel like an epic in prose, what with the big role destiny plays and all.

vlcroman:

My impression of books 2 and 3 is that there was an awful lot of war.

cinc312:

Well, there was in the early Republic. A lot of local tribes, the Latins battled against.

RomaBooks:

(if you are wondering that Bingley is silent, Lad: He lives at the other side of the world and has work to do)

NaramataLad:

(Thank you. I actually was wondering, and hoping I wasn't going on too much.)

RomaBooks:

(...and our daylight savings time doesn't help either)

cinc312:

Well, at this state Rome is not what we are use too.

vlcroman:

Now that we have more time, maybe I'll reread 2/3 for next time. Is that what we'll cover?

RomaBooks:

Let me see, let's look how many pages there are.

vlcroman:

PP 105-284 in Penguin.

RomaBooks:

Book II is 78 pages, Book III 86. I guess we can handle that. I will try to be less tardy in writing about the sources, etc.

cinc312:

I hope so. Goodbye everyone for good this time.

vlcroman:

OK, see you all then. Bye.

NaramataLad:

Well, that was fun!

RomaBooks:

Good!

RomaBooks:

Good night!

RomaBooks:

Good night (day) Bingley, wherever you are ;-)

Note: Heloise e-mailed later with regrets. She was unexpectedly detained elsewhere.

Postscript from Dan, who couldn't make it either:

Thanks for the transcript, Irene, fun reading.

Your point that all the ancient/modern sources (Age of Augustus) were forced to deal with earlier histories which often just recorded from yet earlier oral histories is an excellent point. The funeral proceedings were a key source of these histories.

The very fact that Romulus just fades into black and leaves no clues as to his ultimate demise is proof enough that he is probably a mythical character. Notice the contrast with the stories of Tarquinius Superbus’ end of life story, “He died at Cumae, whither he had gone to the court of Aristodemus after the downfall of the Latin cause.” (Livy II. XXI.5) Clearly, Superbus lived in the age of written records but not so with the ethereal Romulus.

Oh, there are surely revisions of historical fact about Superbus, such as Cornell’s belief that Lars Porsenna probably ousted him and the nobles only regained power after his defeat at Aricia. (pp.293) After Aricia, Rome was in deep trouble so some unity was a necessity for all concerned. The next 20 years was a blood bath. Rome, with its large population base, was just a survivor, not a conqueror.

Yes, it is a bit of heresy to call Livy’s works “fairy tales”. There is more truth between the lines than on the surface sometimes, but what treasurers! Moral revival and civic pride are his real motives, and of course, to write like he did, he was compelled to do it.

The endless matter-of-fact relating of the war stories, to me, clearly indicates that the stories existed in ancient lists of names and events, not stories per se.

Personally, I live archeology … I love digging up things. I will remain skeptical of the meaning of these finds which tend to create their won history without good cross documentation or other proof.


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