Cinna the Poet and other Roman Essays

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Cinna the Poet and other Roman Essays

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Cinna the Poet and other Roman Essays (»

In memory o f Stephen Wiseman


Cinna the Poet and other Roman Essays

T. P. Wiseman Reader in Roman History University o f Leicester

Leicester U niversity Press


First published in 1974 b y Leicester University Press Distributed in North America b y Humanities Press Inc., N ew York Copyright © Leicester University Press 1974 A ll rights reserved. N o part o f this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or b y any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission o f the Leicester University Press. Designed by Arthur Lockwood Set in Monotype Bembo Printed in Great Britain by Unwin Brothers Limited The Gresham Press, Old W oking, Surrey Bound by G. and J . Kitcat Ltd, London IS B N o 7185 112 0 4


Tables and Plates Preface Abbreviations X The T w o W orlds o f Titus Lucretius 2 Cinna the Poet 3 Structural Patterns in Catullus 4 Catullus, ‘poem 68’ 5 Lesbia and her Children 6 W ho was Gellius? 7 The Good Goddess 8 The Go-Between 9 T w o Friends o f Clodius in Cicero’s Letters io Clodius at the Theatre XX Pyxis Caeliana 12 The Last o f the Metelli Bibliography Index o f Passages Index o f Persons

page 6

7 9


44 59 77 104 119 130 138

147 159

170 176 192 197 203

Tables and Plates


Catullus 68b

Stemma Gelliorum Stemma Decimorum Stemma Metellonm Plates

x. Aurifex brattiarius 2. The rites o f Zeus Hypsistos 3. The Great Mother’s throne 4. Pyxides

page 75 128 157 182-3 between pages 1 1 2 - 1 3

The cover illustration is from plate 2, and is reproduced by courtesy o f the Trustees o f the British Museum.


This book consists o f twelve separate but inter-connected essays on poetry and personalities in late-republican Rome. Though the emphasis moves from literature to social and political history, I hope the reader will recognize a unity of theme: the nature and tastes o f one generation o f Roman society. I hope too that the book w ill be o f interest not only to professional classicists but to anyone who feels the fascination o f the age o f Caesar and Catullus, and I have therefore translated the Latin and Greek quotations wherever practicable; only in the third essay and the textual part o f the fourth w ill the non-specialist have to skip. I am indebted to the editors o f Classical Quarterly and Latomus for permission to re-use published material in essays 9 and 12, and to the Ashmolean Museum, the Boston Museum o f Fine Arts, the British Museum, Fototeca Unione, the German Academy in Rome and the Vatican Museums, for the plates. Professor Ernst Badian, Professor A. D. Fitton Brown, M r R. G. C. Levens and Professor D avid West very kindly read all or part o f m y typescript and made many valuable comments and suggestions; they are not to be held responsible for what I have done with them. The first o f these essays is derived from a public lecture delivered in 19 71 at University College, Toronto, and several, o f the others were either written or thought out within U .C .’s hospitable walls. I should like to thank all the Torontonian friends who have helped me (wittingly or not), and above all Kenneth Quinn, whose dissensio sine acerbitate has been both a stimulus and a pleasure. Leicester, November 1972

T. P .W .


For works referred to by author’s name alone, see Bibliography (p. 192).


Archeologia Classica (Rome) L ’Annee epigraphique (Paris) Anales dejilologla clasica (Buenos Aires) American Journal oj'Archaeology (Princeton) American Journal of Philology (Baltimore) Atene e Roma (Florence) Annali della scuola normale superiore di Pisa Athenaeum (Pavia) Bulletin de correspondence hellenique (Paris) Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies (London) Berliner philologischer Wochenschrift Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (Berlin) Classical Journal (Ohio) Classical Philology (Chicago) Classical Quarterly (Oxford) Classical Review (Oxford) Ephemeris Epigraphica (Berlin) Fontes iuris Romani antiqui, ed. C. G. Bruns (Tubingen, 1909) G iornale italiano difilologia (Naples) Greece and Rome (Oxford) Greek Roman and Byzantine Studies (Durham, N .C .) Harvard Studies in Classical Philology Inscriptiones Graecae (Berlin) Inscriptiones Latinae Liherae Reipuhlicae, ed. A . Degrassi (Florence, 1957-63)

ILS Inscr. It.

Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, ed. H. Dessau (Berlin, 1892-1916) Inscriptiones Italiae (Rome)


Jahrhiicherfiir classische Philologie (Leipzig) Journal of R.oman Studies (London) Journal of Theological Studies (Oxford) Roscher, Ausfuhrliches Lexikon der griechischen und romischen Mythologie (Leipzig, 1884-1937) Liddell-Scott-Jones, Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, 194°) Monumenti antichi (Rome) Melanges de 1’ecolefran$aise a Rome Museum Helveticum (Bale) Neue Jahrhiicher fiir das klassische Altertum (Leipzig) Proceedings of the African Classical dissociations (Salisbury, Rhodesia)

Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society Prosopographia Imperii Romani (Berlin and Leipzig) Michigan Papyri (Ann Arbor) Past and Present (Kendal) Catalogue of the Greek and Latin Papyri in the John Rylands Library (Manchester) Papiri della societa italiana (Florence) P SI Reallexicon fur Antike und Christentum (Stuttgart) RAC Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopadie der classischen AltertumsRE wissenschaft (Stuttgart) R EA Revue des etudes anciennes (Bordeaux) Rend. Line. Rendiconti dell’accademia dei Lincei (Rome) Rivista dijilologia e di istruzione classica (Turin) R F IC Rivista indo-greca-italiana difilologia, lingua, antichitb (Naples) R IG I Rheinisches Museum (Frankfurt) RM Rom. Mitt. Mitteilungen des deutschen archaologischen Instituts, romische Abteilung (Rome) Revue de philologie (Paris) RP Sitzungsberichte der koniglichen prussischen Akademie (Berlin) SBKPA Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (Leiden) SEG Studi italiani difilologia classica (Florence) SIFC Transactions of the American Philological Association (Cleveland) TAPA Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (Leipzig) TLL University of California Publications in Classical Archaeology UCPCA

PCPS PIR P. Mich. PP P. Ryl.

(Berkeley and Los Angeles)


Wiirzburger Jahrhiicherfiir die Altertumswissenschaft Wiener Studien Yale Classical Studies

I The Tw o Worlds o f Titus Lucretius

Few great poets are as elusive as the author o f de rerum natura. What sort o f person was he? The question has been much debated in the past, though it sounds oddly old-fashioned now that anything like ‘lives o f the poets’ has gone out o f style.1 But the circumstances o f Lucretius’ life, i f we can detect them, matter to his poem as much as Guelf Florence does to the Divine Comedy, or Haworth parsonage to Wuthering Heights. Friedrich M arx,2 at the turn o f the century, thought Lucretius was a freed slave, probably o f Celtic origin.3 In the thirties Guido della Valle, himself a Neapolitan, pictured him as a small landowner from the neighbourhood o f Naples,4 an idea which may have been in the mind o f Robert Graves (“ I am Irishman enough to coax stories into a better shape than I found them” ) when he confidently called the poet a Calabrian provincial.5 Sir Ronald. Syme has more soberly conjectured that Lucretius’ family may have been local gentry from the Sabine region, or Um bria.6 But these are the aberrations: the 1 However much one deplores literary biography when it masquerades as literary criticism, both are legitimate fields o f study in themselves. Critical questions are not the only ones worth asking. 2 M arx, 534f. and 536-9; he convinced Mewaldt (R E XIII [1927] 1660) and Regenbogen (p.19 n.2). 3 The argument from the supposedly Celtic cognomen ‘Carus’ means nothing: see T'LL Onomasticon (Leipzig, 1910), 22of. for the widespread distribution o f the name. Besides, it is not attested for Lucretius before the ninth century (MSS. O and V), and may be no more genuine than the ‘Propertius Aurelius Nauta’ o f Propertius’ manuscripts A , F and V. 4 RIGIy x v ii (1933), 1-16 . 5 Oxford Addresses on Poetry (1962), 33; the quotation in brackets is from Collected Short Stories (1965), 319. 6 Syme, 7, 23 of.



orthodox version is to make him, however tentatively, a Roman aristocrat. “ The poet” , wrote W . Y . Sellar in the age o f Palmerston, “ belonged to the higher and wealthier class o f Romans, to which class, indeed, literary distinction appears to have been confined at that time.” Munro immediately expanded this into a suggestion that Lucretius belonged to a patrician family, and ever since then the view has prevailed, being endorsed in Bailey’s great commentary and handed on from, one scholar to the next: right down to the present day.7 Received ideas sometimes take on a life o f their own. One notable Lucretian example is the belief that the poet witnessed the practice manoeuvres o f Caesar’s legions on the Campus Martius in 58 B .C .8 It is based on II 40-5, an ironic reflection on the universal fear o f death: si non forte tuas legiones per loca campi fervere cum videas belli simulacra cientis, ornatas armis statuas pariterque animatas, subsidiis magnis et ecum vi constabilitas, his tibi tum rebus timefactae religiones effugiunt animo pavidae . . .

