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Uncertainty in Livy and Velleius

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Annika Domainko

3. Velleius Paterculus – Shutting down Uncertainty

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3.1 A Survey of Recent Scholarship

  • 1 Similarly, see Cowan (2011a) ix. As is well known, the prominent praise and Velleius’ obvious close (...)
  • 2 The title of Velleius’ work is not preserved. Conventionally, scholarship since the first editor Be (...)
  • 3 Giving a positive spin to it, Norden (19616) 91 calls Velleius a ‘useful corrective to the Tacitean (...)
  • 4 See Schmitzer (2000) 9-23 for a full account of Velleian scholarship and the development of scholar (...)

1At a time when the free word is celebrated as the fourth estate, Velleius Paterculus’ obvious proximity to Tiberius and his coterie in power carries with it the inevitable overtones of court propaganda and backscratching.1 Much of our modern reading of Velleius’ History2 has been informed by Tacitus’ view of the Augustan settlement as a major turning point in history and by our own retrospective knowledge of the final collapse of the Republic.3 Accordingly, academic assessments of Velleius as a historian have generally been made overwhelmingly negative and have resulted in a persistent negligence of his History as literature and historical narrative.4

  • 5 This chapter is a revised and enlarged version of Domainko (2015) 76-110, an article published in H (...)

2This chapter explores the conception of uncertainty in Velleius Paterculus’ historiography5 and argues that much can be learned from Velleius’ idea of history when approached, contrary to common assumptions, not as one-dimensional court propaganda, but as the result of a subtle tension between teleology and unpredictability. To read and study Velleius’ History from this perspective allows us to deepen our understanding of the anthropological dimension and value of historiographical narrative as a means of coming to terms with uncertainty and the fragility of human life.

  • 6 See Syme’s ‘mendacity in Velleius’ (1978).
  • 7 See e.g. Syme (1978) 54.
  • 8 Syme (1958) 200.
  • 9 Syme (1958) 367. See also Yardley (2011) xxxi.
  • 10 The date of the History is itself controversial. Most recently, Rich (2011b) 84-7 argued for a hast (...)
  • 11 Klingner (1958) 194.
  • 12 Lana (1952) esp. 7 does not want to classify Velleius as a historian. He calls his History ‘l’unica (...)
  • 13 See Yardley (2011) xxxi-xxxii.

3The most famous and arguably most passionate critique of Velleius’ writing is certainly that penned on numerous occasions by Ronald Syme. Syme called Velleius mendacious,6 fraudulent,7 neglected his existence altogether when he denied that anything had survived ‘from the Roman historians who write in the hundred and thirty years’ between Livy and Tacitus8 and made no secret of his contempt for the historian’s writing, in which Velleius’ ‘loyal fervour insists everywhere on rendering praise where praise is safe and profitable, with manifold convolutions of deceit and flattery.’9 Especially in the eyes of those who still lived in the shadow of modern-day autocratic systems and under the cloud of the German Nazi regime in particular, Velleius’ praise of the Tiberian court and the dedication of his work to the consul of the year 30 CE, Marcus Vinicius, prevented him from qualifying as a serious historian.10 In 1958, Friedrich Klingner published his survey of the historians before Tacitus, dismissing Velleius as not suited to the subject matter.11 At the same time, Italo Lana too made an elaborate argument to deny Velleius the status of a historiographer.12 And already in the beginning of the twentieth century, Wilhelm Sigmund Teuffel had declared his outright repulsion of Velleius’ enthusiastic praise of the emperor and his deeds.13

  • 14 Yardley (2011) xxxvi also highlights that Samuel ‘Dr’ Johnson included Velleius in his list of Lati (...)
  • 15 See Sumner (1970) 257-97.
  • 16 See Yardley (2011) xxxii.

4Since then, various scholars have defended Velleius from the charge of mere flattery and propaganda and have argued at length that he be taken seriously as a historical writer.14 In 1970, Graham Sumner published a seminal article that reappraised Velleius’ work, drawing attention to the valuable insights into late Republican and early imperial Rome that can be gained from an unbiased reading of the text.15 J.C. Yardley has further stressed that, in relation to the scope of the History as a whole, Tiberius’ position is not as prominent as usually assumed, considering that he appears to be fully absent from the first book and that he does not enter the stage as a protagonist until the last quarter of the History. Yardley laconically summarizes this observation by stating: ‘If Tiberius read Velleius’ opus, he must have felt weary as he waited to discover when the propaganda would begin.’16

  • 17 See Wiseman (1979).
  • 18 See Woodman (1988).
  • 19 Ranke (18853) VII, in the ‘Vorrede zur ersten Ausgabe 1824’ of his Geschichten der Romanischen und (...)
  • 20 For the commentaries, see Woodman (1977) and (1983); (1969) on Sallustian influences on Velleius an (...)

5In general, much of the subsequent change in attitude in Velleian research goes back to the linguistic turn, which prompted scholarship to bracket positivistic questions of historical correctness and which encouraged scholars to read Velleius’ opus as historiographical narrative following genre-specific rules. While Velleius’ much disdained work was certainly not among the first historical texts to profit from the fact that ‘Clio’s cosmetics’17 and ‘Rhetoric in Classical Historiography’18 gradually pushed into the background Leopold von Ranke’s famous dictum of ‘wie es eigentlich gewesen’,19 this paradigm shift would nevertheless soon induce scholarship to examine the way in which his History ordered and reconfigured the past by means of rhetoric composition. The revival in Velleius’ reputation is reflected especially in A. J. Woodman’s essays and commentaries.20

  • 21 For discussions of genre, see recently esp. Rich (2011b).
  • 22 Marincola (1999) 281-324; see also Rich (2011b) 78.
  • 23 See Rich (2011b) 78.

6However, until this day, most scholarly assessments of Velleius’ two-volume History still revolve around rather conventional questions of genre, authorial intention, and value. The limited size of the work, in combination with its wide-ranging geographical and temporal scope, have prompted scholars to call Velleius’ opus a ‘hybrid history’, floating between Roman and world history and including panegyric as well as biographical features.21 This cautious agreement upon the hybrid quality of the History owes much to John Marincola and others, who have demonstrated that the allegedly distinct genres of ancient historical writing are in fact much less hermetically sealed than scholarship has long assumed.22 Nevertheless, John Rich has also rightly pointed out that Velleius’ peculiar orchestration of features and strategies commonly associated with the conventions of certain genres indeed appears unparalleled in ancient literature – and should therefore be taken seriously if we want to grasp fully the nature of his history of Rome.23

  • 24 See Lobur (2007) 211-30.
  • 25 See Gowing’s monograph in (2005) tackling questions of memory and oblivion between Republic and Pri (...)
  • 26 See especially Schmitzer’s monograph in (2000), but also his contribution to Cowan’s compendium in (...)
  • 27 Cowan (2011b).

7Most recently the works by John Lobur,24 Alain Gowing,25 Ullrich Schmitzer,26 and the edited volume by Eleanor Cowan,27 summarizing the results of a conference held in 2008, have taken Velleian scholarship further by catching up on the methodological trends that have influenced research into more highly regarded ancient historians such as Tacitus and Sallust for decades. Lobur in particular has drawn attention to the fact that we need to take into consideration the interaction between content and form in Velleius’ work more seriously.

  • 28 See Lobur (2007) 213-4.

8By focussing on the relation between ‘the template of values that inform Velleius’ cultural and political system, and the manner in which he presents it’, Lobur argues, we can release ‘the work from evaluations centred around moral integrity or genre’ and instead situate it within the cultural historical framework of a Roman elite between the old and the new Republic.28

About this Chapter

9This paradigm shift also constitutes my starting point for the examination of narrative and uncertainty in Velleius. Building on the fundamental assumption that the narrative form of a historiographical text is a generator and carrier of meaning sui generis, this chapter approaches Velleius’ History from an anthropological perspective, reading his narrative as a certain way of configuring uncertainty.

10In detail, the chapter is divided into two major parts. In the first section (3.2), I wish to show how Velleius’ narrative techniques result in a far-reaching elimination of uncertainty. The teleological inclination of Velleius’ text is trenchantly reflected both at the level of the story and in the narrative composition. The History refuses to acknowledge any breaking-point between the old Republic and Augustus, instead emphasizing a seamless continuity and identifying a strong teleological sway in Roman history leading up to the Principate. Accordingly, narrative form prominently features compositional strategies that tone down the aspect of uncertainty. To be more exact, I will focus on Velleius’ take on periodization both at the level of the story and with respect to the construction of two fundamental narratological categories, i.e. tense and voice, on the level of the discourse. I will show how the particular configuration of tense and voice results in a peculiar picture of history, where the Roman past represents the great lines drawn in retrospect, and a closed space with little room for rivalling voices or interpretations – in other words, as a literary space exempt from temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty.

11However, as I wish to argue in the second section (3.3), notions of uncertainty play a more prominent role in Velleius’ History than has been commonly acknowledged. By focussing on Velleius’ use of concepts such as fortune (fortuna) and fate (fatum), I will show that in order to get a fuller picture of the idea of history encoded in his text, we need to take more seriously into account the subtle hints that counteract the elements of closure. I therefore wish to argue that Velleius’ idea of Roman history constitutes the result of a subtle tension between teleology and unpredictability. In other words, taken seriously as historical narrative, Velleius’ History presents itself to us as being caught up between uncertainty and the cure for this uncertainty at the same time.

12I will close the chapter with a summary and preliminary conclusion (3.4) that brings together the findings of this Velleius section with the conceptual and theoretical thoughts that I have developed in the first and second chapter. As we know, much attention has been paid to the political dimension of Velleius’ historiography. To explore how his narrative configures this tension between experience and expectation, and the tension between divergent ways of interpreting the world, may allow us to go beyond politics and discourses of power and to illuminate a more existential aspect of Velleius’ history, namely the status of his narrative as a potential means of grappling with uncertainty.

3.2 Narrative Grappling with Uncertainty

3.2.1 Periodization in Velleius: Continuity and Teleology

  • 29 See Morris (1997) 96.
  • 30 Barchiesi (2005) 281. On approaches to periodization in the ancient world, see e.g. the second part (...)

13When we think and speak about the past we cannot do so without crafting categories, drawing lines through time and dividing the disorder of lived experience into distinct portions that are easier to grasp and handle. But almost everyone would agree that any form of periodization is eventually also a form of distortion,29 or, as Alessandro Barchiesi concluded, ‘periodizations are tools that very few trust but everybody uses.’30 Velleius’ take on periodization, and his choice to portray Roman history before and after Augustus as a seamless, continuous flow, has been subject to profound criticism in classical scholarship for distorting the truth, for falling prey to and buying into imperial propaganda, and even for manipulating history.

  • 31 See Fish (1989) 311; with Morris (1997) 96.

14While it is certainly true that Velleius’ portrait neglects a considerable part of the lived experience of the time, we must not forget that it is in the very nature of historiography to do exactly this: to ‘remember’ certain aspects while ‘forgetting’ others. As Stanley Fish put it, ‘you cannot not forget; you cannot not exclude; you cannot refuse boundaries and distinctions.’31 Periodization does indeed constrain the way in which we think and speak about the past, but it also permits us to do so in the first place. The lines Velleius draws through time may accordingly give us access to a different way of thinking about the Roman past. Since Velleius’ periodization goes against the grain of much of modern scholarship, it stands out and is particularly apt to draw attention to the fact that we cannot write history without making the past into manageable thinking that sits inside the box of certain categories. By this means, excavating the lines that Velleius draws through Roman time also constitutes a way of reflecting upon the ordering mechanism of historiography in general and thus merits our closer attention.

  • 32 See Gowing (2005) esp. 34; (2007) 411-8; Marincola (2011a) 135. The same point is also acknowledged (...)

15On a macro-level, the book division of his work gives some basic indication as to his perception of Roman history. The first book embeds the foundation of Rome within the context of world history and records Rome’s expansion and rise to international power. It ends with a canonical breaking-point in Roman history, namely the destruction of Carthage in 146 BCE. The second book focusses on the civil discord, starting roughly with the period of the Gracchi, and treating the civil wars up to the Principates of Augustus and, finally, Tiberius. Apart from identifying the year 146 BCE as a major turning point in Roman history, what is striking here is the fact that Velleius does not conceptualize the rise of the Principate as another seminal break, but as a direct chronological continuation from the struggles of the Republic. Velleius’ periodization focusses on the paradigm of continuity and teleology.32

16This conception of history is obviously at loggerheads with the modern view in which Octavian’s victory in the battle of Actium is commonly seen as an event of great symbolic transformation, flagging the moment when, along with the civil wars, the Roman Republic came to an end and made room for the establishment of a new monarchic government. As already discussed in passing in Chapter 2, Tacitus famously begins his Annales with a clear indication of this breaking-point between the libera res publica and the new system of government after Octavian’s rise to power (Ann. 1.3.7-1.4.1):

Domi res tranquillae, eadem magistratuum uocabula; iuniores post Actiacam uictoriam, etiam senes plerique inter bella ciuium nati: quotus quisque reliquus qui rem publicam uidisset ? Igitur uerso ciuitatis statu nihil usquam prisci et integri moris: omnes exuta aequalitate iussa principis aspectare, nulla in praesens formidine, dum Augustus aetate ualidus seque et domum et pacem sustentauit.
All was calm at home, the magistrates carried their old names; the younger men had been born after the victory of Actium, and even most of the older ones during the civil wars: how many were left who still had seen the Republic? The state was thus reversed to its opposite and of the old, unspoilt Roman character not a trace lingered: after equality was abolished, everyone expected the orders of the princeps, for now without fear, as long as Augustus, strong at his age, upheld himself and his house and peace.

  • 33 Suetonius and Cassius Dio acknowledge the breaking-point in Roman history, too. The latter refers e (...)
  • 34 Cowan (2011a) x.

17Tacitus de-masks the Roman revolution by drawing attention to the tension between surface and reality. He describes the alleged return to Republican values and conditions as a mere conservation of the traditional labels, while priscus et integer mos and aequalitas are gradually being eroded.33 As is well known, Tacitus’ depiction of the ‘Roman revolution’ has proved to be very influential until modern times and forms a stark contrast to Velleius, who, as Eleanor Cowan has demonstrated, ‘saw continuity where later authors saw only radical change’.34 In the light of Tacitus’ famous passage, Velleius’ analysis may indeed seem surprising (2.89.3):

finita uicesimo anno bella ciuilia, sepulta externa; reuocata pax, sopitus ubique armorum furor; restituta uis legibus, iudiciis auctoritas, senatui maiestas; imperium magistratuum ad pristinum redactum modum; tantummodo octo praetoribus adiecti duo. prisca illa et antiqua rei publicae forma reuocata.
After twenty years, the civil wars were brought to an end, foreign wars were suppressed, peace was restored, the turmoil of wars ever-present was laid to rest; validity was restored to the laws, authority to the courts and majesty to the senate; the power of the magistrates was reduced to its former limits, besides that two praetors were added to the eight that already existed. The former and traditional nature of the Republic was restored.

18The very accumulation of the prefix ‘re-’ – revocare, restituere, redagere as well as repraesentare (2.89.2) and redire (2.89.4) in this section – strongly directs our perception of the continuous and restorative nature of the political system after Actium. Octavian’s steps are not seen as the establishment of a new order or a new government, but as the restoration of the traditional state that had been distorted through the turmoil of civil war.

  • 35 With Gowing (2005) 35.
  • 36 See Sattler (1960) 40-1: ‘Gesetze, Gerichte, Senat und Magistrat sind diejenigen Institutionen, wel (...)
  • 37 This observation has also been tackled by Gowing (2005) 44-8. In his analysis of Cicero’s death, he (...)

19What happens under Augustus (and what is carried on through Tiberius) is, in other words, not a new era, but the maintenance of already existing structures which had been befouled beyond recognition.35 The explicit hint in this passage to individual institutions that were subject to post-Actium restorations leaves no doubt that the alleged ‘new order’ is nothing less than the old libera res publica, whose core elements, leges, senatus, magistratus, can finally return to their former strength and prosperity.36 The Republic never ceased to exist.37 And Velleius even goes one step further. His depiction of Tiberius makes clear that Augustus has represented only one step in a teleological development that is to be complemented by the accomplishments of his successor (2.126.2-5):

reuocata in forum fides; summota e foro seditio, ambitio campo, discordia curia, sepultaeque ac situ obsitae iustitia aequitas industria ciuitati redditae; accessit magistratibus auctoritas, senatui maiestas, iudiciis grauitas; [...].
Credit has been restored in the forum, strife has been banished from the forum, canvassing for office from the Campus Martius, discord from the senate-house; justice, equity and industry, long buried in oblivion, have been restored to the state; the magistrates have regained their authority, the senate its majesty, the courts their dignity; [...].

  • 38 See also Woodman (1977) 237.

20Velleius ends his Tiberian narrative with a synoptic appraisal of his accomplishments which both picks up on some of the elements given in the Augustan narrative and elaborates on them. The magistrates, the senate and the courts are brought in again, but are now supplemented with the restoration of financial security. The explicit hints of the forum, the campus Martius and the curia, the traditional meeting places of the comitia tributa, the comitia centuriata and the senate draw attention to the institutional pillars of the Republic.38 Furthermore, the terms seditio, ambitio and discordia refer us to the conditions that are conventionally configured in Rome as having initiated the fall of the Republic (cf. e.g. Sall. Cat. 9-12).

21Besides, Tiberius’ Principate restores peace and security not only in public life, but also in the realm of private life for each and every Roman, a development that, according to Velleius, is already obvious in the very moment when Tiberius is made Augustus’ successor (2.103.5):

tum refulsit certa spes liberorum parentibus, uiris matrimoniorum, dominis patrimonii, omnibus hominibus salutis quietis pacis tranquillitatis, adeo ut nec plus sperari potuerit nec spei responderi felicius.
On that day there sprang up once more in parents the assurance of safety for their children, in husbands for the sanctity of marriage, in owners for the safety of their property, and in all men the assurance of safety, order, peace and tranquillity; indeed, it would have been hard to entertain larger hopes, or to have them more happily fulfilled.

