Prodigy Lists and the Use of the Annales Maximi

Classical Quarterly 21 (1):158-169 (1971)
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Abstract

It is generally supposed that on the publication of the Annales Maximi in the Gracchan period historians, or some historians influential on the tradition, eagerly made use of this new source of material. The yearly lists of publicly expiated prodigies in Livy and related authors are usually considered to form the best evidence for this view. For given the elder Gato’s remark about the famines and eclipses of sun and moon recorded on the tabula dealbata which is said to have formed the basis of the published work, and given the only two fragments of the latter dealing with the republican period, that from Cicero recording an eclipse and that from Aulus Gellius about lightning striking the statue of Horatius Codes, no one can doubt that prodigies were indeed to be found in the Annales Maximi. It is of course agreed that the lists given by Livy and others include only an incomplete selection of each year’s prodigia and that they are deformed by repetition and errors. But in fact certain features of these lists suggest, at least, that rewriting and corruptions go pretty deep; even, perhaps, that it was not the Annales Maximi at all from which they were drawn. It is the purpose of this paper to draw attention to these disquieting peculiarities, and to the even more disquieting consequences that follow.

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