43 42

unless perhaps, when you see throughout the plain your legions in ferment stirring up mimic war, when you draw them up, all eager and fully armed, strengthened with huge reserves and cavalry, the scene can frighten superstition away till it runs from your heart in terror. The text o f the whole passage is corrupt, and the main difficulty comes precisely in the second line, where the “ mimic w ar” (a phrase I have borrowed from Bailey’s translation) is the only reason for taking the “ plain” as tb.e Campus Martius: the grammarian Nonius quotes “ fervere cum. videas classem lateque vagari” (“ your legions in ferment and your wide-ranging fleet” ) as a line from, book 7 W . Y . Sellar, Roman Poets of the Republic (1863), 207, anticipated b y T . Mommsen, Romische Geschichte III (Berlin, 1857); H. A. J . Munro, Titi Lucreti Cari de rerum natura libri sex (2nd edn, 1866), I, 3 10 ; Bailey I, 5-8. Most recently in Wilkinson (p. 65) and Perelli (pp. 6fF. and 10). 8 Perelli, 5; one might add Memmius’ “ antichissima casata aristocratica” (ibid.), and the precise political interpretation o f I 4 1-3 (“ 59-58 B .C .” ) at pp. 8-10.

13 II, and it may be that that was the genuine reading.9Real war is what Lucretius had in mind in this section (lines 5-6, 49); manoeuvres, with shiny parade-ground uniforms, only appear at lines 323-30, in an appropriate simile - and even there they are not happening at Rom e.10 The Campus Martius was not a legionary exercise ground,11 and in any case the legions are not Caesar’s but Memmius’, the politician to whom the book is addressed.12 Yet the idea survives. Perhaps the belief in an aristocratic Lucretius has no more substance than that? There is no usable external evidence, only the picture we can get out o f the poem itself. But with Lucretius that should be enough, since one o f the main reasons for his greatness is precisely the clarity o f his vision. He sees more directly and more exactly than any other Roman poet, being freer than any o f them from the rhetoric that bedevils much o f Latin literature.13 The philosophy he preached held that the senses were the only possible criterion for knowledge, and he certainly used his. Throughout the six books, in the similes, illustrations and analogies with which he buttresses his argument, we can see his eye at w ork in a succession o f scenes and vignettes which no other Roman poet could have visualized so well. At IV 4 14 -17 , for instance, among his examples o f optical illusions, he has this: at collectus aquae digitum non altior unum qui lapides inter sistit per strata viarum despectum praebet sub terras impete tanto a terris quantum caeli patet altus hiatus. A pool o f water, no deeper than a finger’s breadth, which lies between the pavestones in the street 9 Nonius 808L; the M SS. version perhaps botched from line 324? (See Bailey I, 238 for the other corruptions in the passage.) Professor West suggests to me that “ mimic w ar” may be a mistranslation anyway, since simulacra are not normally ‘imitations’ in Lucretian usage. 10 See G. Townend in Dudley, 104. 11 Cic. Att. II 16.2 (“ oppressos vos tenebo, inquit [sc. Pompeius], exercitu Caesaris” ) has no relevance here. 12 For Memmius as the addressee, even when not named, see Farrington, I9f. and in Dudley, 27ff. 13 Quintilian’s judgment is significant (X 1.87): the pupil may read Lucretius i f he likes, but w ill find nothing o f value there for his oratorical training.


THE TW O W ORLDS OF TITUS LUCRETIUS offers a view beneath the earth as vast in range as the high gape o f heaven open above it.

Most Romans would not even notice a puddle in the road, much less see the vastness o f the sky reflected in it, as Lucretius does. He himself observes at one point (II 1038) that: nobody looks at the sky because it is too familiar. But he does - he notices, and describes, the different forms o f lightning, the shapes and movements o f the clouds, the way the stars seem to move and the clouds stand still when you look at the sky at night.14 Nature is his subject, and all the details o f it interest him - “ everything marked out in the beauty o f variety” (V I376f.). But his clear-sighted curiosity works in the city as well, as is shown by his illustration o f the finite time taken by the atoms o f will to travel from the brain to the limbs (II 263-5): nonne vides etiam patefactis tempore puncto carceribus non posse tamen prorumpere equorum vim cupidam tam de subito quam mens avet ipsa? In the moment o f time when the starting-gates are opened, don’t you see that the horses, though eager and strong, are unable to burst out as suddenly as their own mind longs to do? That picture comes straight from the Circus Maximus. It was something Lucretius had seen, and not likely to be an exemplum from a philosophical text-book. His own experience was his richest source, as can be seen, where he describes (IV 966-70) what people da in dreams: causidici causas agere et componere leges, induperatores pugnare et proelia obire, nautae contractum cum ventis degere duellum, nos agere hoc autem et naturam quaerere rerum semper et inventam patriis exponere chartis. Lawyers plead cases and draw up contracts, generals wage war and advance into battle, sailors live out their war against the winds and I do this, ever seeking the nature o f things and putting it down, when found, on Latin pages. 14II 2 13; IV i34ff., V 646£, VI 133 H IV 443 ff-

15 With Lucretius, ‘internal evidence’ means the vividly realized world we can see through his eyes. I f we look at it carefully enough, it should give us some insight into his own experience. I»

One thing all critics are agreed on: Lucretius was obsessed by ‘show business’ - that is, in Roman terms, the entertainments put on during the various festivals that were held throughout the year, consisting o f chariot-racing, wild beast shows and the theatre, legitimate and otherwise. Several days’ continuous attendance at the theatre makes him see dancers in his dreams;15 sweet smells remind him o f the stage sprinkled with saffron and the altar in the orchestra fragrant with incense; he speaks o f his final book as i f it were the last lap in a chariot race, as he hurries to “ the white chalk o f the finishingline” ;16 and he likens thunder inside the clouds to the caged beasts waiting to be let loose in the arena, roaring and growling as they pace up and down.17 One o f these illustrations (IV 75-80) is particularly revealing, for it gives us a poet’s eye view o f a Roman theatre. Lucretius is discussing the Epicurean theory o f sense-data; ‘films’ o f atoms, he says, are thrown o ff the surface o f things and impinge on our senses, including atoms o f colour: et vulgo faciunt id lutea russaque vela et ferrugina, cum magnis intenta theatris per malos vulgata trabesque trementia flutant, namque ibi consessum caveai subter et omnem scaenai speciem, patrum Matrisque deorum, inficiunt coguntque suo fluitare colore. Awnings often do this, as they ripple and flap across beams, stretched over huge theatres in red, yellow and purple. For all below - the audience on the tiers, 15 IV 973-83. Also IV 769, 788-93; cf. 779f., 815, 962s. - what the sleeper wants to see. IV 8ig£, on the dream-woman who turns into a man in your arms, m ay belong to the same train o f thought. 16 II 4i6f., Hanson, 87-90 (altar); V I 92, cf. Varro Men. 288B (finishing line). Chariotracing also at II 263f. (quoted above), IV 990, V 6 16 -19 , 787; see West, 55. 17 V I 197-200, with West, 34. Also V 1308-33, w ith K . L. M cKay, A JP , r x x x v (1964), I25f.; IV 1016 , V 1036 on panthers and lions - Lucretius had seen their cubs at play.


THE TW O WORLDS OF TITUS LUCRETIUS the stage’ s sh ow , the fathers, the M o th er o f the gods are d yed and m ade to ripple in the aw n in g s’ colours.

