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Uncertainty in Livy and Velleius

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Annika Domainko

6. Epilogue

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1Every final synopsis of a book implies the idea of conclusion, of thoughts and hypotheses developed over the course of the argument coming full circle to a definite assessment of a certain body of knowledge. A study of uncertainty and of the narrative play with closure and openness as a way of dealing with uncertainty would do well to follow its own advice and to open up once more its own allegedly closed narrative for further perspectives. There are two perspectives in particular which suggest themselves as an epilogue to the questions tackled in this book: firstly a perspective beyond the genre of historiographical narrative, and secondly a perspective beyond antiquity. I therefore wish to close this book by opening up its central claims to these two perspectives as an invitation to further discussion.

6.1 Beyond Narrative

  • 1 Citations are taken from Brink (1971)/ (1982). Brink (1982) and Rudd (1989) in their commentaries b (...)

ut siluae foliis †pronos† mutantur in annos,
prima cadunt

    ita uerborum uetus interit aetas,
et iuuenum ritu florent modo nata uigentque.
debemur morti nos nostraque;
[…]1
As the forests change their leaves from swift year to year, the first of them fall, so the old age of words passes away, and those just born flourish like the young and are strong. We, and all that we have, owe a debt to death; […].

  • 2 Please note that, when I speak of ‘poetry’ in contrast to ‘narrative’ in this epilogue, I throughou (...)

2Words are like leaves on a tree, strong in their youth and in the end as fragile as human life. If we wish briefly to broaden the scope and horizon from narrative and uncertainty to the realms of non-narrative poetry2, Horace’s famous leaf simile in the Ars Poetica (Ars P. 60-3) is an apt point of reference.

  • 3 See esp. Kissel’s full bibliography (1981) for the years between 1937 and 1975, and the acknowledgm (...)
  • 4 The analysis of the structure, esp. of the Ars Poetica, has been the focus of scholarship for more (...)
  • 5 For Horace’s relation and position to Augustus in the Epistle to Augustus, see recently e.g. Feeney (...)
  • 6 See e.g. Fowler (2000b) 248-66 on aesthetics and politics; Lyne (1995); Oliensis (1998); Lowrie (20 (...)

3Horace’s poems on poetry, especially the Ars Poetica and the Epistle to Augustus, are among the most heavily studied works of Latin literature.3 Besides evaluating their argumentative structures and the relations between their theoretical concepts and poetic forms, scholarship used to focus on an interpretation against the backdrop of ancient poetic theory as well as on their influence on later criticism.4 Particularly in the last two decades, the focus of classical scholarship has shifted in favour of a growing interest in the relations between poetry, poetics, and contemporary socio-politics. Thereby, the political dimension of Horace’s second book of Epistles has, unsurprisingly, received much attention. While earlier scholars used to focus on Horace’s ‘political voice’ and his positioning vis-à-vis Augustus and the Principate5, recent discussions have paid closer attention to matters of poetic self-fashioning, performance, and poetic and political authority in Augustan Rome.6

4Building on these recent trends, I would like to take up exemplary passages in Horace’s literary Epistles in order to put into perspective the conception of narrative and uncertainty as unravelled in this book by balancing it with a brief glance into non-narrative poetry. The literary Epistles are an intriguing test case to do so, since they engage with poetry qua poetry, examining matters of style and poetic craftsmanship and the social role of the poetic word in the shape of a poetic discourse.

  • 7 An exemplary discussion is the one initiated by Martindale (2007) who advocates an ‘aesthetic turn’ (...)

5By teasing out Horace’s poetic take on temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty, it is possible to go beyond the gap between the realms of politics and aesthetics that has long defined the divide in classical scholarship on Augustan poetry.7 If we examine how Horace’s poems grapple with the idea and experience of uncertainty qua poetry, the aesthetic dimension of his texts can be taken seriously in its own right while at the same time allowing us to shed new light on existential aspects that may have political implications, whilst also reaching beyond a merely political dimension.

6This book has developed a twofold notion of uncertainty as the lens through which to read Velleius and Livy and through which to select, examine and arrange the questions directed to their narratives. In accordance with this conceptual approach that I have so far tried to pave through ancient sources and modern scholarship, I wish to offer a fresh perspective on an existential aspect brought up in and through Horace’s poetry on poetry: its configuration of uncertainty and its poetic take on time and meaning. First, I will focus on the leaf simile in Horace’s Ars Poetica and I will argue that it can be read as an intriguing example of a poetic take on uncertainty. I will show how the leaf simile by poetic means crafts a tripartite conception of poetry as subject to uncertainty, as thematizing uncertainty, and as a potential way to come to grips with it. In the second part, I will focus on the short preamble of the Epistle to Augustus in order to show how intertextual traces can be used to enact ambiguity. The third section will focus on the power Horace attributes to the poetic word in the Epistle to Augustus. In the fourth and final section I will offer a summary and comparison with the findings from Livy and Velleius.

6.1.1 The Leaf Simile

  • 8 Oliensis (1998) 213-4 elaborates on the metaphor of ‘coining a word’: ‘ […] the image of the new wo (...)

7Right before indulging in the colourful picture of the leaf simile, Horace ponders the question of neologisms. Complaining about the fact that a Caecilius and a Plautus were still allowed to coin new words while the same right is apparently denied to a Vergil and a Varius, Horace opens up the canonical quarrel between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, between the ‘ancients’ and the ‘moderns’. By inventing new words, Horace says, the poets of old days have not only enriched the Latin language, but also created a conventional way of speaking about the world, an ‘accepted currency’ that has in turn earned them poetic authority, authenticity, and reputation.8 Deploring the fact that his own generation has been robbed of this opportunity to earn a reputation, Horace contrasts the great names of old times with contemporary poets.

8Strikingly though, after championing ‘the ancients’, Horace inserts the leaf simile quoted above into his poem, hence revealing that words – just like everything else that men are and have – are subject to time, completing the natural cycle from birth to death. After Horace had just praised the great names of great poets, the leaf simile abruptly ‘eradicates all such distinctions, arguing that names mean nothing since all men are equally doomed to oblivion’, as Ellen Oliensis puts it.

  • 9 Il. 6.145-51. See also Oliensis (1998) 214. On the Homeric simile, see esp. Grethlein (2006b) 3-13. (...)

9The picture conveyed by these verses is particularly striking due to the ringing allusion to Homer’s famous leaf simile in the Iliad which compares the genée of men with those of leaves on a tree.9 Oliensis has argued that this paradox appears to be at cross-purposes with Horace’s agenda of pointing out the sources of poetic authority: after all, how can poets lay claim to lasting authority when both their words and their names are necessarily futile and threatened by oblivion? What seems to be a logical paradox can also be read from a different angle. Going beyond Oliensis’ reading, I would like to draw attention to three aspects in particular that allow us to conceive of the Horatian leaf simile as a subtle poetic play with temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty.

  • 10 See Sider (2001) 272-88. One famous example in Latin literature is Vergil’s leaf simile in Aen. 6.3 (...)

10First, the allusion to Homer’s famous simile in the Iliad yields intriguing effects if considered from this angle. Horace does indeed claim that everything is under the sway of oblivion, and he does indeed stress the fact that great names, just as great words, eventually die. But while saying so, the poem emphatically alludes to verses of Homer (and a long tradition building on Homer),10 thus enacting and demonstrating by poetical means the power of the poetic word and poetic memory. While stating that words are futile and impermanent, the allusion to literary tradition with Homer leading the way poetically enacts the very opposite of his statement.

11Accordingly, the interpretive potential encoded in the Horatian leaf simile is twofold: on the one hand, the simile picks up the idea of oblivion and impermanence, and hence makes the uncertainty arising from the temporal dimension of human life the immediate topic of the passage; on the other hand, the allusion entailed in the simile can be said to enact a (literary-) cultural memory that belongs to Greco-Roman culture, thus demonstrating the time-transcending power of the poetic word qua poetry – by means of a poetic ‘Formverfahren’. The allusion as a poetic technique generates meaning and counteracts the literal statement uttered in the verses.

12This interpretive tension between the ‘literal’, the explicit layer of the simile and the layer that is conveyed through the intertext creates an intriguing tension between two modes of knowing and ordering the world. In other words, it immediately directs us to the second of the core concepts developed here, namely that of hermeneutic uncertainty – a tension between interpretive possibilities. It is hence hermeneutic uncertainty that plays with the threat arising from the temporality of existence – and that may limit and that may tame this threat. It is hermeneutic uncertainty inscribed in a poetic allusion that has something to set against the notion of futility. Hermeneutic uncertainty and temporal uncertainty are juxtaposed and this paradoxical tension creates a playful notion of poetry as flaunting, experiencing, and taming uncertainty at the same time. Trenchantly, a simile complaining about oblivion thus demonstrates and embodies potential memory and permanence – by bearing and exhibiting an intertextual trace that gestures towards a long literary tradition and is as such living proof of the potential power of poetry against and through uncertainty.

