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Reconsidering Roman power

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Katell Berthelot

Reflections on the limitations of Roman power and its weaknesses

Structural weaknesses in Rome’s power?

Greek historians’ views on Roman stasis

Jonathan J. Price

Résumé

Greek historians of the Roman Empire, from Polybius through Appian, admired the breadth and stability of the empire as an unprecedented achievement in human history, and devised innovative historiographical methods to write about it. Each believed that Rome’s eventual fall, if it ever would happen (Polybius explicitly said that it would, Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Appian of Alexandria were more circumspect), would originate from internal causes, not an external threat. Dionysius conveyed this subtly through his treatment of the foundational fratricide of the city. Polybius stated it openly in programmatic statements, but offered little detail or analysis to explain. Appian planted the idea by the very structure and plan of his history, in which five books on the Roman civil wars present an enigma and a theme.

Note de l’auteur

This is a slightly revised version of the lecture given at the conference represented by this volume, and as such it retains the impressionistic style and depth of a lecture. I thank Katell Berthelot for organizing the conference and the participants for their comments. The present article is a companion piece to a more in-depth study of the vision of the future of Rome in Polybius, Dionysius and Appian, to be published by Cambridge University Press in a volume titled The Future of Rome, edited by Katell Berthelot and myself.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Pol. 1.3.3-4; translation of Polybius by W.R. Paton in the Loeb edition of Polybius.

1Rome’s Empire prompted historians to think universally. From the Second Punic War, the history of the oikoumenē was for Greek and Latin historians a history of Rome’s empire. Polybius said this first. In the Preface to his innovative and ambitious History, he explained that «previously the doings of the world had been, so to say, dispersed, as they were held together by no unity of initiative, results or locality; but ever since this date [of the second war between Rome and Carthage] history has been an organic whole».1 Polybius claims not only that world history had entered a new, unprecedented age, in which everything is connected, but that his account of it will perforce be a unique (idion) way of writing history.

  • 2 Clarke 1999. On the origins of universal history: Momigliano 1982; Gabba 1991, p. 1-22; Marincola (...)
  • 3 τὴν μὲν οὖν ὑπόθεσιν ὅτι καλὴν εἴληφα καὶ μεγαλοπρεπῆ καὶ πολλοῖς ὠφέλιμον οὐ μακρῶν οἶμαι δεήσειν (...)

2Many others followed, their names familiar even if their texts have not survived: Posidonius, Pompeius Trogus, Nicolaus of Damascus; the remains of Diodorus Siculus’ compilation are illuminating about the genre. These writers often – logically – began their histories long before the rise of Rome to emphasize not only the theme of unifying conquest but also the pattern of rise and fall, the fate of empires.2 Even histories solely of Rome from its foundation, and even accounts solely of early Rome before its empire, could have a kind of universalizing purpose, to explain the origins, growth and character of the small city that would come to dominate the world – i.e., to explain Roman dominance in the readers’ present, and even sometimes to justify it. Dionysius of Halicarnassus indisputably set this purpose in his 20-book Roman Antiquities, which ends before the First Punic War but opens with and is guided by programmatic statements explaining and guilelessly praising Rome’s imperial accomplishment. From the outset, he declares that his “choice of a subject noble, lofty and useful to many, will not, I think, require any lengthy argument, at least for those who are not utterly unacquainted with universal history”.3

3Unlike most of the other Greek histories of Rome, enough of Dionysius’ Roman Antiquities has survived to enable continuous reading and assessment. In order to make the Roman Empire more acceptable to its Greek subjects, Dionysius devised the striking thesis that the Romans were in fact Greek in origin. This thesis not only controverts the Romans’ own account of their origins and relation to Greeks, but also risks exacerbating the offense felt by Greek intellectuals in the claim that the Romans have out-done the Greeks in their political and personal virtue, which has enabled them to achieve what no Greek city or monarchy ever did. Indeed, the achievement is indisputable: Rome rules a larger empire, and has done so for a longer time, than any empire in history (AR 1.2-3). The ultimate explanation can be found at Rome’s origin: “Rome from the very beginning, immediately after its founding, produced infinite examples of virtue in men whose superiors, whether for piety or for justice or for life-long self-control or for warlike valour, no city, either Greek or barbarian, has ever produced” (AR 1.5.3).

