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Early Roman Historians. The Roman Tradition. The nature of Roman Historical tradition. Characterized by Greek influences – Historians looked to Greek Historical tradition for models Native Roman sense of history was based on gens and familia – the basic Roman social units

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early roman historians

Early Roman Historians

The Roman Tradition

the nature of roman historical tradition
The nature of Roman Historical tradition
  • Characterized by Greek influences – Historians looked to Greek Historical tradition for models
  • Native Roman sense of history was based on gens and familia– the basic Roman social units
  • Gens:kinspeople, clan – descended from a common prehistoric ancestor, tightly bound by common rituals, had their own burial rites and cemetaries
  • familia - family – shared ancestral cult; family ancestors added to prestige of present generation
traditions to preserve history of familia
Traditions to preserve historyof familia
  • Family archives, recording accomplishments of famous ancestors (limited to houses of ruling elite)
  • Senatorial families had iusimaginum , entitled them to display in the center of their houses, in the atrium or tablinium, the imagines of their famous ancestors cast from wax masks at the death of a male family member
  • These were paraded by dressed up living members of familia during funerals - the more famous imagines they could display, the more prominent was the family
  • funerary inscriptions listed honours received, offices held – consulship, military campaigns, triumphs received, etc.
  • laudautionesfunebres – funeral speeches praising all accomplishments of deceased – copies often preserved
  • these biographical family records became sources for later writers/historians
oral traditions
Oral traditions
  • “And would there were still extant those songs, of which Cato in his Origines has recorded, that long before his time the several guests at banquets used to sing in turn the praise of famous men. (Cicero, Brutus 75)
a roman funerary procession
A Roman funerary procession
  • Polybius on Roman Funerals (History, 6. 53-54)
sallust on the effects of the imagines
Sallust on the effects of the imagines
  • “I have often heard that Quintus Maximus, Publius Scipio, and other eminent men of our country, were in the habit of declaring that their hearts were set mightily aflame from the pursuit of virtue whenever they gazed upon the masks of their ancestors. Of course they did not mean to imply that the wax or the effigy had any such power over them, but rather that it is the memory of great deeds that kindles in the breasts of noble men this flame that cannot be quelled until they by their own prowess have equally the fame and glory of their forefathers.” (Sallust, Jugurtha 4,5)
cicero on the annales maximi
Cicero on the AnnalesMaximi
  • “For history began as a mere compilation of annals, on which account, in order to preserve the general traditions, from the earliest period of the city down to the pontificate of PubliusMucius, each High Priest used to commit to writing all the events of his year of office, and record them on a white tabled (album), and post up the tablet (tabula) at his house, that all men might have the liberty to acquaint themselves herewith, and to this day those records are known as the pontifical annals (annalesmaximi) (Cicero De orat. 2.52)
  • Named after the pontifexmaximus(highest priest)
cato on the annales
Cato on the annales
  • It is disagreeable to write what stands on the tablet at the house of the PontifexMaximus – how often grain was costly, how often darkness or something else blocked the light of the moonor the sun. (Cato, OriginesFrag. 77
history and family
History and Family
  • For the individual Roman the past and the present were joined by memories and records of gens and familia.
  • function: Records inspired pietas (respect and affection) central Roman values, offered historical exempla (examples) as standards for current conduct
tracking time in early rome
Tracking time in early Rome
  • tradition talks about a calendar developed in the regal period - used to carry out sacrifices, religious rituals, assemblies at the right time
  • no indication of an early Roman system to keep track of years
  • we know of nails pounded into cella walls of the Capitoline temple to count years, and a method to count years according to the year of the rexsacrorum (the chief priestly office in early Rome)
sources and their problems
Sources and their problems
  • Earliest period - primarily oral tradition- traditional stories transmitted orally from generation to generation
  • family records (heavily biased to flatter and exaggerated to extol prominence of individual families)
  • Written Sources Prior to 200 BCE:
  • XII Tables (earliest lawcode)
  • Written family records
  • fasti, compiled by pontifexmaximus – chief priest – included the dies fasti (days on which sacred law permitted business and court transactions) and the dies nefasti (days on which they were prohibited)