I f the reading o f the fifth line is right, we are at the Ludi Megalenses, the theatrical festival in honour o f the Great Mother o f the Gods in early April.18 What Lucretius sees is the stage itself, the senators (“ fathers” ) sitting in the orchestra, the goddess’s throne o f honour at the front19 - and also the consessus caveai, the audience itself in the semi-circular auditorium. That is, the poet’s view seems to be not from the senators’ seats, nor from the first 15 rows o f the theatre proper, where the Roman Knights sat in honour, but from somewhere near the back, where the hollow auditorium is part o f what he sees. He evidently is not one o f the top- people. The same impression results, i f we pay proper attention to the imagery, from another passage in book IV (528-32), where Lucretius is discussing the atoms o f voice, and proving that voice is a corporeal thing by the fact that it can roughen the throat and make one hoarse: praeterea radit vox fauces saepe facitque asperiora foras gradiens arteria clamor, quippe per angustum turba maiore coorta ire foras ubi coeperunt primordia vocum, scilicet expletis quoque ianua raditur oris. The voice often scrapes the throat, and shouting makes the windpipe rough as it passes outside. For when the atoms o f voice collect in too great a crowd and begin to make their way out through the narrow passage, o f course the gate to the mouth is scraped by the crowd as well. The image here, as Professor West has brilliantly shown,20 is o f a crowd squeezing out through a narrow exit and roughening the 18 The reading “ Matris que deorum” (MSS. matrumque) :is due to J . Colin, Ath., x x x ii (1954), 346-55 (cf. Hanson, 83). See also West, 38ff. (on the imagery) and L. R. Taylor in Studies in Honour o f Gilbert Norwood (Toronto, 1952), 147!?. - though both accept what seem to me inferior readings at line 79. For the awnings, see V I 1.0 9 -111 (they sometimes tore), Prop. IV 1 .15 , Pliny N H X I X 23, Val. M ax. II 4.6 - first used by Q. Catulus, then b y P. Lentulus Spinther at the ludi Apollinares o f 60 B .C . 19 Hanson, 8 1-5 on Dio X L IV 6.3, Tab. Heb. 5off. etc.; see pp. 159-60 below. 20 West, 4 1-3 - though he thinks the walls would be rubbed smooth, thus admitting a “ central weakness” (p. 43) in Lucretius’ argument.

17 sides as they pass - that is (as I see it), knocking bits o f the plaster or stucco off the walls and revealing the rough stone underneath. The crowd Lucretius has in mind is not coming out o f a theatre, because in Lucretius’ day theatres were wooden structures put up ad hoc for each festival, so there would be no plaster or stucco there; in any case, he is thinking o f the hoarseness o f people who have been shouting all day,21 more probably at the chariot races in the Circus Maximus - which was a permanent structure - than at the theatre. The point I want to make is that Lucretius has evidently been in such a crowd himself, hoarse from shouting, noticing the analogy as he struggles in the crush to reach the exit, and close enough to the walls to see what happens to the plaster. But though the senators and Knights did not yet have places o f honour reserved for them at the circus races, they would certainly not have had to endure the rush for the gate as soon as the last race was over. Dignitas demanded that they came in in state and went out in state, with the ushers and their own dependants no doubt clearing a w ay for them if necessary. It seems unlikely that Lucretius was one o f them. A few lines later on (IV 563-4) we find him in a different crowd. He is explaining how the atoms o f voice separate and fly in all directions, many o f them being wasted, others striking on the ears o f anyone within hearing distance: praeterea verbum saepe unum perciet auris omnibus in populo, missum praeconis ab ore. A single word often makes attentive the ears o f everyone in the assembly, when it is shot from the crier’s mouth. This is the assembly o f the R.oman People in the Forum, and Lucretius, I think, is on the receiving end - not with the senators and magistrates on the Rostra or the steps o f the Senate, but deep in the crowd, where the hubbub is suddenly broken through by the crier’s shout. The main area o f the Roman Forum, where the mass o f the people stood for voting assemblies and public meetings (contiones) was called the planum or the aequus locus, ‘ground level’ as opposed to the superior locus o f the Rostra, or o f the magistrate’s tribunal with his 21 See IV 535-9. B



chair o f office on it.22 Thus tablets recording laws had to be set up “ where they can be read de piano” ;23 the emperor Tiberius used to intervene either from the planum or from the judge’s tribunal i f he thought a court case was being swayed by favouritism; and it was looked on most favourably when Trajan, at the consular elections, came down from his curule chair to the planum to greet the successful candidates.24 Lucretius refers to it at the point in book I where he warns Memmius about the need for mental effort to master the arguments, promising him de piano, from ground level, that he will never stop trying to convince him till they are both old and grey ( I 4n ).

The commentators have made a sorry mess o f this phrase. Ever since Lambinus in 1563 they have taken it in the sense used by the jurists o f the Empire, who distinguished between judgments given by a magistrate from his tribunal and less important decisions which he could make from ground level; they take Lucretius to mean “ I can promise you this off-hand, without formality” .25 But this technical sense is not attested until over two centuries after Lucretius’ time.26 In his day, to say something de piano (or ex aequo loco) meant to say it as a private citizen, explicitly in contrast with a magistrate.27 The true sense o f Lucretius’ use o f the is surely that he is venturing to tell Memmius some home truths, while aware o f a difference in status between them, as i f a magistrate on his tribunal were to be told off from the ground level o f the Forum where the ordinary citizens stood.

These passages make it reasonable to consider Lucretius, pro22 For ex superiore/aequo loco, see C ic.fam. Ill 8.2, de or. Ill 23, Verr. II 94, 102, III 135, IV 86. 23 C IL P 583.65-6, 593.16, X IV 2795.15; IL L R P Imagines (Berlin, 1965), no. 386; Ausonius actio pro consulatu 10. 24 Suet. Tib. 33; Pliny paneg. 7 1. 25 E.g. Bailey II, 664. Lambinus refers also to Cic. Brut. 289, but the stans iuiex is not relevant here. 26 Ulp. Dig. I 16.9.3, X X X V II 1.3.8, Paul, sententiae V 16 .16 (F IR A II 404). Cf. T. Mommsen, Romische Staatsrecht P (Leipzig, 1887), 400 n .i : de piano judgment not valid “ in altester Zeit” . 27 Thus Cic. fam. HI 8.2, where “ ex superiore et ex aequo loco” is the equivalent o f “ pro tribunali et nonnullis in conviviis” ; and Verr. II 102, where the opposite o f “ de loco superiore” is “ in sermone” .

T9 visionally at any rate, as a ‘man in the crowd’.28 But the man in the crowd, unlike the landowning Knight or senator, worked for his living. W e shall never know how Lucretius earned his bread (if he had to) - but we may make an intelligent guess i f we pay close attention to two groups o f images which keep recurring in the poem. In book II (847-51), arguing that atoms have no smell or other properties, he uses an example from the pharmacy: sicut amaracini blandum stactaeque liquorem et nardi florem, nectar qui naribus halat, cum facere instituas, cum primis quaerere par est, quod licet ac possis reperire, inolentis olivi naturam, nullam quae mittat naribus auram . . . It’s just as when you set about making the sweet essence o f marjoram or myrrh or scented balsam that breathes nectar to the nostrils, and first you have to find, i f only you can, an oil scentless by nature to use as a base . . . Again and again this sort o f illustration is used. A t III 327-30, his analogue for the relationship o f body to soul is that o f a lump o f incense to its scent - take that away and its essence is gone. He has several passages on the relativity o f poisons which show his familiarity with the properties o f herbs and perfumes as well as the techniques o f blending them; he knows about the characteristics o f hemlock and hellebore, drugs that may be either healing or poisonous,29 and he knows about them at first hand. For one o f his illustrations (IV 123-6) is the smell you get on your hands when you rub various herbs between your fingers. He names the herbs - wormwood, habrotonus, panaces, centaurea, all o f them used in medicine. When he talks about sense-data in book. IV (223-5 = V I 928-30), this is how he proves that films o f atoms are given off from objects: 28 Cf. II272f., 277-9 on being pushed in the crowd (rejected simile for the movement o f the will). 29IV 64of. (hellebore), V S99f. (hemlock), V I 794-6 (castoreum), 973-5 (marjoram). For the use o f these drugs, and others mentioned b y Lucretius, see Pliny N H X II 42-5 (nardus), 68 and 70 (stacta); X X I 60 (habrotonus), 61 (marjoram); X X V 30 -1 (panaces), 47-61 (hellebore), 66-7 (centaurea), 15 1 - 4 (hemlock); X X V II 45-52 (absinthia) ; X X X I I 28 -31 (castoreum).


THE TW O WORLDS OF TITUS LUCRETIUS denique in os salsi venit umor saepe saporis, cum mare versamur propter, dilutaque contra cum tuimur misceri absinthia, tangit amaror. For often a moist salt taste comes into the mouth when we walk by the sea; or else a bitterness touches it when w e watch wormwood being diluted and mixed.

Lucretius sees the wormwood being mixed, which strengthens the impression given by the other examples that he had a practical interest in drugs and medicinal herbs. Moreover, in book III, where he is describing the relationship o f mind, soul and body, and what happens when they separate, the vivid descriptions strongly suggest that he had been at more than one death-bed himself.30 In the long description o f the plague at Athens which ends the final book, the details are drawn not only from Thucydides but also from the Hippocratic corpus o f medical writings;31 this, with the very length and elaborateness o f the passage itself shows that Lucretius was more than usually interested in the subject. Finally, even at the point where he is most conscious o f his role as poet and evangelist,32 it is an image from medication that comes to his mind: sed veluti pueris absinthia taetra medentes cum dare conantur, prius oras pocula circum contingunt mellis dulci flavoque liquore, ut puerorum aetas improvida ludificetur labrorum tenus, interea perpotet amarum absinthi laticem deceptaque non capiatur, sed potius tali pacto recreata valescat; sic ego nunc, quoniam haec ratio plerumque videtur tristior esse quibus non est tractata, retroque vulgus abhorret ab hac, volui tibi suaviloquenti carmine Pierio rationem exponere nostram et quasi musaeo dulci contingere meile. 30 See especially III 463-9, 487-91, 526-30, 592-602. 31 See Bailey III, 17 3 1 - 3 ; for Thucydides, see H. Klepl, Lucrez und Virgil in ihren Lehrgedichten (Dresden, 1940), 56-68. 32 I 936-47 ( = I V 1 1- 2 2 , except nam for sed at IV 11) . The comparison is described by Bailey (II, 760) as “ traditional” , though Quintilian (III 1.4-5') attributes it to Lucretius himself.