22The restorations in private and public life put the Tiberian narrative in parentheses. Refulsit certa spes, says Velleius – hope and confidence are brought back in all major fields of private life, and especially the trust in a secure future for the next generation, marriage and patrimony reconsolidate the family as a central institution in Roman society. The emphasis on traditional Roman values demonstrates the continuity reinstalled in Roman history. The fourfold emphasis on peace – salus, quies, pax, and tranquillitas – however sharpens the contrast between Tiberian Rome and the upheavals of civil war in the last century.

23When Velleius thus stresses that there was nothing more to hope for after Tiberius had been made the new princeps, Tiberius’ position at the climax of Roman history, following and even surpassing Augustus, is made evident. The use of the verb refulgere bolsters this impression: the princeps’ reign hits Rome like a bright light and illuminates the remains of the dark age of civil war. Hence, it does not come as a surprise when Tiberius is named princeps optimus in the work’s final acknowledgment (2.126.5).

24As a result, Velleius’ History offers the reader a periodization of Rome’s past that highlights continuation where other historians, with Tacitus leading the way, will later see change and disruption. In so construing the period as an uninterrupted continuum, Velleius downplays any hint of temporal or hermeneutic uncertainty. The strong focus on continuation leaves no room for experiences from the past and expectations towards the future drifting apart. Rome’s present and Rome’s future are seamlessly linked to its past, and the current state of affairs can be fully grasped with regard to structures, patterns, and values inherited from before. What is more, Velleius’ depiction of the return to the old res publica makes clear that there is in his narrative no epistemic gap which has to be filled. While Tacitus drives home the point that, after Augustus, the core Roman institutions were nothing but empty labels, signifiants with no, or with new signifiés, Velleius sees in Augustus the one who restores the priscus and antiquus link between ‘form’ and ‘content’ without the inadequate changes made during the civil wars.

  • 39 On the importance of biographical elements in Velleius, see e.g. Starr (1980) 292 (‘passion for bio (...)
  • 40 See Kuntze (1985) 164-6.

25This observation can be backed up by another feature in Velleius’ History that, in a similar way, papers over the cracks between Republic and Empire, that is the way in which he treats the influence of great men on Rome’s fate. That Velleius shows an obvious interest in the influence of outstanding figures is a common observation in Velleian scholarship, whose significance becomes apparent when read together with his take on periodization.39 Tiberius and Augustus are by no means the only characters in Velleius’ narrative whose strong influence on the course of Roman history is highlighted. What is more, they are not the only ones to which the terms principatus or princeps are attributed, as Claudia Kuntze has discussed.40 Marius (2.19.4) and Marcus Antonius (2.22.3) are both called principes, and Gaius Gracchus is once referred to as a civitatis princeps (2.6.2). Caesar (2.68.5) also bears the name of the princeps, and in another passage Velleius refers to him as holding a principatus (2.57.1).

  • 41 To anticipate some thoughts from Chapter 4, see e.g. Luce (1977) 231 who draws attention to Livy’s (...)
  • 42 Gowing (2005) 36 n. 23 emphasizes the circumstance that Velleius is mostly concerned with Romans, n (...)

26Besides this lexical continuity from great Republican figures to Augustus and Tiberius that glosses over the Actium-break, the level of narrative form is also relevant in this context. Velleius’ History can be described as a narrative mosaic of biographies of outstanding men – who, however, are not depicted in a way that their actions and words speak for themselves (as for example in Livy),41 but in the shape of brief biographical digressions and critical appraisals of their personalities and contributions to Rome’s fate. There are several dozens of short biographies in Velleius’ narrative which, given the length of his two-volume History, represents a considerable percentage of the work as a whole.42 At the level of narrative form, the regular disruption to the narrative flow, or rather the disruption of the depiction of events and sequential developments by means of character descriptions, can be said to constitute a pattern that structures Velleius’ version of Rome’s history and bestows upon it an implicit grid that complements the periodization analyzed above. Roman history, for Velleius, is not disrupted by the advent of Augustus and Tiberius, but carried on in a well-trodden path of patterns, perpetuating a system of great men with traditional Roman values.

  • 43 See Frank (1991).

27On a different note, one might add that this form of narrative presentation also results in a text in which the representation of sequentiality, chronology, action, and development is downplayed in favour of a more holistic, analytical or, we could say, synoptic approach. Joseph Frank has coined the expression ‘spatial form’ to describe a narrative technique of this kind.43 In reading modernist novels such as James Joyce’s Ulysses, Frank argued that these works of literature generate meaning synchronically rather than by constructing sequential plots, a technique for which he advanced the metaphorical label ‘spatial’.

  • 44 Grethlein (2013) 92-130; and again 341.

28Jonas Grethlein has taken up Frank’s observation in an analysis of Plutarch’s Lives, especially focussing on the Alexander,44 where he argued that Plutarch’s interest in trans-temporal moral values results in a negligence of plot and temporal sequence. A similar observation holds true for Velleius as well. By casting Roman history inside a picture that centres upon the achievements and moral integrity of outstanding men, an elaborate plot is downplayed in favour of a synoptic or spatial evaluation of what makes up Roman history, not in terms of individual event but rather in view of trans-temporal patterns, values, and character traits. Configuring Roman history spatially or synoptically along the lines just described also allows Velleius to focus on the hidden patterns underlying history. It means focussing on the greater picture rather than the individual strands. As a result, the uncertainty of the lived experience of the characters, both in terms of time and hermeneutics, is thoroughly eliminated in favour of a synoptic picture of Roman history without room for seminal change or breaks.

  • 45 For references to brevity, cf. e.g. 2.29.2; for festinatio, cf. 1.16.1; 2.41.1; 2.108.2; for the re (...)
  • 46 For the most recent discussion, offering a comprehensive overview of the controversies, see Lobur ( (...)

29This reading of Velleius’ synoptic or spatial history can also shed new light on Velleius’ programmatic concision, his festinatio and brevitas45 – to which he refers so many times, that scholars have discussed their meaning and implication for decades.46 An older generation of classical scholarship used to understand Velleius’ allusions to his speed and brevity as a result of the dedication of the work to Marcus Vinicius, who held the consulship from January to June of the year 30 CE.

  • 47 See Sumner (1970) 284.
  • 48 Sumner (1970) 285. Against this, Woodman (1975) 280-2 argues that, according to the practice of imp (...)
  • 49 See Schmitzer (2000) 34.

30Graham Sumner, for instance, argued that Vinicius’ designation to the office in 29 CE must be regarded as the terminus post quem for Velleius’ commencement of composition, when, accordingly, time for writing was little more than scarce.47 Sumner hence took festinatio and brevitas as literal references to the time pressure of an author who was ‘hurrying to meet a deadline’.48 Ulrich Schmitzer further argued along the same lines when he asserted that Velleius used these references to his writing speed and brevity as an excuse, in order to renounce any high literary claims.49

  • 50 See Woodman (1975) 278-80. This claim is backed up by Starr (1981) 169-72.
  • 51 Cf. Lucian, Hist. Conscr. 56.1. For a similar thought, cf. also Cic. Inv. rhet. 1.28, as also Lobur (...)

31A. J. Woodman, on the other hand, has made a case not to read brevitas and festinatio as referring to a hasty composition, but rather to understand both terms against the backdrop of ancient rhetoric and literary criticism.50 Lucian for example identifies tachos (‘speed’) as a necessary quality of any form of historical writing because, according to his treatise, it helps to confine one’s treatment to the essential parts of the story.51

  • 52 See Lobur (2007) 219 for the first, 220 for the second quotation.

32But even when we fully acknowledge Lucian’s theoretical comments on the issue, John Lobur is right in pointing out that there is no extant ancient historian who draws as much self-referential attention to his use of the concepts brevitas and festinatio as Velleius does. Lobur therefore goes beyond Woodman’s reading and suggests that we understand Velleius’ narrative technique not only in the context of ancient literary criticism, but also ‘in the context of the political transformation that was taking place’ during the early years of the Principate. Instead of interpreting festinatio and brevitas as merely stylistic features, Lobur understands them as claims for authority which gain their power and significance from the cultural background of the time in which the History was written. He concludes that they are ‘perhaps best understood as a (conscious or unconscious) strategy to display [sc. the author’s] erudition’ and as an ‘attempt to gain distinction by showing his capacity to distinguish the most essential things from within a vast […] corpus of history and literature’.52

  • 53 See Wallace-Hadrill (2005) 57-8.
  • 54 With Lobur (2007) 220.
  • 55 See Lobur (2007) 220.
  • 56 Cf. Liv. praef. 3. With Lobur (2007) 220.

33As we have seen in Chapter 2, the Augustan transformation was underpinned by a ‘fundamental shift in the location and structure of knowledge, and specifically the knowledge which constitutes Roman society’, namely to remove knowledge from the old nobiles and place it in the hands of professional experts.53 The mastery over a certain part of the cultural universe was thus a potential way of claiming authority and socio-political influence for oneself.54 Velleius’ abbreviated universal history can thus be read as the choice of a narrative form that ‘allowed him not merely to report the ideas, books and traditions that made up the cultural universe of the early empire, but actually participate, in an original way, in the elite activity of their definition.’55 In the contexts of a competitive elite culture and a competitive literary culture, the peculiar shape of the History can be understood as a way for an author to distinguish himself among the vast number of rivalling authors and readings of Rome’s past – the turba tanta scriptorum, as Livy calls it in his preface.56

  • 57 Perhaps most important among Velleius’ thematic digressions are the paragraphs on literary history (...)

34Besides, Velleius’ choice to proceed at somewhat lightning speed through Rome’s history must always be considered against the backdrop of the many digressions he frequently inserts in the narrative. These digressions are not limited to the biographical issues mentioned above, but also extend to elaborate treatises of literary or cultural questions.57 The combination of the two, i.e. of lengthy digressions on the one hand and the programmatic festinatio and brevitas on the other, is a clear indication that the narrative form of the History must not be discarded as a necessary symptom of a text that had to be composed in a hurry and was thus necessarily flawed and rigorously confined to ‘the basics’.

  • 58 Nevertheless, Velleius indeed refers to the ‘proper historiographical work’ he plans on writing lat (...)

35It is rather that form may indeed follow function in this case. While the digressions, which treat select themes at greater length, demonstrate to the reader that Velleius could indeed write a full-blown narrative, the festinatio and brevitas he applies to the majority of the text is proof of his ability to confine himself to a narrow, distinguished lens through which to read and present Rome’s past.58 In other words, the combination of elaborate excursus with a narrative form that closes off almost any notion of uncertainty should be read as the characteristic of a conception of writing history that favours closure over loose ends, the big picture over the microscopic causalities that led to it, underlying patterns over open futures and rivalling voices, and hermeneutic selection over lived experience. This approach thus complements the teleology installed by Velleius’ take on periodization.

3.2.2 Narrative Form: The Construction of Tense and Voice

36These thoughts direct us immediately to the level of narrative form. The emphasis on a synoptic vision of history, in which uncertainty is closed off and lived experience is traded for an analytical sketch drawn in retrospect, is encoded in the narrative form of the History.

  • 59 The interest in the narrative construction of ancient historiography is not least rooted in both cl (...)

37Now, the focus on the narrative construction of ancient Roman historiography has been continuously influential over recent decades.59 With regard to my particular interest in the narrative construction of the History, it is possible to start from the text itself since it is the narrator Velleius himself who engages in narratological deliberations (1.3.2-3):

quo nomine mirari conuenit eos qui Iliaca componentes tempora de ea regione ut Thessalia commemorant. Quod cum alii faciant, tragici frequentissime faciunt, quibus minime id concedendum est; nihil enim ex persona poetae sed omnia sub eorum qui illo tempore uixerunt dicenda sunt. […] Paulo ante Aletes, sextus ab Hercule, Hippotis filius, Corinthum, quae antea fuerat Ephyre, claustra Peloponnesi continentem, in Isthmo condidit. Neque est quod miremur ab Homero nominari Corinthum; nam ex persona poetae et hanc urbem et quasdam Ionum colonias iis nominibus appellat quibus uocabantur aetate eius, multo post Ilium captum conditae.
On this account, we have a right to be surprised about those poets who write about the time of the Trojan War and call this region Thessaly. Although this is a common practice, the tragic poets are the ones who do this the most frequently – poets for whom actually least allowance should be made. For nothing must be uttered by the poet himself, but only by his characters, who lived in the time referred to. [...] Shortly before, Aletes, the son of Hippotes and the sixth to come after Hercules, founded upon the Isthmus the city of Corinth, formerly known as Ephyre, the key to the Peloponnesus. There is no need for surprise that it is called Corinth by Homer, for it is in his persona as a poet that he calls this city and some of the Ionian colonies by the names which they had in his day, although they were founded long after the capture of Troy.

38On this reflection, not every narrative mode is appropriate for every text-type or genre. While the epic bard is allowed to see and tell the past from his remote vantage point, ex persona poetae, the dramatist has to focus on the experiences of his characters, who are thus the only ones through whose eyes the story may be seen. Since the Velleian narrator is obviously aware of these different ways of narrating story and the different perspectives the poeta can adopt, an analysis of his narrative perspective gives us an important insight into his conception of history and his self-characterization as a historiographer.

  • 60 Possible reconstructions of the preface are still subject to controversial discussions. See e.g. Ri (...)

39Since the preface to Velleius’ History is unfortunately lost,60 we lack a full and coherent programmatic account. But, in addition to the passage just examined, there are nevertheless a couple of instances in Velleius’ narrative that allow us a glimpse into his programme (1.14.1.):

  • 61 Velleius seems to draw on Aristotle in this passage. In Poet. 1459b20, Aristotle asserts that a wel (...)

Cum facilius cuiusque rei in unum contracta species quam diuisa temporibus oculis animisque inhaereat, statui priorem huius uoluminis posterioremque partem non inutili rerum notitia in artum contracta distinguere […].61
Inasmuch as a condensed picture of related facts makes more impression on the eye and mind than one that gives these facts separately in their chronological sequence, I have decided to separate the first part of this work from the second by a useful and concise summary […].

  • 62 These thematic treatments include the biographical sections and digressions on literary history; se (...)
  • 63 Note however that Marius’ narrow escape from execution through Sulla (2.19) could be considered as (...)
  • 64 In this context, Shipley (1924) xvii is even inclined to call Velleius an epitomist who succeeded i (...)

40In this section Velleius downplays the importance of sequentiality and the need for a strictly chronological order in favour not only of thematic treatment,62 but especially of a coherent overall image, in unum contracta species. Roman history is conceptualized as a condensed and coherent picture drawn in retrospect, as being particularly apt to sink deeply into memory, and as making a lasting impression on the eyes and minds of the reader. The mimetic depiction of individual events ‘as they truly happened’ and as they were experienced seems less important.63 Instead he focusses on discovering the hidden structure underlying history and on revealing the great logical lines that span historical events that lie widely apart.64 This can also be seen towards the end where he relies on the recusatio topos to justify his summarizing approach (2.89.6):

  • 65 The declared striving for the overall picture of his object of study may remind us of Plutarch’s pr (...)

nos memores professionis uniuersam imaginem principatus eius oculis animisque subiecimus.
As regards myself, remembering my task and profession, I have set before the eye and mind of my reader a universal picture of his Principate.65

41Velleius’ concept of the in unum contracta species or of the uniuersa imago can be thrown into relief when we pay closer attention to the immediate context of the major programmatic account (1.14.) Immediately before this statement, Velleius speaks about Scipio Africanus and Lucius Mummius and their respective victories in Carthage and Corinth. Just after elaborating on Scipio’s cultural eruditeness and Mummius’ lack thereof, Velleius addresses Vinicius, reassuring the addressee that he on his part is convinced that Vinicius would not fall prey to a similar lack of decorum.

42Immediately after this scene, Velleius introduces his seminal programmatic account, saying that things stick in our mind better when we consider them in relation to context and related facts. Strikingly, this is exactly what Velleius just did in the run-up to this statement. The in unum contracta species is thus in this case twofold: first, it refers to the topic that is discussed, i.e. Velleius’ brief reasoning about the adequate behaviour, necessary knowledge and the nature of the proper statesman, as this paradigm is exemplified by Scipio, contradicted by people such as Mummius, and supposedly again reaffirmed in the reign of the addressee, Vinicius.

43Secondly, it has a structural component and refers also to the link and the continuity between the past and Velleius’ and Vinicius’ present. After all, Velleius’ brief digression on Scipio, Mummius and Vinicius implies that certain challenges are time-transcending, inscribed into the way the world naturally works, and hence they have to be faced ever anew with positive or negative consequences. Moreover, the programmatic claim of the contracta species apparently not only refers to topics, but also embodies a temporal dimension. The address to Vinicius in this context and right before the programmatic statement shows that contracta species means also a teasing out of time-spanning connections, the greater lines of the story, and logically connected bits and pieces which are shattered in the chronology of history, but which must and can nevertheless be put together again in order to create a holistic picture that makes impression on the eyes and minds.

44This programmatic endeavour complements what I have argued about the periodization of the History. Velleius’ history is built on time-transcending patterns and is a monolithic whole without any indication of a break between Republic and Principate. The toning down of uncertainty that results from this historiographical programme comes, on the level of the discourse, to the fore in two aspects of his narrative technique in particular: the construction of tense and voice.

The Construction of Tense

  • 66 See Genette (1980) 35.
  • 67 See e.g. the contributions by Rood (2007a; b; c; d), Hidber (2007a; b) and Van Henten and Huitink ( (...)

45Let us first explore the temporal construction of the narrative. The most important narratological category for an examination of Velleius’ History is narrative order, which means in Gérard Genette’s terms the order in which the events of the story are presented in the discourse.66 Flashbacks (analepses) and previews (prolepses) are the most common ways of departing from a sequential narrative chronology, and both are used frequently in ancient historiography.67

  • 68 For a comprehensive discussion of experience and teleology as two antipodes of historiographical na (...)

