Paper topics

Paper 1 topics

Answer one of the following questions:

— How does Plautus’ Iran Man dramatize the differences of power between the free and the enslaved?

— How are women portrayed in Plautus’ Iran Man and the poems of Catullus?

— To what extent is Catullus’ poetry “counter-cultural”?

Grading Rubric: 

Papers will be graded according to the following criteria of content, style, citation. I expect you to quote the ancient evidence directly in order to make your argument. Although you should feel free to use the ideas we discuss in class, the best papers are those which go beyond the classroom discussion and generate original analysis upon the texts.

Exemplary: A (95-100%), A- (90-94%)
Answers the question with a sophisticated argument and is eloquently written.
Many well chosen quotations from ancient sources, properly cited.

Good: B+ (87-89%), B (84-86%), B- (80-83%)
A good argument, which may come close to answering the question.
Some contact with ancient sources.
Perhaps occasional slip of grammar or spelling.

Adequate: C+(77-79%), C (74-76%), C- (70-73%)
A vague argument, does not answer question.
No contact with ancient sources.
Several problems with grammar or spelling.

Insufficient: D+ (67-69%), D (65-66%)
A weak or non-existent argument.
Does not answer question.
Contains factual errors or irrelevant details.
Uses inappropriate or unattributed sources.

F (0-64%)
Does not complete assignment or inadequately completes assignment.

Further instructions:

  • Your first paper is due Tues 22nd Oct.
  • This paper must be 4-5 pages in length and will make up 15% of your grade.
  • Format all papers double-spaced with Times New Roman, 12-point font, 1” margins at top and bottom, 1” margins on sides.
  • Papers must be printed and handed in (not emailed) on the stated date to your Teaching Fellow at the beginning of the lecture.
  • All papers MUST include references to primary sources discussed in this course (in lecture and/or in section).
  • Refer to the info on exams, assessment, policy:

Lecture 6. Rome in the 2nd century BCE.

Lecture 6, Thursday 19th September 2019

The history of Roman dominance in Italy + the Mediterranean

Forsythe 2005: 369: “From the year 300 BCE onwards the Roman lists of consuls is secure, and Roman dates are absolute, but this is not the case for the period preceding 300 BCE.”

Wiseman 1994: ix: “History mattered to the Romans….And yet, for more than a third of its history Rome had no history.”*
*Čulík-Baird: they did not have writers of history until 3rd c. BCE

An eye-witness account: Polybius (c. 200-118 BCE)

  • from the Greek city Megapolis in Arcadia
  • wrote a history of Rome’s rise to power in Greek
    • scholars often consider it an example of a Greek trying to explain Rome to a Greek audience
  • Polybius was elected in 170/169 BCE to cavalry leader in the Achaean League (Polybius 28.6.9)
  • after Roman defeat of Perseus of Macedon at Battle of Pydna in 168 BCE, Polybius was sent to Italy as a political captive alongside 1000 others
  • while in Rome, Polybius became friends with the most prominent Roman of the era, Scipio Aemilianus (Polybius 31.23)
    • Polybius describes the affection between them as between father and son (Polybius 31.25)
  • Polybius traveled with Scipio to Spain (151 BCE), and to Africa; he witnessed the destruction of Carthage in 146 BCE with Scipio
  • Polybius (3.47-48) describes journeying over the Alps to retrace Hannibal’s footsteps, crticizing over-romanticized portrayals of the Carthaginian general

Polybius Histories 1.1 (translated by Scott-Kilvert): “If earlier chronicles of human affairs had failed to bear witness in praise of history, it might perhaps have been necessary for me to urge all readers to seek out and pay special attention to writings such as these; for certainly mankind possesses no better guide to conduct than the knowledge of the past. But in truth all historians without exception, one may say, have made this claim the be-all and end-all of their work: namely that the study of history is at once an education in the truest sense and a training for a political career, and that the most infallible, indeed the only method of learning how to bear with dignity the vicissitudes of fortune is to be reminded of the disasters suffered by others. We may agree, then, that nobody at this time need feel himself obliged to repeat what has been so often and so eloquently stated by other writers. Least of all does this apply to my own case, for here it is precisely the element of the unexpected in the events I have chosen to describe which will challenge and stimulate everyone alike, both young and old, to study my systematic history. There can surely be nobody so petty or so apathetic in his outlook that he has no desire to discover by what means and under what system of government the Romans succeeded in less than fifty-three years [220 — 167 BCE] in bringing under their rule almost the whole of the inhabited world, an achievement which is without parallel in human history.”

Maps of Roman expansion
Images: Ian Mladjov.

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Expansion of Roman power (509-133 BCE)

date: event: significance?
Speculative model of the first Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, 509 BC [wikimedia]
Reconstruction of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter (509 BCE), see Lecture 1.
509 BCE expulsion of kings beginning of Roman Republic
Capitoline Apollo close up wikimedia
6th c. BCE sculpture of Apollo from Veii
396 BCE capture of Etruscan Veii after a 10 year siege defeat of an important Etruscan city, extending Rome’s influence in Italy
Pleiades: Veii
– 10 year siege: Livy 5.22.8
Crawford 2001: 19: “The first century and a half of the Republic saw first the reassertion of Roman leadership of the other Latin communities and then a long sequence of wars against the Etruscan cities, principally Veii (captured and destroyed in 396 BCE) and against the Volscians to the south.”
Image: AWMC.
338 BCE Roman conquest of Latium Roman influence over surrounding communities

Pleiades: Latium
Crawford 2001: 19: “The crucial moment in the history of the Roman conquest of Italy came in 338 BCE. Most of the Latin communities around Rome, viewing her growing preponderance with alarm, attempted to reassert their independence. They were rapidly defeated and all, except the largest and most distant, incorporated in the Roman citizen body.”

awmc Latium Samnium
Image: AWMC.
295 BCE Wars against Samnites
– 295 BCE Samnites defeated at Sentinum
Roman power in Italy reaffirmed, consolidated
Pleiades: Samnium
Pyrrhus in Italy Heraclea Ausculum Maleventum
Image: wikimedia.
280-272 BCE War against Tarentum + King Pyrrhus of Epirus
– 280 BCE: defeat of Rome by Pyrrhus at Heraclea
– 279 BCE: defeat of Rome by Pyrrhus at Ausculum
Roman extends its influence to southern, culturally Greek part of Italian peninsula, known as Magna Graecia
Pleiades: Tarentum
Tarentum 272 BCE peripleomap = pleiades  272 BCE capture of Tarentum
Image: AWMC.
265 BCE capture of Etruscan Volsinii Roman control of entire peninsula of Italy
: Volsinii
Roman Republic 264-241 First Punic War Mladjov.jpg
Image: Mladjov.
264-241 BCE First Punic War Rome fights with Carthage over control of Sicily; Roman expands into the mediterranean
Rome Sicily
Base image: Mladjov.
241 BCE Carthage surrenders Sicily to Rome Rome acquires its first foreign province
Sardinia + Corsica .jpeg
Base image: Mladjov.
238 BCE Roman annexation of Sardinia + Corsica Rome expands to gain further provinces in the mediterranean
Roman Republic 218-168 BCE 2nd punic war + after
Image: Mladjov.
218-201 BCE Second Punic War
– 218 BCE: Hannibal invades Italy
– 216 BCE: Battle of Cannae, severe defeat of Romans
– 203 BCE: Hannibal recalled from Italy to Africa
– 202 BCE: Scipio Africanus defeats Hannibal at Battle of Zama
struggle between Rome + Carthage over resources resolved in Rome’s favour; increased Roman power in mediterranean

Crawford 2001: 29: “Hannibal’s invasion of Italy in 218 BCE…was a deliberate attempt to reverse the verdict of the First Punic War.”
Briscoe 1989: 44: “Polybius rightly regarded [Rome’s seizure of Sardinia] as unjustified and the subsequent Carthaginian resentment as a major cause of the Second Punic War.” Polybius: 3.10.4.

