The Flavian writers of epic verse took their business seriously enough and seldom permitted themselves anything that might pass for an allusion to contemporary events: so much so that only an ingenuity that runs a risk of being perverse can wrest from them much more than what they have themselves chosen to say in their dedications or invocations. Where the man survived to complete and edit his work, such a dedication, the last thing to be written, more or less bears (...) on its face the date of publication. The proem of the Thebaïs of Statius and the ‘Flavian Panegyric,’ which Silius Italicus inserted in the third book of his Punica thus reveal, to within a year, when the whole of the one and a portion of the other were given to the world, viz. in 91–2 and in 92–3 respectively. With an unfinished work the case is different; indeed, the very presence of that panegyric might sufficeto prove that though Silius had reached the end, in a fashion, when he finished his seventeenth book, he did not truly complete his poem or himself publish it as a whole. In order to determine at what date he got as far with his poem as he ever did, some other source of information is therefore desirable. Similarly with the Argonautica. Valerius Flaccus does not appear to have composed any more than the eight books that have come down to us, nor is he known to have published any part of them save, if at all, by recitation. It is for this reason that the proem, with its invocation of Vespasian, to all appearance as still living, has always been taken to be, not a later insertion, but an integral part of the first book, and thus a clear indication of the date at which Valerius began his task. (shrink)
It would be worth knowing whom the historian married. His wife's name might disclose some local tie in the Sabine country; or it might permit a guess about alliances with families at the metropolis, whether ancient in repute or newly risen to influence. Marriage is a normal device for advancement – ‘decus ac robur’. Cicero did well for himself when, about the year 79 B.C., he married Terentia. She was the half-sister of a Fabia, who was a Vestal Virgin. The (...) Fabii are not only noble but patrician, albeit in temporary eclipse. (shrink)
I. The name earned early notoriety from L. Ambivius Turpio, the actor who performed in all the plays of Terence. It appealed to Lucilius: quid tibi ego ambages Ambivi scribere coner? Also to Wilhelm Schulze, duly citing the Lucilian reference. In the sequel the nomen failed to enlist proper regard. Three persons bore it, diverse in life and rank: a tavern keeper on the Via Latina, a gourmet writer, a procurator governing Judaea. To the first and to the third, erudition (...) in the recent time denies recognition; and the second through inadvertence misses his place and period. The Ambivii call for redemption. The venture will lead along circuitous or devious paths, ‘per ambages’, in the pursuit of names and identities. From that operation various instruction accrues on the flank. II. First, a casual notice in the criminal record of a family of the better sort at Larinum. Cluentius and his slaves, so it was alleged, had made an assault on ‘Ambivium quendam, coponem de via Latina’ . Traditional texts remained content with that name. Not so long ago recourse to manuscripts produced ‘A. Bivium’. It was adopted in two standard editions. Had editors given a thought to nomenclature, they might have conceived some disquiet. Absent from the repertorium, the nomen appeared to lack attestation. In itself no bar, to be sure. The dense forest of local Italian nomenclature carries plenty of unique specimens. Reassurance could be sought from ‘Bivellius’ and ‘Bivonius’. (shrink)
A calm has succeeded the clamour of the Virgilian Bimillenary, to be shattered all too soon by the commemoration of Augustus. In this brief interval there may be leisure to examine a question touching the career of Asinius Pollio and the history of the years 42·39 B.C. The Virgilian celebrations evoked two outstanding studies of the Fourth Eclogue, a poem dedicated to Pollio and written during—or perhaps just after—the consulate of Pollio . Carcopino restated and sought to reinforce an opinion (...) widely held in late antiquity among commentators of Virgil—the miraculous child of the poem was Saloninus, a son of Asinius Pollio: the child was born, he suggests, soon after the conclusion of the Pact of Brundisium, and shortly before the end of the year 40, while Pollio was still consul. At the time Pollio was at Salonae, on the coast of Dalmatia, which city his son's name commemorates. Tarn, however, adopting and reinforcing the theory put forward by Slater in 1912, argued that the Fourth Eclogue shows traces of being an epithalamium in form, designed to celebrate the wedding of Antony and Octavia, the seal and bond of the Pact of Brundisium which was concluded in the autumn of the year 40 between the dynasts Antony and Octavian; Pollio, a friend and a partisan of Antony, acted as his plenipotentiary in the negotiations; the new epoch was thus introduced under the auspices of Pollio, ‘te duce’; the child was the child to be expected from the marriage of Antony and Octavia; it turned out in fact to be a girl. (shrink)
When announcing the first instalment, the author made a firm declaration: ‘collegi non servato temporis ordine’. The note of elegant disdain suitably echoes a poet: ‘postmodo collectas, utcumque sine ordine iunctas’;. In fact, care for balance and variety predominates. Nevertheless, when Pliny came to recount public transactions, he had to respect a ‘temporis ordo’, as many signs indicate. Mommsen in his classic study was able to work out the chronological framework, of the nine books, from 97 to 108 or 109. (...) In general, his scheme stands the test — that is, apart from the notion of a rapid publication in separate books. Indeed, no argument avails to prove that the first instalment saw the light of day earlier than the end of the year 105. Pliny was expert in finance and an alert contriver everywhere. Persons of that quality may succumb to inadvertence, although not very often. Licinius Nepos, praetor in 105, comes twice into action , before his edict gets a mention . Again, in a letter the context of which points to 105, a consulship for Minicius Fundanus is divined ‘in proximum annum’ . Fundanus entered office in the early summer of 107. By contrast, Valerius Paulinus, consul suffect in the pair that followed that consulship, does not come up until 9.37. An extremely late point in the collection. It imposes a salutary warning when a number of letters in the final triad are put under scrutiny. The exposition of Mommsen ran into criticism, sometimes hasty or even perverse. Moreover, various attempts were made to modify the dates of certain prosecutions in the Senate. The emergence of a consul on the Fasti Ostienses demolished an elaborate reconstruction that concerned two proconsuls of Bithynia. More accruing, a number of fairly close dates can now be established. (shrink)
Under cover of gentle rebuke Pliny lent encouragement to an author still reluctant to publish, although hendecasyllable verses from the versatile consular had announced the book. Ever considerate and helpful, he confesses to Suetonius Tranquillus that he is himself prone to be dilatory: Sum et ipse in edendo haesitator, tu tamen meam quoque cunctationem tarditatemque vicisti. proinde aut rumpe iam moras aut cave ne eosdem istos libellos, quos tibi hendecasyllabi nostri blanditiis elicere non possunt, convicio scazontes extorqueant.
C. Cornelius Gallus requires brief introduction or none at all. A poet in his own right, the friend of Virgil and of Pollio, Gallus is enshrined for ever in literature—and in literary legend, for the inept fictions of Servius and his tribe will survive the most damaging of revelations, remembered even when refuted. Not only that—Gallus is a conspicuous figure in the social and political history of the revolutionary age.