46It is telling that analepses are rare in Velleius’ History, while previews and brief anticipations are introduced into the narrative much more frequently. In particular, we can observe a dense network of what I find here useful to call ‘micro-prolepses’. By this term, I refer to previews which assume the shape not of elaborate digressions, but rather very short glimpses into the future that are nevertheless significant enough to anticipate the outcome. These micro-prolepses endow the narrative with a strong teleological dimension, since the openness of future developments as experienced by the historical agents is removed and replaced with a closure that appears to be the only possible and natural solution.68

47One example for this is Velleius’ character sketch of Jugurtha and Marius. When referring to their youths and highlighting their conformities in character, he immediately anticipates their future rivalry (2.9.4):

quo quidem tempore iuuenes adhuc Iugurtha ac Marius sub eodem Africano militantes in iisdem castris didicere quae postea in contrariis facerent.
At the same time, Jugurtha and Marius, both still young men and serving under the same Africanus, received in the same camp the military training they would later use in opposing camps.

48Sulla, later on, is referred to in a similar way (2.28.3): primus ille, et utinam ultimus, exemplum proscriptionis inuenit – ‘He was the first – and would that he had been the last! – to set the precedent for proscription.’ The narrator uses an elliptic optative to intervene into the story and reveals his knowledge about the subsequent civil wars and the erosion of Roman values.

49In these two examples, the upheaval of the civil wars is used to emphasize the unforeseeable paths of history as well as to create a foreboding tension for the reader. But the anticipation of Marius and Jugurtha’s war and of the praxis of proscription makes the developments appear as predetermined. Things develop for the worse without any alternative – a teleological course that duly presents Augustus’ and Tiberius’ ‘re-establishment’ of the Republic in a particularly radiant light. This interpretation can be backed up by another striking example of a micro-prolepsis (2.36.1):

Consulatui Ciceronis non mediocre adiecit decus natus eo anno diuus Augustus abhinc annos LXXX<X>II, omnibus omnium gentium uiris magnitudine sua inducturus caliginem.
No slight prestige was added to Cicero’s consulship by the birth of Divus Augustus in that year, ninety-two years ago; Augustus who was destined to overshadow all men of all races by his greatness.

50The passage is framed by a depiction of Catiline’s conspiracy and Pompey’s war against Mithridates. But amidst this turmoil of inner and foreign wars, Augustus is subtly inserted into the narrative, strikingly not by mention of his birth name Octavian, but his later honorific title. This anachronistic naming anticipates Augustus’ future position. In a similar passage, Augustus’ closing of the temple of Janus and his role as a peace maker is anticipated (2.38.3):

immane bellicae ciuitatis argumentum quod semel sub regibus, iterum hoc T. Manlio consule, tertio Augusto principe certae pacis argumentum Ianus geminus clausus dedit. It is a strong proof of the warlike character of our state that only three times the closing of the temple of double-faced Janus gave proof of a safe and certain peace: once under the kings, a second time in the consulship of the Titus Manlius just mentioned, and a third time under the Principate of Augustus.

  • 69 The link to the earlier closures of the temple, especially to Titus Manlius who is one of Livy’s pa (...)

51On both occasions, Velleius anachronistically uses the name ‘Augustus’ when he speaks about his birth, an approach he had, as we have seen earlier, criticized with regard to tragedy, but endorsed for epic. Once more, history is thus explicitly seen as a picture sketched in retrospect, rather than as an experience of uncertainty lived through by historical agents. By this means, Velleius re-configures the civil wars and turns the experience of fragility and uncertainty facing an open future into a teleological process, with Augustus (and later Tiberius) floating above the scene in the manner of a looming deus ex machina who will finally guarantee the interventionist happy ending.69

  • 70 The History is one of very few historiographical works with a dedication. Among these are also Hirt (...)
  • 71 There are 25 abhinc constructions, nine mentions of hodie and three references to adhuc. Nunc is us (...)

52The teleological construction of Velleius’ History is also visible from the frequent and strong deictic references forward to the narrator’s own time which takes various forms. Among the most important indicators is the dedication of the History to Vinicius.70 This dedication entails a number of explicit references to Vinicius’ consulship and is accompanied furthermore by an exhaustive use of adverbs such as abhinc, adhuc, nunc, and hodie.71

  • 72 Nevertheless, a systematic use of present-time referencing earlier than Velleius is only evident fr (...)
  • 73 See Bispham (2011) 21.

53Although references to the writer’s present are not uncommon in ancient historical writing, Velleius’ extensive use of them is rather unique.72 The adverb abhinc is especially striking, since it is regularly used to date events by counting back from the narrator’s own present and thus to place past events in a relative chronological order. So Carthage, for example, is said to have been destroyed abhinc annos centum septuaginta tris (1.12.5 and 2.38.2), and the Second Punic War is dated abhinc annos ducentos quinquaginta (2.38.4 and 2.90.2), a dating scheme for which Edward Bispham has coined the term ‘before presents’.73

  • 74 See Feeney (2007) 15.
  • 75 With Feeney (2007) 15.

54It is of course well known that neither the Greeks nor the Romans created an absolute chronology in the manner of our BCE/CE axis.74 Accordingly, events are not placed in a pre-existing time scheme, but are interrelated with one another in order to construct a relative time frame within which the temporal positioning of events accrues specific historical meaning.75 Nothing else is done in Velleius’ History, but the events on which he builds in order to establish his relative chronology and the scheme he develops to map the past are exceptional.

  • 76 See e.g. Rich (2011b) 80.

55That Velleius devotes a good deal of space to chronological information has often been noticed.76 The points of reference in this relative chronology change and are often applied in combination. But it is the narrator’s present, either referred to by an abhinc-construction or with reference to Vinicius’ consulship, which forms the most important chronological benchmark. How important Vinicius’ term of office is can be seen from the fact that it is used to fix an institution chronologically which itself commonly serves as a major anchor in both the Greek and Roman time schemes, namely the Olympics (1.8.1):

is eos ludos [i.e. the Olympics] mercatumque instituit ante annos quam tu, M. Vinici, consulatum inires DCCCXXIII.
He established the games and the concourse eight hundred and twenty-three years before you, M. Vinicius, assumed the consulship.

56After he has established the Olympics as a fixed point, he uses them to date Rome’s foundation (1.8.4.):

Sexta olympiade, post duo et uiginti annos quam prima constituta fuerat, Romulus, Martis filius, ultus iniurias aui Romam urbem Parilibus in Palatio condidit. a quo tempore ad uos consules anni sunt DCCLXXXI; id actum post Troiam captam annis CCCCXXXVII.
In the sixth Olympiad, twenty-two years after the first establishment of the Olympics, Romulus the son of Mars had avenged the wrongdoings of his grandfather and founded the city of Rome on the Palatine, on the day when the festival of the Parilia was held. From this time to your consulship it is seven hundred and eighty-one years; this took place four hundred and thirty-seven years after the fall of Troy.

  • 77 The Olympiads were a common dating scheme for Fabius Pictor and Cincius Alimentus while Cato was th (...)
  • 78 See Bispham (2011) 37.
  • 79 A similar thought can be found in Bispham (2011) 41, who however sees synchronism and intervals as (...)
  • 80 The role of myth in the History has been addressed in a couple of recent studies. There is a promin (...)

57Intriguingly, the foundation legend is only touched upon very briefly, and we are not given more than some key data. Velleius’ focus is different. Altogether, he gives four fixed points in relation to which Rome’s foundation can be situated – the current Olympiad, the original foundation of the Olympic games, Vinicius’ magistracy and the sack of Troy77– adopting a method that has been called ‘heavy marking’ by Bispham.78 Strikingly, Velleius does not focus so much on synchronization, but on temporal relations and intervals.79 By this means, Rome’s foundation is firmly embedded between the mythical past80 and the future, and history appears as a closed space that unfolds between the narrator’s present and variable past events. This is also visible when Velleius records the destruction of Carthage (1.12.5-6):

Carthago diruta est, cum stetisset annis DCLXVI, abhinc annos CLXXVII Cn. Cornelio Lentulo L. Mummio consulibus. hunc finem habuit Romani imperii Carthago aemula, cum qua bellare maiores nostri coepere Claudio et Fuluio consulibus, ante annos CCXCVI quam tu, M. Vinici, consulatum inires.
Carthage was destroyed after standing for six hundred and sixty-six years, during the consulship of Cn. Cornelius Lentulus and L. Mummius, one hundred and seventy-seven years from now. This was the end of Carthage, the rival of the Roman Empire, with whom our ancestors had begun the conflict in the consulship of Claudius and Fulvius, two hundred and ninety-six years before you entered your consulship, M. Vinicius.

58Again, we are showered with a flood of relative dates: Carthage had been standing for 666 years and was destroyed 177 ‘before present’, while the rivalry between Rome and Carthage had started 296 ‘before present’. Again, history appears as framed by past and future. And again, the narrator’s present is the most prominent vantage point from which to map onto the past a meaningful network of interrelated events. Velleius’ present – i.e. the still unknown future at the moment of Rome’s foundation and at the moment of Carthage’s destruction – is the anticipated telos from which history is plotted and towards which history magnetically aspires.

59This conception of history necessarily results in a blanket eviction of notions of uncertainty, since the perspective of strong retrospection in combination with the teleological sway of the Augustus-Tiberius-narrative eliminates the space in which a tension between past and future, experience and expectation, and also between divergent interpretations of an uncertain, ambiguous world, could even be interpretively possible.

60Another telling example of this compositional technique is Velleius’ description and dating of Tiberius’ rise to power through the adoption by Augustus after the premature deaths of his grandsons in Spain and Turkey (2.103.3). This event is recovered in book 2:

[…] et eum Aelio Cato <C.> Sentio consulibus V<I> Kal. Iulias, post urbem conditam annis DCCLIIII, abhinc annos XXVII, adoptaret.
[…] and under the consulship of Aelius Catus and C. Sentius, he adopted him, on June 26, seven hundred and forty-five years after the foundation of the City, only twenty-seven years before today.

61Using his technique of heavy marking, Velleius firmly embeds Tiberius in time by dating his adoption with reference to Rome’s mythic foundation, to the then-present as represented by the eponymous consuls, and to the then-future, Velleius’ and Vinicius’ own time as again marked by an abhinc-construction.

62Tiberius’ step towards imperial power is thus conceptualized as an event in time which radiates back to the past and forward to the future, and which is firmly integrated in a clear-cut temporal space that unfolds between 753 BCE and Velleius’ narratorial vantage point in 30 CE. This peculiar temporal integration of the later emperor is immediately followed by a passage that showcases Tiberius’ successes and the positive effects which his adoption and proceeding reign will have had on the lives of people everywhere in the Roman Empire. In a manner similar to the instances analyzed above, the combination of different dating benchmarks is thus used to mark a seminal point in history, which is not presented as an isolated event, but rather as firmly rooted in the past and as closely linked to the future.

  • 81 For Velleius’ sporadic notion of eponymous consuls and ‘dependence on annalistic’ tradition, see El (...)
  • 82 See e.g. Frier (1979) and Petzold’s (1993) 151-88 reply; see also Gotter et al. (2003) 9-38 for a g (...)
  • 83 With Feeney (2007) 190.

63The relevance of these observations becomes still clearer if we read Velleius against the backdrop of Republican historiography, for which the last quote above is an apt starting point. Besides relative chronology, Velleius offers the eponymous consuls as a means of fixing further the temporal coordinates. The indication of the eponymous magistrates is however a predominant characteristic of the annalistic scheme, the central Republican method of mapping the past in an account of events written year by year, and Velleius obviously alludes to this tradition.81 The relation between the tabula ad pontificem, the annales maximi and the (so called) annalistic historiography has been subject to keen discussions in modern scholarship.82 But if we bracket the question of genesis, the structural similarity between these different media cannot be denied. The idea of history as a continuous flow from year to year and open towards the future is a constant and typical notion in Republican thought, and the annalistic scheme that is organized around the Republican format of the successive pairs of annually elected magistrates can be understood as the narratological equivalent to the monumental fasti.83 What is more, subject matter and narrative presentation appear to coincide in the annalistic scheme, since, after all, the consuls are not only the ones who produce the material for the historian as political agents, but also function as the backbone along which Rome’s social time and history is structured – just as is the historian’s narrative.

  • 84 This necessarily prompts the question which Roman author actually represents the ‘pure’, ‘unaltered (...)
  • 85 For other passages that combine the indication of the consuls or in one case the commanders (2.38.4 (...)

64Velleius superficially follows this tradition,84 but twists it in several respects and with far-reaching consequences. First, his brief work obviously does not cover every year of Roman history, and accordingly the demarcation between the years is inherently blurred, since the eponymous consuls are only cited occasionally to mark events of particular importance which Velleius proceeds to elaborate in further detail. Second, this ‘softened’ annalistic scheme is compellingly combined throughout with at least one second chronological benchmark, most of the time with a reference to the narrator’s present. Consequently, the eponymous consuls are replaced by the narrator’s present as the predominant anchor in the History’s relative patterning of time.85

  • 86 For the use of the ablative absolute or the nominative for the eponymous consuls in Tacitus and Liv (...)
  • 87 See Feeney (2007) 191 who also understands Tacitus’ ablativi absoluti instead of nominative constru (...)
  • 88 Cf. e.g. 1.8.1: ante annos, quam tu, M. Vinici, consulatum inires, DCCCXXIII; similarly also in 1.1 (...)

65This becomes even more evident when we take into consideration the fact that Velleius’ consuls are in most instances introduced in ablative absolute constructions, and that they hence govern neither the sentence as grammatical subjects nor the Roman year as narrated by Velleius.86 The intriguing observation made by Denis Feeney, that the consuls’ role in the narrative is reduced ‘from that of actors to ciphers’ in Tacitus,87 thus holds true for Velleius as well – and particularly so due to the regular combination with the ‘before-presents’. Marcus Vinicius, who stands on the other hand as the most prominent representative of these ‘before-presents’, is frequently granted an active position, and as such he is usually addressed by the narrator in the second person88 – a contrast that compellingly demonstrates the shift the annalistic scheme underwent in Velleius’ narrative.

66As a result, we as readers not only face a huge number of references to the narrator’s own time in and of itself. Due to the explicit juxtaposition of the eponymous magistrates and the abhinc-constructions, we are also directly confronted with a paradigm shift in the construction of historical time: the narrative no longer takes its starting point in the past, developing into an open future, but is organized backwards from its anticipated telos. When we take historiography seriously as a way of describing the world, and thus as a crucial aspect of an epistemological system managing knowledge, we can conclude that Velleius’ narrative construction of tense and temporality is both part of a shift from one way of reading the world to another, or more precisely, from a Republican to an Imperial one, and a reflection of it.

The Construction of Voice

  • 89 On ‘voice’ as a narratological term and concept, see Genette (1980) 212-62.
  • 90 There are however a few passages that shift to homo-diegetic narration towards the end of the Histo (...)

67The second aspect of narrative form relevant to my argument is the construction of voice. Like time, voice is one of the core categories in classical narratology.89 Despite possible objections to the somewhat bulky terminology, Genette’s subcategories of voice are still a helpful tool. In narratological terms, we encounter in Velleius’ History an extradiegetic-heterodiegetic narrator together with several shifts into homo-diegetic narration. Thus, the story is told by a first level narrator (extradiegetic) who does not participate in the story he is recording (hetero-diegetic), bar several episodes that he admits to have witnessed himself (homo-diegetic).90

68Two observations are important in this context. First, occasions in which the main narrator lends his voice to one of his characters are conspicuously rare in Velleius. Secondly, sources which diverge from Velleius in their accounts of the events recorded almost never have their say. Accordingly, neither intradiegetic narration nor additional extradiegetic voices loom large in the History, contrary to common historiographical practice. Due to this choice of narrative perspective, we meet with a monolithic narrative and a text that thrives on a strong and elaborate monophony. Both are crucial for an understanding of Velleius’ conception of history since they install an authoritative point of view in the narrative instead of juxtaposing different interpretations of individual events or even balancing rivalling exegeses of Roman history in general. Hence, a thorough examination of Velleius’ construction of voice renders visible additional layers and nuances of the narrative techniques that result in a near elimination of hermeneutic uncertainty.

  • 91 Cf. 2.4.4; 2.32.1; 2.70.3; 2.86.3; 2.104.1, 2.104.4; 2.107.2. But battle speeches which tend to inv (...)
  • 92 See Grethlein (2014b) [online resource].

69Let me first turn to the (lack of) intradiegetic narration. There are only a handful of passages in which characters are given a voice, and these are, in contrast with the vast number of elaborate speeches in ancient historiography, rather short and peripheral.91 None of these passages contains a whole speech, and only one is longer than one sentence. The importance of direct speech in ancient historiography has been emphasized in a number of studies. Jonas Grethlein has recently argued that they draw attention to the experiential dimension of history. Inserting direct speeches always directs attention to the actual experiences of the agents rather than anticipating the outcome of the situation they are entangled in: ‘When words render words, narrated and narrative time converge and we seem to gain unmediated access to the past.’92

70This impression of a more immediate access to the story-world is particularly strong in those cases in which speeches representing rivalling viewpoints or opinions are juxtaposed and left, at least for the moment, for the reader to be balanced, compared, and evaluated. Hereby speeches have the capacity to draw attention to tensions between different interpretive possibilities and, as such, may also be used in order to emphasize the openness of the characters’ situation. Speeches constructed in this way can thus put on stage various notions of uncertainty and can be read as a narrative feature that has the potential to craft history into a contingent and ambiguous process. Nothing like this, however, is attempted in Velleius’ narrative.

  • 93 On characterization in ancient historiography, see e.g. Pitcher (2011) 102-17, building his argumen (...)
  • 94 For Catiline’s speeches, see e.g. Batstone (2010) 227-46.
  • 95 The repeated focus on a comparison of Velleius and Sallust that is adopted in this chapter can be j (...)
  • 96 Cato’s characterization as qui numquam recte fecit ut facere uideretur (2.35.2) also directly remin (...)