Image: wikimedia
202-191 BCE Roman conquest of Cisalpine Gaul northern expansion of Roman interests
Spain 208-206 BCE.jpg
Image: Mladjov.
197 BCE Roman annexation of Spain consolidation of territory taken from Carthage
Image: wikimedia.
199-196 BCE Second Macedonian War
– war with Philip V of Macedon (= joined Hannibal against Rome in 215 BCE: First Macedonian War = 215-205 BCE)
– Romans defeat Macedonians at Cynoscephalae (“Dogs’ heads”)
– Greece declared “free” in 196 BCE by Titus Quinctius Flamininus at Corinth
with Carthage dealt with (for now), Rome turned its interest to Greece
Image: wikimedia.
192-188 BCE Syrian War between Rome + Antiochus III expansion of Roman interests
Hilary Lehmann Paullus relief
Sculptural relief of the L. Aemilius Paullus’ monument at Delphi. Image: Hilary Lehmann.
171-167 BCE Third Macedonian War
– 168 BCE: Battle of Pydna: L. Aemilius Paullus vs. Perseus of Macedon
end to the Macedonian kingdom
: Pydna
Coin of Andriskos. Image: wikimedia.
149-148 BCE Fourth Macedonian War short-lived attempt to reinstate Macedonian power by a pretender to the throne (Andriskos)
Roman Republic 148-121
Image: Mladjov.
149-146 BCE Third Punic War
– 146 BCE:
collapse of Corinth + Carthage as rival imperial powers in the mediterranean
– complete destruction of Carthage
considered by Romans the profound moment of change in Roman history; origin of Roman excess?
: Corinth
Pleiades: Carthage
Attalus III 133.png
Image: Mladjov.
133 BCE Attalus III of Pergamum bequeaths kingdom to Rome, it becomes the province of Asia (129 BCE) increased territories + an influx of wealth at Rome that exacerbates political tensions
Pleiades: Pergamum


A silver Carthaginian coin (double shekel) minted in Spain, c. 237-209 BCE; British Museum. Left: bearded male head with heavy club (Melqart?); right: cloaked rider on an elephant. Image: British Museum.

tl;dr Roman expansion 

– Rome conquers its nearest neighbours — Etruscans, Latins, Italians
– Rome extends its influence into the south, the culturally Greek area; fights its first “international” enemy
– 265 BCE: Rome controls entire Italian peninsula
– Rome begins a struggle with Carthage, another mediterranean empire, which it will continue to fight till mid 2nd c. BCE:
— First Punic War: 246-241 BCE
— Second Punic War: 218-201 BCE
— Third Punic War: 149-146 BCE
– Rome takes possession of large islands in the mediterranean, provoking Carthage
– Carthaginian general, Hannibal, brings war to Italy after crossing the Alps, and defeats Rome several times; is himself defeated in Africa by Scipio Africanus
– Rome continues to acquire more territory
– Rome’s increased power creates conflicts with powers in the east: in Greece and Asia
146 BCE: with the collapse of Corinth + Carthage, Rome has defeated its major rivals and has established itself as the dominant force

Enslaving the world

Joshel 2010: 54: “Mass enslavement in Rome’s foreign wars made possible the growth of a large-scale slave system. First, war increased the slave population in Italy and continually fed that population with new captives. Rome’s early wars in Italy had resulted in the enslavement of some of the conquered but the enslavement of large numbers of the conquered apparently began with Rome’s wars with the Samnites, a people in south central Italy…The Roman conquest of the mediterranean in the second century BCE escalated the number of slaves. Roman victories meant major dislocations of people, primarily importation to Italy.”

  • 177 BCE: Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus killed or enslaved 80, 000 of the inhabitants of Sardinia (Livy 41.28.9)
  • 167 BCE: Lucius Aemilius Paullus allowed by senate to sack 70 cities in Epirus, enslaving 150, 000 (Livy 45.34.5)
  • 57 BCE: Julius Caesar sold 53, 000 Germans (Aduatuci) into slavery (Appian, Gallic History 1.2)
  • by late 1st century BCE probably 20-30% population of Roman Italy slaves: 1 to 1.5 million out of 5 to 6 million (Joshel 2010: 56)

Arch of Titus 81 CERelief of the spoils from Jerusalem, Arch of Titus, Rome, after 81 CE. Image: Dnalor 01, CC BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia. In the Jewish War (66-70 CE), the Romans enslaved 97,000 people (Joshel 2010: 67).


The Scipio family 

Scipio family tree simplified.jpg
[pdf] Scipio family tree, simplified

Mary Beard 2016: 170: “The careers of these men point to a new world of Roman politics and expansion over the third and second centuries BCE. These are some of the key players, famous or infamous, in the series of military campaigns that gave the Roman Republic control over the whole mediterranean and beyond. Their rather cumbersome names nicely sum up that new world. Barbatus presumably points to the bearer’s appearance, and Aemilianus is a reference to the man’s natural father, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, but AfricanusAsiaticus, and Hispallus (from his father’s service in Spain, Hispania) reflect the new horizons of Roman power. One reasonable way of translating ‘Scipio Africanus‘ would be ‘Scipio hammer of Africa.'”

The triumph of Lucius Aemilius Paullus

In 168 BCE, Lucius Aemilius Paullus defeated King Perseus of Macedon, bringing an end to that Hellenistic dynasty. In 167 BCE, Paullus celebrated a triumph in Rome: the ritual procession of a Roman general who had won a significant victory to the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol.  Involved in the triumphal procession were:

  • the triumphator dressed in the costume said to have been the kings’ and close to Jupiter’s on a four-horse chariot
  • eminent captives (normally destined for execution)
  • freed Roman prisoners of war dressed as the triumphator’s freedmen
  • the major spoils captured
  • his army
  • animals for sacrifice
  • whole senate and all the magistrates were supposed to escort it
  • from c. 200 BCE sumptuous decorations: banners, paintings of sieges and battles, musicians, and torch-bearers
  • a slave rode with the triumphator holding a laurel wreath over his head + reminding him that he was mortal
  • soldiers chanted insulting verses

Plutarch, Life of Aemilius (33-34): “These were followed by the chariot of Perseus, which bore his arms, and his diadem lying upon his arms. Then, at a little interval, came the children of the king, led along as slaves, and with them a throng of foster-parents, teachers, and tutors, all in tears, stretching out their own hands to the spectators and teaching the children to beg and supplicate. There were two boys, and one girl, and they were not very conscious of the magnitude of their evils because of their tender age; because of which they evoked even more pity in view of the time when their unconsciousness would cease, so that Perseus walked along almost unheeded, while the Romans, moved by compassion, kept their eyes upon the children, and many of them shed tears, and for all of them the pleasure of the spectacle was mingled with pain, until the children had passed by. Behind the children and their train of attendants walked Perseus himself, clad in a dark robe and wearing the high boots of his country, but the magnitude of his evils made him resemble one who is utterly dumbfounded and bewildered. He, too, was followed by a company of friends and intimates, whose faces were heavy with grief, and whose tearful gaze continually fixed upon Perseus gave the spectators to understand that it was his misfortune which they bewailed, and that their own fate least of all concerned them. And yet Perseus had sent to Aemilius begging not to be led in the procession and asking to be left out of the triumph. But Aemilius, in mockery, as it would seem, of the king’s cowardice and love of life, had said: “But this at least was in his power before, and is so now, if he should wish it,” signifying death in preference to disgrace; for this, however, the coward had not the heart, but was made weak by no one knows what hopes, and became a part of his own spoils.”

The Monument of Lucius Aemilius Paullus at Delphi (sanctuary of Apollo)
Commemorating Battle of Pydna 
(168 BCE)

Images. Left: 19th century reimagining of the Paullus monument. Top: the inscription at the base of the statue. Image: Center for Epigraphical Studies, OSUBottom: fragmentary remains of the sculptural relief. Image courtesy of Hilary Lehmann.

Plutarch, Life of Aemilius (28.4): “At Delphi, he saw a tall square pillar composed of white marble stones, on which a golden statue of Perseus was intended to stand, and gave orders that his own statue should be set there, for it was appropriate that the conquered should make room for their conquerors.”

  • earliest surviving Roman historical sculptural relief — connected to tradition of commemorating military victories in painting? (Ling 1991: 11; Bonanno 1983: 72)
    • L. Aemilius Paullus had asked Athenians to send him a painter to commemorate victory over Macedonian king (Pliny NH 35.135)
  • long frieze running around top of tall rectangular pillar topped by equestrian statue of Aemilius Paullus, close to Temple of Apollo, Delphi
  • on its 4 sides it shows episodes from the Battle of Pydna (168 BCE)
  • Bonnano 1983: 72: “It has been suggested that one of the horsemen should be identified with Paullus himself. If so, this is the first extant Roman portrait in relief.”
  • one “scene” on relief: riderless horse — signifying story that the battle began over an escaped horse (Plutarch, Life of Aemilius 18.1, Livy 44.40)
  • inscription (CIL 12.622): “Lucius Aemilius, son of Lucius, commander-in-chief, took this as booty from King Perseus and the Macedonians.”

$CIL_01_00622.jpgClose-up of Latin on the Paullus monument. Image: EDCS (Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss). Transcription from EDCS: L(ucius) A<e=i>milius L(uci) f(ilius) inperator de rege Perse / Macedonibusque cepet.</e=i>

Further reading:


Lecture 5. Plautus, Terence. The Roman Stage.

Lecture 5, Tuesday 17th September 2019

Religious festivals & Roman drama 

Religious Festivals.png

[printable pdf] CL 102 Religious Festivals in Rome (sources: Manuwald 2011, Boyle 2006) 

Theatre at Rome

Two mosaics c. 100 BCE from the “Villa of Cicero”, Pompeii. Both signed by in Greek by an artist from Samos: “Dioskourides of Samos made this.” Taken to be scenes by the Greek comic playwright, Menander. Characters in the mosaic are wearing theatrical masks. Top: musicians playing tibiae, mini-cymbals, drum, with an attendant; perhaps Menander’s Theophorumene, “The Possessed” (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli inv. 9985). Image: wikimediaBottom: three women sit around a table with a slave attending them; perhaps Menander’s Synaristosai, “Women at Breakfast” (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli inv. 9987). Image: wikimedia.