21 Doctors who try to give foul-tasting wormwood to children first touch the cup all round the rim with the sweet golden moisture o f honey, to deceive the children’s unsuspecting age as far as the lips, and make them swallow down the bitter medicine; deceived, they come to no harm from their deception, but recover and get well. Since this philosophy often seems too bitter to those who haven’t tasted it, and the crowd shrinks from it, like the doctors I too have wished to put down our w ay o f life in the Muses’ speech, sweet poetry, and touch it with their honey. Goethe, who greatly admired Lucretius, judged from his observations o f pathological phenomena that he was qualified not just as a natural scientist but also as a doctor.33 It is indeed quite possible that the poet had been a doctor - o f a sort. The practice o f medicine in ancient Rome covered a huge range o f social status and professional competence. Near the bottom o f this range came the men who healed, or more often failed to heal, the ills o f the ordinary citizen not the great Greek practitioners or the private physicians o f wealthy statesmen, but apothecaries with shops next to the barbers’ in the Forum, the pharmacopolae about whom Horace and the elder Cato were so scathing.34 Such men, who prescribed and administered their pharmaca as well as preparing them, would have had just the kind o f experience which Lucretius’ illustrations seem to indicate. It cannot have been easy to make a living from medicine among the poor o f Rome, and a doctor who could not attract wealthy patients might easily have another trade or profession as well. Galen, in the second century A.D ., complained that joiners, cobblers and blacksmiths set up as doctors on the side - to the great detriment o f professional standards, as he saw it, though it must have looked different from the Subura.35 These joiners and blacksmiths are also 33 Letter to von Knebel, 21 February 18 2 1: “ die Anschauung konne eine physiologische und eine pathologische seyn. Erstere macht den Naturforscher, letztere den Artzt: dass Lukrez zu beiden befahigt gewesen, ist wohl kein Zweifel.” For Goethe and Lucretius in general, see E. Grumach, Goethe und die Antike (Berlin, 1949) I, 335-52. 34 Plaut. Amph. 10 13 ; Hor. Sat. 1 2 .1, Geli. N A 1 15.9. (Barbers also performed external surgery: Ju v. V I 372f.). 35 Galen meth. med. I 2 (Kiihn vol. X , 5).



worth bearing in mind in Lucretius’ case, for he seems just as much at home in the workshop as in the pharmacy.

“ There is a fearful clatter o f tools in the de rerum natura” .36 Lucretius knew the sound o f the saw : the atoms o f that noise are spikier than those o f music (II 4 10 -13). B y an optical illusion, square towers seen from a distance appear round - as if, says Lucretius (IV 361), they had been turned on a lathe. When he speaks of early man’s discovery o f the use o f metal tools (V 1266-8), he exults in the details: ut sibi tela parent, silvasque ut caedere possint materiemque dolare: et levia radere tigna et terebrare etiam ac pertundere perque forare. N ow they could make themselves weapons and cut down forests, hew the timber and plane the logs smooth and bore them and drill them and hammer holes in them. It is reasonable to infer that tools, as well as medicines, were part o f his experience - and not only inside the workshop, on small jobs. W e can see him on the building site as well, illustrating the power o f the will and the soul to move the body as a man with a crane lifting great weights by means o f pulleys and treadwheels (IV 90 s£), or in his splendidly professional look at the fall o f a jerry-built house at IV 5 13 -19 , illustrating the collapse o f knowledge without sense-perception: denique ut in fabrica, si prava est tegula prima, normaque si fallax rectis regionibus exit, et libella aliqua si ex parti claudicat hilum, omnia mendose fieri atque obstipa necesse est prava cubantia prona supina atque absona tecta, iam ruere ut quaedam videantur velle, ruantque prodita iudiciis fallacibus omnia primis . . . Just as in building, i f the first measurement’s wrong, and the set-square’s faulty and doesn’t keep straight lines, 36 West, 64; see also pp. 69-7.1 on the falling building.

23 and the level’s the least bit crooked at any point, then the whole thing’s bound to be put up wrong, leaning over, sloping, falling down flat front and back, a building off-key; so that bits o f it seem to want to collapse already and the whole thing falls, betrayed by the first wrong design . . . The rule and the square and the level suggest, perhaps, that this picture arises from something more than just the idle curiosity o f the bystander.37 There is one point where we even seem to see Lucretius at work. It comes at II 196-200, in a passage on apparent exceptions to the force o f gravity: nonne vides etiam quanta vi tigna trabesque respuat umor aquae? nam quo magnis ursimus alte derecta et magna vi multi pressimus aegre, tam cupide sursum revomit magis atque remittit, plus ut parte foras emergant exsiliantque. Don’t you see too how violently water belches up beams and timbers to the surface? For the harder we have pushed them straight down deep, many o f us all striving as best we can, the more it exults to spew them back up to the top, and when they emerge they leap up half out o f the water. This is a very vivid picture, and a very odd one. Lucretius is evidently one of a gang o f men trying to hold down huge beams o f timber under water. What were they doing? In 60 B .C . the original wooden Tiber bridge, the pons Sublicius, was washed away in a flood.38 This bridge was regarded by the Romans with a respect bordering on veneration, dating back perhaps to the early days o f the city when such a work was almost superhuman, and when priests got their title o f ‘bridge-builders’ (pontifices). It was preserved even after other bridges in stone had been built across the river, and was never rebuilt in stone itself; when the river in flood periodically broke it down, it was always reconstructed to 37 N ote too Lucretius’ knowledge o f furnaces: V I I48£, 802f., 966-8 (cf. 202, 278, 681). 38 P io X X X V II 58.3: a y sip w v portending evil Kai i v rfj y jj Kai ev rip vd a ri,



the same archaic design.39 Lucretius was in his thirties in 60 B .C ., and could have been one o f the gang who reset the huge wooden piles in the river bed. The flood also destroyed a wooden theatre, which had been put up in preparation for a festival not far from the river. It would be either by the temple o f Apollo, where the later theatre o f Marcellus was built and still stands, or else near the Forum Boarium, up against the western corner o f the Palatine below the temple o f the Great Mother.40 The latter site is more likely, since the Great Mother’s festival was in spring, and Apollo’s in Ju ly when the river would normally be low. But wherever it was, the theatre would have to be put up again in time for the festival, and if the flood waters were still standing the repair gang would also have the sort o f problem Lucretius describes. The possibility that it was the theatre Lucretius worked on rather than the bridge (or as well as the bridge) is attractive because o f two other places in the poem where Lucretius the artisan and Lucretius the theatre fanatic may coincide. Let us go back into the workshop. In book IV the poet tries to account for the visual; concepts people have o f tilings that do not exist, and in particular composite monsters such as centaurs. His explanation is that the images, being very fine films o f atoms given off from the surface o f their originals, float about and sometimes get mixed - those o f a horse and a man, for instance, coalescing into that o f a centaur. As an illustration for their joining (IV 727) Lucretius suggests a piece o f gold leaf caught in a cobweb. This seems to me one o f the most revealing details in the entire work. Thanks to the precision o f Lucretius’ visual imagination, we have a tiny vignette from inside the workshop o f a brattiarius,41 a man who worked in gold leaf. This trade was in great demand at Rome, not only in the jewellers’ shops in the Via Sacra,42 but also in the theatre, where the scene front and the statues on the stage were o f 35 Dion. Hal. Ill 45.2, V 24.];, Plut. Numa 9.2-3; connection with pontifex, Varro L L V 83, Dion. Hal. II 7 3 .1. See L . A . Holland, Janus and the Bridge (Rome, 1961) 332C 40 Dio X X X V II 58.4. See Hanson, i8ff., 24£ : L ivy 30 . 51.3 (cf. Suet. D J 44) for Apollo, Veli. 1 15.3 for the Forum Boarium site (p. 168 below). 41 C IL V I 95, 6939, 9 2 10 - 11; illustrated at work on a relief in the Vatican Museum (plate 1). 42 C IL V I 6939 and 9212. For the Via Sacra shops, see S. Panciera, A C , x x n (1970), 13 1-8 , Prop. II 24.14, O vid am. I 8.100, A A II 266.