71Furthermore, intradiegetic narration is also a method of rendering the characters’ qualities or vices visible by letting their actions speak in a way unmediated by the authorial voice,93 as for instance is famously demonstrated in Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae, where Caesar and Cato are shown speaking and pleading in front of the senate (Cat. 51-52), and where Catiline himself is also repeatedly allowed major speaking time (Cat. 20 and 58).94 These intradiegetic voices act as a counterbalance to the main narrator’s voice. Velleius’ presentation of these occurrences is quite different (2.35.3-4).95 The passage starts with the acknowledgement that this day brought Cato’s splendid virtue to the fore. A short biography follows in which, again, Cato’s outstanding character is highlighted.96 Subsequently, we then get a brief summary of Cato’s pleading:

Hic tribunus pl. designatus et adhuc admodum adulescens, cum alii suaderent ut per municipia Lentulus coniuratique custodirentur, paene inter ultimos interrogatus sententiam, tanta ui animi atque ingenii inuectus est in coniurationem, eo ardore [oris] orationem omnium lenitatem suadentium societate consilii suspectam fecit, sic impendentia ex ruinis incendiisque urbis et commutatione status publici pericula exposuit, ita consulis uirtutem amplificauit, ut uniuersus senatus in eius sententiam transiret […].
At this time, though he was only tribune elect and still quite a young man, while others were urging that Lentulus and the other conspirators should be placed in custody in the Italian towns, Cato, though among the very last to be asked for his opinion, inveighed against the conspiracy with such vigour of spirit and intellect and such earnestness of expression that he caused those who in their speeches had urged leniency to be suspected of complicity in the plot. Such a picture did he present of the dangers which threatened Rome, by the burning and destruction of the city and the subversion of the constitution, and such a eulogy did he give of the consul’s firm stand, that the senate as a body changed to the support of his motion […].

72Two observations are important here. First, Cato is not given the chance to speak himself. The correlative clause ‘sicita…, ut’ in particular draws attention to the fact that Cato’s highly vivid and rousing speech is presented to us not only indirectly and mediated by the main narrator, but also pre-evaluated and pre-interpreted. This fits in with the observation that the speech-passage is embedded in Cato’s character sketch: as opposed to Sallust’s account, Cato’s character and distinction do not speak for themselves and do not become manifest through his actions, but are presented in an analytical and pre-structured biography crafted by a strong narrator who fashions himself as remaining on top of his subject matter and its evaluation at all times. Interpretational sovereignty here again lies solely with the narratorial voice.

73Secondly, although Velleius’ account is clearly based on Sallust’s corresponding passage in the Bellum Catilinae, only Cato’s speech is mentioned explicitly, but not Caesar’s. Velleius attributes the pleading for leniency to some anonymous alii, not to Caesar in particular, and thus obliterates the direct rivalry between two highly distinguished senatorial opponents at eye level. Cato’s part is so predominant and superior from the very beginning of Velleius’ account that the experience of political rivalry, opposition and an open and democratic decision-making process completely fades into the background. The striking scarcity of intradiegetic narration in general and this example in particular highlight that the History’s focus is not on vividness in recording the past, nor on the creation of a diversity of voices. Instead, there is one single force to tell the story and to structure the material of history.

  • 97 As already mentioned above, on this questions see esp. Starr (1980) 292; Elefante, Comm. 32; most r (...)
  • 98 Pelling (2011) 162-5 comes to a similar conclusion in his examination of focalization. While Caesar (...)

74This is even more surprising given the fact that Velleius, as we have seen, shows a particularly strong interest in the characters and deeds of outstanding individuals – so much so that the style of the History has often been described as biographical.97 For Velleius, it is the strong individual that makes history. But strikingly, the same individual is not allowed to speak, map or interpret the past or act as a counterbalance to the narrator’s idea of history.98 While on the level of the story vicissitudes in the shape of fortune, fate and gods disturb the teleological course, as we will see in more detail later in this chapter, the narrative is dominated by one single voice. It leaves no room for potential disagreement and closes off any narratorial rivalry, and, as a result, any form of hermeneutic uncertainty both on the level of the story-world and on the level of discourse.

75When we bring together this interpretation with the strong teleological sway radiating from Tiberius and Augustus all over the narrative, then we might even go so far as to argue that Velleius as the narrator of the past is the only force to structure the narrative, just as Tiberius is the magnetic-like force that attracts and structures history. Velleius crafts Tiberius (and Vinicius) as governing Roman time and spinning the hermeneutic yarn that structures socio-political reality in Rome. In this direct analogy, he fashions himself as the narrative authority where all interpretational sovereignty over time and hermeneutics resides. Subject matter and narrative form of the History coincide and cross-fertilize each other, and as a result Velleius’ authority becomes to Rome’s narrative framing what Tiberius is to Rome’s history – the vanishing point where time and exegesis converge.

  • 99 See further e.g. Kraus (2000) 439-42, who identifies Cicero’s Philippic speeches as the landmark an (...)

76This observation can be taken further. If we compare the Republican diversity of voices with Velleius’ monolithic, monophonic history, we can record that both ways of configuring the world through narrative can be understood as mirrors of their political reality; public speeches and the diversity of voices were a crucial institution of the Republican culture and of the face-to-face character of Roman politics. Even though speeches certainly did not vanish from the political stage altogether in the early Principate, their importance necessarily started to shrink.99 The outright lack of polyphony both on an intradiegetic level and on the level of the discourse of the History can be understood as a narrative mirror of this development.

  • 100 See Bloomer (2011), esp. 93-4. For Velleius on invidia and rivalry as a destructive force, see 1.9. (...)
  • 101 Cf. 1.17.7: maximum perfecti operis impedimentum.
  • 102 Bloomer (2011) 93. On thoughts of aemulatio in Velleius, see also Alfonsi (1966) 375-8, Schwindt (2 (...)

77But of course, narrative is not only a passive mirror of its reality. It actively and creatively participates in the process of constructing social and historical reality. One aspect of this social reality is described by Bloomer, who stresses that outstanding men in the Republic were always threatened by invidia,100 a force earlier described by Velleius as the biggest obstacle on the way to polished success.101 Bloomer has argued that, when the Caesars enter the stage, the ‘envious and destructive rivalry of the great Republican figures’ is put to an end.102 The narrative form of Velleius’ History as analyzed in this chapter, a form that favours authority and closure over rivalling voices and openness, can hence be said to mirror this ‘cure of rivalry’ through the principes and to contribute to creating and stabilizing the collective ‘knowledge’ necessary to make this development the source of imperial power.

  • 103 Cf. e.g. 1.11.4; 2.4.6; 2.41.1 (inter omnes constat); 2.53.4. See also Marincola (2011a) 122 on var (...)
  • 104 For an alternative approach to polyphony and its consequences for the narrative configuration of un (...)
  • 105 Grethlein (2006d) 322-3.

78This observation can be taken further if we consider how Velleius withholds his sources. There are very few passages in the whole History where the narrator mentions the necessity of weighing different opinions or sources against each other and in which he hereby refers to other extradiegetic voices.103 In none of these passages does Velleius give a detailed discussion of alternative explanations.104 He thus goes on to craft his voice as an authority that is capable of shutting out rivalling assessments. By comparison, in Herodotus, Thucydides and Sallust, two types of voices have been distinguished. Jonas Grethlein, for instance, argued that the Herodotean and Sallustian narrators come to the fore very frequently and that by this dominant presence they ‘reinforce the gap between narrative and events’. Thucydides’ voice on the other hand evokes ‘the impression of the events telling themselves’ since it leaves more room for plotlines and characters to develop and act without narratorial interference in the narrative.105

79With this distinction in mind, we can show that the Velleian voice is a construction falling between these extremes, floating between narrative authority and invisibility. The narrator of the History is very present, but in a different way from Sallust. He addresses Vinicius, reveals himself as a participant in Tiberian campaigns, addresses the reader with rhetorical questions and exclamations, and last but not least, gives us insight into his historiographical programme. Indeed, Velleius prominently announces and fashions himself as structuring the narrative, but he does so without drawing explicit attention to the fact that he constantly only delivers one of several possible explanations, and thus he exchanges the hermeneutic uncertainty inherent to every event, development, and interpretation with an act of narrative closure.

80The combination of a strongly present narratorial voice and an obvious refusal to acknowledge divergent readings of the past – both within the story-world and on the level of the discourse – highlights the text’s self-conception as the sole representation of Roman history. This Velleian monophony confronts us with a conception of history in which there is only one outcome and one interpretation possible, a monolithic whole with no space for hermeneutic uncertainty and rivalling ways of knowing and describing the world in general – or Rome’s past, present and future in particular.

Excursus: Enargeia, Embodiment, Visualization

81Another example that demonstrates Velleius’ hesitation to render character’s words in direct speech is the words Caesar directs – or is not allowed to direct, in Velleius’ version – at his troops in Munda before the crossing of the Rubicon (2.55.3). The peculiarity of this composition becomes clear particularly when compared to the parallel account in Appian. However, it is not the configuration of hermeneutic uncertainty that I would like to draw attention to here, but a second aspect that has been neglected so far, but that will allow us to throw into relief some of Velleius’ programmatic accounts while at the same time shedding light on contemporary academic discourses on notions of embodiment, visuality, enargeia, and related concepts figuring under the label of the so-called e-approaches.

  • 106 Cf. 1.14.1 and 2.89.6.

82I have shown earlier in this chapter that Velleius reflects in an almost narratological manner upon the role of narratorial perspective and narrative form and structure. As is clear from his few programmatic accounts, his personal focus as a writer and historian is on making a lasting impression on the readers’ eyes and minds through the way he structures and presents his findings.106 I have so far analyzed how this theoretical and programmatic stance is enacted in Velleius’ actual narrative by shedding light on his configuration of tense and voice, and I have argued that it results in a remarkable minimizing of both temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty. But apart from that, the idea about potential effects of the written and spoken word on its audience that comes to the fore, especially in the wording of the first passage – in unum contracta species and inhaerere oculis et animis –, directs us to the ancient rhetorical discourse on enargeia and the visuality of narrative.

  • 107 Cf. The Art of Political Speech 96.
  • 108 See esp. Walker (1993) 353-77.
  • 109 Cf. Hist. conscr. 51.
  • 110 See Porod (2013) ad loc. and Avenarius (1956) 130-40 on this paragraph.

83While there is, as is well known, no mandatory definition of the term and concept enargeia, common approaches do in fact zero in on the same notions as those which are referred to by Velleius. On a most basic level, enargeia is regularly associated with visuality and understood as the effect of rhetorical or narrative techniques to ‘bring what is said before the eyes’, as for instance argued by the Anonymous Seguerianus.107 While the term most prominently figures in ancient discussions of oratory, historiography also assumes a crucial role in the discourse.108 Lucian for instance reflects upon the significance of enargeia in historical writing.109 He stresses that it is the task of the historian to bring the events in a nice arrangement and to present them as visually as possible in order to make those listening to his words actually see what is being described.110 When Velleius – a historian deeply rooted within elite discourses on rhetoric, whose highly artificial style has been acknowledged (and criticized) long before scholarship started taking him seriously as a writer of historical narrative – thus refers to the effect his words are supposed to have on the eyes and minds of his readers, the rhetorical debates on enargeia, and the trope of the visual quality of narrative and related concepts, will inevitably have formed the conceptual background to such a statement.

  • 111 See e.g. an early standard reference, i.e. Lubbock (1921) 65 who states that a good novel does not (...)
  • 112 See most prominently Ryan (2001) 130, who in her analysis of narrative as virtual reality speaks of (...)
  • 113 See Kukkonen and Caracciolo (2014) 261-74, providing an overview and contextualization of the so ca (...)

84The ancient concept of enargeia prefigures a branch of modern literary aesthetics that is concerned with readers’ experiential or imaginative responses to texts, i.e. a particular kind of reading response that is not intellectual in nature, but bound to the sensation of being transported directly into the story-world.111 Modern critics tend to describe this phenomenon by means of metaphors such as immersion,112 presence or transportation. In the last decade, cognitive sciences have grown particularly influential within this branch of literary studies and have informed much of the research that has been done in the context of the so-called e-approaches.113

  • 114 See Kukkonen and Caracciolo (2014) 261.
  • 115 The idea of the reader being involved in an embodied interaction with a literary text in the act of (...)

85As Karin Kukkonen and Marco Caracciolo put it, the umbrella term of ‘second generation’ refers to a contemporary strand in cognitive studies which foregrounds ‘the embodiment of mental processes and their extension into the world through material artefacts and cultural practices’.114 In literary studies this branch is now being put to use in exploring readers’ immediate embodied engagements with literature.115 Scholars have since tried to identify narrative features and strategies that are particularly apt to install this sense of presence and induce a feeling of immersion in the reader.

  • 116 De Temmerman is here quoted from an unpublished conference paper on Experiencing Characters in the (...)
  • 117 See Grethlein (2013) 24.

86Koen De Temmerman and others have also emphasized the role of direct speeches in this context: ‘When we see a character act or speak without a narratorial voice explicitly commenting on it, we are being given the illusion of an unauthored reality playing itself out before our eyes. In this respect, metonymical characterization approaches the ancient rhetorical concept of enargeia: an effect striving for visual immediacy and direct representation of reality.’116 Jonas Grethlein has additionally counted focalization, graphic description and sideshadowing among features that make particular impression on the reader and have the capacity to trigger immersion.117

87When we bring these observations together, Velleius stands on the one hand as a writer, who explicitly describes his narrative form and style with reference to the ancient discourse on enargeia, foregrounding the visual dimension and the intense and lasting effect his narrative is designed to cast on the audience. On the other hand, there is a modern branch of literary studies that aims at identifying those narrative features that make a text particularly ‘immersive’, ‘intense’ and ‘immediate’ for the reader, building on the insights of neurology and cognitive sciences as well as on classical narratological methods.

  • 118 An important exception is Huitink’s (in press) study on the potential crossfertilization of ancient (...)

88Bringing the two together is, I think, of course only a contribution in the form of a minor test-case, but one which might allow us nevertheless to tease out a crucial caveat when it comes to applying these modern concepts to ancient literature – a field that is of growing influence in classical scholarship, but that is rarely studied on a meta-level by taking into consideration the conceptual presuppositions that are at work.118 In detail, if we compare Velleius’ and Appian’s account of Caesar at Munda before crossing the Rubicon it is possible to shed light on the gap between our modern understanding of ‘immersion’ and ‘intense effects on the reader’ and the (or rather one) ancient take on the issue.

89While Velleius’ narrative hardly qualifies as immersive, immediate or experiential in the modern sense, Appian’s version of the episode displays many of the narrative features that are counted among those that trigger transportation into the story-world. Velleius’ account is rather dry and Caesar’s words facing death and defeat are given in mediated speech and focalized through the main narrator (2.55.3):

sua Caesarem in Hispaniam comitata fortuna est, sed nullum umquam atrocius periculosiusque ab eo initum proelium, adeo ut plus quam dubio Marte descenderet equo consistensque ante recedentem suorum aciem, increpita prius Fortuna quod se in eum seruasset exitum, denuntiaret militibus uestigio se non recessurum; proinde uiderent quem et quo loco imperatorem deserturi forent.
His good fortune followed Caesar to Spain, but there was never a harsher and more dangerous battle then this one – and in fact so much so that, when Mars was more than fickle, he descended from his horse, placed himself before his lines that were now beginning to pull away, and, after rebuking fortune for saving him for such an end, he announced to his soldiers that he would not retreat a single step; and then they should have a good look at the commander they were about to let down and at the place where they were about to do so.

90Velleius makes use of a strong narratorial voice structuring and evaluating information, without overtly commenting on his doing so. Besides, his narrative technique does not grant the reader any introspection into the minds of Caesar or the troops. Focalization remains at all times with the narrator, who zeroes in on the scenery from an aerial perspective. The whole scene is described in an analytical tone and from a vantage point that sums up the events in hindsight and in a position of ‘hermeneutic superiority’ instead of letting the reader ‘be there’ and ‘experience’ the past.

91By contrast, Appian lets his readers face a highly visual depiction, in the modern sense of the word, of the same occurrences by recording Caesar’s struggle to keep his troops fighting in greater detail and by inserting Caesar’s words in direct speech (App. B Civ. 2.104):

  • 119 The text is quoted from Mendelssohn’s (1905) Teubner edition. Translation is based on White (1913).

ὡς δὲ καὶ συνιόντων ἤδη τοῦ Καίσαρος στρατοῦ τὸ δέος ἥπτετο καὶ ὄκνος ἐπεγίγνετο τῷ φόβῳ, θεοὺς πάντας ὁ Καῖσαρ ἱκέτευε, τὰς χεῖρας ἐς τὸν οὐρανὸν ἀνίσχων, μὴ ἑνὶ πόνῳ τῷδε πολλὰ καὶ λαμπρὰ ἔργα μιῆναι, καὶ τοὺς στρατιώτας ἐπιθέων παρεκάλει τό τε κράνος τῆς κεφαλῆς ἀφαιρῶν ἐς πρόσωπον ἐδυσώπει καὶ προύτρεπεν. οἱ δὲ οὐδ᾽ ὥς τι μετέβαλλον ἀπὸ τοῦ δέους, ἕως ὁ Καῖσαρ αὐτὸς ἁρπάσας τινὸς ἀσπίδα καὶ τοῖς ἀμφ᾽ αὐτὸν ἡγεμόσιν εἰπών: ‘ἔσται τοῦτο τέλος ἐμοί τε τοῦ βίου καὶ ὑμῖν τῶν στρατειῶν’, προύδραμε τῆς τάξεως ἐς τοὺς πολεμίους ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον, ὡς μόνους αὐτῶν ἀποσχεῖν δέκα πόδας, […].119
When battle was joined, fear seized on Caesar’s troops and hesitation followed the fright. Caesar prayed to all the gods, lifting his hands up to the heaven, that his many glorious deeds would not be stained by this single disaster, and he ran up and encouraged his soldiers, and taking his helmet off his head he shamed them to their faces and urged them forward. As they relinquished nothing of their fear, Caesar seized someone’s shield and said to the commanders around him: ‘This shall be the end of my life and of your military service’, then he ran forward in advance of his line of battle and towards the enemy, and he ran so far, that he was only ten feet away from them, […].

92Although Appian’s version is also not focalized through the eyes of the characters, great stress is laid on their emotions, especially on the fear, shame, hesitation, and uncertainty which the troops are seized by. Caesar’s words are, albeit briefly, rendered in direct speech and clearly enhance the dramatic quality of this climax in late Republican history. In contrast with Velleius’ version, Appian’s text thus features a number of characteristics that are understood as markers of experientiality and as triggers of immersion in modern scholarship.

  • 120 See e.g. Caracciolo (2011) 117-38 on The Reader’s Virtual Body. He argues that a reader’s immersion (...)