The Roman Stage as the Roman House

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1: Image, Richard Beacham; 2-4: Images,

Modern retellings…


Stage set for Luis Alfaro’s Mojada (retelling of Euripides’ Medea) at the Getty Villa, Los Angeles (2015). Read Efren Delgadillo Jr., the designer for Mojada, describe the process behind the stage design. 

Actors and stagecraft

Roman stage conventions.jpg

Image: basic conventions for staging Roman plays, Čulík-Baird 2018 based on Manuwald 2011: 69ffNota bene: even though the above is usually said to be the convention, we have examples of reversal of direction. Not all three doors were used in every play.

Actors and status

  • actors were often foreigners, slaves, or ex-slaves
  • actors werelike prostitutes and gladiators, infames (i.e. they had infamia) = citizen rights removed

Actors and costume

Cicero, On the Orator (2.193): “What can be so unreal as poetry, the theatre or stage-plays? And yet, I myself have often been a spectator when the actor’s eyes seemed to me to be blazing behind his mask as he spoke his lines.”

  • actors seem to have worn masks, although evidence is not clear about when exactly this practice began (Manuwald 2011: 79-80); we have evidence for both 3rd and 2nd c. BCE
    • theatrical masks appear in a number of Roman art forms, but they are not necessarily representative of specific dramatic practice
  • actors in comedies also wore specific footwear:
    • fancy sandals for a foreign-looking disguise (Plautus, Iran Man 464)
    • in Roman comedy slaves and free men and women wear sandals or slippers (socci); “various types of footwear become synonyms for specific types of drama, the ‘slipper’ (soccus) representing comedy” (Manuwald 2011: 77)


Asarotos oikos mosaic from dining room of villa on Aventine Hill at the time of the Emperor Hadrian (2nd c. CE). Theatrical masks and ritual objects at the bottom of the image. Currently in the Vatican Museum. Image: Vatican Museum.

Staging Roman Drama

  • every performance erected temporary wooden theatre in the Circus Maximus, the Forum, or in front of the temple of the god of the festival
    • Manuwald 2011: 56: “However, ‘temporary’ in this context literally means ‘erected for a limited period of time’ and is not to be equated with ‘simple’: the structures evolved over the centuries, and in the late Republic theatre buildings were rather elaborate.”
    • additionally, there were stone theatres outside of Rome during this period, e.g. Syracuse, Sicily; Pompeii had a stone theatre from 200 BCE
  • several attempts to erect permanent theatres in 2nd century: 179 BCE, 174BCE, 154 BCE, 107 BCE — all either blocked or demolished; “it was not the performances that they opposed, but the permanence of physical structures” (Manuwald 2011: 59).
  • no permanent stone theatre at Rome until Theatre of Pompey: completed 55 BCE after his triumph in 61 BCE
    • Temple of Venus Victrix (‘the Victorious’) on top of auditorium; steps up to the temple acted as the seats (Gellius Attic Nights 10.1.7)
    • perceived to be enormous by the Romans, and to have changed something profoundly in Roman custom (Tac. Ann. 14.20)
  • LEX ROSCIA THEATRALIS (67 BCE) = first 14 rows for knights

Left: Theatre of Pompey in Rome shown on a fragment of the Severan Marble Plan (forma urbis, early 3rd c. CE, cf. Sear 2006 fig. 30a). Image: wikimedia. Right: reconstruction of the Theatre of Pompey by A. Schill (1908). Image: wikimedia.

Excesses of spectacle

Pliny (NH 36.113-115): “During his aedileship (58 BCE), and only for the temporary purposes of a few days, M. Aemilius Scaurus executed the greatest work that has ever been made by the hands of man, a work that surpassed not only those erected for a limited time, but even those intended to last forever: his theatre. This building consisted of 3 storeys, supported upon 360 columns…the ground-storey was of marble, the second of glass, an extravagance unparalleled even in later times, and the highest of gilded wood. The lowermost columns were 38 feet high and placed between these columns were 3, 000 bronze statues. The area of this theatre afforded accommodation for 80, 000 people; and yet the Theatre of Pompey, after the city had so greatly increased, and the inhabitants had become so vastly more numerous, was considered abundantly large, with its 40, 000 seats.* The rest of the fittings of it, with dresses of cloth of gold, scene paintings, and the other stage-properties, were of such enormous value that, after Scaurus had had conveyed to his Tusculan villa the parts which were not required for the enjoyment of his daily luxuries, the loss was no less than 30,000,000 sesterces when the villa was burnt by his slaves in a spirit of revenge. The consideration of such wasteful behaviour as this quite distracts my attention, and compels me to digress from my original purpose.”

*modern scholarly estimates = closer to 11, 000 or 12, 000 — see Boyle 2006: 150

Cicero (Letter to Friends, 7.1 — to M. Marius, 55 BCE): “You know all about the rest of the games, which hadn’t even that amount of charm which games on a moderate scale generally have: for the spectacle was so elaborate as to leave no room for enjoyment, and I think you need feel no regret at having missed it. What’s the pleasure of a train of 600 hundred mules in Accius‘ tragedy, the Clytemnestra, or 3,000 bowls in Naevius‘ tragedy, Trojan Horse, or multi-coloured armour of infantry and cavalry in some battle? These things roused the admiration of the vulgar; to you they would have brought no delight… I don’t suppose you wanted to see Greek or Oscan plays,… Why, again, should I suppose you to care about missing the athletes, since you disdained the gladiators? There remain the two wild-beast hunts, lasting five days, magnificent—nobody denies it—and yet, what pleasure can it be to a man of refinement, when either a weak man is torn by an extremely powerful animal, or a splendid animal is transfixed by a hunting spear? Things which, after all, if worth seeing, you have often seen before; nor did I, who was present at the games, see anything the least new. The last day was that of the elephants, on which there was a great deal of astonishment on the part of the vulgar crowd, but no pleasure whatever. There was even a certain feeling of compassion aroused by it, and a kind of belief created that that animal has something in common with mankind…”

Competition for Attention Spaces

Terence Hecyra (39-42): “Now for my sake listen to my request with open minds. I am presenting “The Mother-in-Law” (= Hecyra*) to you again, which I have never been allowed to play in silence; it has been so dogged by disaster. But your good sense, allied to my efforts, can mitigate the disaster. The first time I tried to perform the play, I was forced off the stage early; there was talk of boxers—and added to that a promise of a tightrope walkercrowds of supporters, general uproar, and women screaming. I decided to use my old practice on this new play and continue the experiment: I put it on a second time. The first act went well. But then a rumour arose that there was going to be a gladiatorial show: crowds rushed in, with much confusion, shouting, and fighting for places, and in these circumstances I couldn’t preserve my place.”

*Terence was a Latin comic playwright writing in the mid 2nd century BCE: we have 6 of his plays. He is believed to have been a Carthaginian slave educated and freed by his Roman master. Terence’s Hecyra (“Mother-in-Law”) was twice a failure (165 BCE, 160 BCE) because of rival events. Finally performed at Ludi Romani in 160 BCE.

CL 102 Fall 2019 Plautus sarsina.001

Sarsina, birthplace of the comic playwright, Plautus; with its position relative to Rome.

Plautus (254-184 BCE)

  • comic playwright, author of Roman comedy = fabulae palliatae (“play in a Greek dress” — fabula = “play”, “drama”; pallium = “Greek cloak”)
  • active as playwright between c. 205-184 BCE
  • Plautus’ IRAN MAN190s-180s BCE
  • Plautus = earliest complete literary works of Latin to survive
  • his entire surviving output = 21 plays
  • developed from Greek New Comedy — adapted rather than “translated”
  • Roman comedy was written by using a certain number of specific, well-defined roles — “stock characters” — in combination together;
  • the Plautine stock characters:
    • senex iratus — old man
    • adulescens amator — young man in love who rebels against authority
    • servus callidus — cunning slave
    • servus stultus — stupid slave
    • parasitus — flatterer
    • meretrix — prostitute
    • leno — pimp
    • miles gloriosus — braggart soldier

Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (1912), pp5-7:

“[p5] You would hardly appreciate the comic if you felt yourself isolated from others. Laughter appears to stand in need of an echo, Listen to it carefully: it is not an articulate, [p6] clear, well-defined sound; it is something which would fain be prolonged by reverberating from one to another, something beginning with a crash, to continue in successive rumblings, like thunder in a mountain. Still, this reverberation cannot go on for ever. It can travel within as wide a circle as you please: the circle remains, none the less, a closed one. Our laughter is always the laughter of a group. It may, perchance, have happened to you, when seated in a railway carriage or at table d’hote, to hear travellers relating to one another stories which must have been comic to them, for they laughed heartily. Had you been one of their company, you would have laughed like them; but, as you were not, you had no desire whatever to do so. A man who was once asked why he did not weep at a sermon, when everybody else was shedding tears, replied: “I don’t belong to the parish!” What that man thought of tears would be still more true of laughter. However spontaneous it seems, laughter always implies a kind of secret freemasonry, or even complicity, with other laughers, real or imaginary. How often has it been said that the fuller the theatre, the more uncontrolled the [p7] laughter of the audience! On the other hand, how often has the remark been made that many comic effects are incapable of translation from one language to another, because they refer to the customs and ideas of a particular social group.”

