I’ve written a couple of conference papers on the the story of Flaminius in Livy’s book 21 and 22, and his ‘magic disappearing act’ at Lake Trasimene in 217 B.C. If you’re interested in reading my paper, (formal title ‘The Seen and The Unseen’) you can download it (plus the powerpoint and the translation handout) from my page at at academia.edu. (one slight warning; because the latest version of the paper was presented at a generalist conference there’s a page of overview at the start which Classicists won’t need to read, but I think otherwise this version of the paper makes overall argument better).
This July I’m very excited to be in New York, at Columbia University, 9th to 11th July for the 27th Annual Pacific Rim Roman Literature Seminar. The theme is ‘The Journey in Roman Literature’. I’m giving a 30 minute paper, provisionally scheduled for 9.30am Wednesday morning, titled ‘Hannibal’s Alpine Journey and the Wasteland of Italy in Livy Books XXI and XXII’ … The abstract is:
Hannibal’s journey across the Alps to attack the Romans in Italy is one of the most celebrated and famous events of Roman history. This paper deals with one of major accounts of this event, and its aftermath: the story of the crossing in Livy’s book 21, and the battles which follow it at the River Trebia and Lake Trasimene. In particular, the paper will highlight a number of connections in Livy that are found between the personality of Hannibal, the events of the Alpine journey, and Livy’s representation of the Italian landscape. The paper will argue that, starting with the divine vision of the ‘wasteland of Italy’ that was granted to Hannibal at 21.22.6–9, Livy’s depiction of Hannibal, and his journey across the Alps, have strong correspondences in the way the landscape of Italy was rendered in Livy’s literary scheme. It will show that the manner in which Hannibal inflicted defeat on the Romans, is intimately tied, in a very literary way, to both the representation of the alpine crossing and the content of Hannibal’s dream that precedes it. Although the annihilation of the Roman army at Cannae is the military highpoint of Hannibal’s career, this paper will demonstrate that it is the battle of Lake Trasimene, with its rich tapestry of omens, prodigies, weather, terrain and an earthquake mid-battle, that marks the centrepiece of Livy’s representation and the crescendo of Hannibal’s journey through Italy.
There’s lots of other really good papers being presented over the three days, and the registration is really quite cheap, so if you’re on the USA Eastern seaboard in July this year or feel like a trip there, you should come along, say hello, hear my paper and a whole bunch of even better ones.
 No, I’ve got no idea why the Pacific Rim Roman Literature Seminar is in a city on the Atlantic Ocean either, but as it’s Manhattan I’m not complaining.
Cicero, de Provinciis Consularibus X.25, Piso doesn’t send letters, Gabinius sends them but they are damned, but Caesar’s letters (one presumes) earn him honours as altogether no other man:
vos enim, ad quos litteras L. Piso de suis rebus non audet mittere, qui Gabini litteras insigni quadam nota atque ignominia nova condemnastis, C. Caesari supplicationes decrevistis numero ut nemini uno ex bello, honore ut omnino nemini (Cic. Prov. X.25).
In fact you, to whom L. Piso does not dare to send letters concerning his affairs, you who condemned the letters of Gabinius, with a certain extraordinary censure, and novel dishonour, you voted supplications to C. Caesar, in number as no man, in one war honour as altogether no other.
Later, in XIII.33, we find that a region (Gaul) formerly not known through letters, not even through rumour (fama), has now been tramped all over by Caesar’s army:
… et quas regiones quasque gentis nullae nobis antea litterae, nulla vox, nulla fama notas fecerat, has hoster imperator nosterque exercitus et populi Romana arma peragrarunt. (Cic. Prov. XIII.33)
… and of those regions and those nations, no letters, no voice, no report had before made note to us, these were traversed over by our commander, our army, and by the arms of the Roman people.
And as we know, famously written on by the man himself:
Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres … (Caesar, de Bello Gallico 1.1.1)
The whole of Gaul is divided into three parts …
hoc illud est praecipue in cognitione rerum salubre ac frugiferum, omnis te exempli documenta in inlustri posita monumento intueri: inde tibi tuaequae rei publicae quod imitere capias, inde foedum inceptu, foedum exitu, quod vites. — ‘Here in acquiring knowledge of [history] it is particularly salutary and fruitful, for you to behold lessons of every type [as if] laid out on a brilliant memorial: from that you may make use for yourself and your public business what to copy, from that you may shun [that which] is detestable in the beginning, [and] detestable in the conclusion.’ — (Livy 1 pr.10)
And so the solider’s sang, at Julius Caesar’s triumph over Gaul:
urbani, seruate uxores: moechum caluom adducimus. aurum in Gallia effutuisti, hic sumpsisti mutuum
Men of the city, lock up your wives: we bring the hairless fucker! The gold in Gaul you fucked away, here you procured the loot!
Suetonius, Jul. 51
Recently, writing my paper for ASCS 34 this January I was confronted with the question How much did the average Roman citizen know about their own history?
Walking along, say a major road built 200 years before, would an average Roman citizen of the late Republic and early Empire have known about the person who built the road? Would they know who Flaminius was? His name was on the main road north out of Rome and all the up through Italy to Ariminum (the borderland of Roman territory when he built it in 220 B.C.). Augustus personally undertook its restoration, strategically it was an important road. But its builder died in a famous battle (Trasimene) only a few years thereafter. What sort of education was necessary before they would know? Obviously Cicero and Varro knew who he was but these are men famed for being knowledgeable and erudite. What about your average citizen?