  • 11 Wallace-Hadrill (1997), (2005) and (2008).
  • 12 See Haynes (2004) 34.

13But there is another, second dimension to the Horatian simile that is worth examining more closely. Previously in this book I have argued, building on Andrew Wallace-Hadrill’s work on the ‘epistemic shift’ at the verge between the Republic and Principate,11 that the tension between different ways of knowing the world was pervasive around that time. Later, Tacitus will make his famous diagnosis that the res publica and Rome’s institutions were nothing but mere husks that may give the appearance of continuity, ‘old labels’ masking the deep caesura in Roman constitutional history (Ann. 1.3.7-1.4.1). The vocabula had remained the same while their reference had changed – unnoticed by many. In Holly Haynes’ words, there was a ‘gap in the signifying system which Augustus could fill without appearing to do so’.12

14Similar diagnoses have been made by contemporaries of the ‘Roman revolution’, as for instance by Sallust in his Catilinarian Conspiracy (Cat. 52.11):

Iam pridem equidem nos uera uocabula rerum amisimus: quia bona aliena largiri liberalitas, malarum rerum audacia fortitudo uocatur, eo res publica in extremo sita est.
But honestly, we have long since lost the true names for things; and it is precisely because squandering the goods of others is called generosity, and recklessness is called courage, that the Republic is on a razor’s edge.

  • 13 Cf. also Thuc. 3.82.4, which may have served as the model for Sallust’s passage.

15In Sallust’s diagnosis, the reason for the state’s standing on a knife-edge is here seen in the very circumstance that the meaning of Roman core virtues such as fortitudo and liberalitas has been eroded.13 The crisis of the Roman Republic hence becomes a crisis of hermeneutics and a crisis of temporal continuity.

16Reading Horace’s leaf simile against this prominent discourse triggered by an atmosphere of uncertainty between ‘the old’ and ‘the new Republic’ yields intriguing results. Indeed, Horace’s simile uses poetry and poetic techniques to showcase the interface of signifiant and signifié.

17When Horace highlights his view that words do in fact die and are replaced by a new generation, then – by extension – he also puts his finger on the fact that the nexus between language and reference is by definition unstable over the course of time. Or, to put the point differently, the very act of signification is here conceived of as interwoven in temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty, and is thus deconstructed by poetic means. When words disappear, they also develop what we could call a hermeneutic weakness, because they lose grip on the things they denote.

18If we read this again against the backdrop of the Homeric allusion, we can record that the poetic technique of allusion and the meaning generated by alluding to a long literary tradition counteracts this thought. Homer’s and other poets’ words have, as demonstrated in Horace’s allusion, obviously not lost their grip, they have not become meaningless, they have not been turned into mere labels without references in the world. And again, the simile thus puts on display a play with a threat through loss of meaning and significance on the one hand, and a subtle poetic demonstration that poetry may have something to set against this threat on the other. Poetry here puts uncertainty in the spotlight and enacts its own authority and capacity to grapple with it.

  • 14 On the debate of tradition and innovation in Augustan Rome, see e.g. Wallace-Hadrill (2005) 65-7 on (...)
  • 15 See Sider (2001) 284 for a similar point, calling Homer and the tradition to which Horace alludes a (...)

19Thirdly, at closer inspection we also get a glimpse of how exactly poetry is supposed to grapple with uncertainty: through playing with tradition and innovation, a dichotomy firmly rooted in Augustan culture.14 Horace builds with his simile on a long literary tradition, but at the same time he twists the ‘ancient’ poetic material to fit ‘modern’ needs and new contexts. In other words, he draws on Homer’s vetus aetas verborum and gives them fresh life, youth, power and a new grip on the world.15

  • 16 This is in line with McNeill’s (2001) esp. 86-7 interpretation of Horace’s self-fashioning and clai (...)
  • 17 The old term vates, located at the intersection of prophet and poet, had been revived by the August (...)

20While deploring the fact that his generation appears not to be allowed to coin neologisms, Horace creatively demonstrates the innovative power of poetry beyond the invention of new words by twisting tradition towards new ends. He thus taps into tradition in order to consolidate his poetic authority16, and by renewing old tropes he enacts his position in the Roman world as a vates who sings and narrates the world, who structures and orders it and who helps his readers to find meaning in the world as they experience it.17

21Hence, the play with innovation and tradition, the tension between old and new, well-known and foreign can be read as a poetic strategy to mould the gaps hermeneutic and temporal uncertainty leave behind – between experience and expectation, between different ways of interpreting the world. Horace’s simile reveals by means of poetic form and composition the fact that uncertainty is a shared characteristic of the literary world and human life.

6.1.2 The Preamble to the Epistle to Augustus

22Similar instances of the poetic word grappling with uncertainty can also be found in the short preamble to the Epistle to Augustus (Epist. 2.1.1-4):

Cum tot sustineas et tanta negotia solus,
res Italas armis tuteris, moribus ornes,
legibus emendes, in publica commode peccem,
si longo sermone morer tua tempora, Caesar.
Given that on your own you shoulder so many and so great duties, that Italy you protect with arms, that you grace it with mores, and make it great with laws, I will certainly act against the common good if I occupy your time with an overly long sermo, Caesar.

  • 18 Feeney (2009) 384.
  • 19 On recusationes in Augustan poetry, see Wimmel (1960), esp. 291-5 in Horace’s Epistle 2.1, and Lyne (...)

23In the form of a classic recusatio – in a ‘strange, yet typically Horatian, mixture of confidence and incapacity’ as Denis Feeney has called this stylistic peculiarity in another instance18 – Horace addresses Augustus in the beginning of his verse letter and apologizes for engaging his time and attention, given the circumstance, as he writes, that the princeps must certainly be busy securing the general welfare of the Roman people.19

  • 20 See also Habinek (1998) 102, who reads the Epistle to Augustus as ‘an intervention in ongoing debat (...)
  • 21 The Latin is quoted from Mynors (1969). Strikingly, the intertextual reference is not mentioned in (...)

24The tone is unmistakably laudatory and gives the poem an encomiastic touch. The expression res Italae is particularly intriguing in this context,20 since it not merely highlights the laudatory register, but in fact alludes to a famous passage in the eighth book of Vergil’s Aeneid – the only other instance in all of Republican and Augustan literature where the phrase appears (Aen. 8.626-9):21

illic res Italas Romanorumque triumphos
haud uatum ignarus uenturique inscius aeui
fecerat ignipotens, illic genus omne futurae
stirpis ab Ascanio pugnataque in ordine bella.
There the God of Fire, well-versed in the profession of prophecy and aware of the age to come, had forged Italian affairs and the triumphs of the Romans, there the whole family that would spring from Ascanius and the wars in the order they were fought in.

  • 22 White (2005) 332.
  • 23 Augustus’ time is social time, and accordingly, time is power. Horace here addresses the princeps i (...)

25At the very beginning of the famous shield description in the Aeneid, res Italae is the expression which sums up the teleological sway of Roman history, carrying the ringing implication of how Rome’s fate would finally reach its fulfilment under Augustus. In Peter White’s words, res Italae draws attention to the fact that in Horace’s Epistle, Augustus is apparently referred to as ‘an emblem of society and nation’, whose personal history is intimately linked to the history of the populus Romanus as a whole.22 His observation can even be taken one step further, since the recusatio topos makes clear that trespassing on Augustus’ time amounts to harming the public interest. The princeps’ time is shown as being social time.23

  • 24 See Fraenkel (1957) 384 n. 1; Brink (1982) 35.

26But a close analysis of the language and poetic techniques used in these four verses can put these first-level readings into perspective. Horace refers to the manifold tasks which fall into Augustus’ responsibility as tot et tanta negotia sustinere. As Fraenkel and Brink have noted, this wording bears the traces of monarchic power by alluding to a crucial passage in Cicero’s speech for Sextus Roscius (Cic. Rosc. Am. 22):24

Neque enim mirum,[…], cum tot tantisque negotiis distentus sit ut respirare libere non possit, si aliquid non animaduerterat, cum praesertim tam multi occupationem eius obseruent tempusque aucupentur ut, simul atque ille despexerit, aliquid huiusce modi moliantur.
After all – given the circumstance that he is literally stretched between so many and great duties, so much so that he cannot breathe freely – it is not surprising if he fails to notice something, especially since so many people watch his actions and lie in wait for the time when they can start something of this kind as soon as he averts his gaze.

27Cicero here describes the unique powers that were assigned to Sulla as a dictatorial reaction to Rome’s state of emergency. While Cicero considered transferring all power to a single man like Pompey necessary under certain circum stances, as is clear from his work De imperio Gn. Pompeii, the discrepancy between the complexity of the task and the limited possibilities of the individual is emphasized here: Sulla, as Cicero writes, would be stretched facing those negotia, a graphic phrase which drives home the point that any kind of one-man authority will eventually be a constant threat to the common good.