Sigmund Freud, Jokes and their relation to the Unconscious (1960), p11:

“The criteria and characteristics of jokes [are]: activity, relation to the content of our thoughts, the characteristic of playful judgement, the coupling of dissimilar things, contrasting ideas, “sense in nonsense”, the succession of bewilderment and enlightenment, the bringing forward of what is hidden, and the peculiar brevity of wit.”

A scene from Terence’s Eunuchus (“the Eunuch”, lines 739-816) performed in Latin at the 2012 NEH Summer Institute: Roman Comedy in Performance. A braggart soldier and his crew of sycophants attempt to besiege the house of a courtesan but fail when she handles them very coolly.

[word doc] NEH summer institute’s English translation of this scene

[pdf] NEH summer institute’s provided Latin for this scene

Further Reading:

  • For a detailed account of the Roman theatre, see: Gesine Manuwald, Roman Republican Theatre 2011 [Mugar: PA6067 .M36 2011]; also available somewhat cheaply as a kindle version. More to do with the history of the development of the Roman theatre and its specific technical aspects rather than the content of plays, or the value of play-making in Rome. 
  • A. J. Boyle, Roman Tragedy 2006. Detailed, sophisticated, and short overview of Roman tragedy with incidental remarks about drama in general (Atellan farce, mime, comedy).
  • W. Beare, The Roman Stage, 1968 (=3rd edition). [Mugar: PA6067 .B4 1977] Standard and classic treatment on the topic — somewhat outdated, but good overviews of primary evidence, with plot summaries of plays of Plautus.   
  • For a short account of Plautus, see Elaine Fantham Roman Literary Culture (2013) pp21-26 [Mugar: PA6003 .F36 2013]
  • For a longer account of Plautus, see Conte’s Latin LiteratureA History (1999) pp49-64. [Mugar: PA6008 .C6613 1994]
  • Read the Met Museum’s account of Roman theatres. 

Lecture 4. Rome of the Middle Republic.

Lecture 4, Thursday September 12th 2019

Here comes the Republic…

Cicero, In Defense of Sestius (137): “When the rule of kings had become intolerable to them, they created magistracies to be held for a year only, with the restriction that the senate was set up as a council over the state for ever, and they ordained that the members of that council should be chosen by the whole people, and that industry and merit should open the way for admission to that exalted order for all citizens. The senate was set up as a guardian, the president, the defender of the state.”

Structure of Roman society (system attributed to Servius Tullius, late 6th c. BCE):
Close interconnection between military + political life

CL 102 Servian Reform LeGlay 2009, pp30-31.jpg[printable pdf] CL 102 Servian Reform LeGlay 2009, pp30-31

Voting + War-making

Images: Top left: Hellenistic or Roman bronze statue wearing cuirass and short cape. 2nd c. BCE — 2nd c. CE?? Image: Metropolitan Museum. Top right: The Sword of Tiberius: iron sword, tinned + gilded bronze sheath. c. 15 CE. Image: British Museum, with great blog post by the BMBottom:  Roman sling bullets found at the Burnswark Hill battle site in Scotland. The two smallest bullets, shown at the bottom of this image, are drilled with a hole that makes them whistle in flight. Image: John Reid/Trimontium Trust via

Roman coin (silver denarius) issued by L. Cassius Longinus in 63 BCE. Its reverse (right) shows a Roman dropping his vote into a box. On the oberverse (left), veiled head of the Roman goddess, Vesta. RRC 413/1.

Roman Politics, Government, Society 

  • 1) COMITIA CENTURIATA (“centuriate assembly”): assembly of people to elect senior magistrates at Rome (consuls, praetors; censors)
    • voting was by centuria in order according to classes established by wealth: wealthiest voted first, poorest last
    • the wealthiest citizens had 98 centuries out of a total of 193

LeGlay 2009: 31: “As the centuria was both the military and a voting unit, it is obvious that the first class, with its 98 centuriae, held an absolute majority. The comitia centuriata were thus dominated by the wealthier citizens. Many of these belonged to the patrician order, a kind of hereditary nobility, which reserved for itself the great priestly offices and extensive land ownership. It kept the army supplied with officers and was surrounded by followers and dependents (clientes, or “clients”), whom their patron protected in return for a pledge of loyalty (fides) and support of his political aspirations.”

LeGlay 2009: 59: “The vote of the first centuria most frequently influenced that of the following centuriae, and when a majority was obtained, voting stopped.”

  • 2) COMITIA TRIBUTA (“tribal assembly”), reflected the interests of the plebs = ‘the common people’
    • this assembly elected the lesser magistrates (curule aediles, quaestors)
    • organized by ‘tribes‘: 4 urban tribes of the citizens in the city of Rome, and 31 rural tribes of citizens outside the city (total 35); the 31 tribes outside of the city less likely to travel for voting
  • 3) CONCILIUM PLEBIS (“plebeian council”) included all plebeian adult male citizens; the difference between this assembly and the comitia tributa is that the concilium plebis could only contain plebeians (no patricians); they elected the aediles and tribunes of the plebs

Census: counting, including, excluding

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (4.15): “After Servius Tullius had made these regulations, he ordered all the Romans to register their names and give in a monetary valuation of their property, at the same time taking the oath required by law that they had given in a true valuation in good faith; they were also to set down the names of their fathers, with their own age and the names of their wives and children, and every man was to declare in what tribe of the city or in what district of the country he lived. If any failed to give in their valuation, the penalty he established was that their property should be forfeited and they themselves whipped and sold for slaves. This law continued in force among the Romans for a long time.”

Depiction of the Roman 
the so-called “Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus” (Louvre)

800px-Altar_Domitius_Ahenobarbus_Louvre_full, Austin Baird.jpgThe so-called “Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus“, c. 100 BCE. Marble frieze. Height 2ft 8ins (81.3cm); length 18ft 8ins (5.6m). Image: separate images from wikimedia (left, middle, right; see also below).

  • subject of this relief: reads left to right chronologically
    • census on the left — see the seated figure writing
    • musicians playing prior to sacrifice
    • statue of Mars
    • sacrifice by priest — purification of army (lustrum)
    • levy of army

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The Aristocratic Elite of Republican Rome

  • senate, senators: assembly of Rome’s elder statesmen (senex = “old man” in Latin); seniores = “elders”, patres = “fathers”
    • originally 300 members, but expanded over time (600 under Sulla, 900 under Julius Caesar, 600 under Augustus)
    • drawn from former elected officials
      • LeGlay 2009: 59: “Its members (the seniores or patres) were largely former senior magistrates (former censors, consuls, praetors) — later, former curule aediles could also enter, and later still, former tribunes.”
    • list of members drawn up every 5 years by censors (right granted by Lex Ovinia, c. 318-313 BCE)
    • wore a robe with a larger purple stripe than equites’ (latus clauus)
  • equites: “knights
    • in early Rome granted a horse at public expense (equus publicus)
    • they wore a golden ring (annulus aureus) and a robe with a smaller purple stripe than senators’ (angustus clauus)
    • served as judges after 123 or 122 BCE (Lintott 1992: 16, 20)
    • after law passed in 67 BCE had a special place to sit at spectacles (Lex Roscia, Cic. Pro Murena 40)
    • served as tax farmers (publicani)

Rome’s elected officials:
Cursus Honorum

  • consuls: always 2, the supreme magistrate at Rome;
    • annual + collegiate; civic + military power (=IMPERIUM);
    • elected by the comitia centuriata;
    • minimum age of consul = 42 y.o.
  • praetors: from Latin praeire ‘to go ahead’, seems to suggest military origin;
    • there were 4 in 201 BCE, 6 by 197 BCE;
    • judges in courts;
    • could command armies;
    • civic + military power (=IMPERIUM);
    • elected by the comitia centuriata;
    • minimum age of praetor = 39 y.o.
  • aediles: from Latin aedes = ‘temple’ (esp. Temple of Ceres on Aventine)
    • 2 curule, elected by comitia tributa
    • 2 plebeian, elected by concilium plebis (‘plebeian council’);
    • care for the city and what went on in it, including the streets of Rome, public order in cult practices, the water supply, and the market;
    • maintenance and distribution of the corn supply;
    • arranged the public games (ludi);
    • minimum age of aedile = 36 y.o.
  • quaestor:
    • officers of treasury, money management;
    • minimum age = 25 y.o.
    • elected by the comitia tributa
  • tribune of the plebs:
    • traditionally invented in 494 BCE as part of a struggle between patricians and plebeians — the defender of the plebeians
    • there were 10 by 449 BCE
    • power derived from oath sworn by the plebeians to guarantee their sacrosanctitas, or inviolability
    • elected by the concilium plebis
    • tribunes could summon the plebs to assembly + elicit resolutions laws (plebiscita)
    • right of veto (intercessio) against any act performed by a magistrate (or by another tribune), against elections, +  laws
    • young men (late 20s)

censors, consuls, praetors = elected by comitia centuriata
curule aediles, quaestors
= elected by comitia tributa
aediles, tribunes of the plebs = elected by concilium plebis

Sarcophagus of Scipio Barbatus

Scipio-tomb wikimedia .jpgSarcophagus of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (cos. 298 BCE), from his tomb on the Via Appia, near Rome. c. 200 BCE. Tufa. Height: 4ft 7ins (1.4m); length 9ft 1in (2.77m). Image: wikimedia. Discovered in the Tomb of the Scipios, now in the Vatican Museums. Inscriptions: CIL VI 1284, CIL VI 1285. For the text + translation, see wikipedia.