25 gilded wood, and in the circus, where the wreaths that crowned the victors were gilded too.43 Lucretius would have felt at home in either place. The last workshop example comes in IV 296-9, where Lucretius is illustrating mirror-images: ut siquis, prius arida quam sit cretea persona, adlidat pilaeve trabive, atque ea continuo rectam si fronte figuram servet et elisam retro sese exprimat ipsa. It’s as i f someone took a plaster mask, still wet, and dashed it against a column or a beam, and it kept its proper shape in front o f him and moulded its own features reflected in reverse. A mask, as used by actors44- and dashed against a column or a beam. Where are we? In a theatre workshop, perhaps, in the space under the wooden auditorium., where the columns and beams are the substructure holding up the sloping terraces o f seats.4S I f that is where we are, it is surely not because our observer was an idle visitor, but because he worked there, with his hands, in wood and plaster and beaten gold.

It would be absurd to pretend that these inferences deserve the status o f solid evidence; but at least their cumulative effect makes 43 Scaena: Val. M ax. II 4.6 (M. Petreius, 64 B.C.?). Statues: O vid A A III 232, Ju v. X III 152. Coronae: Pliny N H X X I 6 (C. Claudius, 99 B.C.?). Cf. also Martial VIII 33.6 - praetor’s crown and platform. 44 I am indebted to Professor Charles Garton for the following information on the making o f actors’ masks: “ A possible method was this. A roughly face-shaped (or face-and-crown-of-head-shaped) mould was made o f e.g. w ood or terracotta. A piece o f wet linen was pressed over it and made to take its form as far as possible. Upon the linen the desired mask was modelled in wet clay, plaster, or some kind o f gypsum cement. As it dried it hardened and stuck firm ly to the linen. The linen backing prevented it from caking to the mould and also gave it cohesion when taken off. The features were coloured in with chalk or paint, but the complexion was sometimes left as an off-white (Juv. Ill 175 personae pallentis hiatum). A suitable coiffure was added.” 45 See IV 75, V I n o for trabes in theatres; perhaps also II 196 (in the passage quoted above); otherwise the word occurs only at II 192, V I 241 and 564, all about houses. C f. Tac. Ann. IV 62, X III 31 (trabibus); J . B . W ard Perkins, J R S , l x (1970), 12 n.29.



plausible the picture of Lucretius as a man in the crowd, who worked for his living at more than one trade and saw Rome, i f not from the bottom o f the social ladder, at least from a good way below the top o f it. If this is so, it may help to explain the nature o f Lucretius’ motivation. The fear o f the gods and the fear o f death are the two great obstacles to peace o f mind and true happiness, and it is in order to destroy them that Lucretius tries to convince Ids readers o f the real nature o f the universe, in which the gods do not concern themselves with men and death is simply dissolution, not the gateway to punishment and hell."16 But at the same time Lucretius is trying to convert Memmius, a very sophisticated politician, and aiming to dissuade him and those like him from ambition and the rat-race o f a public career.47 That sort o f life destroys peace of mind as well as the fear o f death, but not in the same way, and not for the same people. The ambiguity appears most clearly in the great programmatic passage on the honeyed cup (quoted at p. 20 above), where both the masses (vulgus) and Memmius (tibi), in the same line, appear as the recipients o f Lucretius’ healing draught o f philosophy in verse. Lucretius tries to am algam ate the tw o themes in the opening passage o f b o o k III, but can o n ly do it b y a so p h istry: avarice and am bition, he says, are caused b y the fear o f p o v e rty and disgrace, tw o evils w h ic h “ d w ell as it w ere in the vestibule o f death” (III 67) and are therefore really p art o f the fear o f death itself. T h e “ as it w e re ” (quasi) betrays the falsity o f the argum ent, and show s h o w essentially separate M em m ius and his political tem ptations are from the m ain d riv in g force o f the p oem , the crusade against religious fear.

The terror o f divine retribution and punishment after death was not that o f the worldly upper class to which Memmius and his fellow-politicians belonged, but that o f simple people to whom Jupiter’s thunderbolt and the tortures o f Tartarus, far from being allegories or fairy-tales, were horrifyingly possible.48 To them 46 See particularly I i 0 2 -11 on the vates’ threats o f eternal punishment, III 37 ff, V n63fF., V I 7off., etc. 47II 7 -13 (cf. 38), III 59ff, 74-ff., V 112 0 -3 2 are the main passages on ambition. Cf. also II 4off., V 12 2 7 b : unavailing against the fear o f death. 48 See n.46 above (and Plaut:. Capt. 998); also I 8ofF., V 11 4 - 2 1 , 155-63 for the idea that rationalism was sinful (scelus, nefas). The religious feqrs o f the man in the street are

27 Epicurus had set out to bring comfort, believing that all men’s minds, even without education, were capable o f attaining true sapientia,49 Roman disciples - notably one C. Amafmius - followed his lead and wrote in a homely manner free from stylistic tricks and technical abstractions, deliberately, and successfully, aiming to make their philosophy intelligible to the uneducated.50 It is true that Lucretius had a conflicting motive in the conversion o f Memmius; it is even more true that he had higher artistic aims than they, not only in his desire for fame as a poet,51 but also in Inis uncompromising determination to explain all the system without glossing over any o f the difficulties, and still make the work good enough for all to read.52 Even so, the main burden o f Inis message shows that he had more in common with these “ plebeian philosophers” , as Cicero contemptuously called them, than with Cicero’s own friends, the upper-class dilettanti o f Epicureanism who lounged in their country villas discussing the nature o f pleasure.53 Unlike those gentlemen,54 Lucretius and the Epicurean propagandists had a serious purpose, almost an evangelical one. They set out to rescue men. from, fear, o f the gods and o f death, and it was the man in the street who needed and accepted - their reassurance. The moral preaching o f philosophers was a familiar feature o f Lucretius’ Rome. Many schools o f thought were represented, with the Stoics particularly prominent in urging conversion to the way o f virtue as defined in their system.55 But the Stoics, as Cicero put not often mentioned in literary works (Plut. Mor. 167a is a rare example), but were no less real for that: see H. E. P. Platt, Byways in the Classics (1905), 9 1-3 , and B . Farrington, Science and Politics in the Ancient World (1939), 182-5, who however minimizes the importance o f Memmius and thus misses the essential conflict o f motive.

Gellius was lean, pale, and an old friend o f Catullus. He had an uncle o f puritanical moral views, whose wife he seduced in order to prevent the uncle’s sermonizing being directed against himself. That was a good joke, but thereafter Catullus’ references to Gellius become steadily more disapproving.1 His pallor and thinness are attributed not only to repulsive behaviour with someone called Victor but also to long nights en deshabille with his mother and his sister as well as his aunt. That, says Catullus, is a sin which all great Neptune’s ocean cannot wash away — and as always when his language becomes portentous, it is because his own position is threatened. Gellius was a rival for Lesbia. Catullus had expected him to be loyal, not, he says bitterly, for honest motives, but because he wrongly thought that the simple betrayal o f an old friend would not be a crime piquant enough, for Gellius to enjoy unless there were some incest in it too.2 Gellius’ other mistresses, or some o f them,3 are summed up in table I on p. 120.4 A few months earlier, Lesbia’s brother P. Clodius had been enjoying the political assistance o f a veteran agitator called Gellius, 1 Cat. 89 (thin), 80.1-2 (pale), 91.7 (friendship), 74 (uncle). See Schafer, 30-1 on the developing sequence 74, 80, 88-91. 2 80 (Victor); 88.1-3 (“ abiectis pervigilat tunicis” ), 89.1-3, 90.1-2, 91.5 (mother, sister, aunt); 88.5-6 (Tethys and Oceanus), 89.5 and 90.1 (nefas), 88.4, 9 1.10 (scelus). 91.2 and 6 for Lesbia; cf. 8.2, 75.2 for the perditus amor. 3 89.3-4 may im ply other female relatives. 4 Patruus (74, 88.3, 89.3) should be his father’s brother; I a:rn assuming that they were full brothers, therefore both Gellii themselves. The sister should be Gellia, and not a half-sister, because o f germana at 91.5,




[mater) m . G ellius pater

G elliu s


G ellius patruu s m . (u x o r patrui)

G ellia soror


‘the wetnurse o f revolutionaries” as Cicero called him early in 56.5 According to Cicero’s description o f this Gellius, who was a hostile witness in the trial o f Sestius, he had developed from a vicious young man into a middle-aged bogus intellectual o f philosophical and literary pursuits, but pawned bis books to pay his wine bill and became a revolutionary. To appear to he a “ friend o f the people” (plebicola) he had married a freedwoman; he himself was a Roman Knight and the stepson o f L. Marcius Philippus (consul in 91 B .C .); his sister’s son Postumius, who died young, showed his good sense in not appointing Gellius the guardian o f his young children.6 That is: 2.