28Accordingly, Sallust in the Bellum Catilinae explicitly attributed the tanta negotia to the responsibility of the Roman people as a whole (Cat. 53.2):

Sed mihi multa legenti, multa audienti quae populus Romanus domi militiaeque, mari atque terra praeclara facinora fecit, forte lubuit adtendere quae res maxume tanta negotia sustinuisset.
But for my own part, as I read and heard about many of the bright deeds the Roman people accomplished at home and in war, at sea and at land, I wanted to know and grasp which things had been the foundation to make so great exploits possible.

  • 25 With Rudd (1989) ad loc.

29In the light of these intertexts, the nexus between Augustus and the tot et tanta negotia as established in Horace’s epistle may well ring a tone with all those ancient readers familiar with Roman constitutional history. It subtly gestures towards the monarchic overtone of the pax Augusta and the princeps’ ‘reinstallation’ of the ‘old Republic’ – an impression that is reinforced by the adjective solus, prominently placed at the end of the first line of the poem.25

30Thus, the praising and encomiastic tone of these lines is counteracted by an intertextual trace that lays open the Republican memory of the dangers and threats bound to one-man-rule. In this light, Augustus’ achievements and efforts in the fields of militarism, morality, and law are flawed with a hermeneutic ambiguity that floats between an ‘old’, ‘Republican’ way of knowing the world and a ‘new’, ‘imperial’ one; or in other words, between two systems of knowledge and, derived from that, values.

31Depending on the epistemic system in which to ‘read’ Augustus’ acts, they turn out to be achievements to be praised or efforts to be carefully watched and, as necessary, limited in order to prevent greater damage to the ‘Republic’. Similarly, as I have shown for the subtle poetic play of the leaf simile, the intertext in the preface to the letter to Augustus is not an empty ‘Formverfahren’ or poetic technique, but a means of conveying meaning. Here, the intertext stirs up and counteracts the explicit layer of the statement.

  • 26 See Haynes (2004) 34.

32Thus, the poetic word is shown to create hermeneutic uncertainty – a tension between two divergent interpretive poles, and in doing so, it de-masks in a subtle way the hermeneutic uncertainty, ‘the gap in the signifying system’,26 that the Augustan reformation is about to fill with new categories, new forms of knowledge, a new way of knowing the Roman world. Poetry creates uncertainty and by doing so, it offers a potential way of grappling with the uncertainty as it is experienced in the extra-literary reality of early imperial Rome.

  • 27 Habinek (1998) 3: ‘Literature is here studied not only as a representation of society, but as an in (...)

33Unlike the leaf simile, these verses thus install an actual, immediate nexus between a poetics of uncertainty and the challenges of the transition period between Republic and Empire. Thus, Thomas Habinek’s reading of the letter as a crucial participation in discourses of power of early imperial Rome can be taken a step further:27 Horace’s insistence on the social function of literary production, that has been emphasized by classical scholarship, deconstructs itself through poetic language, and it is by doing this that it participates in contemporary discourses on power and authority.

34This reading can be backed up further if we examine more closely the specific tasks that Augustus is said to care for in Horace’s day. The princeps is busy arming and saving Rome, decorating the city with traditional Roman morals and upholding Rome through law and legal reforms. Unlike in Velleius, as I hope to have demonstrated in Chapter 3, those activities are not presented by Horace as acts of restitution, bringing back the old ways and means that had already existed before but were eroded by the upheavals of civil war.

35The way this is phrased in the Epistle rather brings to mind achievements involved in founding a city and, hence, may remind us of Roman mythical prehistory and the early Roman kings who shaped and crafted the core institutions of the city, as they are, for instance, described in detail by Cicero in the second book of his Republic (Rep. 2.1-26). After Romulus’ military success, Numa Pompilius is said to have established public and legal institutions and thus complemented military power by public strength. Romulus, Numa and Tullus Hostilius are said to have extended the sector of public cult, ritual performance, and prophecy. At the same time, legend has it that the senate was established, the citizens classified and the land officially distributed. These elements, which can be summed up under the labels of arma, mores and leges, mirror the points made in Horace’s Epistle. And what is more, they are also precisely the words used by Livy in his first book to describe Romulus laying the foundation stone of Roman power (Liv. 1.19.1):

Qui regno ita potitus urbem nouam conditam ui et armis, iure eam legibusque ac moribus de integro condere parat.
When he had thus obtained the kingship, he prepared to give the new city, founded by force of arms, a new foundation in law statutes and observances.

  • 28 On representations of and attitudes towards monarchy, kings and one-man rule in the late Republic, (...)

36These allusions to the Roman kings and the foundation of the city show once more that the spirit of monarchy looms large in the first lines of the Epistle.28 Reading all this together, both the glimmer and glory of a Romulus founding Rome and the dangers of one-man rule shimmer through between the laudatory opening lines of the letter to the princeps.

  • 29 On the Odes, see e.g. Marks (2008) 77-100, who analyzes Horace’s ‘public’ and ‘private’ voice in Ca (...)

37Interpretations of this kind have long been used in order to pinpoint Horace’s ‘true’ feelings towards Augustus and the Principate – with varying results, depending on the larger questions the respective scholars directed at Horace’s poetry, Augustan poetry, and Augustan culture as a whole.29 But as I have said in the beginning of the epilogue, I wish to shed light on a more existential dimension of these observations. The hermeneutic ambiguity of his poetic voice is not only a comment on political reality, but also a self-aware comment on the nature and potential power of poetry, language and literature to flaunt uncertainty and to make it manageable. In the verses I have just analyzed, a celebration of Augustus’ uniqueness (solus) exists side by side with the historically laden marks of monarchy encoded in intertextual references. Horace’s poetic voice presents itself as the vehicle of Republican memory that lays open what would otherwise be forgotten in the process of Augustan restitution. The preface thus enacts hermeneutic uncertainty by juxtaposing the old and the new way of knowing the world and by juxtaposing the good, the bad and the ugly of monarchic power by means of a poetic ‘Formverfahren’. It is, again, poetry qua poetry that creates uncertainty and offers a way to subtly or even satirically grapple, play and come to grips with the vagaries that are in need to be dealt with in early Imperial Rome.

6.1.3 The Temple Metaphor in the Epistle to Augustus

38Another example that can illuminate the relation of poetry and uncertainty can be found in one of the metaphors that run through Horace’s letter to Augustus (Epist. 2.1.15-7):

  • 30 On Augustus’ recent agreement on the genius Augusti and on other forms of worship not just in Rome, (...)

praesenti tibi maturos largimur honores,
iurandasque tuum per numen ponimus aras,
nil oriturum alias, nil ortum tale fatentes.

But on you, although you are still among us, we bestow early-ripened honours, we erect altars on which we must swear by your divine nature (numen30), while we declare that nothing will ever come and nothing has ever come like it.

  • 31 An argument not dissimilar to the one proposed here has been made for the metaphor of the monumentu (...)
  • 32 For possible intertexts to this list of heroes, see Rudd (1989) ad loc.

39Early on in the poem, Horace refers to altars that ‘we’, himself and the people of Rome, raised in honour of Augustus during his lifetime.31 Unlike Romulus, Bacchus, Castor, Pollux and Hercules – the mythical heroes to which Horace refers right before this passage (2.1.5-14)32 – the princeps did not have to hold out until the end of his life in order to be attributed the status of an immortal, deified hero. Unlike the mythical heroes, there was no need for him to be translated from social time and space in order to be seen and worshipped as a god – a circumstance uncommon in Roman culture as Horace highlights later (2.1.21-2), when he claims that the Roman people dismiss and hate anything that has not yet been translated from its own space and time.

40Time and space did not seal Augustus’ fate, and the general judgement usually applied to these matters in Roman culture has been suspended in his favour. What is more, the triple temporal statement in the quote given above – ortum, praesens, oriturum – similarly pictures Augustus as occupying a unique place in history and as radiating a form of hermeneutic, interpretive power to past and future. On this view, as a result of his outstanding position in the present, both past and future are judged by reference to him, to his achievements and the position attributed to him by his contemporaries. The way of thinking and forming an opinion about the past is different after Augustus and the horizon of expectations for the future is already limited by him since, in a teleological way, it is already declared that nothing better will ever come.

41But if we trace the metaphor of the temple and the altars through Horace’s poem, we can see how this alleged teleology is subtly deconstructed. Horace highlights that receiving temples in one’s honour is not at all equivalent to eternal glory without traces of uncertainty (Epist. 2.1.229-31):

sed tamen est operae pretium cognoscere,
quales aedituos habeat belli spectata domique

uirtus, indigno non committenda poetae.
But still, it is worth recognizing which temple guards your virtue, seen in war and peace, has, and not to entrust it to an unworthy poet.