  • 4 See Gabba 1991, p. 200; Schultze 2012; Pelling 2007, p. 252-255.

4Examples of this extraordinary piety, discipline and bravery populate Dionysius’ narrative in abundance.4 Perhaps the Romans’ most striking accomplishment – for a Greek reader, and really for any student of history since Thucydides – is that, by Dionysius’ account, the Romans were able, in their long, formative early history, to overcome stasis, which was the downfall of Greek states and even the Macedonian empires (AR 1.2.3). In the early struggle between the patricians and plebeians, Dionysius determines, the Romans’ homonoia was so secure that

  • 5 οὐδέποτε δι᾽ αἵματος καὶ φόνου τοῦ κατ᾽ ἀλλήλων ἐχώρησαν ἐντὸς ἑξακοσίων καὶ τριάκοντα ἐτῶν, πολλῶ (...)

they never in the course of six hundred and thirty years proceeded to bloodshed and mutual slaughter, though many great controversies arose between the populace and their magistrates concerning public policy, as is apt to happen in all cities, whether large or small; but by persuading and informing one another, by yielding in some things and gaining other things from their opponents, who yielded in turn, they settled their disputes in a manner befitting fellow citizens.5

  • 6 Gabba 1991, p. 81 and cf. p. 204-208. Pelling 2010.

5For 630 years, Rome was a model of Concordia, and its long stasis-free developmental history was as remarkable as the extent and longevity of its empire. The narrative of the peaceful resolution to the struggle of the orders takes up the better part of three books (5-7). As Gabba remarked, the extended exemplary episode “was of great significance and was supposed to serve by way of contrast to the στάσις at Corcyra in Thucydides. It allowed the conclusion that in Rome the gravest of civil discords were resolved peacefully, which was far from the case in a Greek polis”.6

  • 7 See the excellent discussion of C. Schultze 1986, p. 131-133; Pelling 2007, p. 254-256 and Pelling (...)
  • 8 Gabba 1991, p. 151.

6In the passage above, Dionysius dates the beginning of the civil wars in the Republic to the tribunate of Gaius Gracchus (later than Appian, who chooses Tiberius Gracchus as the first blood spilled in internal disputes), after which time he acknowledges – as he had to – that the Romans exhibited the opposite behavior to homonoia, but defers discussion of that to “another occasion”, which never arrived in his writing career. Aside from this brief off-note comment, Dionysius pursues his demonstration of Roman harmony and unity in detail.7 The other forward references in the Roman Antiquities to the civil wars of the Republic are never brought together and do not amount to a coherent antithesis of the harmony of the early Republic.8

  • 9 The different traditions have been masterfully analyzed by Wiseman 1995. Dionysius would have been (...)

7The consistent and persistent theme of early Roman harmony, the defeat of stasis as a key element in the Romans’ success in founding a city and establishing an empire, makes even more striking Dionysius’ account of the foundational act of Rome, the story of the twins Romulus and Remus (AR 1.77-87, the crucial chapters are 85-87), which naturally comes at the head of the narrative, before the accounts of the Romans’ avoiding violent internal conflict. This story had been developing for hundreds of years before first being recorded in Greek in the second century BCE by Fabius Pictor. But like all myths, especially those of political consequence, its parts were fluid and adaptable.9

  • 10 Justin 28.2.8-10, cf. Wiseman 1995, p. 15.
  • 11 Wiseman 1995, p. 4-5.

8The most sensitive and crucial piece of the story was of course Romulus’ murder of his brother: fratricide as the foundational act of a great city. The Greeks, Dionysius’ target audience, especially latched on to the murder as evidence of the Romans’ barbarity and unsuitability as masters.10 The fratricide was the piece of the story on which there was the greatest number of variants.11 In the late Republic and early Principate, some Roman writers, especially poets, exhausted and horrified by the prolonged and devastating civil wars, read the murder as revelatory of Rome’s true character. Horace’s Epode 7 is a bitter lament over the blood cruelly spilled in civil war. It ends with these lines (17-20):

sic est: acerba fata Romanos agunt
scelusque fraternae necis,
ut inmerentis fluxit in terram Remi
sacer nepotibus cruor
.