Ireland in Henig 1983: 223: the “very roughness [of the letters] becomes eloquent when, in the epitaph of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, the crude, uneven capitals, ripped out of the granite with a coarse cutting-edge, combine in a magnificent unity of effect with the text they transmit, proud, simple phrases cast into the “primitive”* Saturnian metre, commemorating the conquests and the piety of the dead Republican.” [*= quotation marks added by Čulík-Baird]

Beard 2016: 133-34: “Barbatus was consul in 298 BCE, died around 280 BCE, and almost certainly founded this ostentatious mausoleum, an unashamed promotion of the power and prestige of his family, one of the most prominent in the Republic. His seems to have been the first of more than thirty burials in it, and his coffin-cum-memorial was placed in the most prominent position, opposite the door. The epitaph was composed soon after his death. It is four lines long and must count as the earliest historical and biographical narrative to [p134] survive from ancient Rome. Short as it is, it is one of the major turning points in our understanding of Roman history. For it provides more or less contemporary information on Barbatus’ career…It is eloquent on the ideology and world view of the Roman elite at this period.

CIL VI 1285: “Cornelius Lucius Scipio Barbatus, offspring of his father Gnaeus, a brave man and wise, whose appearance was a match for his VIRTUS. He was consul and censor among you. He took Taurasia and Cisauna from Samium. He subdued the whole of Lucania and took hostages.” 

CIL VI 1285: Cornelius Lucius Scipio Barbatus, Gnaeo patre
prognatus, fortis vir sapiensque, cuius forma virtuti parissima
fuit, Consul, Censor, Aedilis, qui fuit apud vos; Taurasiam Cisaunam,
Samnio cepit, subigit omnem Lucaniam, obsidesque abducit.

The face of Republican Rome

Capitoline “Brutus”. Part of a Roman honorific bronze, c. 300 BCE. Now in the Vatican Museums. Images: Steven Zucker via Flickr.

What do art historians say?

  • Zanker 2010: 4: “the maker simplified both the facial forms and the transitions, thereby creating the severe, fixed expression that has particularly fascinated modern viewers. Due to the portrait’s severity, it came to be considered typically ‘Roman’ and indeed was soon identified with L. Junius Brutus, regicide and hero of Republican liberty.”
  • Pollini 2012: 47: “As Pliny (NH 34.15) suggests, one of the reasons that bronze was the favored material for portrait statues was its ability to impart great realism to the likeness (similitudo expressa) of an individual…Representative of bronze craftsmanship from this period is the head of the so-called Capitoline Brutus, possibly from an equestrian statue, which stylistically appears to date between 350 and 250 BCE. The unknown Roman portrayed in this sculpture wears a beard, which Varro tells us (Rust. 2.11.10) began to go out of fashion in Rome around 300 BCE.”
  • Ramage-Ramage 2015: 90-91: “VERISM. The tradition of making portraits, already firmly established in Italy, continued among the Roman artists of the 1st century BCE. Their patrons had a taste for realism, or “verism,” as it is called, where the artist depicted even the smallest details of the surface of the skin with all its imperfections, including warts, wrinkles, and furrows. These details were combined with an interest in bone structure and musculature. Thus, verism is not only realistic, but it zeroes in on the minute details of structure and surface of the human head. [p91]…verism grew out of an old Italic custom, going back at least to the 2nd century BCE, of venerating masks representing the family ancestors.”

“Verism” and the cult of the dead

Cicero, Topics 45: “It is permitted to orators and philosophers that the mute should speak and the dead be evocated from the lower world.”

Polybius (6.53): “Whenever one of their illustrious men dies, in the course of his funeral, the body with all its paraphernalia is carried into the forum to the Rostra, as a raised platform there is called, and sometimes is propped upright upon it so as to be conspicuous, or, more rarely, is laid upon it. Then with all the people standing round, his son, if he has left one of full age and he is there, or, failing him, one of his relations, mounts the Rostra and delivers a speech concerning the virtues of the deceased, and the successful exploits performed by him in his lifetime. By these means the people are reminded of what has been done, and made to see it with their own eyes,—not only such as were engaged in the actual transactions but those also who were not;— and their sympathies are so deeply moved, that the loss appears not to be confined to the actual mourners, but to be a public one affecting the whole people. After the burial and all the usual ceremonies have been performed, they place the likeness of the deceased in the most conspicuous spot in his house, surmounted by a wooden canopy or shrine. This likeness consists of a mask made to represent the deceased with extraordinary fidelity both in shape and colour.

These likenesses they display at public sacrifices adorned with much care. And when any illustrious member of the family dies, they carry these masks to the funeral, putting them on men whom they thought as like the originals as possible in height and other personal peculiarities. And these substitutes assume clothes according to the rank of the person represented: if he was a consul or praetor, a toga with purple stripes; if a censor, whole purple if he had also celebrated a triumph or performed any exploit of that kind, a toga embroidered with gold. These representatives also ride themselves in chariots, while the fasces and axes, and all the other customary insignia of the particular offices, lead the way, according to the dignity of the rank in the state enjoyed by the deceased in his lifetime; and on arriving at the Rostra they all take their seats on ivory chairs in their order. There could not easily be a more inspiring spectacle than this for a young man of noble ambitions and virtuous aspirations. For can we conceive any one to be unmoved at the sight of all the likenesses collected together of the men who have earned glory, all as it were living and breathing? Or what could be a more glorious spectacle?

Pietas man

pietas man 2 Lehmann

Statue of a Roman patrician carrying two portrait busts of his ancestors.  Barberini Togatus. Marble. End of 1st c. BCE or 1st c. CE. Image: Christian Lehmann on twitter.

Further reading:


Lecture 3. Early Rome. II.

Lecture 3, Tuesday 10th September 2019

The Kings of Rome 

Cicero, On the Republic (2.58):
Scipio: “Are you aware that it is less than four hundred years* since the city was ruled by kings?”
Laelius: “It is certainly less than that.”
Scipio: “Well, four hundred years is not very long, is it, in the life of a city or state?”
Laelius: “Hardly enough to bring it to maturity.”
Scipio: “Then there was a king at Rome less than four hundred years ago?”
Laelius: “Yes, and a proud one [et superbus quidem].”
Scipio: “And who preceded him?”
Laelius. “A very just king, and the line reaches all the way back to Romulus, who reigned six hundred years ago.”

* = dialogue is set in 129 BCE, but was written in the 50s BCE.

Cicero, On the Republic (2.33):
Laelius: “But the history of Rome is indeed obscure if we know who this king’s mother was, but are ignorant of his father’s name!”
Scipio: “That’s true. But for this period, very little more than the names of the kings has been handed down to us with any certainty…”

“In ancient Rome the king had also priestly dignities and duties; after the kings were expelled, the name rex continued to be given in religious language to the priest who performed these duties; e.g. rex sacrorum.” (Lewis & Short)

Archaeological evidence?

Lapis niger (“black stone”) stele (6th c. BCE)

Lapis Niger Roman Forum flickr L. Allen Brewer.jpg

Upper Left: photograph of the lapis niger stele. Image: Sailko [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via wikimedia. Upper Middle: early 20th century rubbing of the inscription from Sandys 1913: 732, pl. 107. Image: wikimedia. Upper Right: diagram showing the “bi-directional” text (boustrophedon). Image: [CC BY-SA 3.0], via wikimedia. Below: photograph of the lapis niger today. Photo: L. Allen Brewer [CC BY 2.0], via flickr.

Festus (184L): “The black stone (=lapis niger) in the Comitium marks off a place of burial. Some say it was destined to be the burial spot of Romulus, before he disappeared and made his burial impossible. Others say his foster-father Faustulus was buried here, still others, that it was Hostilius, grandfather of the Roman king Tullius Hostilius.”