  • 33 For a similar thought see Carm. 3.30.7-9. See Lowrie (2002) 144, arguing that also here Horace form (...)
  • 34 This passage is the only known occurrence of the term aedituus in Latin verse, apart from archaic c (...)

42The temple is not only to be built, but has to be guarded and thus saved for posterity in order to guarantee a glory that transcends time.33 Accordingly, Augustus’ outstanding position in history is sketched as subject to temporal uncertainty, contingent on time and contingent on the existence of an aedituus and this aedituus’ willingness to act in his favour.34

  • 35 See Brink (1982) 57.
  • 36 Speech act theory in its modern shape goes back to J. L. Austin, who examined the performative dime (...)

43An important key to grasp fully the implications of this thought can be found in the first reference to the ‘temple/altars’ for Augustus, specifically in line 17 of the poem: nil oriturum alias, nil ortum tale fatentes. The most intriguing word of this verse is the verb fari, ‘to speak’, ‘declare’. Fari is hardly an expectable term to express great praise, as Brink has stressed, since it simply indicates an unspecified linguistic utterance, the simplest form of verbal proclamation.35 But the explicit use of the verb shows that Augustus’ outstanding position in history is not presented as a fact, but as a speech act.36 In line with John Austin’s preliminary definition of the speech act as an ‘utterance with performative function’ or, more colloquially, as ‘doing things with words’, words are here shown to have an impact on the life-world. It is the act of speaking that makes Augustus the peak of history, and the act of speaking that crafts reality as people experience it. In other words, Augustus’ position is not sketched as a given, but as the result of a verbal interpretation, categorization and ordering of the ‘Lebenswelt’ through the people in it.

  • 37 Note that we might even be able to go so far to record that by this means, the idea of a teleologic (...)

44If we bring this observation together with the passage about the temple guard, it becomes clear that this speech act is in need of constant affirmation and repetition through the course of history. Timeless fame is not achieved once and kept for eternity, but depends on the willingness of posterity to perpetuate it. The teleology that had become manifest in the beginning of the Epistle – nil oriturum tale – is thus deconstructed in the very moment it is expressed through the verb fari.37

45Transcending time – and, we might say, eliminating temporal uncertainty, the contingency bound to our temporal existence – hence becomes a matter of hermeneutics. Grappling with the uncertainty of time is also a matter of dealing with the uncertainty bound to the fact that the world surrounding us is only the world we make it, by ordering and structuring it and by giving meaning to its parts and whole. And unsurprisingly, in Horace’s poem it is the voice of the poet that might have something to set against this dimension of the human condition. It is the poet that can figure as a temple guard and it is well-crafted verses that may prevent both the poet and the subject of his poetry from disappearing into oblivion.

  • 38 On the allusion to Ennius here, see also Feeney (2009) 383. On the passage in Ennius, see Elliott ( (...)

46In a similar manner to the leaf simile, this power of the poet’s voice is again enacted and immediately demonstrated by poetic means, in this case through a ringing allusion to Ennius. Horace’s phrase est operae pretium is attested at Ennius’ Annales (Skutsch 494-5):38

audire est operae pretium procedere recte
qui rem Romanam Latiumque augescere voltis.
It is worth listening, you who want the Roman state to flourish and Latium to grow.

  • 39 See Feeney (2009) 384.

47In the context of a passage that deals with the threat of oblivion and with the challenge to find a poet fit to grapple with it, the allusion to Ennius must be read as a demonstration of poetic memory and the power of the poetic word to revive collective knowledge from earlier times. In other words, it poetically demonstrates what Horace claims in the Epistle namely that ‘he is the last member of a literary movement that has carried Roman poetry to a peak that matches the eminence of the restorer of the state’.39 The poet and the princeps are dependent on one another in the quest of overcoming temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty.

48But yet again, Horace deconstructs his assertion of the power of poetry at the very end of the Epistle. Mingling the identity of the poet and the subject of his poetry – by extension, thus mingling the identity of Augustus and himself – Horace sketches a vivid picture of how both, after all, disappear in a remote corner of history, just like the futile odours of spices and incense when the verses that are supposed to commemorate and authoritatively interpret the world fail to do so (2.1.266-70):

  • 40 The ‘street selling incense’ refers to the vicus Tuscus, a street originally inhabited by Etruscan (...)

[…]
ne praue factis decorari uersibus opto,
ne rubeam pingui donatus munere, et una
cum scriptore meo, capsa porrectus operta
deferar in uicum uendentem tus
40 et odores
et piper et quidquid chartis amicitur ineptis.

[…] I do not want to be celebrated in badly crafted verses, and I do not want to have to blush when I receive the gift and to be carried away, lying in an open casket, along with my poet to the corner that sells incense and fumes and pepper and everything that is wrapped in useless paper sheets.

6.1.4 Horace’s Poetics of Open-Endedness

49It is safe to say that uncertainty looms large in the two poems on poetry. The Ars Poetica reflects on the ephemeral nature of words and the leaf simile does not only point out the uncertainty surrounding everything human, but it also offers a potential way to come to grips with it – by enacting memory while speaking about oblivion, and by demonstrating hermeneutic power while speaking about the erosion of meaning.

50What is more, I hope to have shown how intertextual traces in Horace’s letters create a form of ‘counter-narrative’ that destabilizes the argument on the surface of the text. Similarly, Horace builds up, in a metaphor running through his poem, an argument about the power of his poetic voice being equal to the political power of the princeps just to reinsert a moment of uncertainty in the very end, calling into question the same power in a humoristic note. It is accordingly poetic form and poetic techniques which tunnel through the poems and which create a ‘conceptual narrative’ underlying them – a ‘narrative’ that we could describe as a tripartite, paradoxical take on uncertainty, namely poetry showing off, being affected by and coming to grips with uncertainty all at once.

51This paradoxical ‘narrative’ can also be traced in the formal composition of the poems on a macro-level, namely in the poetic form of the letter. I would argue that the poem not only reflects on time and timelessness, and on the erosion and manifestation of meaning – but that it stages them itself on the most fundamental level of formal composition.

  • 41 Giving a definition of a ‘letter’ is of course bound to the same difficulties as defining any genre (...)
  • 42 See also Gibson and Morrison (2007). An important feature to get this epistolary situation going is (...)

52The letter is characterized by its structure that involves on the most basic level an author, a written message and an addressee.41 Regardless of further details that can differ from time to time and from one social context to another, the letter is first and foremost characterized by the form of communication it initiates – the first half of a dialogue, an open-ended offer of exchange requesting reply, a reaction and, generally speaking, a continuation of contact.42 Horace’s Epistles make futility and the fear of oblivion the subject of their discourse. At the same time, they stage an ongoing conversation, and thus crack open the alleged path to oblivion.

53Due to the form of the letter as one half of a dialogue in need of completion, the themes touched upon in Horace’s epistolary writing are not closed discourses or closed bodies of knowledge. Unlike epic, novels or historiography – narrative genres in the narrow sense of the word whose internal logic is based on intradiegetic characters and their experiences, causal relations, actions and temporally structured development – epistolary poetry is grounded in the ever-ongoing dynamics between the poet’s voice and the addressee’s ears and eyes. Thus, they performatively enact their poetics of open-endedness. What is more, when we compare Horace’s poetry on poetry with Velleius’ and Livy’s historical writing, there is another salient difference. While historiography displays the dialectic of closure and opening as enacted in the past, Horace’s poems – on the level of both content and form – configure uncertainty as essential quality of the future, of things to come.

54In this sense, Velleius’ and Livy’s historical uncertainty and Horace’s poetic uncertainty are complementary to one another: while narrative can be shown to deal with the vagaries of time and meaning in retrospect, Horace’s non-narrative poetry projects the same questions into the future and fashions itself as the art of the vates who may (or in Horace’s satirical tone, may also not) master these challenges qua poetry.

6.1.5 Uncertainty beyond Narrative

55Much attention has been paid to the temporal dimension of the human condition and to the nexus between time and narrative. As I have tried to show in this book, it is however also the constant ambiguity in which the world presents itself to us which needs to be grappled with. We have just seen that it is not only historical narrative that configures uncertainty and allows the recipient to playfully engage with and reflect on it. Horace’s poetry on poetry artfully negotiates time and hermeneutics as well. The difference between narrative and non-narrative poetry when it comes to configuring uncertainty is thus not one of nature, but one of degree and nuancing.

56Probably the most significant difference between Livy and Velleius on the one side and the Epistles on the other is the lack of intradiegetic characters in Horace’s poetry. While his poetry elaborately stages the construction and deconstruction of meaning, and thus enacts hermeneutic uncertainty at its finest on the level of poetic form to be negotiated by the reader, it does not put great emphasis on creating story-worlds in which characters are shown to live through hermeneutic uncertainty as well.