93In particular the frequent and rather detailed references in Appian’s passage to Caesar’s movements – his lifting his hands, running around between his soldiers, taking of his helmet, seizing a shield from a soldier, jumping forward, and his speaking to his commanders’ faces – will most likely strike a chord with anyone approaching literature from the angle of embodiment studies.120 Proponents of the embodiment paradigm and of the second generation of cognitive studies would argue that these markers trigger in the readers a response to the text through their bodies, and that they may give them a sense of embodied transportation into the story-world. According to modern approaches to the experientiality of narrative and its capacity to prompt embodied reactions in the reader, Appian thus appears to qualify as an example of ‘immersive’ storytelling that has the capacity to lure its readers in, while Velleius’ narrative on the other hand does not display any of these features.

94Strikingly, the lack of narrative markers that may trigger an embodied reading in Velleius ties in with his teleological agenda that favours analytical hindsight over a mimetic depiction of lived experience. The comparison of Appian and Velleius thus backs up the claims made so far in this chapter. Narrative form in Velleius, just like his selection and omission of details – there is, for instance, room for literary digressions, but none for embodied depictions –, result in a remarkable suppression of uncertainty from the narrative, both in the story-world and on the level of discourse. What is more, the comparison reveals once more that the brevity and scope of Velleius’ History should not be understood as flaws and regrettable symptoms of a commissioned piece, but as conveying meaning sui generis.

95Besides, if we broaden the view beyond matters of narrative and uncertainty, these observations raise a crucial question – namely how to deal with the discrepancy between Velleius’ narrative self-fashioning as ‘impressive on the eyes and minds’ and the modern take on questions of narrative and visuality, immersion, and experientiality. As far as I can see, three major conclusions are possible by which the issue could be addressed further in future research.

96First, the conceptual differences between ancient concepts of enargeia and visualization on the one hand and modern notions on the other hand have always to be analyzed in detail and must be taken seriously. Second, it may indeed not be possible to identify a fixed set of narrative features, and it may not be possible to define universally valid narrative techniques that will under each and every circumstance produce an ‘experiential’, ‘immersive’, or ‘visual’ narrative. Velleius when taken as one isolated example shows that visual does not equal visual. What is ‘impressive on the eyes’ for Velleius does not necessarily qualify as immersive in the modern sense, and vice versa. The same theoretical concept can be used along entirely different lines, can be filled with entirely different content and meaning, can be interpreted differently and thus be applied to entirely different effects. As qualitative concepts, enargeia, immersion and the like are dependent on readers’ contingent responses and may thus well be assessed differently depending on various aspects such as personal taste or cultural habits and conventions.

  • 121 An analogous claim could of course be made for a cultural, i.e. rather spatial discontinuity. Ideas (...)

97Thirdly, the discrepancy between Velleius and modern notions of immersion could prompt and bolster the hypothesis that there is indeed a historical discontinuity in the way in which we as human beings react to narrative and storytelling121 – a discontinuity that may deserve more and closer attention. The ancient idea of what lures us into a story-world with particular force and what makes impression on our minds may, accordingly, have differed profoundly from our own – much like today, the so-called Generation Y may not find Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey ‘immersive’ or ‘impressive on eyes and mind’ because they have developed their viewing habits in a cultural and technological setting different from those who were born in the 1960s and 1970s. In this case, scholarship would have to pay closer attention to historical, diachronic perspectives on notions of visuality, immersion and enargeia. The individual concepts would have to be understood against their respective cultural background which could, in turn, help to disentangle both continuity and discontinuity in the historical development of the idea.

3.3 The Re-entry of Uncertainty: Fortune, Fate, Felicities

98When I set out the agenda of this book as a whole in the introductory chapter, I emphasized the fact that Velleius and Livy may be taken as two case studies that demonstrate divergent ways of configuring uncertainty and of offering ways and means to deal with it. I have anticipated that Velleius closes off uncertainty through his narrative composition while Livy tends to open up both hermeneutic rivalry and temporal contingency. Nevertheless, this dichotomy is only a model to grasp the spectrum along which potential reflections on and reactions towards uncertainty may linger. An author’s position on that spectrum must not be understood as a state of ‘either/or’, but as a gradual process which develops and changes back and forth over the course of a narrative.

99This is also distinctly the case with Velleius. While his narrative as a whole clearly leans towards the closure end of the scale, as I have shown in detail in this chapter, there are also elements of uncertainty in his History which tip the balance to the other end every now and then. Therefore, in order to get a full grasp on Velleius’ peculiar conception of history and configuration of uncertainty, it is crucial to have a closer look at the other side of the coin. The parts of Velleius’ narrative where an inclination towards uncertainty, openness and ambiguity can be demonstrated most clearly are those where forces such as fortune, fate or the gods are brought into play.

  • 122 For a coherent treatment of explanations in Velleius, see Marincola (2011a) 121-40. Since he highli (...)
  • 123 See Elefante’s concordance (1992).
  • 124 See Lana (1952) 221-30; Hellegouarc’h (1964) 669-84; Kuntze (1985) 65-70 and 226-33; Schmitzer (200 (...)

100When it comes to explaining the causes of actions, events and developments, fortune plays a leading role in Velleius’ History.122 Fortuna figures prominently in more than 70 situations.123 This accumulation has stimulated a number of examinations in the second half of the twentieth century, most of which were part of larger works addressing the aim and purpose of Velleius’ text.124

  • 125 See Hellegouarc’h (1964), esp. 682. See also Kober (2008) 65, esp. n. 74 for the use of fortuna in (...)
  • 126 On brevitas and festinatio, see 74-6 in this chapter.

101Two major trends can be observed in that context. On the one hand, it has been underlined that fortuna is an important element of ancient rhetorical discourse and that Velleius’ preference to use her to explain the course of history has to be taken as an indication of his background in rhetorical education.125 As a result, fortuna is regularly reduced to a mere narrative technique that made it possible for Velleius to condense his work and to stick with his frequently evoked brevitas and festinatio.126

  • 127 Lana (1952) esp. 222; see also Kuntze (1985) 69, esp. n. 5.
  • 128 Hellegouarc’h (1964) 678. See 681 and 684, where he also highlights though that Velleius draws and (...)
  • 129 Hellegouarc’h (1964) 678-9. On the fortuna principis, see also Kober (2008) 43.

102On the other hand, there has been a persistent focus on the interaction between fortuna and virtus. For Italo Lana, who refuses to classify Velleius as a proper historian and instead sees in him the quintessential court propagandist, the virtuous man is, to a certain extent, able to tame fortune and to make her work in his favour.127 Unsurprisingly, this interlocking of virtus and fortuna is most splendidly embodied by Velleius’ Tiberius. Joseph Hellegouarc’h similarly stresses the association of the two terms, but tends to lay more weight on fortuna128whose favour towards Tiberius, for him, indicates the transformative influence of the principes in Roman history.129 While the reduction of Velleius’ text to ‘official’ propaganda remains questionable and prevents us from seeing clearly his (consciously or unconsciously crafted) conception of history, the association of virtue and fortune has been a fruitful and important observation. The virtue of outstanding characters is indeed important, as can be seen for instance by the contrast between Pompey on the one hand and Augustus or Tiberius on the other.

  • 130 On Pompey, see also Kober (2008) 52-6 and Seager (2011) 287-308.

103Pompey is not characterized as virtuous and, as a result, Velleius emphasizes that his fortune changed from the best to the worst.130 In his early years, Pompey’s bona fortuna is championed to the point that it is suitable for his defeated enemies Mithridates and Tigranes to claim that it is no shame to succumb to a man this favoured by good luck (2.37.4):

[…] non esse turpe ab eo uinci quem uincere esset nefas, neque inhoneste aliquem summitti huic quem Fortuna super omnes extulisset.
[sc. He claimed] that there was no disgrace in being beaten by one whom to defeat would be a sin against the gods, and that there was no dishonour in submitting to one whom fortune had lifted up above all others.

104Achieving victory after victory, Pompey is raised to the zenith of his career through the power of fortune according to Velleius’ account (2.40.4):

huius uiri fastigium tantis auctibus Fortuna extulit ut primum ex Africa, iterum ex Europa, tertio ex Asia triumpharet et, quot partes terrarum orbis sunt, totidem faceret monumenta uictoriae suae.
Fortune raised this man to the peak by such great leaps, that he first triumphed over Africa, then over Europe, and third over Asia, and that he created as many monuments in honour of his victory as there are parts of the world.

105All over the world, Pompey erects monuments to commemorate and honour his many triumphs and victories. If we take seriously the grammatical construction of this sentence, as well as the example given before, fortuna is not merely a vaguely supportive influence, but the subject, the driving force, in Pompey’s extraordinary rise to power and success that spans three continents and leaves lasting marks on their landscapes.

106But it is only a couple of years later that Velleius’ Pompey is left by his good fortune and meets his death (2.48.2):

qui si ante biennium quam ad arma itum est, perfectis muneribus theatri et aliorum operum quae ei circumdedit, grauissima temptatus ualetudine decessisset in Campania […] defuisset Fortunae destruendi eius locus […].
If only he had died two years before the outbreak of the armed violence, after the completion of his theatre and the other buildings with which he had surrounded it, at the time when he had been attacked by a serious illness in Campania […], fortune would have lost the opportunity of destroying him […].

107The conditional clause in the irrealis mood intensifies the tragedy of Pompey’s fall – if he had died earlier, he would have been spared the shame of losing his fortune. In Velleius’ narrative of his life, Pompey tempted his fate and pushed his luck, and the explicit reference to the monuments he added to Rome’s public space makes his demise all the more ironic.

  • 131 On the association of the terms, see TLL VI 1195; Hellegouarc’h (1964) 680-1 for a collection of pa (...)
  • 132 See Lana (1952) 221-30. Other characters that are described as having both fortuna and virtus are t (...)
  • 133 See Lana (1952) 222: ‘l’impero romano si giustifica […] perché e fondato sulla virtù, che gli ha gu (...)

108In contrast with Pompey, though, Augustus and Tiberius are set to stay on top of their luck until the very end. As a reason for this, scholarship has, as already mentioned, identified their virtus.131 Indeed Lana is right in pointing out that only those characters that show both fortuna and virtus are able to master their challenges in Velleius’ version of Roman history.132 Capricious fortune can be tackled by a man’s virtus, bona fortuna cannot accordingly be preserved without virtus, and mala fortuna can be corrected through a virtuous character. Thus, Lana argues that Velleius highlights the power of virtus while he subtly downplays the influence of fortuna – in order to defend Rome’s rise to power as a well-deserved achievement, and not as the result of pure luck as the city’s opponents would not grow tired of implying.133

  • 134 Cf. 2.74.4: usus Caesar uirtute et fortuna sua Perusiam expugnauit. – Relying on his virtue and for (...)
  • 135 Cf. 2.97.4: moles deinde eius belli translata in Neronem est; quod is sua et uirtute et fortuna adm (...)
  • 136 Cf. 2.121.1: eadem et uirtus et fortuna subsequenti tempore ingressi Germaniam imperatoris Tiberii (...)

109It is indeed intriguing that Augustus and Tiberius are presented as having it all. Octavian conquers Perusia thanks to his fortune,134 Tiberius is successful in commanding the troops in Germany after the death of his half-brother Drusus Claudius,135 and also later campaigns in Germany are under the protection of his luck.136 But a closer look at the depiction of the younger Scipio shows that this one-to-one claim of virtue trumping fortune must be challenged (2.4.2):

Et P. Scipio Africanus Aemilianus, qui Carthaginem deleuerat, post tot acceptas circa Numantiam clades creatus iterum consul missusque in Hispaniam fortunae uirtutique expertae in Africa respondit in Hispania.
But when P. Scipio Africanus Aemilianus, the man who had destroyed Carthage, was made consul for the second time after all the defeats experienced around Numantia, and when he was sent to Spain he confirmed the good fortune and virtue which he had earned in Africa.

110Velleius makes it very clear here that it was Scipio’s splendid amalgamation of a virtuous character and a good standing with fortuna which enabled him to destroy finally Rome’s arch enemy Carthage. But for a comprehensive assessment of Velleius’ concept of fortuna it is crucial to take into account the consequences this victory yielded for the city of Rome. In Velleius’ words (2.1.1):

Potentiae Romanorum prior Scipio uiam aperuerat, luxuriae posterior aperuit; quippe remoto Carthaginis metu sublataque imperii aemula non gradu sed praecipiti cursu a uirtute descitum, ad uitia transcursum; uetus disciplina deserta, noua inducta; in somnum a uigiliis, ab armis ad uoluptates, a negotiis in otium conuersa ciuitas.
The first of the Scipios had opened the way for the supremacy of the Romans, the second opened the way for luxury: for, when Rome was freed of her fear of Carthage, and when her rival for power was out of her way, things defected from the path of virtue and turned towards corruption – and all this not gradually, but in headlong course; the old discipline was abandoned and gave place to a new; the state passed to slumber from vigilance, from the pursuit of arms to that of pleasures, from duties to idleness.

  • 137 Cf. Sall. Cat. 10: Sed ubi labore atque iustitia res publica crevit, reges magni bello domiti, nati (...)

111The destruction of Rome’s greatest rival paved the way for Rome’s decline and rapid transformation into her own disastrous opposite. This concept of the metus hostilis is of course by no means Velleius’ invention, but a conventional and widespread explanation for the fall of the Roman Republic which has been particularly emphasized by Sallust, on whom Velleius seems to draw in this passage, and it has loomed large in historiographical writing about the late Republic until the nineteenth century.137 Nevertheless, the fear of Carthage and its effect on Rome is explicitly highlighted in the History since it appears to mark a crucial moment in Velleius’ plot, i.e. the instance from which on Rome’s history takes the centre stage in the context of world-history and from which on events are described in somewhat greater detail.

  • 138 On the significance of ‘moral decline’ as a narrative to explain the ‘Erfahrungswelt’ and threateni (...)

112If we now take together the last two passages, it appears that we have to distinguish between Scipio’s personal fate on the one side and the consequences for the state on the other. While Scipio indeed does not fail and while his name is committed to public memory in the best way possible, the exact same forces that raised him to the peak of his life initiated Rome’s decline. Scipio’s good fortune which had accompanied him through his first and second consulship made him an exemplum worthy of Velleius’ praise, but it also caused the one victory that would finally endanger Rome and Roman core values more than any other threat ever did before, according to Republican thought.138

113Without overemphasizing this observation we can record that causation in Velleius’ History appears to be subject to unforeseeable quirks, and that mere virtus is apparently no guaranteed remedy for that. Put differently, a person’s fortune in Velleius’ universe keeps a rest of unpredictability that can set off chains of causation that are impossible to predict even for those of most virtuous, paradigmatically Roman character. Against the backdrop of what I have demonstrated in the first part of this chapter – Velleius’ construction of Roman history as arising from trans-temporal patterns and values and as, apparently, devoid of uncertainty of any kind – this observation yields intriguing results. The agency of a fickle fortune virtually drags the idea of a fundamental uncertainty from the background back into a cautiously flickering narrative spotlight.

  • 139 On this aspect of fortuna, see Kajanto (1981) 524. Velleius characterizes the older Cato as a man w (...)
  • 140 For an overview on conceptions of fortuna, see esp. Kajanto (1981) 502-58.
  • 141 Kajanto (1981) 502-58. Influence of tyche on (Roman) history is particularly highlighted by Polybiu (...)
  • 142 Schmitzer (2000) 190-225 and develops detailed categories to differentiate between the various aspe (...)

114The examples given so far demonstrate that a person’s relationship with fortuna is a crucial aspect of his or her characterization in Velleius’ narrative. In all these passages, fortuna appears in the shape of a genius or a genius-like force.139 But Velleius’ fortune is not limited to this aspect of the genius. In accordance with the general notion of ancient fortuna she is also in Velleius’ narrative by no means to be conceived of as a uniform force.140 Italo Kajanto’s synopsis allows us to distinguish broadly between two manifestations of the mythical luck – the genius-fortuna who is closely linked to Roman religion, and fortuna-tyche who under the influence of Greek myth and historiography is fickle, capricious, and a potential obstacle to human undertakings.141 Both aspects are visible in Velleius’ History, and his notion of fortuna fluctuates between these two poles.142

  • 143 Apart from Sallust, it is mostly Polybius who draws attention to the fact that all constitutions an (...)

115The latter aspect is best made manifest from a number of aphoristic sentences that permeate Velleius’ narrative and are all set out to highlight the impermanence and fragility of human achievements. One of the most trenchant examples is Velleius’ explicit reference to the natural circle of life to which not only men, but also gentes and states are subject – a ringing allusion to Polybius (2.11.3) :143

[...] ut appareat, quemadmodum urbium imperiorumque, ita gentium nunc florere fortunam, nunc senescere, nunc interire.
Apparently, as in the case of cities and empires, so the fortunes of families flourish, wane and pass away.

  • 144 On this idea of anakyklosis in Velleius, see esp. Kramer (2005) and Bispham (2011).

116The parallel passage in Appian (App. Pun. 19.132) does not present the thought in the shape of isolated aphoristic reasoning, but embedded in a narrative of Scipio looking upon the ruins of Troy and indulging in philosophical thoughts. Strong allusions of this kind that eventually reach back as far as Homer highlight the proximity of Velleius’ fortuna to Greek tyche and remind us of the impermanence of human affairs and, subsequently, the inevitable circle of empires rising and falling.144

117The example is not the only instance where Velleius dwells on the impermanence and fragility of human achievement (2.75.2):

quis fortunae mutationes, quis dubios rerum humanarum casus satis mirari queat ? quis non diuersa praesentibus contrariaque exspectatis aut speret aut timeat ?
Who can adequately express his astonishment at the changes of fortune and at the mysterious contingency in human affairs? Who could not live in hope for or in fear of a lot that is different from what he has now, and a lot that is the opposite of what he expects?

  • 145 A similar thought is expressed also in other aphoristic examples, as for instance in 2.110.1: Rumpi (...)