The Death of Romulus

Livy (1.16): As the king was holding a muster in the Campus Martius, near the swamp of Capra, for the purpose of reviewing the army, suddenly a storm came up, with loud claps of thunder, and enveloped him in a cloud so thick as to hide him from the sight of the assembly; and from that moment Romulus was no more on earth. The Roman soldiers at length recovered from their panic, when this hour of wild confusion had been succeeded by a sunny calm; but when they saw that the royal seat was empty, although they readily believed the assertion of the senators, who had been standing next to Romulus, that he had been caught up on high in the blast, they nevertheless remained for some time sorrowful and silent, as if filled with the fear of orphanhood. Then, when a few men had taken the initiative, they all with one accord hailed Romulus as a god and a god’s son, the King and Father of the Roman City, and with prayers besought his favour that he would graciously be pleased forever to protect his children. There were some, I believe, even then who secretly asserted that the king had been torn to pieces by the hands of the senators, for this rumour, too, got abroad, but in very obscure terms; the other version obtained currency, owing to men’s admiration for the hero and the intensity of their panic.

And the shrewd device of one man is also said to have gained new credit for the story. This was Proculus Julius, who, when the people were distracted with the loss of their king and in no friendly mood towards the senate, being, as tradition tells, weighty in council, were the matter never so important, addressed the assembly as follows: “Quirites, the Father of this City, Romulus, descended suddenly from the sky at dawn this morning and appeared to me. Covered with confusion, I stood reverently before him, praying that it might be vouchsafed me to look upon his face without sin. ‘Go,’ said he, ‘and declare to the Romans the will of Heaven that my Rome shall be the capital of the world; so let them cherish the art of war, and let them know and teach their children that no human strength can resist Roman arms.’ So saying,” he concluded, “Romulus departed on high.” It is wonderful what credence the people placed in that man’s tale, and how the grief for the loss of Romulus, which the plebeians and the army felt, was quieted by the assurance of his immortality.

The Seven Kings of Rome
Regal period = 753-509 BCE

1. Romulus
2. Numa Pompilius
3. Tullus Hostilius
4. Ancus Martius
5. L. Tarquinius Priscus
6. Servius Tullius
7. L. Tarquinius Superbus



Bronze coin from the Augustan era (15 BCE). Numa Pompilius, Rome’s second king, is depicted on the reverse (right) with beard and diadem; the head of Augustus on the obverse (left). RIC I (2) 392.

Left: Line drawing (Dennison 1902: 208) of a Neronian coin type 62-68 CE showing the Temple of Janus; right: photograph of the same coin. RIC I (2) Nero 438.

Ancus Martius

Silver coin showing the head of Ancus Marcius, with diadem, and lituus (left); aqueduct inscribed with AQUA MAR, equestrian statue (right), 98-117 CE. RIC II (2) Trajan 798.

Tanaquil and Tarquinius Priscus

Livy 1.34.8-9: “They had got as far as the Janiculum when a hovering eagle swooped gently down and took off his cap as he was sitting by his wife’s side in the carriage, then circling round the vehicle with loud cries, as though commissioned by heaven for this service, replaced it carefully upon his head and soared away. It is said that Tanaquil, who, like most Etruscans, was expert in interpreting celestial prodigies, was delighted at the omen. [9] She threw her arms round her husband and bade him look for a high and majestic destiny, for such was the import of the eagle’s appearance, of the particular part of the sky where it appeared, and of the deity who sent it. The omen was directed to the crown and summit of his person, the bird had raised aloft an adornment put on by human hands, to replace it as the gift of heaven.”

Scholarly assessment? 

    • Cornell 1995: 121: “…if one thing is certain about the regal period, it is that the traditional chronology is historically impossible…the canonical list of seven kings is almost certainly incomplete.”
    • Forsythe 2005: 98: “Given the vagaries of human mortality in early central Italy, it seems very unlikely that these regnal years for seven successive kings accurately reflect the history of the regal period. Rather, their numerical values and symmetry betray the obvious fact that they were the product of later historical reconstruction.”
    • Cornell 1995: 122: many scholars have distinguished between early “Latino-Sabine” period which gives way to an “Etruscan” period under Tarquins: “on this view it was the Etruscans who were responsible for all the…changes that Rome underwent during the last century of the monarchy; it was Etruscans, in short, who made Rome into a city…[this view] has no warrant either in the written sources or in the archaeological record
    • Forsythe 2005: 98: “what is perhaps most striking about the list of early Roman kings is that their names (apart from the two Tarquins) indicate the absence of a hereditary principle.” 

The Rape of Lucretia — the Foundation of the Roman Republic

Livy 1.57-59.: The royal princes sometimes spent their leisure hours in feasting and entertainments, and at a wine party given by Sextus Tarquinius at which Collatinus, the son of Egerius, was present, the conversation happened to turn upon their wives, and each began to speak of his own in terms of extraordinarily high praise. As the dispute became warm Collatinus said that there was no need of words, it could in a few hours be ascertained how far his Lucretia was superior to all the rest. ‘Why do we not,’ he exclaimed, ‘if we have any youthful vigour about us mount our horses and pay your wives a visit and find out their characters on the spot? What we see of the behaviour, of each on the unexpected arrival of her husband, let that be the surest test.’

They were heated with wine, and all shouted: ‘Good! Come on!’ Setting spur to their horses they galloped off to Rome, where they arrived as darkness was beginning to close in. From there they proceeded to Collatia, where they found Lucretia very differently employed from the king’s daughters-in-law, whom they had seen passing their time in feasting and luxury with their acquaintances. She was sitting at her wool work in the hall, late at night, with her, maids busy round her. The palm in this competition of wifely virtue was awarded to Lucretia. She welcomed the arrival of her husband and the Tarquins, whilst her victorious spouse courteously invited the royal princes to remain as his guests. Sextus Tarquin, inflamed by the beauty and exemplary purity of Lucretia, formed the vile project of effecting her dishonour. After their youthful frolic they returned for the time to camp.

[1.58] A few days afterwards Sextus Tarquin went, unknown to Collatinus, with one companion to Collatia.  He was hospitably received by the household, who suspected nothing, and after supper was conducted to the bedroom set apart for guests. When all around seemed safe and everybody fast asleep, he went in the frenzy of his passion with a naked sword to the sleeping Lucretia, and placing his left hand on her breast, said, ‘Silence, Lucretia! I am Sextus Tarquin, and I have a sword in my hand; if you utter a word, you shall die.’ When the woman, terrified out of her sleep, saw that no help was near, and instant death threatening her, Tarquin began to confess his passion, pleaded, used threats as well as entreaties, and employed every argument likely to influence a female heart.

When he saw that she was inflexible and not moved even by the fear of death, he threatened to disgrace her, declaring that he would lay the naked corpse of the slave by her dead body, so that it might be said that she had been slain in foul adultery. By this awful threat, his lust triumphed over her inflexible chastity, and Tarquin went off exulting in having successfully attacked her honour. Lucretia, overwhelmed with grief at such a frightful outrage, sent a messenger to her father at Rome and to her husband at Ardea, asking them to come to her, each accompanied by one faithful friend; it was necessary to act, and to act promptly; a horrible thing had happened. Spurius Lucretius came with Publius Valerius, the son of Volesus; Collatinus with Lucius Junius Brutus, with whom he happened to be returning to Rome when he was met by his wife’s messenger.

They found Lucretia sitting in her room prostrate with grief. As they entered, she burst into tears, and to her husband’s inquiry whether all was well, replied, ‘No! what can be well with a woman when her honour is lost? The marks of a stranger Collatinus are in your bed. But it is only the body that has been violated the soul is pure; death shall bear witness to that. But pledge me your solemn word that the adulterer shall not go unpunished. It is Sextus Tarquin, who, coming as an enemy instead of a guest forced from me last night by brutal violence a pleasure fatal to me, and, if you are men, fatal to him.

They all successively pledged their word, and tried to console the distracted woman, by turning the guilt from the victim of the outrage to the perpetrator, and urging that it is the mind that sins not the body, and where there has been no consent there is no guilt ‘It is for you,’ she said, ‘to see that he gets his deserts: although I acquit myself of the sin, I do not free myself from the penalty; no unchaste woman shall henceforth live and plead Lucretia‘s example.’ She had a knife concealed in her dress which she plunged into her, heart, and fell dying on the floor. Her father and husband raised the death-cry.

[1.59] Whilst they were absorbed in grief, Brutus drew the knife from Lucretia‘s wound and holding it, dripping with blood, in front of him, said, ‘By this blood – most pure before the outrage wrought by the king’s son — I swear, and you, oh gods, I call to witness that I will drive hence Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, together with his cursed wife and his whole brood, with fire and sword and every means in my power, and I will not suffer them or any one else to reign in Rome.’

Rembrandt’s Lucretia (1666):

Further Reading:
  • Stephanie Jed, Chaste Thinking: The Rape of Lucretia and the Birth of Humanism. 1989. [Mugar: PA8420.S15 D4435 1989] = how the icon of Lucretia became part of the narrative about liberation 
  • for more on any aspect of Roman religion: Beard-North-Price, Religions of Rome. 1998. Vol. 1 (narrative), Vol. 2 (sourcebook) [Mugar: MG1 VA201 OS]

Lecture 2. Early Rome. I.