57The same goes for the temporal side of the coin. While Horace reasons about temporal uncertainty in a quasi-philosophical discourse and succeeds in fashioning his poetry as treating, suffering and overcoming this uncertainty at the same time by means of intertextual traces, similes, metaphors and the open-ended form of the verse Epistle, there is again no emphasis on creating an additional story-world in which characters are shown to experience and live through the same vagaries of time. As a result, the doubling of the experience of uncertainty – on the intradiegetic level and the aesthetic level of reception – is of minor importance in (Horace’s select) poetry.

58Livy’s and Velleius’ narratives represent two divergent ways of grappling with uncertainty in a constant oscillation between a testing participation in the uncertainty experienced in the story-world on the one hand, and a distanced contemplation of uncertainty on the other, by taking a step back and being sensitive towards the letters and the ink that composed, created and played with this uncertainty. In Livy, uncertainty is put in the spotlight on both levels, whereas in Velleius it is thoroughly reduced wherever possible. And still, it is after all this exact negotiation of the two in the realm of ‘as-if’ that characterizes the way in which narrative enables a recipient to come to terms with uncertainty.

59If we transfer that thought onto Horace, one observation seems to be key. Due to the fact that uncertainty is here mostly configured on the level of poetic form and the interpretive possibilities this form opens up for the reader, non-narrative poetry seems to favour a reflection-heavy engagement with uncertainty. In this sense, poetry could be described as carrying the idea of literary spatiality to the extremes.

60As mentioned earlier, Joseph Frank has coined the metaphorical term of ‘spatial form’ in order to characterize a composition that creates meaning synchronically rather than through the construction of sequential lines. Of course, Horace’s poetry is still read sequentially and it still develops in time, but especially the temple metaphor has shown that the picture of temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty as encoded in his Epistles consists of layer over layer of meaning – a composition which is in full only grasped in synoptic hindsight. The focus in poetry is not so much on sequential development but on flashing out an entire picture whose bits and pieces exude interpretive possibilities that grind against one another. Hence, although non-narrative poetry certainly configures both temporal and hermeneutic uncertainty, the balance seems to tip in favour of the hermeneutic side. The spatial quality of poetry is particularly suited to enact and carry to the extremes the circular dynamics of ambiguity and disambiguation that characterize the way in which we read the world. As I have argued at length, these dynamics can of course not be thought without the temporal side of the coin, and vice versa. It seems however that poetry raises to the surface the hermeneutic dimension with greater impetus.

61If we, in the light of these deliberations, recapitulate the number of dichotomies that have been used over the course of this book to tackle, compare and characterize the different ways in which texts configure uncertainty and enable us to grapple with it, we can produce a complex descriptive grid. Any configuration of uncertainty, be it in narrative or poetry, can be located on a spectrum between two poles – between closure and openness, for instance, but also between spatiality and sequentiality, reflection and immersion, contemplation and participation. In order to tackle the similarities and differences between a specific poem and specific narrative text it may then be fruitful to add to these scales another one which allows us to locate a given text based on the weight it attributes to the hermeneutic versus the temporal dimension of uncertainty.

62This brief epilogue has thus once more confirmed that there is no simple solution to the ever-ongoing question of generic difference. Narrative and non-narrative poetry both allow for a playful engagement with uncertainty in the mode of an aesthetic experience, and as such they are not distinct in nature, but in degree. Locating given texts across the conceptual grids as briefly sketched here may allow us to grasp their take on uncertainty more systematically and to tease out their similarities and differences. But, as anything else, non-narrative poetry and narrative are not stable entities, but rather assume their shapes and colours according to the perspectives from which they are approached. Just as they configure and grapple with uncertainty, they are subject to the same contingency and ambiguity that pervades the human condition.

6.2 Beyond Antiquity

63Uncertainty might be a particularly dangerous candidate for a research question that suddenly manifests on the front page of national newspapers instead of academic footnotes and secluded bookshelves. And indeed, while I spent my days jammed between piles of books writing this book, reality in Europe caught up with the subject matter I was dissecting at my desk at a tremendous pace. In September 2015, the arrival of several hundred thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa in the heart of Europe sent shock waves of uncertainty through the continent and functioned as a catalyst for narratives of closure in the Western world – closing borders, closing off uncertainty, closing off narrative negotiations.

  • 43 Münkler and Münkler (2016) 7.
  • 44 On the tendencies of a post-heroic society to reinterpret victima as sacrificia, see again the mono (...)

64In his poem Die Landschaft des Exils, Bertolt Brecht describes the refugee as a ‘messenger of misfortune’. As such, as Marina and Herfried Münkler have argued, he is living testimony not only of his own misfortune, but also of that of his country, his people, and in many cases of the whole region he fled. In the country where he seeks refuge he reminds the people of their own relative fortune and comfort, and he provokes widely divergent reactions.43 While some will channel their gratitude for their own condition into a willingness to help, others will call for closed borders; and while some will reframe the victims of war as heroic sufferers worthy of admiration,44 others will underline their disapproval by setting on fire the temporary homes of those seeking help.

65Marina and Herfried Münkler have built upon the Brecht quotation in order to sketch a picture of the rupture that runs so visibly through Europe during this time, focussing on the situation in Germany. But it seems not only to be the ‘message of misfortune’ that sparks the shaky atmosphere we are currently experiencing. It is also the message of uncertainty that those seeking refuge bring with them. The people arriving in Europe carry narratives of existential struggle, of futures lost, and of previously held knowledge losing its grip on reality. And the vast numbers of ludicrous narratives and apocalyptic scenarios of a ‘wave’ flooding Europe and wiping it from the map that soon started to meander through both the virtual and the real world revealed how their unexpected knocking on our doors brought to the surface our very own uncertainty as well.

66But what kind of uncertainty are we talking about here? It is beyond question that many people in Europe, also after the peak of the economy crisis, are facing existential struggles on a daily basis and that they reasonably claim to be invisible to a political bureaucracy that is in danger of forgetting its people while addressing abstract topics of global reach. There is, however, no danger to life and limb in Europe, and the fears of ‘our’ future and of ‘our’ epistemological systems being endangered by the ‘other (s)’ are in large part due to populist narratives that exploit valid fears and struggles of thousands of Europeans and give them meaning by stripping them from their complex roots and embedding them in simplistic stories where ‘the other (s)’ are to blame.

  • 45 See e.g. Fabrizio Cattani’s recent film Una cronaca di passione. Cattani tells the tragic story of (...)

67In addition to the existential uncertainty felt by many, especially in Southern Europe,45 this ‘new uncertainty’ is one that is not so much created by bombs and external threat, but by narratives and – I would argue – our increasing discomfort and difficulty to read, confront, discuss, refute, and bolster them. The confrontation with the ‘others’ who sought help at ‘our’ homes resulted in increasingly disparate reactions and thus, in its own form of uncertainty: It prompted ‘us’ to question, adjust or reaffirm ‘ourselves’ and to renegotiate what that actually is and means – ‘we’.

  • 46 On collective identities from a socio-philosophical perspective, see e.g. Emcke (2000).
  • 47 For this phrasing, see also Emcke (2000) 11: ‘Welche Unterschiede “machen den Unterschied aus”?’

68Collective identity is a powerful (hermeneutic) tool to create structure in a world of flux,46 but it is of course hermeneutically unstable in itself – a circumstance that surfaced forcefully in the wake of recent developments and atmospheres. What exactly is it that we target when we enquire after someone’s ‘identity’? Is it an ethnic origin, a national background, an affiliation with a social milieu, or is it identification with a certain body of shared knowledge, values, and views? In other words, which differences make a difference?47

69Over the last year, the confrontation with the ‘other (s)’ has brought to light how profoundly the answers ‘we’ give to these questions do in fact differ and how brittle our concepts are upon closer inspection. The rapid escalation of almost any debate on the issue has revealed how badly equipped ‘we’ appear to be when it comes to dealing with this hermeneutic instability and the fact that ‘we’ are operating with different conceptual grids to manage it.

  • 48 On the Dublin Regulation and the consequences of Merkel’s decision, see e.g. Luft (2016) 69-78.
  • 49 See Kingsley (2016).