  • LibriLintei, linen tablets - priestly lists, religious events, natural phenomena
  • TabulaePontificum,
  • Later – at the end of a year all were added to an inscription set up atthe regiain the forum – and called annalesmaximi
  • Gradually included names of consuls, priests, military triumphs, all sort of important events requiring religious rituals, famines, eclipses (used later to fix dates)
the first roman historians
The first Roman Historians
  • Roman Historiography emerged around 200 BCE
  • GnaeusNaevius ( poet from Campania) – Bellum Poeniciumon first Punic war - more of a national epic
  • Quintus FabiusPictor (ca. 254 BCE – after 200 BCE) a senator – 2nd Punic War
  • LuciusCinciusAlimentus – a senator – 2nd Punic War
gnaeus naevius 270 201 bce
Gnaeus Naevius 270-201 BCE
  • Wrote in Latin verse
  • Roman citizen from Campania, S. Italy
  • First writer who was free and a citizen who wrote in Latin
  • Wrote down orally transmitted Roman legends to contemporary events in epic form.
  • Bellum Poenicum - ( the Punic War) epic poem with Homeric elements, includes gods on battlefield although he himself fought in the war
  • Poem also includes the Roman foundation myth – indicates he knew Homer and Hellenistic poetry
  • Wrote also tragedies/comedies – most likely translations or adaptations of Greek plays
gnaeus naevius
Gnaeus Naevius
  • First to write tragedies on Roman themes: Romulus; and a tragedy on the defeat of the Gauls by Claudius Marcellus 222 BCE – likely for his funeral games
  • Use of history for glorification of Roman aristocrats
quintus ennius 239 169 bce
Quintus Ennius239 – 169 BCE
  • Also wrote in Latin verse
  • From Rudiae, s. Italy
  • Spoke Greek, Latin, Oscan
  • 204 BCE brought to Rome by Cato; later received Roman citizenship
  • Joined Scipio’s circle of Hellenized Romans
  • Wrote tragedy and epic
  • Epic Poem: Annales (in Latin) – earned him title of “Father of Latin Literature”
quintus ennius
Quintus Ennius
  • Annales: an epic poem - a history in 18 books from Aeneas to 170s BCE (600 lines survived)
  • Was much studied by later authors
  • Focus on military campaigns, virtusof ancestors and aristocrats and aristocratic ideology;
  • Epic elements reflecting Greek influences
q fabius pictor b c 250 bce
Q. Fabius Pictorb. c. 250 BCE
  • First historian to write in prosebut in Greek, the language of the educated elite
  • Roman senator; was ambassador to Delphi to consult oracle after Roman defeat at Cannae (216 BCE)
  • Wrote in Greek – language of the educated Romans – Latin vocabulary for prose was limited
  • Wrote a history from beginnings of Rome to Second Punic War: AnnalesGraeci
fabius pictor
Fabius Pictor
  • Was the prose narrative in a primarily oral culture
  • His sources: family archives, annals, speeches, earlier Greek historians; traditional stories; personal accounts he heard from children and grandchildren of participants in the Punic Wars.
  • Replaced Naevius’ history;
  • Wrote a serious history that earned respect of the Greek historians
  • Important: first one to bring Hellenistic Greek historical methods to Roman historical writings
fabius pictor1
Fabius Pictor
  • Criticized by Polybius for being pro-Roman and anti Hannibal
  • Yet was used heavily by Polybius as source
  • Polybius points to his use of moralizing anecdotes, praise for Roman greatness and superiority.
  • FabiusPictor was the first to see that competition for social/political prominence among Roman elite could be transferred to historical writings
  • His introduction of history in prose and moralistic nationalism in historical writings shaped the character of Roman historiography for centuries
lucius cincius alimentus praetor in 210 bce
Lucius Cincius Alimentus(praetor in 210 BCE)
  • Also participated in the Second Punic War; became prisoner of war at battle of Cannae in 216 BCE
  • Wrote historical narrative in Greek
  • Was praised by Polybius
marcus porcius cato 234 149 bce cato the elder
Marcus Porcius Cato ( 234 – 149 BCE)Cato the Elder
  • Had a prestigious public career for a novus homo (new man – first in his family to pursue public career and even become consul) reached the consulship in 195 BCE and become censor in 184 BCE
  • Famous orator – Cicero knew 150 speeches by Cato;
  • First to write in Latin prose: Origines - traces Rome’s history in 7 books from its beginnings to ca. 150 BCE
  • Only fragments remain; annalistic history
  • Very conservative Roman; Opposed Hellenization of Roman culture; promoted mosmaiorum - (customs of the ancestors) i.e. traditional Roman values – especially frugality, hard work, discipline, pietas (respect and affection)
cato the elder
Cato the Elder
  • Purpose of writing history: pragmatic as a tool to instruct future Roman leaders; to learn moral standards of ancestors – to fight the corruption that came with all things Greek (Hellenization)
  • Other Works: De agricultura - farming handbook
greek and roman historiography meet
Greek and Roman historiography meet

Capture of Magna Graeca 3rd century BC

Direct contact with Greeks

Conquest of Greece proper

Influx of educated Greeks into Rome (as slaves/hostages or scholars