I find this question is almost unanswerable. Does anyone have an opinion?
Via @perlineamvalli comes this interesting set of mapping data for the RIB (Roman Inscriptions of Britain) that have been found at Chesters Roman Fort along wall mile 27:
View PLV Inscriptions (Chesters) in a larger map
You can find much more data for many inscriptions found along Hadrian’s Wall at the blog perlineamvalli.wordpress.com – there are great maps and colour-coding as to the precision of the known location of each inscription.
Now the reason this is of particular interest to me is that some years ago now, when I was doing my Master’s degree, I wrote a paper analysing the location of the inscriptions in the RIB classified by deity name. Now I didn’t have the time, resources, or luxury to research to exactly where every inscription was found, so instead I used the county listed in the RIB as an approximate guide to the location, plus any general information I could glean from papers where the inscriptions were either the subject or incidentally, but authoritatively mentioned.
Initially I was looking for patterns in male/female deity distribution, but the major thing I stumbled upon was that the Jupiter inscriptions (along with inscriptions to the imperial genius, &c.) are all mainly found in the region of the wall (generally northern, “military” areas). Whereas inscriptions to Mars especially (this includes the syncretic agglomerations of Mars and other gods which seems to occur more frequently in the RIB than for Jupiter, excluding that were explicitly imperial cult) are in the main found in the southern “civilian” areas. In fact if you turned up an altar with an inscription in Gloucestershire (just to pick a southern county not quite randomly) my guess it would most likely be either to Mars or Mercury (or one in a smaller but still significant group of rather miscellaneous deities). Jupiter is nearly always up in the north (although this may be biased by large and distinct groups of altars to Iupitter Optimus Maximus that seem to have been buried in or near forts on the wall for reasons not quite clear to me).
Now this might be entirely unremarkable except for the fact I kept turning up assertions in the literature that indicated the opposite was occurring in Gaul; i.e. that Mars was a distinctly “military” deity with Jupiter being the “Romanising” god that civilians preferred to pick for local syncretion. So there’s some process of local adaption going on beyond the differences often noted between the Greek East and the Gallic Western/Northern parts of the Empire.
This was my only real venture into any sort of archaeological data analysis, something you’d think I’d be good at given my computer science background, but after dabbling in it for a semester I rather abandoned that type of research for a more literary-historiographical focus for both my Masters dissertation and now my PhD thesis.
. This tweet also confirms that the entire dataset will be available from perlineamvalli.org.uk
. Scare quotes deliberate. This is a loaded and highly contested term which I’m just going to hand-wave away for the purposes of this blog post.
. In the main because my institution doesn’t have a lot of ways it could support such a research focus; also I’ve always been drawn to the classical literature first and foremost.
I kid you not! From The Independent newspaper — a six part sitcom called Plebs will air on British TV next year (northern Spring). When I first saw the headline I immediately thought of those so-rubbish-they’re-almost-good British 1970s shows like Bless This House, Are You Being Served?, or On The Busses (no, that one’s just plain rubbish), but apparently not:
The much-loved classicist Mary Beard continues to conquer the airwaves, this time as an advisor on Plebs, a new sitcom set in Ancient Rome.
They are comparing it The Inbetweeners (in togas), which doesn’t help me as I’ve never seen that show (just its ads, which were unappealing to me), but here’s a more useful (for me, anyway) log line:
“The idea was to make the historical setting by-the-by and root it in modern concerns. We wanted to stay away from the clichés of camp silliness or austere classical actors,” says [the writer] … “Tonally, it’s much more Seinfeld than Up Pompeii.”
Seinfeld? In Rome? That could be … erm … interesting.
This lovely two metre high bronze statue of Tiberius from Herculaneum is currently in the Getty Villa museum undergoing conservation and investigative work:
Read all about its fascinating story in A Roman Emperor Sojourns at the Getty Villa.
My offer of a paper for ASCS 34 (Australasian Society for Classical Studies) next year (January 2013, in Sydney) was accepted. They were blind reviewed. Here is the abstract:
The Seen and the Unseen: Perception and Authority in Livy’s Battle Narratives
At the battle of the Trasimene Lake in 217 B.C., the consul C. Flaminius led his army into a fog that arose from the lake, which obscured their vision of Hannibal’s army lying in ambush. This paper will examine a number of aspects in Livy’s representation of Flaminius and the defeat at Trasimene in conjunction with Feldherr’s (Feldherr 1998) ideas surrounding the spectator and the spectacular. Taken as a whole, the episodes explored in this paper will show that Livy did not set out simply to denigrate Flaminius by repeating the opinions of sources hostile to him, but to have him fulfil an important role in a thought-provoking exemplum about the exercise and the visible representation of power. The paper will link Flaminius’ nebulous perception of the natural world around him to his own invisibility in the Roman civil ceremonies that should have marked his investiture as consul and departure to command the army. It will also explore the theme of sound versus sight in the human perception of battle. It will show the connections between the rational mind of ‘autopsy’ and the irrational emotions which only hear the dissonant clamour of the invisible enemy, in the battle of Trasimene, Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps, and the sack of Rome by the Gauls in the 4th century B.C. as it appears in book 5.
There’s also some additional points I’d like to make about the “invisibility” of Flaminius at Trasimene and in Rome, but I’m leaving those as surprises in the paper.