70Furthermore, hermeneutic uncertainty also assumed shape in the question of how exactly the events we were witnessing were to be read, categorized, and evaluated. The struggle for interpretational sovereignty came to the fore on a variety of topics. Angela Merkel’s decision not to close the borders, for instance, has been read as an indifferent act of laissez-faire by members of her own party and sister party, as a violation of European law and solidarity,48 and as political short-sightedness; it has been read as an attempt to prevent the Balkan states from collapsing by political scientists and as a conspiracy against the German people by the far right. The men and women seeking asylum in Europe on the other hand have been called ‘soldiers of fortune’, victims of civil war, economic migrants as well as losers of globalization, Odyssean heroes,49 and Muslim invaders of the occident. Similarly, the Syrian civil war has been charged with a variety of (in part) mutually exclusive meanings. It has been interpreted as colonial heritage, as a symptom of Islamist seizures of power, as a result of the imperialist agenda of the United States, as collateral damage of world politics, and as the shame of the Western world’s inability to uphold the human rights it so painfully achieved in the twentieth century.

  • 50 On the actuality and on narratives of ‘refugee crises’ since the fall of the Iron Curtain, see rece (...)

71Accordingly, ‘our’ new uncertainty that surfaced over the course of the last few months also had its origins in quarrels over identities and in quarrels over interpretational sovereignty to read what was actually happening. The so-called refugee crisis50 put on display the fact that much of our reality was not a given, but contingent – a social construct put up between interpretive possibilities that are in constant need of being weighed, evaluated, and negotiated against one another and in constant need of adjustment and reaffirmation.

  • 51 On the metaphor of the ‘fluid’, in this context and beyond, see also Münkler and Münkler (2016) 119 (...)

72This openness and fluidity51 put to the test for many people their instinctively held belief that there was a continuous process between present and future, in which expectations towards developments to come could be mapped onto experiences from the past. The events since summer 2015, it seems, cut across this trust in continuity and cracked open an existentially felt gap.

73Against this backdrop, narrative and uncertainty – the question pursued in this book for the remote realms of ancient Roman historical writing – absorbed new hermeneutic potential. The implications of my reading of Livy and Velleius appear to be valid for a description of our contemporary challenges as well. Grappling with uncertainty is, still, a matter of narrative. In structural terms, our narrative grappling with uncertainty is no different from what I described in detail for Livy and Velleius. Our narratives create diegetic worlds in which things are either given or up for discussion and in which things happen and develop either towards a clear-cut telos or into a contingent future – depending on whether they come down on the closure or the openness end of the spectrum.

  • 52 Since it has been selected as the German ‘word of the year’ in 2010, ‘Alternativlosigkeit’ has been (...)

74Strikingly though, the most prominent narratives in the so-called refugee crisis build on closure mechanisms, regardless of their political colour. The political centre, for instance, continuously harks back to a narrative of the ‘lack of alternative’ (‘Alternativlosigkeit’).52 This narrative works along similar lines as the ‘end of history’ with which started off this book: based on the claim that a status quo is without alternatives, it strips the future of its quality as an open and malleable space, and it shuts down rivalling assessments of the situation. If thought through to the end, the narrative of the ‘lack of alternative’ creates a diegetic world in which action is either impossible or ineffective.

  • 53 See Levine (1977) 100-5.

75In her article Learned Helplessness and the Evening News, Grace Ferrari Levine has shown how being bombarded with negative narratives of chaos, catastrophe, and unpredictability causes us to feel helpless and to refrain from taking a stance and taking action in the face of the great challenges of our times.53 The analysis delivered in this book has demonstrated, however, that tipping the balance to narratives of closure without any alternative may indeed produce the same results. Where there is no alternative to the status quo, there is no need for action. In this light, the balancing of closure and openness and the ability actually to read the narratives we are surrounded by appears to be way more than a mere academic exercise.

76Critical reading skills are also key since the ‘lack of alternative’ is by no means the only closure narrative at work these days. On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Germany’s new right has attempted to settle questions of identity and interpretational sovereignty by making use of a narrative captioned ‘we are the people’ and by embedding this narrative in a performative act in Dresden’s public space. By means of an intertextual trace to the German constitution – ‘all power comes from the people’ – and to the German civil movement of 1989, the narrative tries to deprive rivalling assessments of the situation of their moral foundations. In its absoluteness and lack of further content, the ‘we are the people’-narrative is a closure device that shuts down constructive openness right from the outset.

  • 54 Waldenfels (2004) 50: ‘Die Erzählung bezieht sich auf eine Erfahrung, die erst im Erzählen und Wied (...)

77In this light, uncertainty and the need to deal with it through narrative appears indeed to be a universal phenomenon that surfaces with particular impetus in times of crisis. Besides, these contemporary observations show once more how closely entwined narrative and experience are. Narrative is not only a ‘representation’ of experiences, but shapes our experience of the world and by extension our reactions to and interactions with it. The new uncertainty since summer 2015 is not (only) a pre-lingual immediate ‘Erleben’, but an experience encoded in the manifold narratives that were soon under way to categorize the events and the spontaneous feelings they caused. Bernhard Waldenfels calls this the ‘paradox of narrative’ when he asserts that ‘narrative refers to an experience which only assumes shape in the act of narration and re-narration’.54 The ‘paradox of narrative’ entails the circumstance that narrative does in fact act as a source of uncertainty and as its remedy at the same time. It is the medium in which the experience of uncertainty takes shape, and it is a medium that leads to experience and thus has the capacity to help us grapple with uncertainty by shaping it in a meaningful way – according to the taste and needs of the audience.

78In Livy and Velleius, this grappling takes place in a mode of ‘as-if’. The reader is confronted with sceneries and experiences of historical agents that have no direct grip on him and that do not concern or endanger him in any immediate way. Re-experiencing the uncertainty of the characters and playing with uncertainty on the aesthetic level of reception, the reader has the chance to grapple with the fundamental experience of uncertainty that characterizes his life as a human being without the constraints of ‘the real thing’.

  • 55 To give an example: A wild conspiracy theory about Europe steering towards its end may thus serve a (...)

79The narratives telling the refugee crisis that I briefly sketched in broad brushstrokes above work differently. They derive their power and significance from the very fact that they want to explain current reality and that they do concern their audience immediately. The scenarios they raise before our eyes are the grounds on which we build our perspectives on the world and the developments that shape it, but their ‘as-if’-quality in describing both the status quo and the future is disguised.55 The link between narrative and experience, here, is a more immediate one, and one with very real consequences on behaviour and social cooperation. Tipping the balance to one end of the spectrum – in this case to closure – thus has major consequences for our perception of the world and, by extension, our actions and reactions. Hence, being aware of the power of narrative to shape our social reality is of major importance, especially so in a time that witnesses an unprecedented dynamic of unfiltered polyphony in social media and the virtual world.

80While, as I said, most of the crisis narratives deploy closure mechanisms, there has been a group of German artists who showcased the power of narrative in public space by using performance art to re-open closed discourses they considered ripe for discussion. The most impressive performance of the so called Centre for Political Beauty was an Aktion captioned ‘Die Toten kommen’ (‘The dead are coming’), staged in the summer of 2015. In June, when more people died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe than ever before, Philipp Ruch and his team transported the bodies of five Syrian refugees who died and were buried in a ditch at the Italian coast to the city centre of Berlin where they laid them to rest in a public ceremony. Hundreds of people all over Germany spontaneously participated in the Aktion by erecting symbolic tombs, cenotaphs and monuments in honour and memory of the many men, women, and children who were dying anonymously in front of our borders. They inscribed their narrative visibly into the surface of public space and challenged the existing narratives of boarder control, Dublin regulation, and lack of alternative by vividly evoking an alternative reality.

81Leaving aside the justified critique that the Centre’s stance was only possible in its radical way because its members do not have to take on political responsibility, their performance and its interaction with the contemporary political situation strikingly demonstrates the power of narrative to shape experience and to balance closure and openness. The performance, which unsurprisingly caused an enormous stir, was designed to disconcert its ‘audience’ by opening up a new horizon of expectations.

  • 56 See Steiner (1984) 263 who uses this term to characterize Antigone.

82In an atmosphere of closure, the Centre put on stage rivalling assessments of and reactions to the status quo and let them clash in the spotlight of public attention. For one day, they reframed the Europe of closed borders as a Europe of ‘haunted humanism’56 and exhibited them next to one another as a kaleidoscope of ‘possible worlds’. By this means, they not only demonstrated the power of narrative, but also put their finger on ‘our’ current Achilles’ heel – ‘our’ discomfort in dealing with the hermeneutic instability in which the world presents itself to us at the present moment.

83The hermeneutic uncertainty was reinforced by the fact that Ruch and the Centre – as is their style – refused to clarify whether all this was ‘real’ or ‘just art’. They systematically blurred the boundaries between ‘Lebenswelt’ and the diegetic space of their performance. The ‘art’ did not take place in the secluded space of a museum, a theatre or a stage, but in public space on the street, on cemeteries and in the government district in Berlin. The ‘audience’ was confronted with it not in a context designated for ‘art’, but via the same channels that deliver the evening news on ‘actual reality’. The ‘as-if’ character of the alternative narrative their performance created faded into the background in favour of a realisticlooking scenario that prompted the ‘audience’ to ponder their own possibilities in the current political reality.