It is thus: bitter fate and the crime of a brother’s murder pursue the Romans, since the blood of innocent Remus flowed into the earth, a curse on his descendants.

  • 12 Breed-Damon-Rossi 2010, p. 9.

9Two generations later, Lucan wrote that fraterno primi maduerunt sanguine muri, “the first walls (of Rome) were wetted by a brother’s blood” (Pharsalia 1.95). So prevalent is the thematic current of Discord and a first crime of civil conflict in the Latin poets that the editors of a recent, pioneering volume on Roman civil war offered two troubling interpretations: “Civil wars are either the price of an original sin or, even more ominously, a congenital defect of Rome, a city born from an act of civil war”.12

  • 13 Wiseman 1995, p. 5-13.
  • 14 Wiseman 1995, p. 10: “it is clear that the version of the Celer story differed according to their (...)
  • 15 Although Cicero does tell the murder plainly in De Officiis, see Wiseman 1995, p. 11.
  • 16 SEG 30, 1073, the relevant lines are 24-29:

10On the other hand, there was a contrary trend, in some versions of the story, to mitigate and even deny the murder. There were traditions13 that Romulus and Remus co-founded the city, by a harmonious process of joint decision-making, and that afterwards, instead of the fratricide, Remus actually outlived his brother; that Remus founded another city; that the famous augury of the vultures was accepted by Romulus without dispute; that not Romulus but a workman named Celer killed Remus, with or without Romulus’ authority,14 or that the actual murderer was an officer of Romulus named Fabius or an unnamed person, but not Romulus. In the De Republica, Cicero, in what Wiseman calls “the most ruthless rationalising of the foundation story”, leaves out the murder of Remus altogether.15 In various versions of the post-mortem sequel, Romulus grieves, regrets, gives his brother lavish posthumous honors. An honorary inscription of the early second century BCE from Chios mentions a dedication to the goddess Roma containing an account of Romulus and Remus, perhaps just of their birth and survival, nonetheless an obviously positive account of the twins stressing their divine origin and the Romans’ character as deriving from them.16

  • 17 AR 1.86.3, cf. Wiseman 1995, p. 8. As Wiseman points out (p. 13), even the end of the story in Dio (...)

11Dionysius had before him the various traditions, both the harsher and the more mitigating, about the twins and the foundational murder – or non-murder. He says as much: “The account I have given seems to me the most probable (πιθανώτατος) of the stories about the death of Romulus”, and then records one version which he obviously found less persuasive, in which Remus yields to his brother, and in exchange for an insult in words is cruelly killed by the hot-headed Celer: Romulus is not even mentioned as being present at the murder, but to repeat, it is a tradition Dionysius records but does not favor (AR 1.87.4). More seriously, Dionysius, in relating the fratricide quite plainly, adds a damning detail found in no other surviving source, namely, that Romulus deceived his brother by lying about the omen of the birds.17

12It could be that Dionysius’ choice of traditions reflects cold comparison of traditions according to some rational standard of reliability. But the theme of his story is clear from the outset. When the two brothers are sent out from Alba to found a new city, they divided the group of people with them and consequently created “the cause of the greatest of evils: stasis” (αἴτιον δὲ τοῦ μεγίστου κακοῦ, στάσεως, AR 1.85.4)

  • 18 AR 1.85.5: οἵ τε γὰρ προσνεμηθέντες αὐτοῖς τὸν ἑαυτῶν ἡγεμόνα ἕκαστοι κυδαίνοντες ὡς ἐπιτήδειον ἁπ (...)

For each group, exalting its own leader, extolled him as the proper person to command them all; and the youths themselves, being now no longer one in mind or feeling it necessary to entertain brotherly sentiments toward each, since each expected to command the other, scorned equality and craved superiority. For some time their ambitions were concealed, but later they burst forth on the occasion which I shall now describe.18

  • 19 Wiseman 1995, p. 143: "Conspicuously in Dionysius, less prominently in Plutarch, the theme of disc (...)
  • 20 AR 1.85.6: ἐκ δὲ τῆς φιλονεικίας ταύτης ἀκοινώνητος εὐθὺς ὑπεδηλοῦτο φιλαρχία. τῷ γὰρ εἴξαντι τὸ κ (...)
  • 21 Compare Thuc. 3.82.8; Pelling 2010.