118The second sentence of this brief aphorism-like passage is a linguistic mirror of the thought it expresses. It is literally crammed with information confined in the smallest space possible. The parallel construction of diuersa praesentibus and contraria exspectatis in combination with both sperare and timere as the governing verbs yields an intriguing effect: the future is not only difficult or impossible to foresee, and the same things can, depending on your situation, be subject to fear and hope. Fear and hope lie close together and are in many ways inseparable. Fortuna is the force that creates the space in which change becomes possible in the first place, and that with this possibility of change and development creates room for expectations towards the future, more precisely for expectations of both positive and negative quality – hope and fear. This way, the aphorism drives home the idea that it is fortune which creates the space from which temporal uncertainty as the tension between experience and expectation arises.145

119The frequency of these passages draws attention to the unpredictability of human fate and brings uncertainty back into a narrative whose compositional technique downplays uncertainty in every way possible. This re-entry of uncertainty into Velleius’ narrative of Roman history is intensified through the fact that fortuna is not the only supernatural, superhuman force at work. Apart from fortune, also the fata, felicitas and the gods, both specific ones and the anonymous god, influence the course of events. The multitude of fateful influences on human life strongly highlights the unpredictable and fickle nature of history – even more so if we consider the following passage (2.57.3):

sed profecto ineluctabilis fatorum uis, cuiuscum<que> fortunam mutare constituit, consilia corrumpit.
But verily the power of destiny is inevitable; it perverts the plans of him whose fortune it has determined to reverse.

120In his typical sentence-like manner, Velleius reflects on the inevitability of fate when depicting the assassination of Caesar. Caesar’s famous fortune is subject to the power and violence of the inevitable fata which change and corrupt even fortune herself. Even fortuna, it appears, is subject to contingency. This capriciousness of human life comes to the surface even more clearly if we consider the context of this sentence. Velleius reports that Caesar had received many warnings trying to keep him from leaving the house and from falling victim to an attempt on his life. Velleius’ account of these warnings is then closed with the aphoristic phrase quoted above.

  • 146 This observation forms the contrast to those forces – the gods – that can be addressed through pray (...)

121Apparently, not even prophecies and human insight in the supernatural through dreams, haruspices or other divinatory acts can prevent Caesar’s death. In other words, no hermeneutic act is able to reduce the power of the fata. Although the gap between Caesar’s present and his unknown future was apparently successfully closed by skilled professionals reading the signs that pointed towards his demise, there appear to be forces beyond the control of human divination. In Velleius’ world, there are superhuman forces at work that cannot be influenced and that in turn unforeseeably influence human life and the course of history.146

122Similarly and with verbal allusions to the earlier passage, Varus’ disastrous defeat brought by the Germans is linked with the fatal intervention of the fata and ‘the god’ (2.118.4):

postulabat etiam *** fata consiliis omnemque animi eius aciem praestrinxerant; quippe ita se res habet ut plerumque cui fortunam mutaturus deus consilia corrumpat, efficiatque, quod miserrimum est, ut quod accidit id etiam merito accidisse uideatur et casus in culpam transeat.
But now the fata *** had impaired the sharpness of his mind: for, it is usually the case that the god perverts the plans of those whose fortune he is about to change and, which is the worst part of it, brings it to pass that that, which happens by chance, seems to be deserved, and that accident passes over into culpability.

123Velleius explicitly closes the passage by noting that luck and accidents are too easily understood as the consequence of human decisions and deeds. Strikingly, this false conclusion is attributed to the influence of a deus fortunam mutaturus, a god who is about and able to change the fortune of a man or mankind. Accordingly, it is not only plans and actions that are impaired by the unforeseeable intervention of supernatural forces; it is also human cognition and our power of judgment that is restricted by influences of this kind.

124When accident may pass as culpability and vice versa due to the influence of gods and fortune, then it is safe to say that in Velleius’ narrative both temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty arise from the influence of fickle, unforeseeable forces that cannot be grasped by means of trans-temporal patterns or rules. The need to interpret the world and the danger of doing it wrongly are in this last passage the result of a deus fortunam mutaturus. As Velleius puts it, this god’s influence robs men of their interpretational sovereignty and of the cognitive power to assess and judge events, phenomena and actions they are witnessing in a way that allows them to manage the vagaries of time. Casus and culpa become interchangeable, and it is no longer in the power of men to form a qualified opinion about the interpretive tension that surrounds the experiences he makes. In other words, in combining this close reading with the conceptual grid of temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty as developed in this book, it is the obscure intervention of fortune, fate and gods that in Velleius’ History creates uncertainty and impairs men’s capacity to deal and grapple adequately with it.

  • 147 Bispham (2011) esp. 44-5 is an exception when he explicitly draws attention to the fact that Vellei (...)

125Let me close this second section of the chapter with one last example from the very end of the History. While classicists have not become tired of reprehending Velleius for his panegyric ending, the surprisingly dark tones in the end of the work have remained under-studied and deserve closer attention.147 Intriguingly, the last part of the eulogist section about Tiberius’ accomplishments focuses on the manifold calamities the emperor had to experience in the years right before Velleius’ writing, including the deaths of his son Drusus and adopted son Germanicus and the disastrous military campaigns in Germany and Pannonia.

  • 148 See also Hellegouarc’h (1964) 678 on Velleius’ Tiberius: ‘qui nous est présenté comme le terme idéa (...)
  • 149 Also acknowledged by Woodman (1977) 272.

126After all the emphasis on Tiberius’ virtue and his position on top of Roman history,148 the section about Rome’s thwarted hopes must come as a bit of a surprise.149 This is even more likely since Velleius introduces the passage with the words audeo cum deis queri – ‘I may dare to make this plaint to the gods’ (2.130.3) in which he accuses the gods of not treating Tiberius in accordance with his outstanding achievements. In a split second, Tiberius thus develops from the virtuous master of fortune and from the telos of Roman history to the sport of fate and the gods. He metamorphoses from subject to object.

127Velleius’ solution to this paradoxical twist is ending his History with a prayer, asking the gods for Tiberius’ and Rome’s welfare (2.131.1-2):

Voto finiendum uolumen est. Iuppiter Capitoline, et auctor ac stator Romani nominis Gradiue Mars, perpetuorumque custos Vesta ignium, et quicquid numinum hanc Romani imperii molem in amplissimum terrarum orbis fastigium extulit, uos publica uoce obtestor atque precor: custodite servate protegite hunc statum, hanc pacem, <hunc principem>, eique functo longissima statione mortali destinate successores quam serissimos, sed eos quorum ceruices tam fortiter sustinendo terrarum orbis imperio sufficiant quam huius suffecisse sensimus, consiliaque omnium ciuium aut pia ***
Let me end my book with a prayer. O Jupiter Capitolinus and Mars Gradivus, author and guarantor of the Roman name, Vesta, guardian of the eternal fire, and all divinities who elevated the influence of the Roman empire to the highest point on earth, on you I call and to you I pray with public voice: guard, preserve and protect this present state of things, this peace and this princeps; after he has fulfilled his duty in the longest period ever granted to mortals, grant him successors until the latest time, but successors whose shoulders are as strong in sustaining the world empire as we have found his to be.

  • 150 Note that the prayer at the end of the History is compellingly similar to the composition of Vergil (...)

128Velleius prays for successors who are worthy of Tiberius’ heritage and who are capable of shouldering their duties. This statement in particular demonstrates the deep entanglement of individual power and the influence of superhuman forces. It seems that Tiberius is not enough to secure Rome’s future and to bring about an Aeneid-like happy ending confirming Rome’s eternal domination.150 To guarantee a successful succession after Tiberius’ passing, the princeps himself is not sufficient, but a votum to the gods is necessary.

129By ending with a triple complex of eulogy, thwarted hopes and an invocation of the gods, Velleius’ work reveals a conception of history in which the course of things arises from a subtle, but probing tension between strong individual impact and inevitable fate that is beyond the control of even the most illustrious individuals. Velleius’ way of responding to this tension is to conform to the economy of religious communication. He addresses a prayer to the gods and thus taps into the professional cultural knowledge of reciprocity.

  • 151 See Kramer (2005) with a focus on the first book; see also Bispham (2011) 44-5, who highlights the (...)

130Whether or not this prayer will be successful remains open-ended. The votum is pending and as ambiguous as the end of Velleius’ transcursus through Rome’s past. History is fluctuating between the continuous flow of teleology and capricious fortune, whilst neither virtuous behaviour nor religious or ritual observance can finally determine the course of things. Kramer and Bispham drive this point home similarly. They identify the succession of empires, their rise and decline, as the core feature of the History and highlight that, hence, also Rome’s power is seen as fragile and potentially impermanent.151 Velleius’ conception of history plays with this tension, alternately favouring one over the other, thus reminding us of the open future Rome is facing and confronting us with the exposure and fragility which is ever-present in the lives of humans and states alike, while at the same time deploying narrative strategies that eliminate uncertainty in the story-world and on the level of discourse.

3.4 Conclusion

131Approaching Velleius Paterculus from the conceptual angle of his configuration of uncertainty has made it possible to demonstrate that the long common view of his narrative as amounting to nothing but one-dimensional court propaganda is an unjust and insufficient reading of the text. In reading in unison his take on periodization, his construction of tense and voice, and the way in which he brings into play the agency of fortune and related forces, it has been revealed that and how the History oscillates between a strive for teleology and the subtle re-entry of uncertainty.

  • 152 See above on Frank (1991) on the metaphor of the spatial form of literature.

132More specifically, I hope to have shown that especially the formal composition of the History bluntly emphasizes narrative authority. Historical characters in Velleius are, in the overwhelming majority of the text, given neither a voice nor the chance to have their actions speak for themselves. Instead, they are crafted into elaborate little biographies which structure the text with an underlying pattern of pre-evaluated digressions that bestow the narrative with a synoptic or spatial quality, by favouring a simultaneous apprehension in hindsight over a sequential development of autonomous plotlines.152

133This composition has far-reaching consequences for the narrative’s take on both temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty, and it demonstrates once more how closely entwined the two dimensions are. The synoptic view of Roman history as just described necessarily dims down temporal uncertainty, since it confronts the reader with characters who neither act nor speak. Accordingly, they are not shown as building up expectations that are confirmed or thwarted by experiences over the course of the story. Likewise, the strong monophony in the History prevents Velleius’ characters from discussion, debate and the weighing of a ‘surplus of meanings’.

134As a result, they remain rather bloodless and are construed as emblematic, almost abstract place-holders who embody trans-temporal values or vices, and whose qualities and flaws are best displayed through the voice and gaze of the authoritative narrator who holds the reins of history in hindsight. Besides, by skipping almost any reference to his historiographical sources and to rivalling assessments of the events he describes, Velleius shuts down polyphony not only on the intradiegetic level, but also on the level of discourse. In combination with his programmatic claims on the in unum contracta species and the ‘universal picture’ of Roman history, this composition results in a distinctly monolithic narrative that fashions itself as the one and only window onto the past. By ‘silencing’ rivalling voices on all levels, Velleius thus efficiently closes off uncertainty arising from time and hermeneutics.

135What is more, all this is complemented by the way in which the History configures temporal order. The peculiar dating scheme builds on the narrator’s own time as the major temporal benchmark from which to map Rome’s past. Time is crafted as being magnetically pulled towards the present, and as a result of this strong teleology, variant plotlines and the idea of a contingent development of history is, for all intents and purposes, eliminated. Besides, a dense net of what I have called micro-prolepses permeates the text and inserts anticipations of the outcome and telos of crucial and often dramatic events in Roman history into the story.

136By this means, temporal uncertainty is reduced to a large extent on the level of reception, since Velleius’ reader is invited to always think Roman history – as a whole and as a sum of its parts – from its explicitly anticipated end. The reader may then still direct expectations towards the text. But these expectations are likely to be directed at the way in which Velleius’ peculiar narrative wraps up its content in all brevity and at tremendous pace, and not so much at the level of the story itself. Temporal uncertainty for the reader is dimmed down and operates mostly on the level of aesthetic experience.

  • 153 See Jauß (1982) 85.

137In Hans-Robert Jauß’s terminology, the oscillation between ‘disinterested contemplation’ and ‘testing participation’ is tipped to the reflection-heavy end of the spectrum.153 The reader is hence not so much triggered to re-experience Roman history in the shoes of the historical agents, but to engage with a version of history in which there is no room for uncertainty. Grappling with uncertainty through narrative is, here, not based on re-experiencing the character’s uncertainty in a secure space of the ‘fictional’ story-world, but on engaging with a narrative that flexes its muscles by eliminating this uncertainty from the life-world of the characters altogether.

138However, I have also emphasized that previous scholarship on Velleius has tended to downplay the influence his text attributes to fortune and related forces. In fact, as I hope to have demonstrated, it is fortuna and the fata who bring uncertainty back on stage, thus sprinkling Velleius’ closed and monophonic history with the idea of unforeseeable change, temporal contingency and interpretive ambiguity. There are two major conclusions we can draw from this.

139First, the uncertainty induced by the agency of fortune is in Velleius’ narrative not so much described as an uncertainty felt by the characters. Pompey for instance is not presented as a man tortured by his open future or by ambiguous experiences. He is, in hindsight and by the authority of the narrator, sketched and evaluated as a man who has been derailed by fortune without even knowing it. The same holds true for Scipio Minor, whose personal tragedy in Velleius’ eyes does not arise from existential uncertainty, but from the fact that fortune canalized his achievements in a way that slowly brought down the Republic – a quirk in a chain of causations impossible to foresee by the historical agents themselves. Hence, fortuna-based uncertainty essentially consists in a number of scattered hints dropped all over Velleius’ narrative, ready to be picked up by the reader. The result, whether consciously or unconsciously brought about, is a paradoxical juxtaposition of history being riddled by sudden change and unforeseeable quirks on the one hand, and history as a closed space with no room for breaks and rivalling voices on the other. It is thus not only closure that Velleius installs in his narrative, but also hints at openness.

140From this derives the second conclusion, namely that it is in fact a balancing of closure and openness that characterizes Velleius’ narrative grappling with uncertainty. While the History certainly comes down on the closure end of the spectrum in general, the fact that it is not devoid of notions of uncertainty demonstrates that it is after all the narrative negotiation of the two poles that makes up our ways and means of grappling with an uncertainty that is an integral part of the human condition, but emerges particularly strong in times of external crisis and upheaval.

141This thought also brings the central argument of the book in a full circle. While the structures of uncertainty – the tension between experience and expectation and between different ways of knowing the world – carry an anthropological dimension that is linked to the way in which we as human beings perceive the world and interact with it, they duly gain a particularly existential spin when social reality raises these tensions to the surface of consciousness – as for instance in the wake of Augustus’ political and cultural agenda that initiated a shift of knowledge later known as the transition from Republic to Principate or the ‘Roman cultural revolution’ that remained in a state of slow consolidation for decades.

142This brings us to the socio-political reality in which the History was written, published, and read. Narratives, after all, do not come out of thin air and are not read in the sterile setting of an isolated laboratory without picking up on the ‘vibrations’ radiating from its surrounding social reality. Velleius’ History also mutually interacts with the environment, atmospheres, the body of knowledge and the sum of individual discourses from which it originates. The conclusions I have drawn so far concerning the capacity of narrative to allow us to grapple with uncertainty prompt us to read Velleius not only as (potentially) answering to the imperial court, but especially as deeply rooted in Tiberian Rome and contemporary discourses on a much more fundamental level.

  • 154 See e.g. Gowing (2010) esp. 252 who examines the role of the Republican civil wars and their lastin (...)

143Velleius’ time can be described as an ambiguous period, loaded with both the unattainable example and the political, ideological and military burdens of Augustus’ reign.154 The succession from Augustus to Tiberius was perhaps the most critical point since the early 20s BCE, and all the more so since Tiberius seems to have always been the less-than-ideal-solution after the premature deaths of Marcellus, Agrippa, and the principes iuventutis Gaius and Lucius Caesar. The functioning and identity of the young ‘Republican Principate’ was crucially linked to the authority of Augustus himself which was as such not transferable to Tiberius. The nomination of a successor, and maybe even of one who was in the eyes of most by far not as distinguished as Augustus himself, necessarily made it difficult to maintain the pretence of the optimus status liberae rei publicae. The balancing act between tradition and innovation was once again at its most vulnerable at this point.

144Matters were complicated further by the rather dark military situation in the East, culminating in Varus’ disastrous defeat in Germany and persisting through to the end of Augustus’ reign. Besides, the transformation of knowledge and power from the old elites to professional experts and the transformation of the ways of understanding and ordering the world, which characterized the long process of transformation initiated by Augustus and affected almost all areas of public and private life, was still being consolidated. All these factors overshadowed Tiberius’ Principate. Right at the outset, he had to deal with the mutiny in Germany and Pannonia; he had to compete with other leaders like Germanicus who were more popular with the army and parts of the people; he did not succeed in revenging the clades Variana, and in Rome he had to consolidate the internal quarrels with and within the senate and to allocate and negotiate political responsibilities and power which were still in the process of re-definition and reshaping. When Velleius’ History was published, Rome was in addition to all that approaching the next succession, from Tiberius to a yet unknown new first man. The experience of uncertainty – of an open future and rivalling assessments, was daily fare not only in early Augustan, but also in Tiberian Rome.

145While these are not all issues Velleius is primarily concerned with in his History, that does after all by and large focus on the brighter side of things, I have also demonstrated that and how his narrative lets darker tones come to the fore, both by describing Tiberius’ challenges in the end and by homing in on the agency of fortune. Against this backdrop, I suggest bracketing Velleius’ personal attitude towards the imperial court, and to take seriously the narrative dynamics put in motion in his narrative. The narrative negotiation of closure and openness, of an elimination and enactment of uncertainty, is after all a process that makes uncertainty manageable by embedding it in meaningful plotlines and by editing it in a way that it can be grappled with on an aesthetic level.

146Velleius’ reader can engage with Rome’s current, fragile condition by means of a historical work that embeds the now-felt uncertainty within a narrative of closure that secludes any space for rivalling voices and that configures the present as a seamless continuation of the past. Contemporary uncertainty as it was most certainly part of the ‘Erfahrungswelt’ of Velleius’ readers is counteracted by a narrative that downplays tensions between experience and expectation, that papers over gaps in the signifying system and that thus shapes Rome’s time as magnetically pulled to a fixed telos. Being aware of the still open outcome of the current situation and of the political and military uncertainties, the text presents itself in a narrative form that favours narrative authority, monophony, predictability, and teleology and hence tries to solve on the level of the discourse what is still undecided in the political reality.

