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.
Next week (Friday 19 Oct) I’m giving my PhD confirmation seminar paper: Treachery Worse Than Punic: Livy’s Landscape and Hannibal’s Invasion of Italy. It examines the way that Livy draws the representation of the Italian landscape in the Second Punic War, in particular in Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps and the battles of the Trebia and Lake Trasimene.
Just in time for my paper next week comes an excellent overview of Hannibal and his career by Melvyn Bragg who does the “In Our Time” program on BBC4. It’s a program I can’t recommend highly enough: it’s always eclectic and interesting. This program won’t be contain any new information to most Classicists, especially Romanists or anyone who has read Polybius or Livy’s third decade, but it’s well worth the entertaining 43 minutes for a good overview of the Carthaginian general for the layman or anyone needing a refresher. There’s a bit at the end about his reception in the modern world too.
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and achievements of Hannibal. One of the most celebrated military leaders in history, Hannibal was the Carthaginian general who led an entire army, complete with elephants, across the Alps in order to attack the Roman Republic. He lived at a time of prolonged hostility between the two great Mediterranean powers, Rome and Carthage, and was the Carthaginians’ inspirational leader during the Second Punic War which unfolded between 218 and 202 BC. His career ended in defeat and exile, but he achieved such fame that even his enemies the Romans erected statues of him. Centuries later his tactical genius was admired and studied by generals including Napoleon and Wellington.
With: Ellen O’Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol; Mark Woolmer, Senior Tutor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Durham; Louis Rawlings, Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Cardiff University.
My current research can be summarised by the conference paper abstract, that I’ve submitted for AMPHORAE 2012, the annual Australian/NZ Classics postgraduate conference (The ‘Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Hellenic Or Roman Antiquities and Egyptology’ to expand the acronym, which was originally started by postgrads here at my own institution, and now travels the Antipodean world of Classics.).
Landscape and Treachery: Hannibal and Romans and Literary Representations of Italian Landscape.
This paper deals with the interesting ways in which Latin writers have sought to represent the landscape of Italy during the course of Hannibal’s campaign of 218-6 B.C. in Italy. The battle of Lake Trasimene was a key battle in a dreadful series of Roman defeats by the Carthaginian invader, leading up to the complete rout of the Romans and the absolute devastation of their army at Cannae. This paper examines literary representations of the landscape during the war in Italy, particularly the battle of Trasimene with its rich tapestry of omens, prodigies, weather, landscape, and even a devastating earthquake mid-battle. First it seeks to understand the processes by which these representations could mediate Roman and Italian identity. Second, the paper seeks to determine in what manner these representations remained constant or underwent change in the period since the Second Punic War and the periods in which the literatary artefacts were constructed. Third and finally, it asks in what way these representations of landscape were connected to representations of the personality of Hannibal, who after all, had to first conquer the high mountains of the Alps long before he could defeat the armies of the Romans.
Last year’s conference paper, that I gave at AMPHORAE 2011, was on a link I found between Horace Epode 16 and Livy 5.51-4. It’s about the rhetorical and physical connections between literature and city (a not entirely original topic, I must admit). This abstract is for a slightly later and better version of the paper, which I hope (as all postgraduates do) to turn into paper for a journal submission shortly:
Horace, Livy and the Ruin of Rome: Epode 16 and Ab Urbe Condita 5.51-4.
At the end of book 5 of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, the Roman assembly argued over whether they should leave their destroyed city and found a new one. To counter this sentiment, the historian put an eloquent speech into the mouth of the scrupulous hero Camillus defending the sacred site of Rome from abandonment. In complete contrast, the poet Horace in Epode 16 writes of a Rome destroying itself. He urges, as if in an address to a species of political assembly, that the citizen body ought to do the manly thing and leave Rome, deserting it for a mythical island utopia with solemn oaths that forever prevent return. Clearly in the first century B.C. the city is a contested site, not just in political and military terms, but as a rhetorical space as well.
These two remarkable passages are at first glance diametrically opposed: the historian who writes of Rome as an idealised sacred space, which needs continuation, versus the poet who wants to relinquish the city for an idealised sacred island paradise. But are these two passages so hopelessly in opposition that there is no possibility of reading them together in combination? Or are there concordances, even by way of contrast, that can be discerned between them? What, if anything, can these two passages tell us about Roman conceptions of the city in this time of transition from republic to empire? This paper will examine these respective representations of the Roman city, its growing imperial power, and the idealised body of citizens that each claims to represent.
When I look at that, what I don’t see is my key point, that being the way that Horace frames his poem as an address to a species of Roman assembly (see Fraenkel 1957 who is still the best account of this). Although it’s not a real, identifiable, form of actual assembly, it none-the-less distinguishes that in at least some respect Horace was framing his ‘poetic’ proposal as a form of utopian political discourse. And through that, the connection to Livy’s version of Camillus’ speech.
In 2010, I gave a paper about Livy 5.36-49, which then became a chapter in my Master’s dissertation. This abstract at least gives a better sense of what’s in the paper:
The Reversal of Triumph and the Space of Spectacular Representation in Livy 5.36-49
The sack of Rome by the Gauls in 390 B.C. was one of the lowest of low points in Roman history. The boundaries were reversed; Romans acted as though they were Gauls, and Gauls become conquerors of Romans. The Romans are seen here to be brought to this disaster by their greed over the disposition of the spoils of Veii which leads them to impietas and military defeat. Building on Luce’s ideas about the ‘reversals’ in this section of Livy’s text (Luce 1971), this paper seeks to read the sack of Rome as a reversal (or inversion) of the Roman triumph. In doing so it examines the ways in which Livy writes the city as a stage for a spectacle which unfolds before the eyes of the Roman spectators barricaded in that most sanctified of Roman places, the Capitol. Drawing on recent work on the triumph (e.g Beard 2007), it inspects the simulacra of the ex-consuls in their triumphal finery confronting the awestruck Gauls, just as a first century Roman might be awestruck with the strange sight of a captured barbarian being forced to act out his capture on a float in the triumph.
Looking back on these two older abstracts and comparing it to my current one I can see a definite improvement in my ability to write them!
What an extraordinary passage to find in the middle of a battle scene:
tantusque fuit ardor animorum, adeo intentus pugnae animus, ut eum motum terrae qui multarum urbium Italiae magnas partes prostravit avertitque cursu rapidos amnes, mare fluminibus invexit, montes lapsu ingenti proruit, meno pugnantium senserit
and such was the ardor of their minds, and so intent were they on the battle, that an earthquake which overthrew large portions of many towns of Italy, turned the course of rapid-flowing streams, carried the sea into rivers, and pulled down mountains in mighty landslides, was not felt by any of the fighters
Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 22.5.8 – The battle of Lake Trasimene, in which Hannibal defeats the consul ferox G. Flaminius.