13That occasion was the fratricide. Any Roman of Dionysius’ generation would jolt at these words, recognizing quite clearly the cataclysmic struggles between dynastic faction leaders at the end of the first century BCE. It would not require great mental effort to see the αἴτιον as referring to all subsequent violent internal conflict at Rome.19 Dionysius even says: “From this rivalry their unsociable love of rule immediately began to disclose itself; for on the one who now yielded the victor would inevitably impose his will on all occasions alike”.20 This is reinforced by the clear Thucydidean language used in this description of stasis: for example, not only the usurpation of natural fealty by factional loyalty recalls Thucydides’ model of stasis based on the outbreak at Corcyra, but also the words πλεονεκτήματα, φιλονεικίας and φιλαρχία directly echo Thucydides’ language in the model.21 Thucydides taught that stasis was not an incident but a condition. It could be understood from Dionysius’ description of the originary fratricide that that condition was established at the founding of Rome.

  • 22 Suet., Aug. 7.2. On civil war and Roman propaganda, see Syme 1939, p. 156-157, 303-306; on the pro (...)

14Dionysius was writing in the time of Augustan peace, when the main state message – which all writers and artists understood – was that the problem of civil war had been solved by restoration, the pax Augusta was not a break in civil violence but a permanent peace. Rome had been founded a second time. Octavian, the second founder, who chose the name Augustus instead of Romulus, tried to downplay the fact that the re-foundation, like the first, was born in fratricidal war.22 Dionysius’ choice of an explicit version of the fratricide, adding the possibly unique detail of Romulus’ cheating in addition to violence, and explaining the fratricide in Thucydidean terms, betrays intention.

  • 23 Of the three Greek historians discussed here, only Polybius specifically foretold Rome’s eventual (...)

15It could be that the version of the originary fratricide – and the dissonance with the general tone and temper of his narrative of early Rome – is an acknowledgement that when Rome stopped being able to solve its internal disputes peacefully, its later history of vicious stasis revealed an inherent character and tendency. This would have been offered as a historian's perception only, with no practical purpose. After the recovery from the civil wars, there was no reason for Dionysius’ still-resentful Greek readers to expect or hope for the imminent collapse of Rome’s sovereignty over them. The civil wars brought a change in the form of the central government, which in fact strengthened the empire and Rome’s dominion. No external power threatened this. The Romulus incident, the foundational fratricide, served perhaps as a historian’s suggestion of what would eventually – if ever23 – be the reason for the end of Roman power: internal conflict, not a stronger external power. It was almost a meta-historical comment, not one of immediate relevance. It drew attention because of its dissonance with the explicit themes of Dionysius’ history.


16The idea of internal discord as the source of an inherent danger or instability, the reason for Rome’s eventual fall, could be found on the surface of the text of Polybius’ History – if not as a systematic or explicit analysis. Near the end of his History according to his revised, extended plan of 40 books, at the scene of the destruction of Carthage in 146 BCE, Polybius, who had been at Scipio’s side, puts in Scipio’s mouth a prophecy that became famous in antiquity, that “some day the same doom will be pronounced upon my own country” (38.21), and he expands the scene:

  • 24 Polybius, 38.22, in Appian, Punica 628-630, trans. H. White in Loeb edition of Appian. For a discu (...)

Scipio, beholding this spectacle, is said to have shed tears and publicly lamented the fortune of the enemy. After meditating by himself a long time and reflecting on the rise and fall of cities, nations, and empires, as well as of individuals, upon the fate of Troy, that once proud city, upon that of the Assyrians, the Medes, and the Persians, greatest of all, and later the splendid Macedonian empire, either voluntarily or otherwise the words of the poet escaped his lips: – “The day shall come in which our sacred Troy/ And Priam, and the people over whom/ Spear-bearing Priam rules, shall perish all.” (Iliad, vi, 448, 449) Being asked by Polybius in familiar conversation (for Polybius had been his tutor) what he meant by using these words, he said that he did not hesitate frankly to name his own country, for whose fate he feared when he considered the mutability of human affairs. And Polybius wrote this down just as he heard it.24

  • 25 See also Pol. 6.9.12-13. On reconciling the two theories of constitutional change in Polybius, Boo (...)