  • 155 I thank Ingo Gildenhard for this phrase.

147Most importantly, though, Velleius’ time was characterized by a peculiar form of hermeneutic uncertainty that had particular influence on the work of the historian. Since Vergil’s Aeneid and the establishment of public key monuments such as the Forum Augustum at the very latest, Augustus’ reign had commonly been seen as a teleological closure of history. This idea of an ‘end of history’ however conflicted with the obvious fact that history went on – and so did the need for the historian to put it into writing. Tiberius and Velleius may thus well have found themselves in analogous situations: both were at danger to be nothing more than supplements, ‘an insignificant afterthought outside the time that really mattered’.155 The narrative of Roman history after Augustus was still wide open and undecided when Velleius’ crafted his volumina. It is also this fundamental hermeneutic uncertainty concerning the evaluation of the post-Augustan decades against which Velleius’ peculiar project – balancing a subtly felt uncertainty with strong narrative closure – must be read.

  • 156 Cowan (2011a) xii.

148The conciliatory notion of Velleius being an important witness of his time, frequently endorsed by those who deny him the status of a proper historian, turns out to be truer than expected. The History does not only fill the gap between Livy and Tacitus. As the only surviving narrative of this period, the History interacts with a socio-political system which is still evolving, not fully formed and which involves to a particularly high degree ‘the ability to retell, rewrite and reexamine Rome’s history’.156 The History aims at bridging the gap between outdated experiences and untried expectations, and is thus a telling example of the significance of historical narrative at the edge of profound changes and indeterminate future.

Notes

1 Similarly, see Cowan (2011a) ix. As is well known, the prominent praise and Velleius’ obvious closeness to Tiberius have earned him a reception that was almost exclusively negative until well into the twentieth century, despite Dihle’s (1955) optimistic article in the RE. Even in 2000, Schmitzer (2000) esp. 23 still records that Velleius’ reputation has not improved noticeably. Hellegouarc’h (1964) 684 and Eder (2005) 15 call him an ‘écrivain de cour’ or ‘court historian’.

2 The title of Velleius’ work is not preserved. Conventionally, scholarship since the first editor Beatus Rhenanus refers to it as Historia Romana without ancient authority, although Yardley (2011) xxi, Rich (2011b) esp. 76-80 and others justly argue that the geographical and temporal scope of the work pushed the boundaries of its being a Roman history. For the transmission of the text, see Dihle in RE 8A (1955), Woodman (1977) 3-28, Hellegouarc’h (1984) 406-12 and Elefante, Comm. 1-16.

3 Giving a positive spin to it, Norden (19616) 91 calls Velleius a ‘useful corrective to the Tacitean account’. With Woodman (1975) 289.

4 See Schmitzer (2000) 9-23 for a full account of Velleian scholarship and the development of scholarly assessments through the ages.

5 This chapter is a revised and enlarged version of Domainko (2015) 76-110, an article published in Histos under the title ‘The conception of history in Velleius Paterculus’ Historia Romana’. I am grateful for permission to reuse the article here.

6 See Syme’s ‘mendacity in Velleius’ (1978).

7 See e.g. Syme (1978) 54.

8 Syme (1958) 200.

9 Syme (1958) 367. See also Yardley (2011) xxxi.

10 The date of the History is itself controversial. Most recently, Rich (2011b) 84-7 argued for a hasty composition right after Vinicius’ designation, against Woodman (1975) 275-82 and Starr (1981) 170-2. I am inclined to follow the latter reading and Starr in particular, who suggests that Velleius’ work was well underway when Vinicius’ was designated and that the specific ‘before-presents’ (i.e. phrases such as ‘xyz years before you became consul, Vinicius’ – a term coined by Bispham (2011) 21) were inserted accordingly.

11 Klingner (1958) 194.

12 Lana (1952) esp. 7 does not want to classify Velleius as a historian. He calls his History ‘l’unica vera opera di propaganda, che l’antichità romana ci abbia lasciata’ and understands it as an attempt to address and repel anti-Roman and anti-imperial tendencies of the time.

13 See Yardley (2011) xxxi-xxxii.

14 Yardley (2011) xxxvi also highlights that Samuel ‘Dr’ Johnson included Velleius in his list of Latin writers an educated person ought to read, and that also Chapman and Dryden showed respect for Velleius’ work as a writer. For an overview of the controversy between those who see Velleius as a mere court propagandist and those who see him as counterbalancing the standard Tacitean account, see esp. Woodman (1975) 288-90.

15 See Sumner (1970) 257-97.

16 See Yardley (2011) xxxii.

17 See Wiseman (1979).

18 See Woodman (1988).

19 Ranke (18853) VII, in the ‘Vorrede zur ersten Ausgabe 1824’ of his Geschichten der Romanischen und Germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1535. Ranke’s famous sentence in context read as follows: ‘Man hat der Historie das Amt, die Vergangenheit zu richten, die Mitwelt zum Nutzen zukünftiger Jahre zu belehren, beigemessen: so hoher Aemter unterwindet sich gegenwärtiger Versuch nicht: er will bloß zeigen, wie es eigentlich gewesen.’ For a detailed discussion of this passage, see e.g. Zemlin (1985), where the statement is discussed against the backdrop of a thorough reexamination of Ranke’s philosophy of history. Schieder (1965) 113-4 has argued that Ranke’s ‘wie es eigentlich gewesen’ has been misinterpreted; against common assumptions he claimed that Ranke’s emphasis in the sentence must have been on the ‘eigentlich’ as opposed to a picture of the past that is built on phantasy, believes or inventions. I would however side with Noll (1997) 62 n. 45, who puts Schieder’s assessment into perspective and stresses that especially in Ranke’s debut work, where the sentence occurs, we can detect a firm belief that it is possible to approach the ‘actual past’ and God’s will working through the course of history – his quarrels with questions of ‘truth’ aside.

20 For the commentaries, see Woodman (1977) and (1983); (1969) on Sallustian influences on Velleius and (1975) on date, genre, and style.

21 For discussions of genre, see recently esp. Rich (2011b).

22 Marincola (1999) 281-324; see also Rich (2011b) 78.

23 See Rich (2011b) 78.

24 See Lobur (2007) 211-30.

25 See Gowing’s monograph in (2005) tackling questions of memory and oblivion between Republic and Principate; on Velleius in particular, see also Gowing (2007) 411-8 and (2010) 249-60.

26 See especially Schmitzer’s monograph in (2000), but also his contribution to Cowan’s compendium in (2011) 177-202.

27 Cowan (2011b).

28 See Lobur (2007) 213-4.

29 See Morris (1997) 96.

30 Barchiesi (2005) 281. On approaches to periodization in the ancient world, see e.g. the second part of Golden and Toohey’s (1997) edited volume on Inventing Ancient Culture. In this volume, see esp. Strauss (1997) 165-75.

31 See Fish (1989) 311; with Morris (1997) 96.

32 See Gowing (2005) esp. 34; (2007) 411-8; Marincola (2011a) 135. The same point is also acknowledged by Christ (2003a) 79, but I would argue that his analysis of Velleius ‘Geschichtsbild’ falls short as he exclusively focuses on content-related guiding themes (otium, luxuria) and Velleius’ judgement of historical personalities as compared to historiographical tradition. In this sense, this chapter is also designed to complement thematically oriented studies on Velleius’ conception of history by shedding light on the importance of narrative form and presentation.

33 Suetonius and Cassius Dio acknowledge the breaking-point in Roman history, too. The latter refers explicitly to the establishment of monarchy under Augustus; see Suet. Aug. 28.1 and Cass. Dio 53.17.1.

34 Cowan (2011a) x.

35 With Gowing (2005) 35.

36 See Sattler (1960) 40-1: ‘Gesetze, Gerichte, Senat und Magistrat sind diejenigen Institutionen, welche nach der traditionellen Auffassung das Gemeinwesen zu einer Republik machen, ohne sie gibt es keine Republik’; see also Woodman (1983) 252 who quotes a parallel from Cicero (Red. sen. 34), that bolsters Sattler’s claim.

37 This observation has also been tackled by Gowing (2005) 44-8. In his analysis of Cicero’s death, he shows how Velleius constructs his accusation of Antony in the style of and as referring to the Ciceronian Philippics. This subtle intertextual reference along with the explicit statement that Cicero will stay alive in Rome’s memory is designed to make abundantly clear that the Republic has not fallen, but stays alive just as does her most distinguished and symbolic representative.

38 See also Woodman (1977) 237.

39 On the importance of biographical elements in Velleius, see e.g. Starr (1980) 292 (‘passion for biography’) and Elefante, Comm. 32 (‘il prevalente carattere biografico’); most recently, see Pelling’s (2011) 157-76 exemplary reading of the ‘Caesarian narrative’ and brief overview of research on the matter. This interest in the deeds of individuals is not Velleius’ invention, but stands in a tradition which reaches back to Republican times, as Woodman (1977), esp. 28-56, has demonstrated at length.

40 See Kuntze (1985) 164-6.

41 To anticipate some thoughts from Chapter 4, see e.g. Luce (1977) 231 who draws attention to Livy’s tendency to tell dramatic and vivid stories that speak for themselves, demonstrate Roman virtue in an immediate way and that, accordingly, do not need narratorial comments and evaluations.

42 Gowing (2005) 36 n. 23 emphasizes the circumstance that Velleius is mostly concerned with Romans, not foreigners. The lack of a biography of Rome’s great antagonists Perseus and Hannibal is particularly evident against the backdrop of the prominent place biographical digressions generally occupy in the History.

43 See Frank (1991).

44 Grethlein (2013) 92-130; and again 341.

45 For references to brevity, cf. e.g. 2.29.2; for festinatio, cf. 1.16.1; 2.41.1; 2.108.2; for the related transcursus, cf. 2.86.1, 2.99.4.

46 For the most recent discussion, offering a comprehensive overview of the controversies, see Lobur (2007) 211-30.

47 See Sumner (1970) 284.

48 Sumner (1970) 285. Against this, Woodman (1975) 280-2 argues that, according to the practice of imperial patronage, Vinicius should have unofficially known about his nomination for quite some time in advance. For Woodman this is reason enough to assume that Velleius may as well have started his work in the mid-twenties CE.

49 See Schmitzer (2000) 34.

50 See Woodman (1975) 278-80. This claim is backed up by Starr (1981) 169-72.

51 Cf. Lucian, Hist. Conscr. 56.1. For a similar thought, cf. also Cic. Inv. rhet. 1.28, as also Lobur (2007) 216 n. 16 points out: Ac multos imitatio brevitatis decipit, ut, cum se breves putent esse, longissimi sint; cum dent operam, ut res multas brevi dicant, non ut omnino paucas res dicant et non plures, quam necesse sit. – And the imitation of brevity deludes many, so that – though they think they are being brief – they are in fact really long-winded; because they make every effort to say many things briefly, but not to say few things altogether, and not more than is necessary.

52 See Lobur (2007) 219 for the first, 220 for the second quotation.

53 See Wallace-Hadrill (2005) 57-8.

54 With Lobur (2007) 220.

55 See Lobur (2007) 220.

56 Cf. Liv. praef. 3. With Lobur (2007) 220.

57 Perhaps most important among Velleius’ thematic digressions are the paragraphs on literary history (Homer and Archilochus in 1.5.1-3; Hesiod in 1.7.1; Greek drama and philosophy in 1.16.1-5), which have attracted a relatively great share of attention. See, among others, Schöb (1908); Della Corte (1937) 154-9; Cizek (1972) 85- 93 who reads the literary historical passages in Velleius as implying a constant ‘renouvellement’ of genre and style; Noé (1982) 511-23 and most recently the thorough analyses by Schwindt (2000a) 139-52 and Schmitzer (2000) 72-100. For a general discussion of the style and implementation of Velleius’ digressions, see Yardley (2011) xxviii.

58 Nevertheless, Velleius indeed refers to the ‘proper historiographical work’ he plans on writing later as opposed to the brief History he is composing now (cf. 2.89.1; 2.96.3; 2.99.3; 2.103.4 and 2.119.1). But this does not take away from the History’s narrative form generating historical meaning sui generis. On the contrary, I would even argue that these references to the follow-up History help to sharpen and throw into relief the peculiarity of his current historiographical project as an authoritative and confident contribution to the discourses of power and knowledge of the time.

59 The interest in the narrative construction of ancient historiography is not least rooted in both classical scholarship on rhetoric in historical writing (see esp. Wiseman (1979) and Woodman (1988)) and in recent years, especially in the increasing influence of narratology. For a short outline of the history of narratology in the context of classical studies, see e.g. Grethlein and Rengakos (2009) 1-11. The subtitle of their volume on narratology and interpretation, ‘the content of narrative form in ancient literature’ furthermore alludes to White’s influential publication on The Content of the Form (1987), see also in the introduction to this book.

60 Possible reconstructions of the preface are still subject to controversial discussions. See e.g. Rich (2011b) 73-6 for a reconstruction of the programmatic accounts of the preface. Associated with this is also the question of the History’s starting point, recently surveyed in detail by Kramer (2005) 144-61. He discusses the most common assumption that Velleius began with the Trojan War as also argued by Sumner (1970) 281, Starr (1981) 163 and Elefante (2011) 59. Assuming that Velleius’ two books were of approximately the same scope and emphasizing his repeated reaching out to universal history, Kramer suggests though that the starting point of the history was the foundation of the Assyrian Empire. For this claim, see also Rich (2011b) 78, who highlights that Nicolaus of Damascus and Pompeius Trogus also started their universal histories with the Assyrian Empire (146). For objections, see e.g. Bispham (2011) 19 and 48 n. 21 referring to Pitcher (2009) 122. However, Wiseman (2010) 73-83 argues that Velleius began his History with Hercules and concludes that the emphasis on Orestes and Hercules combined with the absence of Aeneas must be read as a conception of history which consciously distances itself from the Julian concept, focussing on Aeneas and the Trojan roots of Rome. On Hercules and Orestes, see also Schmitzer (2000) 43-60.

61 Velleius seems to draw on Aristotle in this passage. In Poet. 1459b20, Aristotle asserts that a well-formed plot must be designed in a way that it can be overlooked from beginning to end (συνορᾶσθαι). What is more, Velleius’ programmatic account also reminds us of Aristotle’s argument that fabulae should have beginning, middle, and end and that their ‘unity’ should be analogous to that of a living being. Strikingly, this is not what Aristotle claims from the historian who, in his view, necessarily has to bypass these questions of narrative composition in order to record chronologically what happened in a certain period of time (Poet. 1459a17-30). Velleius seems to take up this deliberation here and to make a case for a historiography that takes into account wider patterns and matters of ‘unity’ and ‘logical coherence’ instead of limiting itself to a chronological account. (On this thought, see also Diodorus Siculus (20.43.7) who reflects on historiography and representation and comes to the conclusion that historiography can indeed imitate events – but will fall short because it has to present simultaneous events in a sequential manner.) This confirms what I argued earlier: the narrative form of the History is not a symptom of hasty composition, but a carefully crafted contribution to the discourses of knowledge and power of the time. By asserting that his narrative take on Rome’s history is ‘more synoptic’ and ‘more impressive on the eye’ than the regular strategy, Velleius confidently claims authority for himself as the historian of the hour.

62 These thematic treatments include the biographical sections and digressions on literary history; see above n. 262.

63 Note however that Marius’ narrow escape from execution through Sulla (2.19) could be considered as an example of vivid and almost mimetic depiction.

64 In this context, Shipley (1924) xvii is even inclined to call Velleius an epitomist who succeeded in ‘writing a multum in parvo of historical condensation’.

65 The declared striving for the overall picture of his object of study may remind us of Plutarch’s programme as presented in the proem to the Alexander and Caesar biography (Plut. Alex. 1.1-3). He emphasizes that it is not Histories he is writing, but Lives, and that he thus will not engage in exhaustive details, but in epitome. This intertext backs up the interpretation offered above, that Velleius’ play with digressions and biography on the one hand and brevity on the other hand should be read as a subtle demonstration of a conception of history that favours trans-temporal patterns over lived experience, and authority over an enactment of uncertainty.

66 See Genette (1980) 35.

67 See e.g. the contributions by Rood (2007a; b; c; d), Hidber (2007a; b) and Van Henten and Huitink (2007) on time and narrative construction in historiography in de Jong’s and Nünlist’s companion on Time in Ancient Greek Literature.

68 For a comprehensive discussion of experience and teleology as two antipodes of historiographical narrative, see Grethlein (2013).

69 The link to the earlier closures of the temple, especially to Titus Manlius who is one of Livy’s paradigmatic Republican heroes, furthermore emphasizes the continuity and disguises the historical caesura caused by Augustus.

70 The History is one of very few historiographical works with a dedication. Among these are also Hirtius’ continuation of Caesar’s Gallic War as well as Coelius Antipater’s and Claudius Quadrigarius’ works; see Rich (2011b) 75.

71 There are 25 abhinc constructions, nine mentions of hodie and three references to adhuc. Nunc is used once in this sense.

72 Nevertheless, a systematic use of present-time referencing earlier than Velleius is only evident from epigraphic sources, namely the Parian Marble and the so called Chronikon Romanum; see Rich (2011b) 82-3. In this context, Rich also discusses the possibility that Velleius’ model for his chronological scheme might have been Atticus’ Annales which are likely to have made similar use of Cicero’s consulship – and which can plausibly be assumed to have served as an important model for Velleius’ uolumina.

73 See Bispham (2011) 21.

74 See Feeney (2007) 15.

75 With Feeney (2007) 15.

76 See e.g. Rich (2011b) 80.

77 The Olympiads were a common dating scheme for Fabius Pictor and Cincius Alimentus while Cato was the first to explicitly establish the foundation of the city as a benchmark by counting 432 years from the fall of Troy, see Feeney (2007) 142. It is striking that Velleius combines both techniques. Besides the common importance of Troy in anniversary contexts, Velleius does not use it this way. Apparently, the narrator’s present with Vinicius and Tiberius has become more important than linking the historical present back to the mythical past.