  • 57 On the reception of the Antigone myth, see e.g. Steiner (1984).

84But the act of tearing open closed narratives did not end there. The collision of rivalling ethical systems that was put on stage here opened up the ‘surplus of meanings’ of our current challenges even further, namely by the ringing (albeit implicit) references to one of the most famous plays and, well: narratives, of Western civilization. Indeed, ‘Die Toten kommen’ may have been one of the most radical adaptations of (Sophocles’) Antigone.57

  • 58 See also Steiner (1984) 108, who reads Creon and Antigone as the two figures who ‘initiate, exempli (...)

85Antigone, challenging Creon’s orders and burying her dead brother against the king’s will, has been a constant theme in the western dramatic repertoire. Adaptions of the material have crafted the dialectic relation between Antigone and Creon, each following their own judgment and ethical grids, along different rupture lines. In enacting the current challenges at Europe’s borders as a form of the Antigone-Creon antagonism, the Centre for Political Beauty interpreted the status quo as the newest manifestation of a centuries-long struggle of Western civilization for its values, views, and identity.58 It is hence, we could say, a deeply European narrative on which Ruch and the Centre embarked in order to reinstall a sense of openness where closure mechanisms had started to paper over the cracks. It is a ‘European mytheme’ they used to draw attention to the power of language, of public rituals, and of narrative in describing experience and in shaping it – especially so in times of crisis and uncertainty.

  • 59 See Ricoeur (1984-88) [Vol. 2] 28.

86Grappling with uncertainty is, after all, a matter of narrative. In this light, it might not come as a surprise when Paul Ricoeur asserts that ‘we have no idea of what a culture would be where no one any longer knew what it meant to narrate things’.59 Let’s make sure then that we know how to read them.

Notes

1 Citations are taken from Brink (1971)/ (1982). Brink (1982) and Rudd (1989) in their commentaries both posit a lacuna after cadunt; Rudd and Shackleton-Bailey (19953) furthermore follow Bentley’s conjecture and adopt priuos instead of pronos. Klingner’s text (1959) indicates neither the lacuna nor the crux. But regardless of any textual critical controversies, Brink (1982) 146-8 acknowledges the leaf simile as ‘what poetically is perhaps the most remarkable piece of the Ars’ – a statement which, I would think, more than compensates for the editorial difficulties and justifies its position at the beginning of this epilogue.

2 Please note that, when I speak of ‘poetry’ in contrast to ‘narrative’ in this epilogue, I throughout refer to non-narrative poetry such as the Epistles under discussion below.

3 See esp. Kissel’s full bibliography (1981) for the years between 1937 and 1975, and the acknowledgments of Brink (1963/71/82) and Rudd (1989), including scholars from Bentley, Housman and Wilamowitz to Heinze and Fraenkel; in German scholarship, see e.g. Büchner (1980) 476-91.

4 The analysis of the structure, esp. of the Ars Poetica, has been the focus of scholarship for more than one hundred years: see e.g. Norden (1905) 481-528; Barwick (1922) 1-62; Bernays (2000) 83-90; Russell (2006) 325-45 and besides, almost every article on the Ars in modern companions (for a ‘meta-position’ on the obsession of structuring the literary Epistles, see Brink (1963), Kilpatrick (1990) esp. 53-4 and Reitz (2005) esp. 216). For the structure of the letter to Augustus, see e.g. Klingner (1950) (and (2009) 335-59 in translation). On the influences of Greek poetics, see e.g. Latte (1925) (on Hellenistic influences); Grimal (1968) (on Aristotle); Wimmel (1960) (on Callimachean influences); Brink (1971) xi-xvii and Russell (2006) 326 (on Neoptolemus of Parium as a link between Aristotle and Horace).

5 For Horace’s relation and position to Augustus in the Epistle to Augustus, see recently e.g. Feeney (2009) 360-85.

6 See e.g. Fowler (2000b) 248-66 on aesthetics and politics; Lyne (1995); Oliensis (1998); Lowrie (2007) 77-90 and (2009) on performance and poetic authority; Barchiesi (2005) 281-305 on performance and the relationship between visual arts and literature in Augustan Rome; Rutherford (2005) 248-61; White (2005) 321-39; Feeney (2009) 360-85.

7 An exemplary discussion is the one initiated by Martindale (2007) who advocates an ‘aesthetic turn’ and polemicizes against Habinek (1998) and others who he sees as protagonists of an ideological, ‘interested’ form of literary criticism that neglects aesthetics in favour of politics. For a brief discussion of the quarrel, see also Kelly’s review (2008).

8 Oliensis (1998) 213-4 elaborates on the metaphor of ‘coining a word’: ‘ […] the image of the new word as a new coin figures this quarrel in social terms as a conflict between established families and arrivistes, old money and new money.’ In this regard, Horace’s literary theory is given a certain twist towards a social theory.

9 Il. 6.145-51. See also Oliensis (1998) 214. On the Homeric simile, see esp. Grethlein (2006b) 3-13. See also Sider (2001) 272-88, who traces the tradition of this simile from Homer to Augustan Rome, especially focussing on the role of Simonides.

10 See Sider (2001) 272-88. One famous example in Latin literature is Vergil’s leaf simile in Aen. 6.309-10, on which see e.g. Thaniel (1971) 237-45.

11 Wallace-Hadrill (1997), (2005) and (2008).

12 See Haynes (2004) 34.

13 Cf. also Thuc. 3.82.4, which may have served as the model for Sallust’s passage.

14 On the debate of tradition and innovation in Augustan Rome, see e.g. Wallace-Hadrill (2005) 65-7 on the ‘Augustan reinvention of tradition’; Williams (1968) on tradition and originality in Roman poetry. The debate on the relation of tradition and innovation in Rome has its roots in Hellenistic discourse on the matter. On questions of synkrisis as related to Horace, see e.g. Feeney (2002) 7-18. On the question of synkrisis, tradition and innovation in a larger context of a history of ideas, see e.g. Schwindt (2000b) 25-42, who examines the question if and how Roman literature developed an ‘avantgardistisches (Selbst-) Bewusstsein’ in periods of aesthetic sovereignty (27). In the quarrel between tradition and innovation, old and new, the latter is regularly addressed under the conceptual label of imitatio and aemulatio – a terminological choice that has its origin in the fact that the existence of an idea of progress (‘Fortschritt’), which is a necessary condition for innovation, has long been questioned for Greco-Roman antiquity; see e.g. the general emphasis on the cyclical or decadence-based ‘Geschichtsbilder’ in Greece and Rome, Momigliano (1966) 1-23 or, from a comparatist and sociological perspective, see also Makropoulos (1997), who argues that concepts such as contingency and progress did not exist in antiquity, because they were not part of the ‘Erfahrungswelt’ of the ancients. Against this view, see Dodds in his seminal book Ancient Concepts of Progress (1973); and see also, from a phenomenological perspective and against Makropoulos, Grethlein (2006a) 103-4 who demonstrates the fruitfulness of the modern concept of contingency for a reading of the ‘Geschichtsbild’ of the Iliad.

15 See Sider (2001) 284 for a similar point, calling Homer and the tradition to which Horace alludes a fons Graecus that is tapped by the Augustan poets. Sider goes on to discuss the literary relation between Horace and Simonides.

16 This is in line with McNeill’s (2001) esp. 86-7 interpretation of Horace’s self-fashioning and claim for authority as a poet. Showing that Horace ‘engages in the continual re-polishing and repositioning of his works’ and that he ‘tailors his words in each case to fit the circumstances of the poem and its audience’ (87), McNeill argues that the subtle negotiation of old and new, tradition and innovation described above is a core technique continuously used in Horace’s poetry in a self-referential way.

17 The old term vates, located at the intersection of prophet and poet, had been revived by the Augustan poets, especially by Vergil, Horace, and later Ovid, ‘to signify a poetry of public importance’, see Ahern (1990) 47. The use of the term vates was a form of poetic self-fashioning and a claim to authority of the Augustan poets who thereby demonstratively joined the ranks of Callimachean Alexandria. On the early history of the term and its reuse, see still Runes (1926) 202-16 and especially Dahlmann (1948) 337-53. See also Newman (1967) on the concept of vates in Augustan poetry; see Jocelyn (1995) on the nomenclature and use of poeta versus vates in Republican and early Imperial literature.

18 Feeney (2009) 384.

19 On recusationes in Augustan poetry, see Wimmel (1960), esp. 291-5 in Horace’s Epistle 2.1, and Lyne (1995) 13-19 with a brief overview of the topos and further bibliography.