Lecture 2, Thursday 5th September 2019

Founding and Refounding Rome

Cicero, On the Republic (2.2): “Cato the Elder [234–149 BCE] used to say that the Roman constitution was superior to those of other states because almost every one of those others had been established by one man, an author of laws and institutions….Rome was based not on the genius of one man, but of many; it was founded, not in one generation, but in a long period of several centuries and many ages of men.”

Fall of Troy

Storage Jar with Aeneas and Anchises
Attic black-figure amphora (late 6th century BCE). Depicting Aeneas carrying his father, Anchises, and leading his son (right) out of Troy. His mother, Aphrodite, stands to the left. The names of Aphrodite, Aeneas, and Anchises are inscribed on the vase. Image: Getty.

Mars and Ilia


Roman fresco depicting Mars (with helmet) and Venus (seated), and Cupid (right); a slave woman left. From the tablinum of the House of Punished Cupid, Pompeii. First quarter of 1st century CE. Image: Abby Elizabeth Bennett (Medium). More information on the House of Punished Cupid (VII.2.23 Pompeii). Naples Archaeological Museum 9249.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1.77): “Ilia, going to a grove consecrated to Mars to fetch pure water for use in the sacrifices, was ravished by somebody or other in the sacred precinct…Most writers relate a fabulous story to the effect that it was a spectre of the divinity to whom the place was consecrated [=Mars]; and they add that the event was attended by many supernatural signs, including a sudden disappearance of the sun and a darkness that spread over the sky, and that the appearance of the spectre was far more marvellous than that of a man both in stature and in beauty. And they say that the ravisher, to comfort the maiden (by which it became clear that it was a god), commanded her not to grieve at all at what had happened, since she had been united in marriage to the divinity of the place and as a result of her violation should bear two sons who would far excel all men in valour and warlike achievements. And having said this, he was wrapped in a cloud and, being lifted from the earth, was borne upwards through the air. This is not a proper place to consider what opinion we ought to entertain of such tales…”

Mars Seducing Rhea Silvia 1st c - 3rd c CE Vatican CityMars and Ilia/Rhea Silvia. 1st-3rd c. CE. Vatican Museum.
Image: Warburg Institute Iconographical Database.

Ennius’ Annales (34-50): “…when roused terrified from sleep the old woman brought the lamp with trembling limbs, and in tears Ilia told this story. ‘Daughter of Eurydica, whom our father loved, the force of life is now leaving my whole body. For a handsome man appeared to me and snatched me away through pleasant willows, river banks, and places unknown. So alone, my sister, afterwards I seemed to wander and slowly to track you and to search for you and to be unable to grasp you in my heart. No path kept my feet steady. Then I dreamt my father [=Aeneas] spoke to me with these words: ‘Daughter, you must first endure miseries, then your fortune will rise from the river.’ Once father had said this, my sister, he suddenly disappeared and did not offer himself to view, although I desired it in my heart, although I often stretched my hands to the blue expanses of heaven, tearful, and with pleading voice called to him. Then sleep left me sick at heart.”

Romulus, Remus, and the she-wolf

Livy (1.4): “But neither gods nor men protected the mother herself or her babes from the king’s cruelty; the priestess [= Ilia] he ordered to be manacled and cast into prison, the children to be committed to the river. It happened by singular good fortune that the Tiber having spread beyond its banks into stagnant pools afforded nowhere any access to the regular channel of the river, and the men who brought the twins were led to hope that being infants they might be drowned, no matter how sluggish the stream….In those days this was a wild and uninhabited region. The story persists that when the floating basket in which the children had been exposed was left high and dry by the receding water, a she-wolf (lupa), coming down out of the surrounding hills to quench her thirst, turned her steps towards the cry of the infants, and with her teats gave them suck so gently, that the keeper of the royal flock found her licking them with her tongue. Tradition assigns to this man the name of Faustulus, and adds that he carried the twins to his hut and gave them to his wife Larentia to rear. Some think that Larentia, having been free with her favours, had got the name of ‘she-wolf’ [lupa = ‘prostitute’, lupanar = ‘brothel’] among the shepherds, and that this gave rise to this marvellous story.”

Close up From the tomb of the Statilii on the Esquiline Romulus and Remus abandoned in the wilderness.jpegRomulus and Remus are abandoned on the banks of the River Tiber. Tomb of the Statilii on the Esquiline, north wall. 1st century BCE. Image: The Warburg Institute Iconographic Database.

Capitoline she wolf wikipedia .jpgThe Capitoline she-wolf. Earliest large-scale bronze hollow-cast statue from central Italy. Perhaps early 5th c. BCE. Craftsman Etruscan? Greek? Twins added between 1471 and 1509. Capitoline Museum. Image: wikimedia.


Drawing of the Bolsena Mirror, an Etruscan mirror from Porsena, c. 340 BCE. Seems to show Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf, suggesting that the legend of the twins was well established by at least the 4th century BCE. Some modern historians, e.g. T. P. Wiseman, think that picture only looks like the Roman twins, but depicts separate Etruscan myth. Image: wikimedia.

Aldborough she-wolf Romulus Remus 300-400 CEMosaic depicting the She-wolf with Romulus and Remus.
Aldborough (UK), c. 300-400 CE (Leeds City Museum). Image: Carole Raddato

Which twin will rule the city? 

Livy (1.67): “Romulus and Remus were seized with the desire to found a city in the region where they had been exposed and brought up. And in fact the population of Albans and Latins was too large; besides, there were the shepherds. All together, their numbers might easily lead men to hope that Alba would be small, and Lavinium small, compared with the city which they should build. These considerations were interrupted by the curse of their grandsires, the greed of kingly power, and by a shameful quarrel which grew out of it, upon an occasion innocent enough. Since the brothers were twins, and respect for their age could not determine between them, it was agreed that the gods who had those places in their protection should choose by augury who should give the new city its name, who should govern it when built. Romulus took the Palatine for his augural quarter, Remus the Aventine. Remus is said to have been the first to receive an augury, from the flight of six vultures. The omen had been already reported when twice that number appeared to Romulus. Thereupon each was saluted king by his own followers, the one party laying claim to the honour from priority, the other from the number of the birds. They then engaged in a battle of words and, angry taunts leading to bloodshed, Remus was struck down in the affray. The commoner story is that Remus leaped over the new walls in mockery of his brother, whereupon Romulus in great anger slew him, and in menacing wise added these words withal, “So perish whoever else shall leap over my walls!” Thus Romulus acquired sole power, and the city, thus founded, was called by its founder’s name.”

Ennius’ Annales (72-91): “Taking great care and desiring to rule, they devoted themselves to both auspices and augury. On the Murcus, Remus took his seat for the auspication and watched alone for the bird of good omen. But fair Romulus looked on the high Aventine and watched for the tribe of those who fly on high. They fought whether to call the city Rome or Remora. Everyone awaited anxiously to see who of the two would be the ruler. They waited just as when the consul is ready to give the signal, all eagerly look to the starting-gates, from the painted mouths of which the chariots soon rush, in the same way the people, their faces showing their apprehension of the future, were expectant — which would be given the victory and a great kingdom? Meanwhile, the blazing sun retreated to the darkness of night. Then a bright light revealed itself struck by rays and at that very moment, on high, flew by far the most beautiful bird, of good omen, on the left; at the very moment the golden sun arose, twelve sacred bodies of birds fell from heaven and positioned themselves in fair stations of good omen. From this Romulus saw that he had been given preference and that a royal throne and kingdom had been secured for him by auspice.”

7 hills of Rome and Servian wall wikimedia Orangeowl.png
Map of the traditional seven hills of Rome (Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Capitoline, Palatine, Caelian, Aventine). Servian Wall is later than the story of Romulus + Remus. Image: By Renata3 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Rape of the Sabine Women

Cicero, On the Republic (2.12): “For when Sabine women of honourable lineage had come to Rome for the Consualia to witness the games whose annual celebration in the circus Romulus had just instituted, he ordered their seizure and married them to young men of the most prominent families. When the Sabines, thus provoked, made war on the Romans,…Romulus made a treaty with Titus Tatius, the Sabine king, the stolen women themselves petitioning this to be done. By this treaty he not only added the Sabines to the body of Roman citizens, giving them participation in the religious rites of the state, but also made their king a partner in his royal power.”