78 See Bispham (2011) 37.

79 A similar thought can be found in Bispham (2011) 41, who however sees synchronism and intervals as on a par. See also Feeney (2007) 22.

80 The role of myth in the History has been addressed in a couple of recent studies. There is a prominent focus on Italy’s Greek roots, and the opinions on this issue are divided. Schmitzer (2000) 43-60 and Wiseman (2010) 73-83 argue that the focus on Hercules and Orestes and the absence of Aeneas can be read as a conception of history that fashions itself as an alternative to the Julian concept. However, Velleius refers to Caesar as a descendant of Venus and Anchises (2.41.1) and thus brings back in Julian mythic ideology and identity. What is more, Rich (2011b) 76-7 with good reason calls attention to the poor transmission and the probably comprehensive lacuna after 1.8.6 and argues that this may well have led to the ostensible Greek preponderance.

81 For Velleius’ sporadic notion of eponymous consuls and ‘dependence on annalistic’ tradition, see Elefante (2011) 70 n. 2.

82 See e.g. Frier (1979) and Petzold’s (1993) 151-88 reply; see also Gotter et al. (2003) 9-38 for a general overview of the annalistic tradition.

83 With Feeney (2007) 190.

84 This necessarily prompts the question which Roman author actually represents the ‘pure’, ‘unaltered’ stage of this tradition. Ginsburg (1981) who has analyzed in detail Tacitus’ departures from the ‘traditional’ annalistic scheme has used Livy as a foil and as the norm on which Tacitus and others can improvize. However, Rich (2011a) 1-41 [= Rich (1997) revised] and others have shown that and how Livy, too, departs from the rigid corset of annalistic historiography. Rich in particular argued that the ‘pure’ form of annalistic dating can also in Livy only be found in the narrative of the middle Republic; books 1 to 10, on the other hand, do not follow the patterning. The narrative of the social wars, as Rich reconstructs and suggests, is likely to have departed from the ‘purely’ annalistic scheme as well in order to mirror on the level of narrative form the dissolution of Republican instiutions and values. On ‘the years of historiography’, see also Feeney (2007) 190-3.

85 For other passages that combine the indication of the consuls or in one case the commanders (2.38.4) with ‘before presents’, see 1.12.5; 1.14.3; 1.14.7; 1.15.2; 1.15.4; 1.15.5; 2.2.2; 2.4.5; 2.15.1; 2.27.1; 2.36.1; 2.90.2; 2.100.2; 2.103.3.

86 For the use of the ablative absolute or the nominative for the eponymous consuls in Tacitus and Livy see the selection of Ginsburg (1981).

87 See Feeney (2007) 191 who also understands Tacitus’ ablativi absoluti instead of nominative constructions as the ‘historiographical correlative to the consulship’s demotion from office to date in the Fasti Capitolini’ in the wake of the Augustan transformation of knowledge in the contexts of time, social time, chronology, and calendar issues, as Wallace-Hadrill (2005) and (2008) would put it.

88 Cf. e.g. 1.8.1: ante annos, quam tu, M. Vinici, consulatum inires, DCCCXXIII; similarly also in 1.12.6; 2.49.1; 2.65.2.

89 On ‘voice’ as a narratological term and concept, see Genette (1980) 212-62.

90 There are however a few passages that shift to homo-diegetic narration towards the end of the History, including 2.101 and 2.104. While autobiographical aspects are, from a modern perspective, sharply distinguished from ‘proper’ historiography, we know that Cato and probably also Fabius Pictor emphasized their own participation in important events and thus included autobiographical or memoir-like passages in their depiction. See e.g. Kierdorf (2003) 42 on this point.

91 Cf. 2.4.4; 2.32.1; 2.70.3; 2.86.3; 2.104.1, 2.104.4; 2.107.2. But battle speeches which tend to invite the historian to present them in direct speech are rare in Velleius and are given throughout in reported speech (cf. 2.27.1-3: Pontius Telesinus, general of the Samnites, at the Colline Gate; 2.55.3: Caesar at Munda; 2.85.4: Octavian at Actium).

92 See Grethlein (2014b) [online resource].

93 On characterization in ancient historiography, see e.g. Pitcher (2011) 102-17, building his argument on Plutarch’s famous statement about the generic distinction between history and biography (Alex. 1), and stressing that modern psychology-based notions of character, characterization, and development differ profoundly from ancient understanding.

94 For Catiline’s speeches, see e.g. Batstone (2010) 227-46.

95 The repeated focus on a comparison of Velleius and Sallust that is adopted in this chapter can be justified, if by nothing else, by Velleius’ frequent and strong allusions to Sallustian concepts such as the idea of the growth and decay of empires (see also Bispham (2011) 17-57) and to the prominent role of fortune and related concepts. For a comprehensive study of Sallustian influences on Velleius, see esp. Woodman (1969) 785-99.

96 Cato’s characterization as qui numquam recte fecit ut facere uideretur (2.35.2) also directly reminds us of the equivalent passage in Sallust (Cat. 54.6): esse quam uideri bonus malebat, as Woodman (1969) 788 pointed out.

97 As already mentioned above, on this questions see esp. Starr (1980) 292; Elefante, Comm. 32; most recently, see Pelling’s (2011) interpretation of the ‘Caesarian narrative’. This interest in the deeds of individuals is not Velleius’ invention, but stands in a tradition which reaches back to Republican times; see also Woodman’s (1977) introduction. While for Cato history admittedly was the history of the Roman people i.e. a collective history refusing to stress individual achievements (see Kierdorf (2003) 23), the Romans generally tended to focus on the individual’s impact. On this point, Pelling (2011) 158-9 follows Woodman in highlighting the importance of character sketches in Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae and Iugurthinum as well as the role of outstanding individuals in Livy. Apart from historiography, the significance of the individual’s achievement is of course clearly evident from the extensive memorial culture on which aristocratic authority was based. The multifaceted ancestor cult at the domus and at the pompae funebres as well as the honorific statues explicitly served to single out deserving individuals and to represent the nobility’s confidence. On this, see e.g. Flower (1996); Sehlmeyer (1999).

98 Pelling (2011) 162-5 comes to a similar conclusion in his examination of focalization. While Caesar dominates the narrative, the story is not seen through his eyes. Instead, ‘the narrative is often more concerned to convey what to think of, say, Sulla or Caesar, rather than what Sulla or Caesar were thinking’ (165). Primary focalization is as dominant as primary narration, thus leaving narrative authority and interpretational sovereignty with the primary narrator and levering out notions of uncertainty qua narrative form and construction.

99 See further e.g. Kraus (2000) 439-42, who identifies Cicero’s Philippic speeches as the landmark and breaking-point in Roman oratory: ‘They were the last time a political orator spoke so publicly, and so freely, on a matter of state importance: they are, in short, the last example of truly outspoken republican oratory’ (441).

100 See Bloomer (2011), esp. 93-4. For Velleius on invidia and rivalry as a destructive force, see 1.9.6, 1.12.5, 2.40.5.

101 Cf. 1.17.7: maximum perfecti operis impedimentum.

102 Bloomer (2011) 93. On thoughts of aemulatio in Velleius, see also Alfonsi (1966) 375-8, Schwindt (2000a) 139-52 and passim, reading Velleius’ scattered remarks on literary history as constituting a ‘Kulturgeschichte’ for Roman civilization.

103 Cf. e.g. 1.11.4; 2.4.6; 2.41.1 (inter omnes constat); 2.53.4. See also Marincola (2011a) 122 on variant versions in Velleius.

104 For an alternative approach to polyphony and its consequences for the narrative configuration of uncertainty, see Chapter 4 on Livy below.

105 Grethlein (2006d) 322-3.

106 Cf. 1.14.1 and 2.89.6.

107 Cf. The Art of Political Speech 96.

108 See esp. Walker (1993) 353-77.

109 Cf. Hist. conscr. 51.

110 See Porod (2013) ad loc. and Avenarius (1956) 130-40 on this paragraph.

111 See e.g. an early standard reference, i.e. Lubbock (1921) 65 who states that a good novel does not ‘tell’, but ‘show’ and that its object is to ‘place the scene before us, so that we may take it in like a picture gradually unrolled or a drama enacted’.

112 See most prominently Ryan (2001) 130, who in her analysis of narrative as virtual reality speaks of ‘spatio-temporal immersion’ into the story-world.

113 See Kukkonen and Caracciolo (2014) 261-74, providing an overview and contextualization of the so called e-approaches vis-à-vis ‘traditional’ literary studies. Belonging to the field of cognitive sciences, they often figure under the label of ‘second generation’ approach to the cognitive study of literature.

114 See Kukkonen and Caracciolo (2014) 261.

115 The idea of the reader being involved in an embodied interaction with a literary text in the act of reading ultimately goes back to the discovery of the so-called mirror neurons that are abundantly referred to in scholarship. Empirical studies and brain scans have shown that these mirror neurons fire in imitation when we perceive an action. From there, scholars such as Gallese (e.g. 2005) and Glenberg (e.g. 2012) have made claims for their role ‘in mirroring actions we hear or read about in linguistic communication’, see Kukkonen and Caracciolo (2014) 264.

116 De Temmerman is here quoted from an unpublished conference paper on Experiencing Characters in the Ancient Novel, held at the University of Heidelberg in July 2015. On the role of speech for characterization, see also De Temmerman’s (2014) monograph, focussing on the Greek novel.

117 See Grethlein (2013) 24.

118 An important exception is Huitink’s (in press) study on the potential crossfertilization of ancient and modern approaches to the question of what makes a narrative ‘visual’ and ‘immediate’.

119 The text is quoted from Mendelssohn’s (1905) Teubner edition. Translation is based on White (1913).

120 See e.g. Caracciolo (2011) 117-38 on The Reader’s Virtual Body. He argues that a reader’s immersion into a story-world is informed and influenced by the motor resonances which we know from our actual engagement with the world and which are then triggered by spatial and motoric references in a text.

121 An analogous claim could of course be made for a cultural, i.e. rather spatial discontinuity. Ideas on immersion developed in the Western hemisphere might also differ profoundly from the ones applied in other cultures, which links narratological questions back to the fields of cultural studies, ethnology, and anthropology.

122 For a coherent treatment of explanations in Velleius, see Marincola (2011a) 121-40. Since he highlights Velleius’ tendency to see ‘the world largely in [...] terms of individual achievements’ (136) this chapter is partially complementary to his by focussing on the role of those forces that cannot be fully influenced by individuals.

123 See Elefante’s concordance (1992).

124 See Lana (1952) 221-30; Hellegouarc’h (1964) 669-84; Kuntze (1985) 65-70 and 226-33; Schmitzer (2000); Kober (2008) 39-65.

125 See Hellegouarc’h (1964), esp. 682. See also Kober (2008) 65, esp. n. 74 for the use of fortuna in ancient rhetoric. Besides, see Schmitzer (2000) 218 who refers to Velleius’ ‘narrative economy’ (‘Erzählökonomie’) and sees fortuna as a Velleian core concept (191). He argues that Velleius activates fortune’s individual characteristics as suitable for the respective argument he intends to make (esp. 217-8).

126 On brevitas and festinatio, see 74-6 in this chapter.

127 Lana (1952) esp. 222; see also Kuntze (1985) 69, esp. n. 5.

128 Hellegouarc’h (1964) 678. See 681 and 684, where he also highlights though that Velleius draws and elaborates on Sallust’s and others’ conception of fortuna.

129 Hellegouarc’h (1964) 678-9. On the fortuna principis, see also Kober (2008) 43.

130 On Pompey, see also Kober (2008) 52-6 and Seager (2011) 287-308.

131 On the association of the terms, see TLL VI 1195; Hellegouarc’h (1964) 680-1 for a collection of passages in Latin literature that feature these terms in combination, among these a couple of examples from Cicero showing that the association is a Republican topos. As Hellegouarc’h shows, the combination fortuna-virtus is also prominent in two authors close to Velleius, namely Florus and Pompeius Trogus.

132 See Lana (1952) 221-30. Other characters that are described as having both fortuna and virtus are the younger Scipio (see below), Cato (2.35) and Caesar who however loses his fortune along with his virtue. On Caesar, see esp. Kober (2008) 57-63 and Pelling (2011).

133 See Lana (1952) 222: ‘l’impero romano si giustifica […] perché e fondato sulla virtù, che gli ha guadagnato il favore divino.’

134 Cf. 2.74.4: usus Caesar uirtute et fortuna sua Perusiam expugnauit. – Relying on his virtue and fortune, Caesar conquered Perusia.

135 Cf. 2.97.4: moles deinde eius belli translata in Neronem est; quod is sua et uirtute et fortuna administrauit, […]. – The burden of this war was then entrusted to Nero: he carried it on with his virtue and good fortune as usual.

136 Cf. 2.121.1: eadem et uirtus et fortuna subsequenti tempore ingressi Germaniam imperatoris Tiberii fuit quae initio fuerat. – And when Tiberius entered Germany later, his virtue and fortune were the same as in the first campaign.

137 Cf. Sall. Cat. 10: Sed ubi labore atque iustitia res publica crevit, reges magni bello domiti, nationes ferae et populi ingentes vi subacti, Carthago, aemula imperi Romani, ab stirpe interiit, cuncta maria terraeque patebant, saevire fortuna ac miscere omnia coepit. Qui labores, pericula, dubias atque asperas res facile toleraverant, iis otium divitiaeque optanda alias, oneri miseriaeque fuere. – But when the Republic had gained strength through hard work and justice, when great kings had been conquered by war, when savage tribes and powerful peoples had been subdued by force of arms, and when Carthage, the rival of the Roman Empire, had perished root and branch, and when all seas and lands were open, then fortune began to grow cruel and to turn everything upside down. And for those who had found it easy to bear hardship and dangers, uncertainty and adverse circumstances, leisure and wealth, desirable things under other circumstances, became a burden and a curse. (The Latin is quoted from Reynolds (1991), the translation is based on Rolfe (1921).) Equivalent passages in Sallust can also be found in the Histories, namely 1.12 and 1.16; see Woodman (1969) 787.

138 On the significance of ‘moral decline’ as a narrative to explain the ‘Erfahrungswelt’ and threatening developments in Rome in the first century BCE, see also Gruen (1974) 499, and for discussion, see also Chapter 2.

139 On this aspect of fortuna, see Kajanto (1981) 524. Velleius characterizes the older Cato as a man who semper fortunam in sua potestate habuit (2.35.2), qualifies Augustus’ virtus et fortuna explicitly as sua (2.74.4) and singles out Tiberius as fama fortunaque celeberrimus (2.99.1).

140 For an overview on conceptions of fortuna, see esp. Kajanto (1981) 502-58.

141 Kajanto (1981) 502-58. Influence of tyche on (Roman) history is particularly highlighted by Polybius, e.g. in Polyb. 1.4.1-5 and 8.2.3-6.

142 Schmitzer (2000) 190-225 and develops detailed categories to differentiate between the various aspects of fortuna in Velleius. For a summary and contextualization in Tiberian Rome, see esp. 217-20.

143 Apart from Sallust, it is mostly Polybius who draws attention to the fact that all constitutions and hegemonies fall in the end, see e.g. Bispham (2011) 44.

144 On this idea of anakyklosis in Velleius, see esp. Kramer (2005) and Bispham (2011).

145 A similar thought is expressed also in other aphoristic examples, as for instance in 2.110.1: Rumpit <interdum>, interdum moratur proposita hominum Fortuna. – Fortune sometimes breaks off, sometimes delays the execution of men’s plans. What is more, Velleius similarly lays emphasis on the fickleness of fortune at war: fortune was capricious to the point that Perseus of Macedonia (160 B.C.) won wide parts of Greece in the battles with the Romans (1.9.1: nam biennio adeo uaria fortuna cum consulibus conflixerat ut plerumque superior fuerit magnamque partem Graeciae in societatem suam perduceret). She influenced the course of the Italic Wars and claimed the lives of both consuls (2.16.4: Tam uaria atque atrox fortuna Italici belli fuit ut [...]). Similarly, the war in Sicily between Octavian and Sextus Pompeius was fought with changing fortune (2.79.3: ea patrando bello mora fuit, quod postea dubia et interdum ancipiti fortuna gestum est.). These examples are only three out of many. The fickle influence of fortune at war is also a predominant aspect of Livian fortuna (e.g. in 9.17.3), see Kuntze (1985) 227.

146 This observation forms the contrast to those forces – the gods – that can be addressed through prayers and vota and are, to a certain extent, responsive. See the examination of the prayer in the end of the History below.

147 Bispham (2011) esp. 44-5 is an exception when he explicitly draws attention to the fact that Velleius’ does not conclude his work with a ‘Vergilian happy ending’ and assuredly eternal domination of Rome.

148 See also Hellegouarc’h (1964) 678 on Velleius’ Tiberius: ‘qui nous est présenté comme le terme idéal de l’évolution de l’histoire romaine’.

149 Also acknowledged by Woodman (1977) 272.

150 Note that the prayer at the end of the History is compellingly similar to the composition of Vergil G. 1 which also ends in a somewhat ambiguous note, oscillating between an Octavian called upon as Rome’s saviour on the one hand and the dark tones of civil war and upheaval that make it necessary to pray for Octavian’s security just as for anyone else’s on the other hand. On this passage, see e.g. Buchheit (1966) 78- 83 and Lyne (2007) 38-59.

151 See Kramer (2005) with a focus on the first book; see also Bispham (2011) 44-5, who highlights the darker tones and points out how much of Velleius’ second book is actually focussing on ‘how close Rome came to disaster’: ‘the fastigium orbis terrarum is a dangerous and precarious place; what Italy showed, and showed in the longue durée of Roman and indeed Mediterranean history, is not only how empires were made, but how they might be broken.’ On Velleius’ concept of decline and decadence, see now also Biesinger (2016) 277-311, esp. 304-9.

152 See above on Frank (1991) on the metaphor of the spatial form of literature.

153 See Jauß (1982) 85.

154 See e.g. Gowing (2010) esp. 252 who examines the role of the Republican civil wars and their lasting impact on Roman thought in the early Empire.

155 I thank Ingo Gildenhard for this phrase.

156 Cowan (2011a) xii.

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