20 See also Habinek (1998) 102, who reads the Epistle to Augustus as ‘an intervention in ongoing debates over Roman and Italian cultural identity’. In his work on the politics and discourses of power connected to Latin literature, he reads the literary history as proposed by Horace as a ‘blueprint for imperial literature’ and as contributing to issues of cultural identity and power in early Imperial Rome. He argues that it renews the tendency of Cicero, Vergil and others to ‘subsume Italian identity under Roman leadership, but links Rome’s continuing hegemony to its elites’ support of a dynamic, ever-revised literary tradition’.

21 The Latin is quoted from Mynors (1969). Strikingly, the intertextual reference is not mentioned in Rudd’s or Brink’s commentaries.

22 White (2005) 332.

23 Augustus’ time is social time, and accordingly, time is power. Horace here addresses the princeps in the tone of a client seeking assistance from a patron. Implying that Augustus’ time equals social time, also means that the rhythms and rules of public time are now defined by the princeps. Since the patron-client relation is a crucial part of Roman social life and, in its clear ritualization, also firmly embedded in the rhythm of Roman time (clients come in the morning at a certain time, have a certain time to talk to the patron, etc.), these verses can also be read as alluding to the transformation that the clientele-system was undergoing under Augustus. The preamble thus also reflects on the fundamental re-organization of the Republican system of patronage under Augustus, where the former multitude of patrons and clients committed to one another in mutual loyalty has been reconfigured into a system where all strands converge on the princeps at the centre. Not only does the princeps accordingly embody social time itself, but his patronage also becomes the sole access to public power.

24 See Fraenkel (1957) 384 n. 1; Brink (1982) 35.

25 With Rudd (1989) ad loc.

26 See Haynes (2004) 34.

27 Habinek (1998) 3: ‘Literature is here studied not only as a representation of society, but as an intervention in it as well’; and (102) on the Epistle to Augustus in particular, arguing that in insisting on this social function of literature, Horace ‘joins Cato and Cicero before him in fashioning Latin literature as a medium that constitutes its own message of elite Roman dominance’.

28 On representations of and attitudes towards monarchy, kings and one-man rule in the late Republic, see now Sigmund (2014).

29 On the Odes, see e.g. Marks (2008) 77-100, who analyzes Horace’s ‘public’ and ‘private’ voice in Carm. 3.14 arguing that the coexistence of both voices should not be interpreted as expressions of acceptance or rejection of Augustus as has usually been done, but as a subtle poetic form of a negotiation of identity.

30 On Augustus’ recent agreement on the genius Augusti and on other forms of worship not just in Rome, but also in Egypt and Bithynia, see Rudd (1989) 8-9.

31 An argument not dissimilar to the one proposed here has been made for the metaphor of the monumentum in Carm. 3.30. The metaphor of the monument has been read as the fundament for Horace’s claim to immortality on the basis of different observations. Woodman (2012) 86-103, first published in 1974, has explored the metaphor of the monument as tombstone; Habinek (1998) 110-2 has developed this argument further and argued that the monument-metaphor triggers expectations of attached tituli and inscriptions that would be able to guarantee memory of the poet-vates. As in the passage discussed here, the monument-metaphor in the Odes is also connected to the idea that immortality is not only achieved once, but is dependent on ritual, and in Lowrie’s (2002) 144 words, on ‘the continuation of his [sc. Horace’s] society’. For a deconstruction of this metaphor as a meta-poetic mirror for Horace’s poetry, see Lowrie (2002) 141-71, challenging both Habinek and Woodman in particular and the widely accepted dichotomy of ‘writing versus performance’ in general.

32 For possible intertexts to this list of heroes, see Rudd (1989) ad loc.

33 For a similar thought see Carm. 3.30.7-9. See Lowrie (2002) 144, arguing that also here Horace formulates the idea that continuation of traditional rituals is necessary for the poet’s immortality to prevail.

34 This passage is the only known occurrence of the term aedituus in Latin verse, apart from archaic comedy, which underpins this reading; see Brink (1982) 244, where he also mentions that most occurrences in prose texts do in fact come from inscriptions.

35 See Brink (1982) 57.

36 Speech act theory in its modern shape goes back to J. L. Austin, who examined the performative dimension of linguistic utterance. Attacking the view that language is necessarily referential and criticizing the, in his eyes, simplistic division of utterances in ‘descriptive’ and ‘evaluative’, Austin (19793) 233-52 [first publ. in 1961] developed his notion of the ‘performative utterances’. He argued that these utterances are statements which are neither descriptive nor evaluative, but count as actual actions that shape the world or create the situation instead of merely reporting it. In How to do Things with Words, Austin (1962) first published this theory in a comprehensive study. Austin’s speech act theory has been advanced to an ‘allgemeine Bedeutungstheorie’ by Searle (1969).

37 Note that we might even be able to go so far to record that by this means, the idea of a teleological history itself is made a speech act.

38 On the allusion to Ennius here, see also Feeney (2009) 383. On the passage in Ennius, see Elliott (2013) 216. The Ennius fragment has been transmitted by commentators on Horace, namely ‘Porphyrio’ and Ps.-Acro on Hor. Sat. 1.2.37 where the wording is also alluded to.

39 See Feeney (2009) 384.

40 The ‘street selling incense’ refers to the vicus Tuscus, a street originally inhabited by Etruscan settlers that contained many small shops and was of ambiguous reputation to the Roman elite, see Rudd (1989) ad loc.

41 Giving a definition of a ‘letter’ is of course bound to the same difficulties as defining any genre and automatically results in a circular argument as the criteria taken to define the ‘letter’ are themselves derived from texts previously declared to be letters. See e.g. Gibson and Morrison (2007) 1-4. For general thoughts on advantages and boundaries of the concept of genres (not limited to letters) and on genre crossing, see e.g. the contribution by Barchiesi (2001) 142-86.

42 See also Gibson and Morrison (2007). An important feature to get this epistolary situation going is the explicit separation between ‘narrator’ and ‘addressee’: see e.g. Epist. 2.1.1-4: Cum tot sustineas [...] in publica commoda peccem – since you are facing so many tasks, I would sin against the common good; Epist. 2.2.19-25; Ars P. 6: credite, Pisones – believe me, Pisones.

43 Münkler and Münkler (2016) 7.

44 On the tendencies of a post-heroic society to reinterpret victima as sacrificia, see again the monograph by Münkler and Münkler (2016) 166-7 and also Münkler (2015) 169-87.

45 See e.g. Fabrizio Cattani’s recent film Una cronaca di passione. Cattani tells the tragic story of two people – out of more than 800 who committed suicide in Italy since 2012, many in the wake of the financial collapse and in the absence of efficient (European and Italian) crisis management.

46 On collective identities from a socio-philosophical perspective, see e.g. Emcke (2000).

47 For this phrasing, see also Emcke (2000) 11: ‘Welche Unterschiede “machen den Unterschied aus”?’

48 On the Dublin Regulation and the consequences of Merkel’s decision, see e.g. Luft (2016) 69-78.

49 See Kingsley (2016).

50 On the actuality and on narratives of ‘refugee crises’ since the fall of the Iron Curtain, see recently Luft (2016) 8-14.

51 On the metaphor of the ‘fluid’, in this context and beyond, see also Münkler and Münkler (2016) 119-26.

52 Since it has been selected as the German ‘word of the year’ in 2010, ‘Alternativlosigkeit’ has been the subject of many academic and journalistic publications. For a political and sociological analysis and a catalogue of desiderata against a ‘rhetoric of closure’, see Voigt’s (2013) collected essays. The term ‘Alternativlosigkeit’ had its origin in debates about the financial crisis in Greece – see also Varoufakis (2016) for a reply –, but has since then regularly been reactivated both in politics and media coverage. For a thorough analysis of narratives of ‘Alternativlosigkeit’ in times of (perceived) crisis from a linguistic point of view, see Fritz (2013). On Angela Merkel’s use of the catchphrase of ‘Alternativlosigkeit’, see in a somewhat polemical manner Kurbjuweit (2014), esp. 7-12.

53 See Levine (1977) 100-5.

54 Waldenfels (2004) 50: ‘Die Erzählung bezieht sich auf eine Erfahrung, die erst im Erzählen und Wiedererzählen Gestalt gewinnt’.

55 To give an example: A wild conspiracy theory about Europe steering towards its end may thus serve as a means to blow off steam in a ‘fictional world’, in a mode of as-if, and to make sense of seemingly incomprehensible relations and coherences that we experience in our lives. But as a narrative, this ‘as-if’-scenario also leads to experiences itself and shapes our immediate responses, our judgment and sets the grounds for our actions.

56 See Steiner (1984) 263 who uses this term to characterize Antigone.

57 On the reception of the Antigone myth, see e.g. Steiner (1984).

58 See also Steiner (1984) 108, who reads Creon and Antigone as the two figures who ‘initiate, exemplify, and polarize primary elements in the discourse on man and society as it has been conducted in the West’.

59 See Ricoeur (1984-88) [Vol. 2] 28.

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