Livy (1.9): “Rome was now strong enough to hold her own in war with any of the adjacent states; but owing to the lack of women a single generation was likely to see the end of her size, since she had neither prospect of posterity at home nor the right of intermarriage with her neighbours. So, on the advice of the senate, Romulus sent envoys round among all the neighbouring nations to solicit for the new people an alliance and the privilege of intermarrying. Cities, they argued, as well as all other things, take their rise from the lowliest beginnings. As time goes on, those which are aided by their own manliness [virtus] by the favour of the gods achieve great power and renown. They said they were well assured that Rome’s origin had been blessed with the favour of the gods, and that their manliness [virtus] would not be lacking; their neighbours should not be reluctant to mingle their stock and their blood with the Romans, who were as truly men as they were. Nowhere did the embassy obtain a friendly hearing… This was a bitter insult to the young Romans, and the matter seemed certain to end in violence. Expressly to afford a fitting time and place for this, Romulus, concealing his resentment, made ready solemn games in honour of the equestrian Neptune, which he called Consualia. He then ordered that the spectacle be announced to the surrounding peoples, and his subjects prepared to celebrate it with all the resources within their knowledge and power, that they might cause the occasion to be noised abroad and eagerly expected. Many people — for they were also eager to see the new city — gathered for the festival, especially those who lived nearest…

“The Sabines, too, came with all their people, including their children and wives. They were hospitably entertained in every house, and when they had looked at the site of the city, its walls, and its numerous buildings, they marvelled that Rome had so rapidly grown. When the time came for the show, and people’s thoughts and eyes were busy with it, the preconcerted attack began. At a given signal the young Romans darted this way and that, to seize and carry off the unmarried women [virgines]. In most cases these were taken by the men in whose path they chanced to be. Some, of exceptional beauty, had been marked out for the chief senators, and were carried off to their houses by plebeians to whom the office had been entrusted… The games broke up in a panic, and the parents of the young women fled sorrowing. They charged the Romans with the crime of violating hospitality, and invoked the gods to whose solemn games they had come, deceived in violation of religion and honour. The stolen girls were no more hopeful of their plight, nor less indignant. But Romulus himself went amongst them and explained that the pride of their parents had caused this deed, when they had refused their neighbours the right to intermarry; nevertheless the daughters should be wedded and become co-partners in all the possessions of the Romans, in their citizenship and, dearest privilege of all to the human race, in their children; only let them moderate their anger, and give their hearts to those to whom fortune had given their persons. A sense of injury had often given place to affection, and they would find their husbands the kinder for this reason, that every man would earnestly endeavour not only to be a good husband, but also to console his wife for the home and parents she had lost. His arguments were seconded by the wooing of the men, who excused their act on the score of passion and love, the most moving of all pleas to a woman’s heart

[1.13 — after war between the Romans + the Sabines] Then the Sabine women, whose wrong had given rise to the war, with loosened hair and torn garments, their woman’s timidity lost in a sense of their misfortune, dared to go amongst the flying missiles, and rushing in from the side, to part the hostile forces and disarm them of their anger, beseeching their fathers on this side, on that their husbands, that fathers-in-law and sons-in-law should not stain themselves with impious bloodshed, nor pollute with parricide the suppliants’ children, grandsons to one party and sons to the other. “If you regret,” they continued, “the relationship that unites you, if you regret the marriage-tie, turn your anger against us; we are the cause of war, the cause of wounds, and even death to both our husbands and our parents. It will be better for us to perish than to live, lacking either of you, as widows or as orphans.” It was a touching plea, not only to the rank and file, but to their leaders as well. A stillness fell on them, and a sudden hush. Then the leaders came forward to make a truce, and not only did they agree on peace, but they made one people out of the two. They shared the sovereignty, but all authority was transferred to Rome. In this way the population was doubled, and that some concession might after all be granted the Sabines, the citizens were named Quirites.”

Modern retellings…

“Sobbin’ Women” in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). For an interesting analysis of this film, see C. Conners (2013) “The Sobbin’ Women: Romulus, Plutarch, and Stephen Vincent Benét.” Illinois Classical Studies, No 38, pp127-148.

Another modern retelling…

Pablo Picasso, “Rape of the Sabine Women” 1963, Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Image: MFA.

NOTE. Translations of Ennius come from David Wardle’s translation of Cicero’s De Divinatione (which transmits these fragments).


Lecture 1. Introduction. Etruscans. Beginnings of Rome.

Lecture 1, Tuesday 3rd September 2019

Roma / Olim / Milo / Amor” (CIL IV, 8297) “Rome, once, Milo love.” (For more on ancient palindromes see Bond 2016)a-6-roma-amor-palindromo


“Historically, the Etruscans were the people who inhabited the roughly triangular region on the west coast of Italy bounded by the rivers Tiber and Arno. Although they apparently called themselves ‘Rasenna’ (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1.30.3), they were known to the Romans as Etrusci or Tusci, and to the Greeks as Tyrrhenians or Tyrsenians, names that survive in the language of modern geography (Tuscany, the Tyrrhenian Sea. Etruscan civilisation reached its cultural zenith in the period from the 8th to the 5th century BCE, when powerful city-states emerged. These are conventionally divided into a southern group: Veii, Caere, Tarquinii, Vulci; a northern group: Volaterrae, Populonia, Vetulonia, Rusellae; inland: Arretium, Cortona, Perusia, Clusium, Volsinii.” (Cornell 1995: 45)

Etruscan Tomb of the Infernal Chariot, Sarteano (4th century BCE)

mq-09-0007-copia-in-bassa_1Image: Archaeological Museum of Sarteano.

Map of Ancient Italy, Map of Etruscan influence.

Image: wikimedia.

Hut-urn (9th/8th century BCE)

Left: Hut-urn with removable door. For more views of this urn, see British Museum.
Right: Hut-urn with geometric design (swastikas, meanders, angular motifs). Image: Vatican Museum. Both ceramic, 9th/8th century BCE.

The Languages of Italy

source: LeGlay 2009: 8

Languages of Italy (aside from Latin + Etruscan) Faliscan closely related to Latin
Venetan found on stone slabs in the town of Este in the Veneto region
Umbrian known from bronze tablets from Ignuvium
Oscan related to Umbrian, used by people of south west Italy; the poet Ennius was supposed to speak Oscan, Greek, Latin (Gellius 17.17.1)
Sabines, Marsi, Volsci, Piceni all had their own dialects
Ligurian stood out from the above Indo-European languages, but borrowed from them
For more, see K. McDonald’s map of languages of Italy c. 700- c. 50 BCE, also McDonald 2015: Oscan in Southern Italy and Sicily, and on twitter @Katherine_McDon

Etruscan Alphabet

Left: Etruscan alphabet. Image: wikimedia.
Right: Etruscan bucchero vase (7th century BCE) in the shape of a cockerel, inscribed with 26 letters of the Etruscan alphabet. Image: Metropolitan Museum.

Pyrgi tablets (510-500 BCE)

Pyrgi Tablets wikimedia By Sailko (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.jpg

Three golden leaves recording diplomatic exchange between an Etruscan ruler (Tiberius Velianus) and a Tyrian king, ‘bilingually’ written in Phoenician and Etruscan [read the text + translation here]. Late 6th century. Image: Sailko [CC BY-SA 4.0], via wikimedia. Now in the Villa Giulia, where they can be read by the visually impaired in Braille transcription.

Piacenza Liver (2nd century BCE)

Piacenza wikimedia Lokilech .jpg

Life-sized bronze model of sheep’s liver with Etruscan inscriptions in subdivisions for haruspicy (divination). 16 sections correspond to 16 sections of the sky (Cicero On Divination 2.18). 2nd century BCE. 12.6 cm x 7.6 cm x 6 cm. Image: By Lokilech (Own work) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

Cicero (On Laws 2.21): “Prodigies and portents shall be referred to the Etruscan haruspices, if the senate so decrees. Etruria shall instruct her leading men in this art. They shall make expiatory offerings to whatever gods they decide upon, and shall perform expiations for flashes of lightning, and for whatever shall be struck by lightning.” [Cicero describes a statue on a temple struck by lightning in On Divination 1.10] 

Etruscan Temple (6th century BCE)

Reconstruction of an Etruscan Temple .jpg

Modern reconstruction of an Etruscan temple, based on description from Vitruvius’ De Architectura (4.7.1-5), 1st century BCE Latin architect and writer. Image: wikimedia.

Capitoline Temple to Jupiter, Juno, Minerva (dedicated in 509 BCE)

Speculative model of the first Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, 509 BC [wikimedia].jpg

Speculative model of Capitoline Temple to Jupiter, Juno, Minerva dedicated in Rome in 509 BCE. Image: wikimedia.

Tempel_Jupiter_Optimus denarius 78 BCEDenarius (78 BCE) showing the Capitoline temple
during its rebuilding after fire in 83 BCE.
Image: Hermann Junghans, wikimedia.

Livy (1.55-56): “It is said that whilst they were digging the foundations of the Capitoline temple, a human head came to light with the face perfect; this appearance unmistakably portended that the spot would be the stronghold of empire and the head of all the world. This was the interpretation given by the soothsayers in the City, as well as by those who had been called into council from Etruria…”

Terracotta sculpture of Apollo from Veii (late 6th century BCE)

Late 6th century BCE terracotta sculpture of Apollo (Etruscan “Aplu”) from Etruscan town of Veii, home of the sculptor, Vulca. Contemporary with the first Capitoline Temple at Rome. Images: wikimedia (1), (2). Now in the Villa Giulia.

Further reading/watching/listening: