In recent years many historians have rightly emphasised aggressive imperialism as a key element in Roman political life in the Middle and Late Republic. This has led to reconsideration of the significance of the ‘just war’ theory associated with the college of fetiales. ‘On the basis of this fetial law of the Roman people, it can be understood that no war is justified unless it is waged after compensation has been demanded , or the war has been announced in advance (...) and formally proclaimed.’ Earlier this century, scholars were happy to accept that this ‘fetial law’ implied that the Romans never initiated wars of aggression but fought only if they felt they were the aggrieved party. Scullard believed that ‘…in fact Roman religious law did not countenance wars of aggression designed to gain new territory’ ; for Tenney Frank, ‘ the Roman mos maiorum did not recognise the right of aggression or a desire for more territory as just causes for war. That the institution was observed in good faith for centuries there can be no doubt.’ Recent scholars have been more sceptical. Harris sees the activities of the fetiales primarily as a psychological mechanism for assuaging the guilt feelings which even Romans will have been unable to escape when initiating totally unjustified wars of aggression: ‘the significance of the fetial procedure for declaring war was solely psychological’. Other writers have gone further in stressing its mystificatory and propaganda function. Our scepticism about the efficacy of ‘fetial law’ in restraining the Romans' belligerence should be accompanied by a re-evaluation of our evidence regarding the fetiales and what they actually did. Such a re-evaluation will not affect our picture of the Romans of the Middle and Late Republic as aggressive and militaristic, but we may have to revise our views on how the fetiales fit into that picture. This paper makes no claim to analyse exhaustively every piece of evidence which might throw some light on the fetiales, let alone every interpretation to be found in the secondary literature; but it may be worthwhile to reconsider the main types of operations which the fetiales are said by our ancient sources to have been involved in. (shrink)
The institution of slavery has served to perform different functions in different societies. The distinction between ‘closed’ and ‘open’ slavery can be a useful one: in some societies slavery is a mechanism for the permanent exclusion of certain individuals from political and economic privileges, while in others it has served precisely to facilitate the integration of outsiders into the community. ‘The African slave, brought by a foray to the tribe, enjoys, from the beginning, the privileges and name of a child, (...) and looks upon his master and mistress in every respect as his new parents… by care and diligence, he may soon become a master himself, and even more rich and powerful than he who led him captive.’ The model of an ‘open’ slavery implies that service as a slave is not a state to which a person is permanently, let alone ‘naturally’, assigned, but more akin to an age-grade. A parallel might be domestic or agricultural service as it was practised in much of Europe until this century — a period spent serving in another household after childhood and prior to marriage. A Roman slave, on formal manumission, joined the community of citizens. To what extent ought we therefore to succumb to the temptation to see slavery at Rome — in contrast to the Greek world — in terms of the ideal type of a ‘process of integration’? In a noted article on ‘Die Freilassung von Sklaven und die Struktur der Sklaverei in der römischen Kaiserzeit’ , G. Alföldi argued that in the Roman Empire slavery was an ‘Übergangszustand’ , a transitional state which ultimately gave most slaves a recognised if not a fully equal place as members of the Roman citizen community. (shrink)
Although the view dies hard that the poetry which Ovid wrote during his years in exile at Tomi consists largely of the ‘querulous and sycophantic’ complaints of a weak man unable to come to terms with a personal disaster, it has been recognized for many years that the Tristia and the Epistolae ex Ponto are not mere expressions of emotion but are as well thought out and constructed as any other of the doctus poeta's products. Of these poems, Tristia 2 (...) must be placed in a category by itself-if only because of its length and because it purports to be a plea by Ovid to Augustus, the man responsible for his exile, on the very practical matter of mitigating the sentence. (shrink)
Any educated Roman in late antiquity would immediately have recognized the figure of Catiline, for the simple reason that Sallust, together with Vergil, Cicero, and Terence, formed the core of the school curriculum. When his grandson starts school, Ausonius rejoices in a second chance to read the Catiline and the Histories.