17In Scipio’s prophetic lament – which is all the more dramatic for being uttered at a moment of great triumph – there is no reason given for Rome’s eventual collapse except for Rome’s inability to escape a law of history, as if it were a law nature universally applied. This law is explicated in Polybius’ disquisition on constitutions in Book 6, in which he determines that all states are subject to a natural life cycle. This is stated more than once in the complex discourse of the book, but most relevant is its last iteration25:

  • 26 Pol. 6.57.1-4, trans. R. Waterfield, Polybius, The Histories, Oxford 2010.

I hardly need to argue that every existing thing is subject to decay and decline: the inescapable facts of nature are convincing in themselves. Where states are concerned, there are two kinds of natural agent that may be responsible for their decline, one external, the other innate. External agencies are too indeterminate to be studied with any certainty, but internal decline is capable of orderly study. I have already stated the sequence in which the various constitutions develop and how they change into one another, and anyone who is capable of drawing conclusions from premises should by now be in a position to predict the future. I think there can be no doubt what lies in the future for Rome. When a state has warded off many serious threats, and has come to attain undisputed supremacy and sovereignty, it is easy to see that, after a long period of settled prosperity, lifestyles become more extravagant, and rivalry (φιλονεικοτέρους) over political positions and other such projects becomes fiercer than it should be. If these processes continue for very long, society will change for the worse. The causes of the deterioration will be lust for power (φιλαρχία) combined with contempt for political obscurity, and personal ostentation and extravagance.26

18Polybius speaks in generalities, but he makes clear that eventually Rome’s demise will come from internal causes rather than a more powerful external enemy. This was a reasonable view in the second century BCE. Although the passage refers to stasis, the language is only vaguely reminiscent of Thucydides; Polybius is notoriously stingy in reference to his predecessor.

  • 27 Eckstein 1995; Champion 2004, passim but esp. p. 158-169. Mendels 1982 argues that Polybius’ hosti (...)

19Rome’s vulnerability to internal conflict may also be implied in the two constitutional comparisons which Polybius highlights as important. In Polybius’ view, Sparta’s constitution was inferior to none in ensuring internal, ­stasis-free stability but was not equipped to handle foreign conquest: Rome’s constitution was eminently suited to conquest, but by implication had not reached Sparta’s condition of ­stasis-free perfection (Pol. 6.48-50). Carthage was in a state of decline, but no different from that which Rome would eventually reach itself, according to the biological model. The trajectories of the lives of the two great imperial states are equated; the period of decline in Carthage was marked by an excess of democracy arising from internal conflict (6.51.6), just as would eventually happen in Rome in its own eventual decline (6.57.7-10). Thus by comparison with both Sparta and Carthage, Polybius predicts that the cause of Rome’s future fall will be internal. Polybius provides a great deal of information on what he saw as Rome’s moral corruption, especially in the later books.27 Scipio’s statement comes at the end of an appended decade, in which apparently instances of cruelty, arbitrariness and greed became thicker, but it is not possible to know if this was a description of cause or attendant circumstance. In any case, the mechanism of stasis and decline in fall in Rome’s case is not explicated: the meta-historical observation was enough for Polybius.


  • 28 Appian, Roman History, Praef. 12-13.48-50.

20I will end with a brief mention of Appian, who also wrote a kind of universal history of Rome with a somewhat original ethnographic arrangement, enabling the reader – so the historian claims – to understand the different aspects of the Roman character and virtues in conquering different peoples and lands.28

21It has long been asked why Appian broke from his ethnographic frame to write five books on the Roman civil wars, a continuous, diachronic narrative from Tiberius Gracchus to Octavian and the Second Triumvirate. Appian does not give an explicit reason, in the explanation of the structure of his work in the Preface. In the introduction to the books on the civil wars, he offers this:

  • 29 Appian, BC 1.6.24, translation by H. White in the Loeb edition.

Out of multifarious instances of factional violence, the Roman state passed into solidarity and monarchy. To show how these things came about I have written and compiled this narrative, which is well worth the study of those who wish to know the measureless ambition of men, their dreadful lust of power, their unwearying perseverance, and the countless forms of evil. It is especially necessary for me to describe these things beforehand since they are the preliminaries of my Egyptian history […]29

  • 30 Gowing 1992, passim and p. 280.
  • 31 Bucher 2000; he cites previous bibliography on Appian, most of which deals with source-criticism.
  • 32 Price 2015.
  • 33 Cf. Praef. 11.44: “Neither famine, nor frequently recurring plague, nor staseis, nor all these fal (...)
  • 34 Cf. Bucher 2000.

22This explains the purpose of the five-book account of civil war, but not the connection to the overall ethnographic arrangement of Roman history. Various answers have been offered. Alain Gowing in his book on the triumviral narratives of Appian and Dio thinks that Appian’s description of the horrors of the civil wars in so much detail was meant to make his contemporary readers feel comfortable in their period devoid of such horrors.30 Gregory Bucher takes this line of reasoning further and states that the purpose of Appian as an avowed monarchist was to demonstrate that Republican government inevitably brings division and stasis, monarchy ensures concord and stability, and that Rome was brought through the Republic to the Principate by divine intervention.31 I myself have suggested that Appian wanted to demonstrate the remarkable preservation of Rome’s empire through the stasis as another unprecedented aspect of its imperial achievement.32 I still believe this is true (!), but I acknowledge that the grim and very long books on the civil war do not exactly evoke admiration in the reader. On the contrary, they achieve precisely what Appian explains as his purpose in writing them, a graphic and disturbing demonstration of “the measureless ambition of men” and so forth. These qualities of character subvert the very virtues that enabled the Romans, during the Republic, to conquer the entire oikoumenē. It could be – as I suggested in my previous paper – that Appian believed the Republic to be a political system capable of conquest33 but not maintenance of empire, whereas he felt that monarchy was better capable of sustaining and administering conquest.34 Could the civil war books be the historian’s prediction, as in Dionysius and Polybius, of the cause of Rome’s demise, if it were ever to happen?

  • 35 Pelling 2010; Appian’s quotation of Thucydides is deeper than a “Thucydidean patina”.

23Whether Appian, like other authors whom he surely had read, believed that internal violence was an inherent, inbred Roman quality from the earliest days of the city, is unknown. We do not have his account of Romulus, or of the dynastic struggles in 68-69 CE (which he may or may not have referred to as stasis), so that we cannot assess whether he thought that the Principate had solved the human tendencies to which the Romans had succumbed after winning their unprecedented empire. In contrast to the eunomia of the Principate, he does call – or rather, let other historical actors call – the dynasts who fought the last, most gruesome battles of the civil wars “tyrants”, including and especially Julius Caesar: all-powerful generals can demonstrate the extreme behaviors of stasis. The phrase, “the measureless ambition of men”, seems to be a general statement about human nature – in which case, stasis can happen in any human society at any time (including monarchy), just as Thucydides, whom Appian imitated and obviously admired, taught.35 Stasis is “the deity (theos) [that] shook the most powerful mistress of so many nations on land and sea” (4.16.61) and could well visit Rome’s power again. Thus the five books on civil war may plant the suggestion in the reader’s mind that if Rome’s power were ever to decline and collapse, the cause would be internal – in line with what both Dionysius and Polybius believed. By inserting five books on the Roman civil wars into his panoramic history of the Roman Empire – whose ethnographical arrangement was designed to investigate cause and offer historical explanation – Appian could have been setting both the Roman Empire and its inherent danger of lapse into civil war into the context of universal human history.

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Tully 2014 = J. Tully, Ephorus, Polybius, and τ καθόλου γράφειν, in G. Parmeggiani (ed.), Between Thucydides and Polybius: The Golden Age of Greek Historiography, Cambridge, Mass.-London, 2014, p. 153-195.

Walbank 1972 = F.W. Walbank, Polybius, Berkeley, 1972. 

Walbank 1998 = F.W. Walbank, A Greek Looks at Rome: Polybius VI Revisited, in Scripta Classica Israelica 17, 1998, p. 45-59; repr. in Poybius, Rome and the Hellenistic World, Cambridge, 2002, p. 277-292. 

Wiseman 1995 = T.P. Wiseman, Remus: A Roman Myth, Cambridge, 1995. 

Notes

1 Pol. 1.3.3-4; translation of Polybius by W.R. Paton in the Loeb edition of Polybius.

2 Clarke 1999. On the origins of universal history: Momigliano 1982; Gabba 1991, p. 1-22; Marincola 2007; Kloft 2013; Tully 2014.

3 τὴν μὲν οὖν ὑπόθεσιν ὅτι καλὴν εἴληφα καὶ μεγαλοπρεπῆ καὶ πολλοῖς ὠφέλιμον οὐ μακρῶν οἶμαι δεήσειν λόγων τοῖς γε δὴ μὴ παντάπασιν ἀπείρως ἔχουσι τῆς κοινῆς ἱστορίας. Translations of Dionysius by E. Cary in the Loeb edition.

4 See Gabba 1991, p. 200; Schultze 2012; Pelling 2007, p. 252-255.

5 οὐδέποτε δι᾽ αἵματος καὶ φόνου τοῦ κατ᾽ ἀλλήλων ἐχώρησαν ἐντὸς ἑξακοσίων καὶ τριάκοντα ἐτῶν, πολλῶν καὶ μεγάλων ἀμφισβητημάτων γενομένων τῷ δήμῳ πρὸς τοὺς ἐν τέλει περὶ τῶν κοινῶν, ὡς ἐν ἁπάσαις φιλεῖ γίγνεσθαι μικραῖς τε καὶ μεγάλαις πόλεσιν: ἀλλὰ πείθοντες καὶ διδάσκοντες ἀλλήλους καὶ τὰ μὲν εἴκοντες, τὰ δὲ παρ᾽ εἰκόντων λαμβάνοντες, πολιτικὰς ἐποιοῦντο τὰς τῶν ἐγκλημάτων διαλύσεις.

6 Gabba 1991, p. 81 and cf. p. 204-208. Pelling 2010.

7 See the excellent discussion of C. Schultze 1986, p. 131-133; Pelling 2007, p. 254-256 and Pelling 2016, p. 167-168.

8 Gabba 1991, p. 151.

9 The different traditions have been masterfully analyzed by Wiseman 1995. Dionysius would have been interested in Wiseman’s thesis that the myth of the twins and fratricide arose from the patrician-plebeian struggle in the fourth century BCE.

10 Justin 28.2.8-10, cf. Wiseman 1995, p. 15.

11 Wiseman 1995, p. 4-5.

12 Breed-Damon-Rossi 2010, p. 9.

13 Wiseman 1995, p. 5-13.

14 Wiseman 1995, p. 10: “it is clear that the version of the Celer story differed according to their authors’ view of the responsibility for the murder. Did Romulus give the order, ‘Kill anyone crossing the trench’? If he did, did Remus knowingly defy it? Was Celer a thug, or a loyal servant of his king? Who was it who was too hasty this time? You could tell the story many different ways, and slant it in Romulus’ favour if that was your aim.”

15 Although Cicero does tell the murder plainly in De Officiis, see Wiseman 1995, p. 11.

16 SEG 30, 1073, the relevant lines are 24-29:

… [ἐποίησεν ἐκ τῶν]
ἰδίων ἀνάθημα τῆι Ῥώμηι ἀπò δραχμῶν Ἀλεξ[ανδρείων χιλίων ἱστορίαμ πε]-
ριέχον τῆς γενέσεως τοῦ κτίστου τῆς Ῥώ[μης Ῥωμύλου καὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ]
αὐτοῦ Ῥέμου· v καθ᾽ ἣν συμβέβηκεν αὐτοὺ[ς ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ τοῦ Ἄρεος γεννηθῆναι,]
ἣ καὶ ἀληθὴς δικαίως ἂν νομίζοιτ᾽ εἶναι δ[ιὰ τὴν τῶν Ῥωμαίων ἀνδρειότη]-
τα.
See the editors’ note at ll. 25-6. These lines are translated by Bagnall-Derow 2004, p. 79 as follows: “he caused to be made from] his own resources a dedication to Roma, costing [a thousand (?)] Alexandrian [drachmas,] containing [an account of] the birth of the founder of Ro[me, Romulus and] his [brother] Remus – on which occasion it happened that they [were begotten by Ares himself], which may be reckoned to be true on account [of the bravery of the Romans]”.
Onno van Nijf presented and discussed this inscription at the conference in Rome, and I thank him for providing the reference.

17 AR 1.86.3, cf. Wiseman 1995, p. 8. As Wiseman points out (p. 13), even the end of the story in Dionysius’ version, in which Romulus buries Remus in six feet of land at Remoria, is “ironic fulfillment of a vow or prophecy” and not a sign of piety.

18 AR 1.85.5: οἵ τε γὰρ προσνεμηθέντες αὐτοῖς τὸν ἑαυτῶν ἡγεμόνα ἕκαστοι κυδαίνοντες ὡς ἐπιτήδειον ἁπάντων ἄρχειν ἐπῆρον, αὐτοί τε οὐκέτι μίαν γνώμην ἔχοντες οὐδὲ ἀδελφὰ διανοεῖσθαι ἀξιοῦντες, ὡς αὐτὸς ἄρξων ἑκάτερος θατέρου, παρώσαντες τὸ ἴσον τοῦ πλείονος ὠρέγοντο. τέως μὲν οὖν ἀφανῆ τὰ πλεονεκτήματα αὐτῶν ἦν, ἔπειτα δὲ ἐξερράγη σὺν τοιᾷδε προφάσει.

19 Wiseman 1995, p. 143: "Conspicuously in Dionysius, less prominently in Plutarch, the theme of discord, rivalry and selfish ambition presents the twins as an aition for the origins of political strife in Rome".

20 AR 1.85.6: ἐκ δὲ τῆς φιλονεικίας ταύτης ἀκοινώνητος εὐθὺς ὑπεδηλοῦτο φιλαρχία. τῷ γὰρ εἴξαντι τὸ κρατῆσαν εἰς πάντα ὁμοίως ἐπιθήσεσθαι ἔμελλεν.

21 Compare Thuc. 3.82.8; Pelling 2010.

22 Suet., Aug. 7.2. On civil war and Roman propaganda, see Syme 1939, p. 156-157, 303-306; on the problem of the Roman triumph after civil wars, and Octavian’s problem in particular, see Lange 2015, p. 136-138; Lange 2016, p. 95-153.

23 Of the three Greek historians discussed here, only Polybius specifically foretold Rome’s eventual fall, see my forthcoming paper on the “future of Rome”, mentioned above in n. 1; on Dionysius, see now Pelling 2016; and the interesting study of the “plupast” in Dionysius by Schultze 2012.

24 Polybius, 38.22, in Appian, Punica 628-630, trans. H. White in Loeb edition of Appian. For a discussion of the genuineness of this passage, see Baronowski 2011, p. 153, 209 nn. 2-3.

25 See also Pol. 6.9.12-13. On reconciling the two theories of constitutional change in Polybius, Book 6, see Walbank 1972, p. 130-156; Walbank 1998 and Walbank 1998; Erskine 2013 and Seager 2013.

26 Pol. 6.57.1-4, trans. R. Waterfield, Polybius, The Histories, Oxford 2010.

27 Eckstein 1995; Champion 2004, passim but esp. p. 158-169. Mendels 1982 argues that Polybius’ hostility to socio-economic change affected his portrayal of stasis or revolution.

28 Appian, Roman History, Praef. 12-13.48-50.

29 Appian, BC 1.6.24, translation by H. White in the Loeb edition.

30 Gowing 1992, passim and p. 280.

31 Bucher 2000; he cites previous bibliography on Appian, most of which deals with source-criticism.

32 Price 2015.

33 Cf. Praef. 11.44: “Neither famine, nor frequently recurring plague, nor staseis, nor all these falling upon them at once could abate their ardour; until, through the sufferings and dangers of seven hundred years, they achieved their present greatness, having enjoyed the favours of fortune through prudence.”

34 Cf. Bucher 2000.

35 Pelling 2010; Appian’s quotation of Thucydides is deeper than a “Thucydidean patina”.

Auteur

Tel Aviv University, price@tauex.tau.ac.il

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