G ellius pater m . (1) (mater) (2) m . L . P h ilippu s cos. 9 1


G ellius m . (u xor

” I

(Postum ius) m . G ellia soror

L . P h ilippu s cos. 56


Postum ius



A month later, during the same spring that Catullus was enjoying as he prepared to leave Bithynia, M . Caelius P.ufus was put on trial. One o f the charges apparently concerned the property o f Palla, the mother o f L. Gellius Publicola, who was probably the brother-in-law o f the prosecutor chosen by the Claudii to conduct the case.7 (The 5 Cic. Sest. 1 1 2 (58 B .C .), Att. IV 3.2 (Nov. 57), Vat. 4 “ nutricula seditiosorum omnium” (March 56). 6 Cic. Sest. i i o - i i ; cf. leg. agr. II 84, L ivy III 33.7, 68.10, Sen. de ben. V 16.5 for ‘ plebicola’ . 7 Cic. Gael. 23, Dio X L V II 24*6 (Palla); I G I I 2 866, Hermes, x x x (1895), 630 (Atratina); cf. Austin, 7 4 ,15 3 . See also E.Badian, P A C A , x i (1968), $-6 n.22, who points out that Gellius’ wife might equally be the daughter o f the young Atratinus who prosecuted Caelius.

cognomen was originally spelt ‘Poplicola’ : for consistency, I keep to the later form throughout.) This Gellius eventually became consul in 36 B .C ., having survived a dangerous interlude in the Philippi campaign in 42, when he was discovered plotting against both Brutus and Cassius in Asia Minor. Brutus released him without punishment, because he had always been a close friend and because Gellius’ brother M. Messalla Corvinus was an intimate o f Cassius. Cassius too let him off, as a reward for Palla, Gellius’ mother, who was very fond o f Cassius and had warned .liim in advance o f her son’s intention.8 This Gellius, as we know from the consular Fasti, was the son o f a Lucius and the grandson o f a Lucius: 3.

L . G ellius

1 :


L . G eilius m . (1) P alla (2) m . (Messalla)

L . Sem pron ius

Sem p ro n ia

A tratinu s cos. 34

A tratin a m . L . G elliu s P u b lico la

M . M essalla C o rv in u s

Finally, there is a story in Valerius Maximus about a son o f the L. Gellius who was consul in 72 and censor in 70. He was accused o f having seduced his stepmother and planned to murder Ms father. At a family tribunal, with a large number o f distinguished senators sitting as advisers, old Gellius sat in judgment on his son and found him not guilty.9 Inscriptional evidence makes it certain that the old censor was the son o f a Lucius,10 and though in Ms own time he was never called anything but ‘L. Gellius’, it seems that on Augustus’ consular Fasti he sported the cognomen ‘Publicola’ :11 8 Dio X L V II 24.3-6; Gellius was striking coins for Antony as quaestor the following year (Crawford I, 526, no. 7). 9 Val. M ax. V 9.1, implying that the old man was already censorius (i.e. after 70 B .C .). 10 IL L R P 515, IG IX 483. There is no evidence for ‘L.n.’ too (as in Broughton); that goes back to an erroneous belief that L. Gellius L.f., pr. 94, was the father o f the cos. 72 instead o f the man himself (but see Cic. Brut. 174) ,. 11 Degrassi 1, 486: recorded only b y the Chronographer o f A .D . 354, who however seems to be a reliable source for the Fasti Capitolini (Degrassi I, 346). Cicero mentions Gellius often: Brut. 105, 174, leg. 1 53, Verr. I 125, II 95, Balb. 19, 33, Clu. 119 , red. Quir. 17, Pis. 6, Att. X II 2 1 .1 ; also Asc. 84C, Geli., N A V 6.15 etc.

122 4-





G elliu s

L . G ellius (P ublicola) cos. 7 2 (1) m .

(mater) (2) m . (noverca)

Gellius filius

How, if at all, do these four groups fit together? The very distinctive cognomen ‘Publicola’ links nos. 3 and 4, and it seems an obvious first step to make L. Gellius Publicola, cos. 36, the son o f L. Gellius (Publicola), cos. 72, and identical with the man acquitted at the family tribunal.1,1 However, the consul o f 72 reached that office very late, having been praetor over 20 years before (in 94); he must have been born about 135 B .C . The consul o f 36, on the other hand, had a very fast career, characteristic o f the triumviral period, moving from quaestor to consul in five years.1213 He may not have held the quaestorship at the earliest possible moment, but there was no reason for a nobilis to wait long before holding the office that made him a senator; it would be natural to put his birth about 75 B .C . The man whom the old censor examined in his family court was evidently his son by the first o f two marriages, since it was his stepmother he was accused o f seducing. It is hard to have him born in or about his father’ s sixtieth year. There must be a missing generation between the consuls; the old censor’s son will be the father, or uncle, o f the consul, o f 36. The younger consul was the (half-) brother o f M. Messalla Corvinus, and this brings us up against a complex o f literary and historical problems about the name ‘Publicola’ , beginning with a crux in Horace’s Satires. Horace attacks those who contaminate Latin with-Greek words:14 scilicet oblitus patriae patrisque Latini, cum Pedius causas exsudet Publicola atque Corvinus, patriis intermiscere petita verba foris m alis. .. .? 12 Thus F. Munzer, R E V II (1910), I003f. 13 Quaestor in 4 1: see n.8 above. 14 Hor. Sat. I 10.27-30; cf. E. Fraenkel, Horaee (1957), 13 3 -5 , on the text.

m You, o f course, forgetting your country and old Latinus, when Pedius and Corvinus are sweating at their speeches, would rather mix words imported from abroad into their native tongue? The translation deliberately leaves out the crucial word Publicola: does it belong with Pedius or with Corvinus? or is there a third man? The scholiast takes the name as ‘Pedius Publicola’ , but the substance o f his note, about the supposed defence o f Petillius Capitolinus by Pedius and Corvinus, is pure mistaken inference from lines 25-6,Is and the name is likely to be just as wrong. Messalla’s brother, mentioned (unnamed) at .line 85 o f this satire, is correctly identified as ‘Publicola’ by the scholiast, but ‘Pedius’ is just an assumption from the text - and a wrong one. Messalla’s brother was L. Gellius Publicola, and Q. Pedius simply does not come into it at all.1516 It would be pleasant i f we could believe that there were three men - Pedius, (Gellius) Publicola and Corvinus - but the Latin is against this, despite the authority o f Nipperdey.17 The alternative is to take ‘Publicola’ with ‘ Corvinus’ , as Miinzer did.1819There is no other evidence for Corvinus’ use o f the extra agnomen, but he certainly did trace his descent from the legendary Valerii Publicolae o f the early Republic. W e know this not just from the “ ignorant concoction” o f [Vergil] catalepton 9.40,19 but from the fact that the Vipstani Messallae o f the early Empire, who were descended from Corvinus through the female line, used the name themselves.20 Since the context in Horace is precisely the old-world Roman-ness 15 See Fraenkel, loc cit. (after Bentley). 15 Pedius was related to Corvinus through his mother, but: was not his brother (Pliny N H X X X V 2 1, where ex cuiusfamilia implies a not very dose relationship). 17 C . Nipperdey, Opuscula (Berlin, 1877), 495. 18 In R E X I X (1937), 4o £ ; dismissed with a quite unjustified imputation o f failing powers b y Fraenkel, op. cit., 135. 19 Fraenkel’s phrase (see n.18, above). But there are no other howlers in the poem. 20 R. Syme, Tacitus (1958),101 n .8: the mother o f L. Vipstanus Publicola, cos. A .D . 48, w ill have been a Valeria Messallina; bis son Vipstanus Messalla had clari maiores (Tac. Hist. Ill 9) who included a famous orator (Tac. dial. 27.2) - i.e. dearly Corvinus. S e e R . Syme, Historia, x i (1962), 14 9 -51 for these and other Vipstani Publicolae; see M . T . W . Arnheim, The Senatorial Aristocracy in the Later Roman Empire (1972), 137-9 and stemma ia, for the later Valerii who claimed descent from the legendary Publicola, perhaps via another connection through the female line in the first century A.D.




o f Pedius’ and Corvinus’ speech, a reference to the latter’s ancestors would be appropriate even i f Corvinus did not in fact normally use their name. The name was evidently a significant one in the thirties B .C . In Cicero’s generation it had not been quite respectable, with its overtones o f radical politics;21 it is not found attached to anyone except the original P. Valerius, consul in the first year o f the Republic, who introduced the right o f appeal but was criticized for his regnum by the earlier annalists whom Cicero had read.22 At some time during that generation (the exact date is disputed) Valerius Antias produced his huge history o f Rome, a largely fictional work full o f irresponsible inventions, but thoroughly entertaining and readable to judge by the extent o f its influence. It was from Antias’ panegyric o f his own gens that Livy and Dionysius took the great succession o f reforming Valerii who stalk across the hitherto unpopulated pages o f fifth- and fourth-century history, challenging cruelly oligarchic Claudii at every opportunity in a long series o f schematic and rhetorical confrontations.23 This view o f “ the good house that loved the people well” became canonical, and the Capitoline Fasti, which fixed the official list o f consuls some time early in Augustus’ principate,24 showed no fewer than five generations o f consular Valerii surnamed Publicola between 509 and 352 B .C . Contemporary Valerii Messallae suddenly started looking back to distant ancestors - beyond the man who captured Messana in 263 - when they named their sons or assumed agnomina themselves; hence Messalla Corvinus himself, his cousin Potitus Messalla, and Potitus’ son Volusus Messalla, whose name went back to the father o f the first Publicola.25 Also in the thirties, about the time Horace’s lines were written, the most distinguished member o f the local 21 Cic. rep. II 53, “ in quo fuit publicola maxime” ; cf. n.6 above on plebicola. 22 Cic. rep. II 55, cf. 53. For the annalistic tradition (Piso?), see F. Miinzer, De gente Valeria (Oppeln, 1891), ch. 2, esp. 1 1 - 1 4 : Dion. Hal. V 19 .1-3 , L ivy II 7 .5 -12 , 8.6-8, Dio fr. 13.2-3, Plut. Publ. 10 .1-4 , 14.2 (who best preserves the later, apologetic version). u Miinzer, op. cit., ch. 6, esp. 56-7. For Antias see also H. Peter, Historicorum Romanorum reliquiae I (Leipzig, 1906), cccv-cccxxxiii; R. M . Ogilvie, A Commentary on Livy, Books 1 - 5 (1965), 12 - 16 ; E. Badian in Latin Historians, ed. T . A. Dorey (1966), 2 if. “ See Degrassi I, 17-20 ; L . R. Taylor, CP, xxv (1950), 84-95. 25 See H SC P, r x x iv (1970), 2 iif. on these names; R. Syme, J R S , x l v (1955), 155-60 on Potitus, and the Messallae in general.

senate at Ostia was evidently given the surname ‘Publicola’ as a personal honour in recognition o f his public services.26 It is hard to imagine that being done before Antias’ pseudo-history had made the name respectable. This, perhaps, is why young Gellius used the name, and is regularly known by it,27 while the old censor - his grandfather? - is only called Publicola in Augustus’ Fasti, 20 y ears and more after his death. The existence o f ‘editing’ in the Capitoline Fasti is beyond doubt, and the examples detected seem, predictably, to have been designed to enhance the prestige o f families influential at the time the Fasti were compiled - particularly, o f course, Augustus’ own.28 The retrospective attribution to L. Gellius of a cognomen which was not entirely reputable in his own day is quite conceivable, but only if he had had some right to it already - that is, i f he was descended from the Valerii Messallae by adoption or through the female line. Either he was a Valerius adopted by a Gellius, or his mother was a Valeria; in either case Corvinus and his brother sought to emphasize the fact when the Fasti were set up. Family ties in the Roman aristocracy often renewed themselves in subsequent generations,29 so the coincidence o f a Gellius Publicola being the half-brother o f a Messalla who might be called Publicola himself, as he evidently was by Horace, is less startling than it seems at first. When M . Valerius Messalla30 married the lady called Palla, he will have reflected that the son she had already had Valerian blood in his veins. It mattered, what sort o f a brother you gave your own future sons.31

26IL L R P 634a (the cognomen added later); H. Bloch in Scavi di Ostia III (Rome 1958), 209 2 12 , 2 19 (the honour recorded on his tomb?). See S. Panciera, A C , xvm (1966), 59-61, and M . Cebeillac, M E F R , l x x x i i i (1971), 78-81. 27 Dio X L V II 24.3, X L IX index, L ivy epit. 12 2; Degrassi, I, 58-9, 508, and the inscriptions cited in n.7 above. 28 See L. R. Taylor, CP, x l v i (1951), 73-80. 29 E.g. the Clodiae, daughters o f a Metella; one married a Metellus herself, one gave her daughter to a Metellus (pp. i n n.35, 1 1 4 above); stemma o n p . 182-3 below). 30 Corvinus’ father was either ‘N iger’ (cos. 61) or ‘Rufus’ (cos. 53). See F. Miinzer, R E V IIIA (1955), 125 on IL L R P 496 (contra Syme, loc. cit. [n.25], 157): there is no w ay o f choosing between them. 31 Cf. Asc. 19 C : M . Scaurus, Mucia and Pompey’s sons.





The patrician Valerii have taken us a long way from Catullus’ incestuous rival. But before we work back to him there is Clodius’ friend, the fake philosopher and revolutionary, who according to Cicero married a freedwoman in order to appear to be a plebicola. The witticism can hardly be anything but a pun on the name Publicola; evidently this Gellius admitted the cognomen, and was proud o f his descent from the legendary radical o f the early Republic. It is not surprising that the other Gellii did not follow suit; the raffish character and. rabble-rousing tactics o f Clodius’ friend were probably not entirely Ciceronian invention, and it is likely enough that old L. Gellius did not want to be associated with him.32 But he must have been a relative. The name shows that, and also perhaps the fact that his sister was married to a Postumius; for the younger Servius Sulpicius Rufus, the son o f a Postumia, married Valeria, the sister o f Messalla Corvinus and half-sister o f L. Gellius Publicola cos. 36.33 Here, probably, is another case o f adjinitas renewing itself a generation later. As we saw, there must be a generation between the consul o f 72 and the consul o f 36, and that is where Clodius’ fellow-revolutionary should belong. The father o f the cos. 36, according to his affiliation in the Fasti, was a L. Gellius -- but he can hardly be identified as Clodius’ friend. His wife Palla, the consul’s mother, had two husbands o f noble family, one o f them a patrician; she does not sound like a freedwoman. And the elder son o f a consul would hardly remain an eques, as Clodius’ friend did. The Ciceronian scholiast who calls the latter “ L. Gellius” must be mistaken, as Miinzer realized. His praenomen may have been Quintus (thus Miinzer, identifying him with Atticus’ contemporary Q. Gellius 32 Professor Badian suggests to me that since Cicero does not contrast the friend o f Clodius with the old censor (his father on m y reconstruction), it is safer to suppose that the former was not closely related to the consular Gellii, and that Cicero’ s witticism means “ he wants to be a real Gellius (Publicola) by acting the plebicola". But the argument from silence is not compelling: Cicero (Sest. 1 10) contrasts Gellius with his half-brother, because the latter was consul at the time o f the speech, and cites his step-father’s amplissimi honores in the context o f Gellius’ youth, because at that time Gellius’ own father had not yet achieved them. 33 Cic. Sest. i n ; fam. IV 2. 1 and 4, Att. X 9.3,10.4, X I I 1 1 (Servius and Postumia); for Postumia, see also pp. 15 6 ,15 8 below. Sen. de matrimonio fr. 77 (Jer. adv.Jovin. 1 46) on “ Valeria Messallarum soror” , the w idow o f Servius; perhaps Jerome’ s source had “ Corvini atque Publicolae [sc. Gelli] soror” ?

Canus), or more probably Gnaeus, the name borne by several econd-century Gellii.34 The elder son would enter the Senate, but the younger son might not. Cicero’s tale o f squandered patrimony, dissipation, poverty and evolutionism sounds like the classic story o f a younger son in an aristocratic family.35 The missing L. Gellius, then, would be his elder brother, presumably the man acquitted at the family tribunal and probably dead by 56, since Clodius’ friend is just ‘ Gellius’ to Cicero, with no distinguishing praenomen needed. The dates will fit f the two brothers were born in (say) 106 and. 105 B .C ., and their mother was shortly afterwards divorced and remarried to L. Philippus, whose own son she bore by 102. Valerius Maximus, who mplies that the domestic trial was held after the elder Gellius’ censorship, calls the accused son adulescens; but this term could be used o f a man o f up to consular age,36 and on our hypothesis L. Gellius would be in his late thirties in the years immediately after 70 B .C . He never lived to reach the consulship, as his father eventually had and as his son did later.

The stemma on p. 128 summarizes the position reached so far, after consideration o f all the non-Catullan evidence. Catullus’ rival, who got a kick out o f playing an old friend false, was clearly L. Gellius Publicola, later cos. 36, who had been a close riend o f Brutus and then plotted against him in 42 and joined Antony. The mother with whom he enjoyed unusually free relations was Palla, who was so “ fond” o f Cassius. The uncle who took a puritanical moral line was Clodius’ friend the veteran revolutionary, n the ascetic ‘philosophical’ period o f which. Cicero made such 4 Schol. Bob. 133S1: (perhaps wrongly inferred from Cicero’s references to ‘L. Gellius’ , meaning the censorius ); F. Miinzer, R E V I! (1910), 991, who unfortunately makes him the censorius’ brother (ib id ., 992). Quintus: Mumier, toe. cit., 992, Nep. A l t . 0.2-4. Gnaeus: Geli. AM X IV 2.21 (opponent o f Cato); ib id ., X III 2 3.13, Dion. Hal. I 3 1 .1 (historian); Crawford I, 265 (moneyer). 5 I f the res p a tern a and p a trim o n iu m are to be taken literally, they must be what he nherited from his stepfather Philippus: old L. Gellius was still alive in 55 (Cic. P is . 6 ). But Cicero cannot be pressed on details where there was a good story to be told. 6 E.g. Val. M ax. VII 5.2 (aedile candidate), Cic. P h i l. II 1 1 3 (praetors), Sail. H is t . I 6M (consular candidate), Cic. P h i l. I I 118 (consul), etc. See Sumner, 252f. for Philipus’ son, praetor in 62.

S te m m a G e l li o r m n


L. Marcius

L. Marcius Philippus cos. s6

L. G ELLIU S m. (1) Palla (2) m. M. Valerius Messalla cos. 61 or 53

L. Sempronius Sempronia Atratinus Atratina m. L. GELLIU S P U B LIC O L A cos. 34 cos. 36

M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus cos. 31

Cn.? Q .? G ELLIU S (PU BLICO LA ?) m. uxor libertina

G E L L IA m. Postumius

Ser. Sulpicius Rufus m. Postumia cos. 51

Valeria m. Ser. Sulpicius Rufus




Philippus m. (2) mater (1) m. (1) L. G ELLIU S (2) m. noverca cos. 72, cens. 70 cos. 91

fun.37 Publicola - though he was probably not yet using the name would be about 20 years old at the time o f Catullus’ disillusionment with Lesbia, young enough to have a lively mother in her late thirties or early forties. The only addition we need to make to the stemma is the insertion o f his sister, and even that may not be necessary if Catullus was exaggerating when he wrote germanam at 91.5 ;38 she might just be Gellius’ half-sister Valeria, perhaps in her teens in 55 B .C .39 Gellius’ grandmother married L. Philippus, the son o f a Claudia who was in fact Lesbia’s aunt.40 That made Gellius Lesbia’s first cousin by marriage, twice removed - not nearly close enough to count as incest. 37 Cic. Sest. n o , especially appropriate i f regulam is read for reculam. 38 Cf. 64.150 germanum, though the Minotaur was only half-brother to Ariadne. 39 Corvinus’ birth is wrongly dated to 59 B .C . by Jerom e; 64 is more likely (R. Syme, H SC P, l x i v [1959], 40). Valeria may have been older. 48 Cic. dom. 84; the sister o f Ap. Claudius (cos. 79), presumably by an earlier marriage o f his father’s.



The Good Goddess

Every year, on the night o f 4-5 December,1 the rites o f the Good Goddess were celebrated by the matronae o f Rome under the direction o f the Vestal Virgins.2 These matrons were a selection o f the married women o f the Roman ruling class; how they were selected we do not know,3 but only a limited number could have been accommodated in the single private house in which the rites were held. Sacrifice was performed “ on behalf o f the people” , that the goddess might pour upon Rome the blessings o f the cornucopia which was her conspicuous attribute;4 a sign o f her favour was taken as affecting the welfare o f the whole city.5 But though the rites were ‘public’ in that sense, and therefore held in the house o f a magistrate with imperium,6 that is a consul or a praetor, the details o f their performance were very private indeed. The magistrate himself had to sleep out that night, for no male creature of any kind was allowed to witness them; his wife, or Iris mother, was in charge.7 What went on? According to Plutarch, “ there was much music” , 1 Dio X X X V II 35.4, Plut. C ic . 19, cf. 20.3 (the night before the Nones o f December). Often assumed to be variable, on the strength o f C ic. A t t . V 2 1.14 , V I 1.26, X V 25 (e.g. Wissowa, 2 17 n.i), but see Shackleton Bailey III, 238 and VI, 273: the first two references, from February and March, can hardly be about a sacrifice in December, and the third refers to Eleusis. 2 Cic. A l t . I 13.2, h a r. re s p . 37; Asc. 49C, Plut. C ic . 19.4, 20.1, Dio X X X V II 35.4, Schol. Bob. 8sSt. 3 Cf. L iv y X X V III 37.8, Val. M ax. V III 15 .12 , Pliny N H VII 120 for the choice o f m atronae in other contexts; restricted to u n iv ira e ? 4 P r o p o p u lo : C i c . A t t . 1 12 .3 ,13 .3 , h a r. resp. 37, leg. I I 2 1 ; Sen. ep . 97.2, e t c . Cornucopia: A. Greifenhagen, R o m . M it t ., 1.11 (1937), 227-38. 5 As in 63: Plut. C ic . 20.1, Dio X X X V II 35.4. 6 Cic. h a r. resp. 37, Plut. C a e s. 9.4, C ic . 19.4, Dio X X X V II 45.1. 7 Cic. h a r. re sp . 8, 37, etc.; Plut. C ic . 19.4, C a e s . 9.4, M o r . 268e (n d v a p p e v ), Ju v . V I 339f. Aurelia (and Julia) in 62: Schol. Bob. 89St, Suet. D J 74.

and when P. Clodius secretly got into the performance in 62, he was disguised as a lute-girl.8 The house was decorated with flowers and all kinds o f growing plants (except myrtle, which was taboo),9 and the shrines, particularly the goddess’ own tabernacle, were wreathed in vine-branches.10 An amphora o f wine was provided, but it was covered over and referred to as a ‘honey-pot’ ; ‘milk’ was the ritual name for the wine inside it,” Music and wine - two o f the elements in Juvenal’s notorious scenario:12 Nota bonae secreta deae, cum tibia lumbos incitat et cornu pariter vinoque feruntur attonitae crinemque rotant ululantque Priapi maenades, o quantus tunc illis mentibus ardor concubitus, quae vo x saltante libidine, quantus ille meri veteris per crura madentia torrens! The Good Goddess’ secrets everyone knows - when the pipe excites the limbs, and carried away by the horn and the wine together in frenzy, they shriek and whirl their hair, Priapus’ maenads. Oh, how their minds are burning then for sex, how they cry with the leaping lust, how full the torrent o f old neat wine down their dripping thighs! The satirist goes on to make one o f the noble ladies challenge, and defeat, the “ brothel-keepers’ slave-girls” at a contest o f erotic dancing - bumps and grinds, as a recent translator has it.13 What were the slave-girls doing there anyway? Presumably they were the professional dancers, and perhaps the musicians too, for a leno had to keep his girls proficient in several arts.14 They present a much more 8 Plut. C a e s . 9.4. P s a ltr ia : Cic. h a r. resp. 44, S e s t . 116 and in Nonius 745L; Ju v . V I 336-40, Plut. C ic . 28.1, C a e s . 10.1. 9 Plut. M o r . 268d; cf. Macr. S a t . 1 12.25 (also for healing herbs in her temple), Arnobius a d v . nat. V 18 on myrtle. 10 Plut. C a e s . 9.3, Macr. S a t. 1 12.25 (“ super caput eius” ). 11 Amphora: Lactantius d iv . inst. 1 2 2 .11, A m . a d v . nat. V 18. M e lla r iu m and la c : Macr. S a t . I 12.25, Plut. M o r . 268e. 12 Ju v . V I 3 14 -19 ; cf. also II 86f., IX 1 1 7 (VI 335 for Saufeia). 13 Ju v. V I 320, “ lenonum ancillas” ; Peter Green, Ju v e n a l, the S ix t e e n S a tire s (1967), 138. 14 See above, p. 94 and n.44. For dancing to castanets (below), see P r ia p e ia 27.3, [Verg.] C o p a 2, Scipio Aemilianus in Malcovati, 133.





attractive picture once we rid ourselves o f Juvenal’s heated imagination, as in this epitaph written for one o f them by Thyillus, a contemporary o f Clodius and Cicero:15 rj xpordAois opyrjCSTpls ’A pian ov, rj 'irtpl wevKcus Kai Kvj 3 eAr] TrAoxapovs plipat im arapem j, rj Aoirai xepoevri cjoopovpivrj, rj rpls ecfoetjfjs elSv? dxprjTov KvAtxas, evddS’ w t o nreAeacs dvarraveTat, o v k s t epcoTL o v k 4 t i TravvvyiSwv repnopevq xaparots. Kwpoi xal pa vial, peya yaiperc. xe 16’ vAAois> rj t o rrplv OTe